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Surah al-Kahf is the 18th Surah of the Quran. This chapter was sent down during the Makkan period. It consists of 110 verses and is named after the story of the Surah Kahf – Ashab Al-Kahf (people of the cave). Surah Kahf was revealed in response to certain questions that had been posed to the Prophet (PBUH).
Moreover, the purpose of its revelation is also considered to be that it lent moral support to the Muslims. The early Muslim community had been stricken by torture and oppression at the hands of the ruthless Makkan disbelievers. The Surah contains four stories of immense wisdom, which provide us with a variety of appropriate lessons.
Surah Kahf, lesson 1: The companions of the cave
A group of righteous young men wished to remain steadfast on the straight path. They had thus proclaimed their belief in the oneness of Allah. Their Lord Allah was the sole deity worthy of worship, without any partners. Their people, however, were far from the straight path and would not join them in embracing the truth. Therefore, they sought refuge in a cave from misguided folk, who posed a threat to their pure beliefs. After taking shelter in the cave, Ashab-e-Kahf placed their trust firmly in Allah. This was a testament to the phenomenal strength of their faith.
Indeed, Allah’s protection sufficed the sleepers as He shielded them from harm. As their lengthy slumber progressed, they would turn from side to side at times. Their intimidating dog remained sprawled at the opening of the cave. The sun would rise on their right and set on their left, until Allah decreed that they awaken, utterly unharmed. As the people of the cave arose from their prolonged sleep, they wondered how long they had been asleep. They thought it was just a day or part of a day but ultimately accepted that Allah alone would be aware of the length of their stay.
Search for food
Their next step was to address their hunger, so one of them departed in search of food. He followed his companions’ advice and took care to conceal his identity as well as the location of their secure shelter. This safety measure was deemed a necessary precaution, as the Ashab al-Kahf wished to evade the wrath of their people. The last thing they wanted was for their companion to be slain by the evildoers or coerced into accepting their false religion. However, this man’s thoroughly outdated silver coin indicated that he belonged to a much earlier era, causing a massive stir among the people. Some people ended up building a house of worship over the companions out of reverence.
The key lesson we can draw from the story of Ashab-e-Kahf is that we should always place our faith squarely in Allah. When Muslims are faced with a threat to their religion and lives, they must seek to escape their oppressors and turn to Allah alone for refuge.
Surah Kahf, lesson 2: The Owners of the Two Gardens
There were two men who were blessed with majestic gardens and land, with a river in between. They were both tremendously well-off as they reaped the fruits of their lavish assets. One of them grew boastful, though, exhibiting repulsive arrogance. He proudly claimed that he was wealthier and more prosperous than the other, his ego making him delusional and heedless of Allah’s favor upon him. He even expressed foolish confidence that these possessions would never leave him, and the Day of Judgement will not take place, but if it were to occur, Allah would grant him even greater possessions.
The righteous man
The other man condemned his act of disbelief. Furthermore, he pointed out that the ungrateful owner should have attributed his success to Allah’s will and accepted that all power lies with Him, as God can quickly destroy his coveted possessions. Indeed, that was precisely what happened as his precious belongings were destroyed, leaving him in a state of despair. The story of the two garden owners consequently teaches us that one should always be grateful for Allah’s blessings. We must not become egoistic about our worldly successes and bear in mind that everyone’s triumph and failure ultimately depend on Allah’s will.
Surah Kahf, lesson 3: Musa and Khidr
Allah had ordered Musa (AS) to join Khidr on a journey to gain valuable knowledge He had bestowed on Khidr. Khidr agreed to go with Musa (AS), provided he didn’t ask any questions during their travel. Very soon, Khidr made a hole in their boat, prompting a query from Musa (AS). This was the first violation of his promise to remain patient until their journey concluded. The next question came when Khidr killed a seemingly innocent boy they came across. Eventually, they entered a town and requested food but were rejected. Despite that, they repaired a wall that was on the verge of ruin. Musa (AS) then questioned his reason for not seeking payment for the chore. Khidr then said that was the conclusion of their journey and proceeded to explain his actions.
The boat’s owners were poor, and he made a repairable hole in it to protect it from a king who was seizing all useful boats. The slain boy would go on to be a source of grief for his pious parents by sinning and committing acts of disbelief. Hence Allah intended to replace him with a superior, righteous child. The rebuilt wall was owned by two orphans, below which their noble father had buried a treasure. Allah wished to preserve the treasure’s secrecy so that the orphans could safely claim it once they grew up.
Khidr was not performing these actions according to his wishes; he was following Allah’s orders. This story contains one of the greatest lessons we can derive from the four accounts of Surah Kahf. That is, Allah’s wisdom is infinite, and Muslims should always be content with His decree. Things that may at first appear to be evil to us can often lead to good; it’s just that our intellect is too limited to comprehend the remarkable intricacies of God’s decree. We may not always understand why certain things happen, but in good times or bad, we are to place our trust in Allah’s plan, for He is The Just.
Surah Kahf, lesson 4: Dhul Qarnayn
Allah had endowed Dhul Qarnayn with the power and resources to accomplish monumental tasks. On one particular expedition, he found a group of people whom Allah ordered him to either punish or treat gently. He punished those who committed sins and was kind to those who didn’t. On his next journey, he went past people who had not been granted any shelter by God. He continued until he encountered some weak people at a place between two mountains. These people struggled to communicate with him but were able to request him to build a wall in exchange for payment. The purpose of this wall was to protect them from the rampaging, destructive Gog and Magog.
Dhul Qarnayn said that Allah’s provisions for him were superior to any amount they could offer him but asked the people to lend him men to assist. They were thus able to close the gap between the mountains using iron and molten copper. This barrier sufficed their aim to repel Gog and Magog, a blessing from Allah. However, Dhul Qarnayn also stated that Allah promised to flatten it eventually, following which Gog and Magog will wreak havoc. This will be one of the signs of the last day.
Dhul Qarnayn’s fair treatment of the first group of people, punishing only the wrongdoers, and being kind to the others is among the many lessons we find in Surah Al-Kahf. Indeed, all rulers and people in positions of power should similarly exercise justice without any discrimination. Furthermore, we should use our strength to assist and not exploit the weak, the way he did when he helped the people by building a wall for them. Indeed, Muslim leaders and those with power should lead from the front the way Dhul Qarnayn did, taking charge in times of crisis and playing a leading role in tackling major issues.
The best way to take advantage of this Surah
According to a Hadeeth recorded in Saheeh Muslim, memorizing the first ten verses of Surah Kahf protects one from Dajjal (The Anti-Christ). Thus, the recitation of this Surah contains plenty of benefits. Besides, the four lessons derived from the four stories of Surah Kahf are incredibly beneficial for Muslims, providing us with prudent guidance on how to conduct ourselves in a wide variety of scenarios, as we strive to become upright Muslims.