Amazing Stories from Surat Al-Kahf
Surat Al-Kahf (http://www.quranize.com/18) is one of the most widely read chapters of the Qur'an which has some of the amazing stories. Muslims usually read this Surah every Friday. Several awards are associated with the recitation of this Surah. The name of the surah is taken from the stories of the Sleepers of the Cave, Kahf in Arabic means Cave.
This Qur’anic chapter revolves around stories of The Sleepers of the Cave, Khidr and Musa A S, Zul-Qarnayn and the man with two gardens.
It’s believed that this surah was revealed in response to the questions that were being asked to Prophet Muhammed ﷺ by the disbelievers of Makkah concerning things which were unknown to people of Arabia during that time. These questions were asked to the Prophet ﷺ to validate his claim of being a messenger of God.
Sleepers of the Cave - A Trial of Faith
The chapter begins with the story of Sleepers of the Cave, a group of young men who believed in the worship of One True God, that is Allah. When they find it hard to live as believers within their community, they seek refuge in a cave where they receive God’s care and protection and enjoy His grace. The story shows us how Allah protects these righteous ones who believe in Him no matter how hard their situation is by letting them sleep for a long period of time.
Some traditions suggest, they slept as long as three hundred and nine years. After they wake up, they feel they had hardly slept for a day or a half of it. They eventually realize through a series of interesting events that they had slept for an enormous amount of time. This is indeed a sign from Allah and a warning to the disbelievers that, just like We have awakened up these young men after a long sleep, We are very well capable of raising you once again after you die.
The Story of the man who owns two gardens – A Trial of Wealth
Story of two men and two gardens (http://www.quranize.com/18/32), gives us examples of what is permanently valuable and what is not more than transitory. It illustrates an example of 2 kind of human beings: the first seeks pride in the luxuries of this world, while the other is fully content with his relationship with Allah. The first who, in the Qur’anic example, has two gardens delineates a man dazzled with riches. He feels himself powerful with what he has been given, so he forgets the Supreme Power who controls everything in people’s lives, and thinks that his wealth is permanent. This gives him a feeling that his wealth is everlasting. However, the gardens are destroyed through a thunderstorm finally leaving him in a state of agony and regret.
The other man, who is a believer, derives his position and status through faith. He always remembers his Lord, realizing that the blessings he enjoys are in themselves evidence of the One Who grants all such blessings. Hence, he knows that he should always praise his Lord and express his gratitude to Him for what he has been granted:
This is an example of how faith makes a believer very powerful. He does not care for the material wealth, might, or arrogance. He states the truth clearly, without hesitation or cowardice. There is no room for bending the truth in order to please anyone, be that a friend or someone mighty. A believer feels that he is far higher than all power and wealth. What God has for him is far superior to any riches or pleasures this life may bring. God’s grace is all that he seeks, and His grace is plentiful and always available. On the other hand, God’s punishment is severe and could befall the arrogant at any time.
The Story of Musa and Al-Khidr – A Trial of Knowledge
The story of Khidr and Moses (http://www.quranize.com/18/60) has been related in such a way as to supply the answer to the question of the disbelievers and to give comfort to the Believers as well. The lesson contained in this story is this "You should have full faith in the wisdom of what is happening in the Divine Factory in accordance with the will of Allah. As the reality is hidden from you, you are at a loss to understand the wisdom of what is happening, and sometimes if it appears that things are going against you, you cry out, 'How and why has this happened'. The fact is that if the curtain be removed from the "unseen", you would yourselves come to know that what is happening here is for the best. Even if some times it appears that something is going against you, you will see that in the end it also produces some good results for you.
This has been illustrated by narrating 3 different incidents that take place during a journey between Musa A S and Khidr.
Background of the journey
The background to the story can be found in Hadith literature wherein Musa AS Musa AS sets out on an arduous journey in his quest to learn from Khidr upon the instructions from Allah. Allah has described Khidr as His slave in the Holy Quran. We get his name from the Hadith. It is claimed in certain traditions, that the reason of this journey enjoined upon Musa A S from Allah is to remove a certain notion from his mind that he was the most knowledgeable person living in his time.
Across Ayah 60–82 in Al Kahf, Musa AS requests Khidr his company so that he can learn from him. But Khidr asserts that he would not be able to have patience with him. Musa AS insists that if Allah willing, he would be patient. Thus, the journey commences. At first, they board a ship whose people were generous since they let Musa and Khidr ride the boat free of charge. Khidr then ends up damaging the boat and this action angers Musa AS and he questions this act. Khidr reiterates the fact that he told Musa AS that he wouldn’t be able to have patience with him to which Musa AS promised that from now on, he wouldn’t protest his action because he was insistent on learning.
On continuing the journey, they meet a boy and Khidr kills him. This is another tipping point for Musa AS as he is unable to resolve this action and he protests again. Eventually they reach a town whose people were miserly and they refused to provide them with any hospitality. Khidr and Musa AS find a wall and repair it without any charge to which Musa AS protested that they should have been paid for their labour.
Lessons to be learnt from this story
Khidr finally explains the rationale behind his actions, asserting that he did nothing of his own accord, but according to the will of Allah.
Regarding the interpretation of damaging the boat, Khidr said that he damaged it to make it faulty so that their oppressive, tyrannical king would not seize it. The poor people had shown generosity through the ship and Allah preserved their very vehicle of generosity. In retrospect, damage to the ship actually led to their protection in the long-term.
Whereas, for the interpretation of why the boy was killed, the boy was destined to be a transgressor and disbeliever from the day he was created. Although the immediate suffering for the parents on losing their child is unimaginable, Allah knew that it would be worse to have a living child whose heart is spiritually dead, as He says in ayah 80 (http://www.quranize.com/18/80 ), “…fearing he would trouble them through wickedness and disbelief.” and thus He would eventually substitute this loss with a righteous child in the future.
In the third story, the wall was repaired by Musa AS and Khidr without any compensation. This is because the wall belonged to 2 orphans and beneath it was some treasure which had to be hidden and preserved. Allah mentions that the orphans’ father was a righteous man, indicating that the righteousness of his father was a cause for their protection and blessing from Allah. It is also important to note that the townspeople had been extremely stingy, so had they discovered the treasure, the orphans’ finances would have been usurped by them.
Thus, a common lesson running through the 3 incidents witnessed by Musa AS provides valuable insights about trying to discern Allah’s Qadr and plan. Although the actions appeared to Musa A S as questionable and unjustifiable, they were done under divine guidance. This is ubiquitous in our lives when events seem irrational or immediately harmful. However, just like in these stories, for a believer, he must have faith and trust that the eventual benefit will far exceed the short-term evil in the grander scheme of things.
Story of Dhul Qarnayn – A Trial of Power
Dhul-Qarnayn, translated as "the possessor of the two horns," (http://www.quranize.com/18/83) is a legendary king mentioned in this Surah. The Quran narrates the story of how Allah establishes Dhul-Qarnayn as a powerful ruler on earth and gave him authority.
Dhul-Qarnayn exemplifies good leadership qualities in his dealings with a nation being terrorized by the people of Yajuj and Majuj. The people of Yajuj and Majuj are described as a set of people who had caused violence and had transgressed in that part of the earth. First, when the victimized people offer Dhul-Qarnayn tribute in exchange for helping them, he responds that God's rewards are better than earthly ones. He exhibits self-restraint and does not succumb to greed. Since God has already blessed him with a powerful kingdom, Dhul-Qarnayn considers the tribute unnecessary and decides to help this nation solely due to his sense of justice. However, Dhul-Qarnayn motivates the people to help themselves rather than allowing them to accept a handout. While he supplies the technical expertise necessary to forge a barrier preventing the entry of Yajuj and Majuj, he instructs the people to bring their own raw materials and aid in the construction. In this way, Dhul-Qarnayn models the importance of collective action in tackling nationwide problems. In the modern world, it is clear that governments are not the solution to all societal ills; instead, people from all walks of life must work together to resolve these issues. Leaders may be necessary to supply the required leadership or expertise, but in many cases, the will of nation's people will dictate an initiative's success or failure.
Dhul-Qarnayn's story ends rather abruptly after the above example, but Quranic analysis reveals other important features of his leadership. Since Dhul-Qarnayn is alleged to be a historical figure, scholars over the centuries have continuously debated his identity. Regardless of what his identity was and to which nation he belonged to, Dhul-Qarnayn's principles of good governance are widely applicable to diverse societies. He exhibited traits like justice, humility and God consciousness (taqwa) that are central to Islam and a lesson to the stubborn disbelievers to take heed from these historic lessons to inculcate God consciousness in them.
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