Surat al-Kahf, 21-30
Accordingly, We made them chance upon them unexpectedly so that they might know that Allah's promise is true and that there is no doubt about the Hour. When they were arguing among themselves about the matter, they said: "Wall up their cave. Their Lord knows best about them." But those who got the better of the argument concerning them said: "We will build a place of worship over them." (Surat al-Kahf, 21)
This verse contains clear signs of the End Times and the Hour. The discovery of the Companions of the Cave could be a sign for the good, that even if they exist far apart from one another, one day they will definitely meet each other. Allah reveals this truth with "so race each other to the good. Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together. Truly Allah has power over all things" (Surat al-Baqara, 148).
The verse also mentions the decision to build a place of worship on the site where the Companions of the Cave were found, which means that such places of worship can be built where good and righteous devotees of Allah have spent their lives so that they will be remembered. Also, such places can serve as centers of learning and worship, which will help to spread beneficial ideas and good character. These places will then become meeting points for the believers who come together to remember Allah's name.
Many verses underline the importance of places of worship in which only Allah is remembered. Some of them are as follows:
Those who were expelled from their homes without any right, merely for saying: "Our Lord is Allah." If Allah had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries and churches, synagogues and mosques, where Allah's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. Allah will certainly help those who help Him—Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 40)
All mosques belong to Allah, so do not call on anyone else besides Allah. (Surat al-Jinn, 18)
They will say: "There were three of them, their dog being the fourth." They will say: "There were five of them, their dog being the sixth," guessing at the Unseen. And they will say: "There were seven of them, their dog being the eighth." Say: "My Lord knows best their number. Those who know about them are very few." So do not enter into any argument concerning them, except in relation to what is clearly known. And do not seek the opinion of any of them regarding them. (Surat al-Kahf, 22)
As this verse states, some people speculated about how many Companions of the Cave there actually were. However, the verse states that their actual number is known only to our Lord, for only He knows the Unseen and can reveal part of it to His chosen few.
The continuation of the verse stipulates that such speculation is wrong. Such disputes are termed "guessing at the Unseen" and are referred to in other verses as well:
They will say: "We believe in it," but how can they reach out for it from a distant place, when beforehand they had rejected it, shooting forth about the Unseen from a distant place? A barrier will be set up between them and the thing that they desire, just as was done with their kind before. They too were in a state of crippling doubt. (Surah Saba', 52-54)
All Muslims ought to refrain from such useless arguments and just say: "Allah knows best." They should respond in the following terms: "You know what is in my self but I do not know what is in Your Self. You are the Knower of all unseen things" (Surat al-Ma'ida, 116), because many verses state that only Allah knows the Unseen. One such verse is as follows:
The keys of the Unseen are in His possession. No one knows them but Him. He knows everything in the land and sea. No leaf falls without His knowing it. There is no seed in the darkness of the ground, and nothing moist or dry, which is not in a Clear Book. (Surat al-An`am, 59)
In these types of arguments, people's views usually are based upon hearsay. Obviously, there is no point in listening to arguments based solely upon conjecture and ignorance. As "Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. Hearing, sight and hearts will all be questioned" (Surat al-Isra', 36) makes clear, people should avoid any talk based upon hearsay.
"Those who know about them are very few" also indicates that a few people could have this knowledge. For instance, one such person could be Khidhr (as), whose miraculous circumstances we will explore shortly. It is also possible that Khidhr's disciples might have this knowledge, with Allah's will and revelation. The Qur'an reveals that Allah reveals some of the Unseen to His Messengers.
He is the Knower of the Unseen, and does not divulge His Unseen to anyone—except a Messenger with whom He is well pleased, and then He posts sentinels before him and behind him. (Surat al-Jinn, 26-27)
Allah revealed some knowledge of the Unseen to our Prophet (saas) and then told him that:
This is news of the Unseen that We reveal to you [O Muhammad]. You were not with them when they decided what to do and devised their scheme. (Surah Yusuf, 102)
Allah informed Prophet Nuh (as) about some of the future events that he would experience:
It was said: "Nuh, descend with peace from Us and with blessings on you and on the nations that will issue from those who are with you. But there are nations to whom we will give enjoyment, and then a painful punishment from Us will afflict them." That is some of the news of the Unseen that We reveal to you. Neither you nor your people knew it before this time. So be steadfast. The best end-result is for those who do their duty. (Surah Hud, 48-49)
Surat al-Kahf 22 reveals the appropriate methods of argument: "… do not enter into any argument concerning them, except in relation to what is clearly known." When arguing with others, believers must provide evidence that is compatible with the Qur'an, whereas those who reject religion do the contrary, for they seek to create disputes in order to display their hostility to the believers and their religion. Allah states in "just for argument's sake…" (Surat az-Zukhruf, 58), that the deniers use blasphemous arguments because they are "a disputatious people" who have an argumentative and hostile nature. This is why people living the Qur'an's morality must distance themselves from all of this and behave in the way that earns Allah's good pleasure. Allah provides an example as to how they should speak with the unbelievers:
So call and go straight, as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires, but say: "I believe in a Book sent down by Allah and am ordered to be just between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. We have our actions and you have your actions. There is no debate between us and you. Allah will gather us all together. He is our final destination." (Surat ash-Shura, 15)
The phrase "do not seek the opinion of any of them regarding them" at the end of Surat al-Kahf 22 advises all believers to refrain from seeking views other than that of Revelation, because only Allah knows the Unseen. Thus, believers believe that arguments based only upon people's faulty speculation, knowledge, presumptions, and interpretations are worthless. Therefore, giving any credence to such "information" is forbidden.
Never say about anything: "I will do it tomorrow." (Surat al-Kahf, 23)
The lives of people who have forgotten destiny's reality pass in planning for tomorrow, next month, next year, and after retirement. Some people plan their career at the workplace, what they will do after their children get married, or how they will acquire wealth and property. However, this verse reminds all people that they do not know what will happen to them tomorrow.
People who map out their lives have forgotten destiny, for only Allah determines each person's destiny. Therefore, whatever Allah has "written" for one's tomorrow, whether or not the person in question has "planned" it, will occur. This fact is stated in the following verse:
You do not engage in any matter, recite any portion of the Qur'an, or do any action without Our witnessing you while you are occupied with it. Not even the smallest speck eludes your Lord, either on Earth or in heaven. Nor is there anything smaller than that, or larger, which is not in a Clear Book. (Surah Yunus, 61)
Destiny is Allah's knowledge of everything that has happened in the past and will happen in future. Many people ask how Allah can know what will happen to us. The answer is as follows: Allah is not subject to time and space, both of which He created, and so what we call the past, present, and future are all the same to Him. Just as we see the beginning, middle, and end of a ruler and all of its units in between, Allah sees and knows the "time" of our existence as one whole, from its beginning to its end. However, we only experience a particular event, all of which He already knows, when its time has come and thus witness the destiny that Allah has created for us.
Saying that something definitely will happen is, in fact, growing arrogant toward Allah, something that will result in ultimate loss, as the following verse proclaims:
As for those who believe and do right actions, He will pay them their wages in full and will give them increase from His favor. As for those who show disdain and grow arrogant, He will punish them with a painful punishment. They will not find any protector or helper for themselves besides Allah. (Surat an-Nisa', 173)
Without adding "If Allah wills." Remember your Lord when you forget, and say: "Hopefully my Lord will guide me to something closer to right guidance than this." (Surat al-Kahf, 24)
When the believers forget something, they should remember Allah's name, for there is a positive aspect to remembering, if Allah has willed it to be in that person's best interests to be so. Remembering His name can be a healing in a situation of forgetfulness, but one can remember only if Allah wills it because some benefit will result.
Then, the verse orders the Prophet (saas) to pray to Allah for a victory close at hand. Success in our worldly lives is sometimes achieved in the long-term, while at other times it is a short-term thing. Sometimes one works really hard and puts much effort into a project without seeing any short-term success. Thus, it is necessary to remain determined and patient for a long time. Such perseverance contains a multitude of good and much educational value. However, believers also can ask Allah for success in the short term. The important thing is to turn to Allah with a true heart, as did Prophet Shu`ayb (as), who said: "My success is with Allah alone. I have put my trust in Him, and I turn to Him" (Surah Hud, 88). Those who trust Allah, knowing that He has created all things, can expect His support at all times. Allah reminds the Prophet (saas) that only He can lead someone to an easy success: "We will ease you to the Easy Way." (Surat al-A`la, 8)
They stayed in their cave for three hundred years, adding to that [another] nine. Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed. The Unseen of the heavens and Earth belongs to Him. How perfectly He sees, how well He hears! They have no protector apart from Him. Nor does He share His rule with anyone." (Surat al-Kahf, 25-26)
These verses reveal that the Companions of the Cave's state of sleep lasted for 300 years, and that a further 9 years were added toward the end of this period. Thus, their state of sleep lasted for 309 years.
Surat al-Kahf 26 states that Allah's rule and control of the Unseen is total, because He creates all things in the heavens and Earth. This attribute of our Lord is described in the following verses:
The Unseen of the heavens and Earth belongs to Allah, and the whole affair will be returned to Him. So worship Him and put your trust in Him. Your Lord is not unaware of what you do. (Surah Hud, 123)
Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and Earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge, except for what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and Earth, and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent. (Surat al-Baqara, 255)
As the Creator cannot be bound by His creation, Allah is independent of what we consider to be time. A million or even a billion years of human time means nothing to Him, for everything exists in His presence as if it were only one moment. Allah sees and hears everything, regardless of how far in the past or in the future it is, and He sees it all perfectly, from every aspect, and with or without direction. He also perceives sound with all of its aspects, known to us or else in the best way, as the following verse states:
My Lord knows what is said in Heaven and on Earth. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Surat al-Anbiya', 4)
As all people are subject to time and space, they cannot know anything of the Unseen unless Allah reveals it to them. Only our Lord, the Creator of time and space, sees and hears the past, present, and future in their entirety. He governs absolutely the infinitely past and future of time, history, events, matter, destiny, and everything, whether living or non-living, for:
Both East and West belong to Allah, so wherever you turn, the Face of Allah is there. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 115)
He is the only protector and helper of all living beings, for there is none other. Humanity is truly helpless and therefore exposed to hardship at all times. And, the only way to escape material as well as spiritual suffering is to seek refuge with Allah, our only friend and helper, by acknowledging Him as our sole protector. The following verses reveal this truth:
… Do you not know that Allah has power over all things? Do you not know that to Allah belong the kingdom of the heavens and Earth, and that, besides Him, you have no protector and no helper? (Surat al-Baqara, 106-107)
To Allah belong the kingdom of the heavens and Earth. He gives life and causes to die. You have no protector or helper besides Him. (Surat at-Tawba, 116)
My Protector is Allah, Who sent down the Book. He takes care of the righteous. (Surat al-A`raf, 196)
The concluding part of verse 26 states that our Lord has no partners. Allah has power over everything and is the only governor of time, space, and all dimensions, whether they are known to us or not. He has no associates, and such a thought is not even conceivable, as the following verse makes clear:
Say: "He is Allah, Absolute Oneness, Allah, the Everlasting Sustainer of all. He has not given birth and was not born. And no one is comparable to Him." (Surat al-Ikhlas, 1-4)
Recite what has been revealed to you of your Lord's Book. No one can change His words. You will never find any safe haven apart from Him. (Surat al-Kahf, 27)
The most reliable resource from which we can learn about true religion is the Qur'an, because it is the Creator's word, and naturally the Creator knows the ultimate truth of everything. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals everything that humanity needs to know. Furthermore, in this verse He orders the Prophet (saas) to recite the revelations contained in the Qur'an.
A little further on, the verse states that these revelations are immune to change. The Qur'an informs us that the earlier holy books were all falsified, added to, or deleted from, but this is not the case with the Qur'an. As Allah reveals in Surat al-Hijr 9, the Qur'an is under His protection: "We have sent down the Reminder, and We will preserve it." This fact is elaborated upon in the following verses:
The words of your Lord are perfect in truthfulness and justice. No one can change His words. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Surat al-An`am, 115)
Falsehood cannot reach it from before it or behind it—it is a revelation from One Who is All-Wise, Praiseworthy. (Surah Fussilat, 42)
The expression: "No one can change His words. You will never find any safe haven apart from Him" points to a great error by those people who do not appreciate Allah's infinite might. They acquire protectors and friends other than Allah in the belief that they will be of some help and support in times of hardship. But, we should never forget that those with whom they seek refuge are themselves only creations and helpless servants of Allah. All beings whom they exalt are no more than manifestations of Allah and receive their power, if they have any, from Him, for every being and thing moves only because of His will.
Those you call on besides Allah are servants just like yourselves. Call on them and let them respond to you, if you are telling the truth. Do they have legs with which they can walk? Do they have hands with which they can grasp? Do they have eyes with which they can see? Do they have ears with which they can hear? Say: "Call on your partner-deities, try all your wiles against me, and grant me no reprieve. My Protector is Allah, Who sent down the Book. He takes care of the righteous." Those you call on besides Him cannot help you. They cannot even help themselves. (Surat al-A`raf, 194-97)
As these verses make clear, those people chosen to be guardians and protectors are themselves helpless beings who have a degree of power only if Allah wills it. They cannot save anyone from hardship, suffering, or catastrophe. Another verse expresses this reality:
They worship, instead of Allah, what can neither harm them nor help them, saying: "These are our intercessors with Allah." Say: "Would you inform Allah of something about which He does not know, either in the heavens or on Earth?" May He be glorified and exalted above what they associate with Him! (Surah Yunus, 18)
Restrain yourself patiently with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, desiring His face. Do not turn your eyes from them, desiring the attractions of this world. And do not obey someone whose heart We have made neglectful of Our remembrance, who follows his own whims and desires, and whose life has transgressed all bounds. (Surat al-Kahf, 28)
This verse points out the importance of always calling upon Allah, every morning and evening, seeking only His good pleasure. Prayer is a great gift, for it is a way to draw closer to Allah. People can pray at any time of day and wherever they are. Allah reveals the value of prayer in: Say: "What has My Lord to do with you if you do not call upon Him?" (Surat al-Furqan, 77). In another verse, He informs people that:
If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls upon Me. Therefore, they should respond to Me and believe in Me, so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Surat al-Baqara, 186)
The verse then reminds people once more that this world's temporary possessions should not affect them, because life in this world is no more than a trial. Surat al-Kahf reveals why this world's desirable commodities (e.g., houses, cars, yachts, mansions, gold, silver, and fashionable clothes) were created:
We made everything on Earth adornment for it so that We could test them to see whose actions are the best. (Surat al-Kahf, 7)
After a specific number of years, each person will find himself or herself suddenly appearing before Allah on the Day of Judgment, for life passes rather quickly. Allah reminds us of this reality: "These people love this fleeting world and have put the thought of a Momentous Day behind their backs" (Surat al-Insan, 27). The life of the Hereafter, which many people neglect while living in this world, is an eternal reality that no one can escape. This is why being led astray by this world's temporary attractions and thus forgetting the eternal life in the Hereafter is such a serious mistake. Allah reveals that:
The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The Hereafter is better for those who guard against evil. So will you not use your intellect? (Surat al-An`am, 32)
Know that the life of this world is merely a game and a diversion, an ostentation and a cause of boasting among yourselves, and trying to outdo one another in wealth and children, like the plant-growth after rain that delights the cultivators, but then withers and you see it turning yellow, and then it becomes broken stubble. In the Hereafter, there is terrible punishment but also forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure. The life of this world is nothing but the enjoyment of delusion. (Surat al-Hadid, 20)
Further on in the same verse, the importance of the believers being together is stated. Remembering Allah, praying to Him, and doing everything for His good pleasure is the behavior of all devout believers. The vital need of being together with them, with people who remember Allah at all times, is obvious. Believers derive many benefits from spending time with one another, for they remind each other of the Qur'an's verses and remember Allah, and are less likely to miss prayers or be led astray, which has a greater chance of happening when people are alone or during times when such meetings are rare. They recite Allah's name together, advise people to do good and avoid evil, and benefit from one another in terms of knowledge and culture. Engaging in such activities will enable them to live in an atmosphere of joy, contentment, purity, trust, and safety. The believers' relationship with each other is described in the following verse:
The believing men and women are friends of one another. They command what is right and forbid what is wrong, establish prayer and give alms, and obey Allah and His Messenger. They are the people upon whom Allah will have mercy. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 71)
On the other hand, staying with unbelievers has many negative aspects. For example, such people are always slandering and displaying aggression toward Allah and the believers' sacred values, voicing their animosity, and mocking the believers. Allah forbids the believers to be in such an environment:
It has been sent down to you in the Book that when you hear Allah's Signs being rejected and mocked by people, you must not sit with them until they start talking of other things. If you do, you are just the same as them. Allah will gather all the hypocrites and unbelievers into Hell. (Surat an-Nisa', 140)
Another negative aspect of being together with unbelievers, who chase after their base instincts and keep away from Allah's word, is the probability that those with weak faith will be influenced in a negative way. Devout Muslims who have strong faith, Allah willing, cannot be influenced by unbelievers; however, those believers who are new Muslims or who do not yet completely live the Qur'an's morality, can be influenced by the unbelievers' misleading conversation and display of knowledge, and even end up following their example. If this happens, they are the losers in both this world and the next.
Say: "It is the truth from your Lord, so let whoever wishes believe and whoever wishes not believe." We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire, whose billowing walls of smoke will hem them in. If they call for help, they will be helped with water like seething molten brass, frying their faces. What a noxious drink! What an evil repose! (Surat al-Kahf, 29)
Once the believers have explained Allah's religion and the Qur'an's verses to the unbelievers, they must not pressure them to embrace it. As we explained earlier, only Allah can give faith. The attitude of the believers toward unbelievers is described, as follows:
I do not worship what you worship, and you do not worship what I worship. Nor will I worship what you worship, nor will you worship what I worship. You have your religion, and I have my religion. (Surat al-Kafirun, 2-6)
The believers' only responsibility is to warn the unbelievers of the sufferings in Hell following death and the great danger that this poses for them if they continue to reject belief. This verse describes the eternal suffering in Hell that awaits all unbelievers. On that day, they will have no helpers or intercessors.
Allah reveals in "the Day they are shoved roughly into the Fire of Hell" (Surat at-Tur: 13), how those who have earned Hell will be degraded. Those who were arrogant because of their wealth, status, and their ability to oppress other people will realize their sorry state and helplessness in Hell. They will be "flung into a narrow place in it, shackled together in chains" (Surat al-Furqan, 13), and rest in the murk of its thick black smoke. They will hear the incessant seething and gasping of the Fire and hear continuous sounds of moaning and groaning. They will be led from one suffering to another and, despite their pleading, their pain will not be eased, because Hell is "a sealed vault of Fire" (Surat al-Balad, 20) from which no one can escape.
But as for those who believe and do right actions, We will not let the wage of good-doers go to waste. (Surat al-Kahf, 30)
We have already explained the importance of right actions. In this verse, Allah draws our attention to the importance of doing truly good deeds. The best deed, the one that pleases Him the most, is the one done in complete compliance with the Qur'an's morality and out of genuine devotion. Allah points out the importance of good behavior in the following verse:
Everything in the heavens and everything in Earth belongs to Allah, so that He can repay those who do evil for what they did, and repay those who do good with the Very Best. (Surat an-Najm, 31)
These verses proclaim the importance of doing good deeds that are pleasing to Allah. Our Lord informs us that those who do good can look forward to an even better reward, and that they must expect their reward only from Him.
Allah encompasses everything that humanity does. It is enough for Him to be aware of our good deeds, for He knows what our hearts contain and rewards those deeds. Allah states that He gives a just reward for those good deeds that comply with the Qur'an's morality and gives the righteous the good tidings of Paradise, as follows:
Yes, the friends of Allah will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. Those who believe and guard against evil, there is good news for them in the life of this world and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the words of Allah. That is the great victory! (Surah Yunus, 62-64)