Surat al-Kahf, 01-10
Praise belongs to Allah, Who has sent down the Book to His servant and has put no crookedness in it. (Surat al-Kahf, 1)
The sura's first verse indicates the importance of being grateful to Allah, Who gave humanity everything: a perfectly functioning body, an environment suitable for life on Earth, the order in the universe, food, water, and much more. Allah's generosity is infinite, for He gave us so much that we cannot list His blessings even in general terms. We are reminded of this reality in the following verse:
If you tried to number Allah's blessings, you could never count them. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nahl, 18)
One of the believers' foremost characteristics is to be in a state of gratefulness for all that Allah has given them and to remember that His gifts are a trial for humanity. As Surat an-Nisa' 147 states, Allah "is always responsive to gratitude." However, in spite of this, most people are ungrateful for what they are given. Prophet Sulayman's (as) words are reported in Surat an-Naml:
"This is part of my Lord's favor to test me, to see if I will give thanks or show ingratitude. Whoever gives thanks only does so to his own gain. Whoever is ungrateful, my Lord is Rich Beyond Need, Generous." (Surat an-Naml, 40)
In the End Times, people are totally removed from gratefulness. Having forgotten that Allah gives all that they have, they are completely absorbed in their worldly lives and consider all of their wealth and possessions to be the result of their own effort and mind. Such people have to know that they are being ungrateful to Allah, because only He gives everything. This reality is revealed in the following verses:
He has given you everything for which you have asked Him. If you tried to number Allah's blessings, you could never count them. Man is indeed wrongdoing, ungrateful. (Surah Ibrahim, 34)
Any blessing you have is from Allah. Then when harm touches you, it is to Him that you cry for help. But when He removes the harm from you, a group of you associate others with their Lord, ungrateful for what We have given them. Enjoy yourselves. You will soon know! (Surat an-Nahl, 53-55)
As these verses state, people do not realize that Allah gives them everything and they deny this truth by associating others with Him. Satan, who follows this strategy, seeks to push people away from thankfulness and toward ungratefulness for Allah's gifts so that they will begin to deny this truth and then go astray. The Qur'an exposes Satan's wicked strategy and real purpose, as follows:
[Satan said:] "Then I will come at them from in front of them and behind them, from their right and from their left. You will not find most of them thankful." He [Allah] said: "Get out of it, reviled and driven out. As for those who follow you, I will fill up Hell with every one of you." (Surat al-A`raf, 17-18)
Naturally, there are consequences in this world for people's ungratefulness. The fact of people's forgetfulness and ungratefulness is at the bottom of all the poverty, destitution, decadence, deprivation, spiritual decline and similar problems that we see all around us. While being grateful opens up blessings, well-being, and peace, ungratefulness brings great sorrow. Allah says:
And when your Lord announced: "If you are grateful, I will certainly give you increase, but if you are ungrateful, My punishment is severe." (Surah Ibrahim, 7)
As this verse reveals, people who do not thank Allah for what He gives earn a severe punishment: sorrow in this world and in the Hereafter.
Past events can teach us many valuable lessons. In the twentieth century, the world was ruled by anti-religious people, such as those who followed communism and fascism, who distanced the people from true religion's goodness by portraying denial as an attractive substitute. Their followers denied Allah, and so forgot about thankfulness and encountered great tragedies over many long years. In return for their ungratefulness, Allah withheld some of His gifts. The Qur'an reveals that the "reward" for ungratefulness is the following:
Allah makes an example of a city that was safe and at peace, its provision coming to it plentifully from every side. Then it showed ingratitude for Allah's blessings, so He made it wear the robes of hunger and fear for what it did. (Surat an-Nahl, 112)
The cause for the famine, poverty, fear, and suffering that we saw during the twentieth century is the people's ungratefulness. The Qur'an reveals that such people will be punished:
[By] that We repaid them, because they did not believe. And [thus] do We repay except the ungrateful? (Surah Saba', 17)
It is straight, to warn of violent force direct from Him and to give the good news to the believers, those who do right actions, that for them there is an excellent reward. (Surat al-Kahf, 2)
This verse points out the Qur'an's importance and that it is the true book. The Qur'an guides humanity, reminds people of their eternal life, and shows them the righteous path. It is a revelation and the only path that shows us how to win Allah's good pleasure and mercy, and Paradise. It is the absolute measure for right and wrong. As Surat al-Baqara 120 states, "Allah's guidance is the true guidance." Our Lord reveals that the believers must hold on tightly to the Qur'an's guidance, as follows:
So hold fast to what has been revealed to you. You are on a straight path. It is certainly a reminder to you and to your people, and you will be questioned. (Surat az-Zukhruf, 43-44)
Surat al-Kahf 2 indicates the importance of abiding by Allah's revelation. All believers have the life-long responsibility of obeying His injunctions, orders, and recommendations, and no difficulty, pressure, or hardship can cause them to be distracted or careless in this matter. Regardless of the circumstances, they are meticulous, diligent, and determined.
The verse also draws our attention to the obligation of warning others. Allah frequently reminds the faithful of this important obligation and indicates the necessity of commanding the right and forbidding the wrong. He instructs us to do this as an act of worship, and gives the good news of salvation to those who do so:
Those who repent, those who worship, those who praise, those who fast, those who bow, those who prostrate, those who command the right, those who forbid the wrong, those who preserve the limits of Allah: give good news to the believers. (Surat at-Tawba, 112)
As with everything else, the best examples of this are the Prophets. The Messengers whom Allah willed to fulfill this honorable obligation warned their people in a variety of ways, invited them to the true faith, reminded them of Hell, and warned them about eternal suffering. Allah reveals this reality, as follows:
I have warned you of a Fire that rages, in which only the most wretched will roast. (Surat al-Layl, 14-15)
Surat al-Kahf 2 also points out the importance of right action, defined as good deeds done with a true heart in order to win Allah's good pleasure, and grace, and Paradise. Another verse with the same message is the following:
If anyone seeks glory, let him know that glory is Allah's alone. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it. But people who plot evil deeds will suffer a harsh punishment. The plotting of such people is profitless. (Surah Fatir, 10)
In many other verses, our Lord points out the importance of doing right actions and the rewards that He will give in return. Some of them are given below, as follows:
Give the good news to those who believe and do right actions, that they will have Gardens with rivers flowing under them. When they are given fruit there as provision, they will say: "This is what we were given before." But they were only given a simulation of it. They will have there spouses of perfect purity, and will remain there timelessly, forever. (Surat al-Baqara, 25)
Those who believe, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who believe in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Surat al-Baqara, 62)
As for those who believe and do right actions and humble themselves before their Lord, they are the Companions of the Garden, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surah Hud, 23)
Surat al-Kahf 2 touches upon another important issue: giving the believers the good news of Paradise. Many verses order the Messengers to do this, for the believers draw great comfort from being told that all of their troubles, difficulties and shortcomings in this life are only temporary, and that Allah's help, grace, and mercy are always with them. The nearness of the Hereafter's blessings increases the believers' motivation, zeal, and effort. As one verse says:
We have made it easy on your tongue so that you can give good news to those who guard against evil and warn stubbornly hostile people by it. (Surah Maryam, 97)
All of the issues touched upon in Surat al-Kahf 2 are subjects upon which Muslims living near to or in the End Times need to reflect carefully. As this verse indicates, holding fast to the Qur'an will protect people from the evil flowing from evil and anti-religious ideologies, as well as the trials and tribulations of the End Times. Conscientious Muslims of the End Times must do right actions under the guidance of the Qur'an, urge people to do right, give them the good news of the blessings of Paradise, and warn them of the punishment of Hell and not to make compromises with Allah's law.
A place in which they will remain forever. (Surat al-Kahf, 3)
Some people deny Allah's existence and the nearness of the eternal life of Paradise or Hell. For them, death means entering nothingness, for there is no Day of Judgment. Others believe in Hell, but think that its suffering will last only a number of days. According to this view, people will remain there for a short period of time to pay for their sins, and then will leave it behind for the blessings of Paradise. However, the Qur'an does not mention any such temporary punishment, and Allah reveals the following truth:
That is because they say: "The Fire will only touch us for a number of days." Their inventions have deluded them in their religion. (Surah Al 'Imran, 24)
Surat al-Kahf 3 points out people's incorrect understanding of Hell and reveals that it is an eternal resting place for those who persist in unbelief. People who get so absorbed in their worldly lives that they forget about Allah's existence, who do not follow the righteous path of Allah's Messenger (saas), and who do not obey the Qur'an will be in Hell forever, unless Allah wills otherwise, for such is His justice. The Qur'an also reveals that those who persist in unbelief will continue their insolence in Hell:
The evildoers will remain timelessly, forever, in the punishment of Hell. It will not be eased for them. They will be crushed there by despair. We have not wronged them; it was they who were wrongdoers. They will call out [addressing the keeper of Hell]: "Malik, let your Lord put an end to us!" He will say: "You will stay the way you are." (Surat az-Zukhruf, 74-77)
As seen in the above verses, not even in Hell will the unbelievers comprehend the fact that they are dependent on Allah; rather, they will continue in their conceit by not turning to Him but, instead, calling out to an angel to "let your Lord put an end to us." By doing so, they prove that they are still transgressors. Allah reveals that the unbelievers who ask: "Can we be sent back so that we can do something other than what we did?" (Surat al-A`raf, 53) are liars:
If only you could see when they are standing before the Fire and saying: "Oh! If only we could be sent back again, we would not deny the Signs of our Lord, and we would be among the believers." No, it is simply that what they were concealing before has been shown to them. If they were sent back, they would merely return to what they were forbidden to do. Truly, they are liars. (Surat al-An`am, 27-28)
Other verses state that people are given enough time on Earth, but that they do not abandon their conceit:
Or lest he should say, when he sees the punishment: "If only I could have another chance so that I could be a good-doer!" "No, the fact is that My Signs came to you, but you denied them and were arrogant and one of the unbelievers." (Surat az-Zumar, 58-59)
From all of this, we understand that such people will not mend their ways. Since Allah is most merciful with the believers, He does not let such evil people enter Paradise and be with the believers. Paradise, with all that it contains and its inhabitants, is a place of goodness, and nothing that Allah disapproves of can be found there. This is one of the consequences of His mercy and justice to His devout servants.
The eternal blessings of Paradise are only for the believers. Allah says:
Their recompense is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever. How excellent is the reward of those who act! (Surah Al 'Imran, 136)
As for those who disobey Allah and His Messenger and overstep His limits, We will admit them into a Fire, remaining in it timelessly, forever. They will have a humiliating punishment. (Surat an-Nisa', 14)
Do they not know that whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger will have the Fire of Hell, remaining in it timelessly, forever? That is the great disgrace. (Surat at-Tawba, 63)
[The Qur'an is] to warn those who say: "Allah has a son." They have no knowledge of this, neither they nor their fathers. It is a monstrous utterance that has issued from their mouths. What they say is nothing but a lie. (Surat al-Kahf, 4-5)
These two verses deal with the Christians' seriously mistaken understanding of Allah. By devising the doctrine of the Trinity, the Christians deviated from their true religion. The following verses explain how they did this:
O People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion. Say nothing but the truth about Allah. The Messiah, `Isa son of Maryam, was only the Messenger of Allah and His word, which He cast into Maryam, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messengers. Do not say: "Three." It is better that you stop. Allah is only One God. He is too Glorious to have a son! Everything in the heavens and in Earth belongs to Him. Allah suffices as a Guardian. (Surat an-Nisa', 171)
They say: "Allah has a son." Glory be to Him! He is the Rich Beyond Need. Everything in the heavens and on Earth belongs to Him. Have you authority to say this, or are you saying about Allah that which you do not know? (Surah Yunus, 68)
That is `Isa son of Maryam, the word of truth about which they are in doubt. It is not fitting for Allah to have a son. Glory be to Him! When He decides on something, He just says to it, "Be!" and it is. (Surah Maryam, 34-35)
There can be no doubt that this mentality is the faith of those who associate others with Allah. As the Qur'an reveals, Allah has no partners, equals, or children. He is the sole Governor of all that exists, as well as the Lord of the heavens and Earth. Those Muslims living in the End Times are obliged to explain such mistaken beliefs to all who hold them.
Perhaps you [Muhammad] may destroy yourself with grief, chasing after them, if they do not believe in these words. (Surat al-Kahf, 6)
This verse deals with those who do not respond to the calls to faith made by the Prophet (saas) and the believers. Devout believers abide by Allah's order to command right and forbid evil, invite people to believe in Allah, and inform them of the truth contained in the Qur'an. However, most people turn away from the Messengers' calls and persist in denial, as revealed by:
"The Hour is coming—there is no doubt about it. But most of mankind do not believe"(Surah Ghafir, 59).
The unbelievers respond to such calls in many ways. Some demand miracles from the Messengers, as in: "We will not believe you until you make a spring gush out from the earth for us" (Surat al-Isra', 90), while others simply mock the believers. An an example of the latter is given below:
When they are told: "Believe in the way that the people believe," they exclaim: "What! Are we to believe in the way that fools believe?" No indeed! They are the fools, but they do not know it. (Surat al-Baqara, 13)
Every Prophet was greeted by his nation with similar mockery and often was subjected to various forms of oppression. For instance, Prophet Nuh (as) used all methods to call his people to faith, but they responded negatively, as follows:
He said: "My Lord, I have called my people night and day, but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes, and were overweeningly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and privately." I said: "Ask forgiveness of your Lord. Truly He is Endlessly Forgiving." (Surah Nuh, 5-10)
As we can understand from these verses, most people, regardless of time or place, respond negatively to the calls to true religion. However, it must not be forgotten that such reactions never demoralize the believers, for they know that only Allah can bestow faith. No matter how well they speak, how moving and wise their words are, the believers cannot put faith into someone's heart unless Allah wills it. Other verses also reveal this truth:
We sent a Messenger among every people saying: "Worship Allah and keep clear of all false deities." Among them were some whom Allah guided, but others received the misguidance they deserved. Travel about the land and see the final fate of the unbelievers. However eager you are for them to be guided, Allah will not guide those whom He misguides. They will have no helpers. (Surat an-Nahl, 36-37)
As these verses reveal, no one can make anyone else believe. Therefore, the believers are responsible only for calling to faith. After they have fulfilled this obligation, they must leave it to Allah to give faith. Trusting Allah, being patient, and inviting to His religion in the most pleasant manner will have a great effect upon people's hearts. Allah says:
So remind them. You are only a reminder. You cannot compel them [to believe]. But as for anyone who turns away and is an unbeliever, Allah will punish him with the greatest punishment. Certainly it is to Us that they will return. Then their reckoning is Our concern. (Surat al-Ghashiya, 21-26)
Only Allah can bestow faith and make someone a believer. Many other verses, some of which are listed below, state this fact:
If your Lord had willed, all people on Earth would have believed. Do you think that you can force people to be believers? No one can believe except with Allah's permission. (Surah Yunus, 99-100)
You cannot guide those whom you would like to guide, but Allah guides those whom He wills to guide. He knows best those who are guided. (Surat al-Qasas, 56)
Surah Yusuf also discusses this subject. Irrespective of how genuine the call to faith is, people who have not been guided cannot believe. The Muslims are responsibile for calling and advising, and after doing this are to leave the person's status as a believer or an unbeliever to Allah. All of their efforts in this respect will be recorded and rewarded by Allah's will, while those who persist in their opposition to the truth will be punished. Allah reveals this truth in Surah Yusuf:
But most people, for all your eagerness, are not believers. You do not ask them for any wage for it. It is only a reminder to all beings. How many Signs there are in the heavens and Earth! Yet they pass them by, turning away from them. Most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others with Him. Do they feel so secure that the all-enveloping punishment of Allah will not come upon them, or that the Last Hour will not come upon them all of a sudden, when they least expect it? Say: "This is my way. I call to Allah with inner sight, I and all who follow me. Glory be to Allah! I am not one of the idolaters!" (Surah Yusuf, 103-108)
We made everything on Earth an adornment for it so that We could test them to see whose actions are the best. (Surat al-Kahf, 7)
Most people either do not know that their present life in this world is a trial to determine their true value in Allah's sight, or else they know this truth but choose to ignore it. This is why they are so dedicated to the worldly life and do not want to think about death and an eternal life in the Hereafter. But Allah reveals that people are tried while on Earth: "We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast" (Surat al-Baqara, 155). He also reveals the purpose of life on Earth and death, as follows:
He Who created death and life to test which of you is best in action. He is the Almighty, the Ever-Forgiving. (Surat al-Mulk, 2)
Just saying "I believe" is never enough to win Allah's good pleasure and grace, and Paradise; people have to prove the soundness of their faith and dedication to His revelation throughout their lives and in every situation. One must always turn to Allah and adhere strictly to His commands, whether in hardship, illness, suffering, and hunger or in wealth, power, and influence, for:
Do people imagine that they will be left to say: "We believe," and will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful and and He will surely make evident the liars. (Surat al-`Ankabut, 2-3)
But most people prefer the pleasures of this life over the life of the Hereafter. To own the latest sports car, a luxurious villa, jewels, or designer cloths are thought, mistakenly, to be the purpose of life. They race to become richer, more beautiful, or more famous, and spend their lives chasing these goals. However, nothing will benefit them unless they use it appropriately, as the following verses reveal:
To mankind, the love of worldly appetites is painted in glowing colors: women and children, and heaped-up mounds of gold and silver, and horses with fine markings, and livestock and fertile farmland. All that is merely the enjoyment of the life of this world. The best homecoming is in the presence of Allah. Say: "Shall I tell you of something better than that?" Those who do their duty will have Gardens with their Lord, with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever, and purified wives, and Allah's good pleasure. Allah sees His servants. (Surah Al `Imran, 14-15)
As these verses make clear, this life is temporary and its pleasures are misleading. In the End Times, as it has always been throughout history, all that exists (e.g., palaces, huge factories, bridges, gold and jewelry, money piled up in the bank, stock shares, cars, speed boats, and planes) is created to test people. While owning or not owning such things has specific connotations in human societies, in the eyes of Allah they mean nothing.
What really matters is one's faith in Allah, sincerity, and good character. Every person will die and realize that the eternal life of the Hereafter is true. Therefore, it is very unwise to be misled by the pleasures of this life. The believers, who realize this truth, exchange their lives and property for the eternal life in the Hereafter and enjoy this deal. Allah says to the believers:
Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their wealth in return for Paradise. They fight in the Way of Allah, and they kill and are killed. It is a promise binding upon Him in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an, and who is truer to his contract than Allah? Rejoice, then, in the bargain you have made. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 111)
We will certainly make everything on it a barren wasteland. (Surat al-Kahf, 8)
All beauty and wealth are created to test humanity, as mentioned earlier. In this verse, our Lord reminds us that no matter how beautiful, grand, or valuable our possessions, eventually all of them will become dust.
If Allah wills, He can unexpectedly remove those cherished things that make people forget His existence, thereby leaving them destitute. Allah is All-powerful; He gives wealth and poverty and, as the owner of everything, gives it to whomsoever He wills. The Qur'an mentions this in many verses, several of which are given below:
The Keys of the heavens and Earth belong to Him. He expands the provision of anyone He wills or restricts it. He has knowledge of all things. (Surat ash-Shura, 12)
Do they not see that Allah expands provision for whoever He wills and also restricts it? There are certainly Signs in that for people who believe. (Surah Rum, 37)
Allah expands the provision of any of His servants He wills and restricts it. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Surat al-Ankabut, 62)
Do you consider that the Companions of the Cave and ar-Raqim were one of the most remarkable of Our Signs? When the young men took refuge in the cave and said: "Our Lord, give us mercy directly from You and open the way for us to right guidance in our situation." (Surat al-Kahf, 9-10)
These verses touch upon this group's extraordinary situation. As the narrative unfolds, we see that their experiences are of an unusual and metaphysical nature. Their entire life is full of miraculous developments. Some of our Prophet's (as) hadiths make a connection between them and the End Times. This indicates that people living in the End Times may have supernatural experiences.
The continuation of the verse might be suggesting that the youth of the End Times will take on great responsibilities, for they will play an important role in the ideological struggle against anti-religious philosophies, presenting true religion, and ending oppression. Other verses state the importance of youth in informing people about religion. For example, in Surat al-Kahf, we are told of Musa's (as) "young servant," and another verse says that only some young people of Musa's (as) nation believed in him:
No one believed in Musa except some children of his people, out of fear that Pharaoh and the elders would persecute them… (Surah Yunus, 83)
Surat al-Kahf 10 tells us that those young people sought refuge in the cave from the existing oppressive system, which did not allow them to express their views, tell the truth, and call to Allah's religion. Thus, they distanced themselves from their people.
This verse might be signaling the creation of similar totalitarian regimes in the End Times, for regimes founded upon communism, fascism, or other ideologies seek to curb people's freedoms and oppress those who want to lead a religious life. The Companions of the Cave left their people and sought refuge because of similar oppression. Muslims living in the End Times probably will have to remain out of sight and hidden in order to escape the oppression of communist and fascist systems. Those who do this successfully will distance themselves from society and will be seen only rarely.
However, this should not be understood as an idle period, for they took refuge there while asking for Allah's grace and help. They also sought to improve and develop themselves. Muslims of the End Times who live under oppressive regimes will conceal themselves and hope for Allah to increase His grace upon them, and also to make their lives and struggle against anti-religious movements easier.
The Companions of the Cave's prayer to Allah (verse 10) also draws our attention to the fact that the believers must never forget that only Allah wills something to happen. All people are forever needy, helpless, and dependent upon Him, and cannot achieve anything through their own intellect, effort, and power unless Allah wills it. How can they see anything through to its conclusion when they cannot even lift a hand, walk, or breathe, except by His will? Many verses remind people that they must always depend upon Allah's help, support, and grace due to their incapacity and the fact that only Allah can will something to happen. For example:
You did not kill them; it was Allah Who killed them. And you did not throw, when you threw; it was Allah Who threw, so that He might test the believers with this excellent trial from Him. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Anfal, 17)
Allah creates and does all things; humanity, on the other hand, is tested in the areas of sincerity and submission. The Companions of the Cave, aware of this reality, immediately turned to Allah after finding refuge and expressed their submission by praying to Him. Knowing that Allah would increase their wisdom and make things easier for them in every respect, the first thing that they did was to seek His help. As this situation shows, what matters most is for people to be genuine Muslims who pray to our Lord and ask Him for everything.