Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Was salaatu was salaamu ala ashraful mursaleen sayyidina Muhammadi wa ala aali sayyidina Muhammadi wa ashaabihi ajma’een.
All praise is due to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the entire universe. And the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad (saw) his family and his companions.
Insha Allah, today I wish to speak about the virtues of reciting Surah al-Kahf and to explain briefly the main themes of this Surah. The Prophet (saw) is reported to have said in a hadith: “Man qara’a Suratal Kahfi fee yowmil Jumu’ati adaa’a lahu min al-noori maa baina al-Jumu’atain – Whoever recites Surah al-Kahf on Friday, a light shall shine forth for him between the two Fridays.” And he (saw) also said: “Man qara’a Suratal Kahfi kamaa unzilat kaanat lahu nooran yowmal Qiyamati – Whoever recites Surah al-Kahf as it was revealed, will have a light on the Day of Resurrection.” So based on this, we can see the great benefits which lie in reciting this Surah, and we should try our outmost to see that we do it. Ideally this Surah should be recited on Thursday night or on Friday morning before Jumu’ah but if that is not possible then it can be recited anytime during the day of Jumu’ah. This period of time stretches from after Maghrib on Thursday till Maghrib on Friday.
Although it would be best to recite the entire Surah, some people might find this a little bit difficult as the Surah is quite lengthy. So in this case, they should at least memorise and recite the first ten ayat of this Surah and the last ten. This is because it is mentioned in a hadith that the Prophet (saw) said: “Man hafiza ‘ashara aayaatin min awwali Suratil Kahfi ‘usima min fitnati Dajjaal – Whoever memorises ten ayat from the beginning of Surah al-Kahf will be protected from the trial of Dajjal.” And in another narration instead of the first ten ayat, the last ten are mentioned.
This Surah contains four major themes. The first of these is the narration about the Companions of the Cave. Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: “Nahnu naqussu ‘alaika naba’ahum bil haqq. Innahum fityatun aamanoo bi rabbihim wa zidnaahum hudaa – We will relate their story to you with truth. They were young men who had iman in their Lord and We increased them in guidance.” These Companions of the Cave were people who lived after the time of Nabi ‘Isa (as) and who believed in the Oneness of Allah (swt). The ruler of the town in which they lived was a pagan and he forcibly tried to convert the people to his belief. They were forced to either abandon their belief in the Oneness of Allah (swt) or they would be killed. These young men refused to do this and said: “Rabbunaa rabbus samawati wal ardi lan nad’uwa min doonihi ilaahal laqad qulnaa idhan shatataa – Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth and We will not call on any god apart from him. We would in that case have uttered an abomination.”
So they fled from the town and sought refuge in the cave. Allah (swt) then sent down His mercy upon them. He caused them to fall asleep for hundreds of years but for them it seemed as if they had only slept for a day or part of a day. After this He then caused them to awaken. When one of them then returned to the town he found that the people had all embraced Tawhid and that they would no longer be persecuted. In this way Allah (swt) saved them from the difficulties which they had faced, because of their placing their trust in Him.
This story is one that is also known to the Christians and Jews. These people disputed about the exact number of these Companions: some said they were three, their dog being the fourth. Others said five, the dog being the sixth and others said that they were seven, the dog being the eighth. They also disputed concerning the exacted number of years for which they remained in the cave. This is all mentioned in this Surah but for us, it is not important to go into all these details and Allah (swt) orders us not to do so. The only important thing for us is what we can learn and benefit from this narration.
The first point in this regard is that we should always place our trust in Allah (swt). These companions were being persecuted for their beliefs but because they had tawakkul in Allah (swt), He provided a way out for them. It also teaches us that when in difficulty we should turn to Allah (swt) in dua. This is what the Companions did. They fled to the cave and then made dua and said: “Rabbanaa aatinaa mil ladunka rahmataw wa hayyi’lanaa min amrinaa rashadaa – Our Lord, give us mercy directly from You and open the way for us to right guidance in our situation.”
Another thing which we can take from this narration is that it is not necessary for a person to be old to attain piety and a high rank with Allah (swt). It is specifically stated in this Surah that these companions were ‘fityah’ which refers to young men. But despite their young age they had attained closeness to Allah (swt) and He bestowed His favours on them. He (swt) increased them in guidance, sent down His mercy on them, made them one of His miracles and signs, and over and above all that, He granted them the immense bounty of being mentioned in the Holy Quran. In this way they will be remembered for all time to come.
The second narration in this Surah deals with the owner of the gardens and his companion. These were two people who lived close by to one another. To one of them Allah (swt) had granted two gardens with a river flowing between them. This made him very wealthy and he also had many children. However, he was a disbeliever in Allah (swt) and associated partners with Him. He denied the Last Day and boasted about his wealth to his companion, who was poor and without many children. But this companion did have belief in the Oneness of Allah (swt). He warned the owner of the garden that if he continued to disobey Allah (swt), Allah (swt) might destroy his wealth.
And this is exactly what happened. His garden was destroyed and he then became full of regret for his past wrong-doings. This narration teaches us that worldly goods are of no real benefit to us. They can be lost in an instant and are only temporary. It is far better for us to have a garden in the Hereafter than a garden in this world. As is stated in the Quran: “Maa ‘indakum yanfadu wa maa ‘indallahi baaq – What is with you runs out but what is with Allah goes on forever.” It also teaches not to be proud and arrogant for what we possess of worldly goods. All these things come only from Allah (swt). He is the true owner of it and He can take it back at any time He pleases. Another point to note is that just because a person may have been favoured with a lot of wealth and money that this does not necessarily mean that this is a sign of Allah (swt) being pleased with that person.
The third theme of this Surah is the story of Musa and Khidr (as). Musa (as) was once asked who the most knowledgeable person in the world was. He replied that it was himself. Allah (swt) then revealed to him that this was not so and sent him to meet with Khidr (as). Khidr literally means green, and he was named this because when he used to pray, the area around him would become lush and green. There are different opinions amongst the mufassirun as to his status: some say that he was a prophet while others say that he was a wali of Allah (swt).
When Musa (as) met with him he asked permission to accompany him on his travels but Khidr (as) replied that he, i.e. Musa (as), would not be able to have patience with him. Eventually he agreed to let him accompany him but on condition that he not ask any questions. They first rode on a boat which Khidr (as) scuttled. They then met a young boy whom Khidr (as) killed. Thereafter they came to a town in which the people refused to give them any hospitality. They found a wall in that town which was about to fall down and Khidr (as) repaired it. At each incident Musa (as) objected to what Khidr (as) had done and demanded an explanation for his actions. Khidr (as) reminded him that he had agreed not to ask any questions. After the third incident Khidr (as) then stated that they should now part company and explained everything that he had done.
The boat belonged to some poor people. There was a king in that area who was seizing all the peoples boats and by scuttling these people’s boat he had saved them from that. The child was a son to believing parents. He was disobedient and rebellious and Khidr (as) wanted them to be given in exchange a son who would be more pious and compassionate. The wall belonged to two orphans whose father was a righteous man and there was a treasure hidden underneath it. Allah (swt) wanted them to become adults and then discover their treasure, as a mercy from Him.
In all these cases, Khidr (as) did not act out of his own will but was guided by Allah (swt). This is mentioned in the Quran in the words of Khidr (as): “Wa maa fa’altuhu ‘an amree – I did not do it of my own volition.” This narration teaches us that there is knowledge which is beyond our intellect. It is not something which can be learned from books or through study but is something which comes direct from Allah (swt). As Allah (swt) states, describing Khidr (as): “Fawajadaa ‘abdan min ‘ibaadinaa aatainaahu rahmatam min ‘indinaa wa ‘allamnaahu min ladunnaa ‘ilmaa – They found a slave of Ours whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had also given knowledge direct from us.” It also teaches us that no matter how much we learn and how much we may already know, there will always be someone else out there more knowledgeable than ourselves.
The final narration in this Surah deals with Dhul Qarnayn. He was a king whom Allah (swt) had greatly favoured. Allah (swt) says, describing him: “Innaa makkanaa lahu fil ardi wa aatainaahu min kulli shai’in sababaa – We gave him power and authority on the earth and granted him a way to everything.” He traveled through the earth and came upon a certain group of people. The evil ones among them he punished and for the good ones he made things easy. He also came upon a people who were being tormented by Ya’juj and Ma’juj who are known is English as Gog and Magog. He protected these people from them and sealed away Ya’juj and Ma’juj in a certain valley. He built a wall to enclose them from which they could not escape. But as the Final Hour draws nearer they will once again be set free to cause havoc in the earth. Their appearance will be one of the major signs of the Last Day and we ask Allah (swt) to protect us from their fitnah, should we live to see it.
These are the four main themes of this Surah: the story of the companions of the Cave, the owner of the gardens, Musa and Khidr (as), and the narration of Dhul Qarnayn. This Surah is very blessed and contains many benefits for us so we should try our best to recite it every Friday and to contemplate over its meaning, so that we may derive full benefit from it.
Wa aakhiru da’waanaa ‘anil hamdu lillahi rabbil aalameen.