Surah al-Kahf (The Cave ) 18 : 108
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
This abode in the gardens of paradise is contrasted here with the other abode in hell. The gulf between the two is colossal.
There is also here a fine reference to human nature and its appreciation of pleasure and enjoyment. This is expressed in the sentence, never will they desire any change to befall them.’ (Verse 108) We need to reflect a little on this statement which assures us that the believers are to dwell in paradise permanently. By nature however human beings are bored with any state that continues ad infinitum. When they are satisfied that the blessings they enjoy are permanent, they are no longer keen to preserve them, seeking changes instead.
This is how human nature is made, and for a definite purpose. Moreover, this is more suited to the role assigned to man in this life, placing him in charge of the earth. This role requires developing human life so as to achieve the level of perfection God in His wisdom has determined for it. Hence, He has made man a creature who loves change, discovery and movement from one stage, place or scene to another. This aspiration enables man to move on, to change things in his life, to discover new things as also reinvent his social system. In this way, man’s whole life changes and develops. It continues to progress gradually until it achieves its best level of perfection.
At the same time, human nature loves what is familiar and tries to preserve customs and traditions. However, this is kept at a degree that does not obstruct progress or prevent the development of thought or new ideas. The two trends achieve a balance which ensures progress. Every time the balance is disturbed so as to impose stagnation, it is followed by a revolt which gives new momentum in the opposite direction. This may even exceed the limits of moderation. The best periods in human life are those which achieve an equilibrium between the driving force and social controls, and between motivation and restraint. Should stagnation persist, it heralds a retreat in social conditions and a slow death in the life of both individuals and the community.
Such is the nature that is more suitable for human life on earth. In heaven, which is the world of absolute perfection, there is no duty and responsibility commensurate with human nature. Should people retain their nature that fits their life on earth while living in the permanent and self-renewing bliss of heaven, they will, in time, feel exceedingly bored with it. Heaven will become like a prison and its dwellers will seek to leave it for a while, just to have a change, even though this may mean paying a visit to a place of misery. They will need such a departure from heaven to satisfy their innate and strong desire for change. But the Creator, who knows well the nature of His creation, will change human desire so that when they are in heaven, they will not want to change or to leave. Instead, they will be keen to continue their lives there for as long as time stretches.
2. Linguistic Analysis[ edit ]
4. Miscellaneous Information[ edit ]
5. Connected/Related Ayat[ edit ]
6. Frequency of the word[ edit ]
7. Period of Revelation[ edit ]
This is the first of those Surahs sent down in the third stage of Prophethood in Makkah. We have already divided the life of the Prophet at Makkah into four stages in the introduction to Surah 6: al-An’am (The Grazing Livestock). According to that division, the third stage lasted from the fifth to the tenth year of Prophethood. What distinguishes this stage from the second and the fourth stages is that during the second stage, the Quraysh mainly resorted to ridiculing, scoffing, threatening, tempting, raising objections and making false propaganda against the Prophet and his followers. But during the third stage they employed the weapons of persecution, man handling and economic pressure, so much so that a large number of the Muslims had to emigrate from Arabia to Abyssinia. Those who remained behind were besieged in Shi’ib Abi Talib along with the Prophet and his family. To add to their misery, a complete social and economic boycott was applied against them. The only redeeming feature was that there were two personalities, Abu Talib, who was the uncle of the Prophet and his wife Khadijah. Their personal influence had been conducive to the support of two great families of the Quraysh. However, when in the tenth year of Prophethood these two persons died, the fourth stage began with such severe persecution that the Prophet and all his companions were forced to emigrate from Makkah.
It appears from the theme of the Surah that it was revealed at the beginning of the third stage when in spite of persecutions and opposition the migration to Abyssinia had not yet taken place. That is why the story of ‘The Sleepers of the Cave’ has been related to comfort and encourage the persecuted Muslims and to show them how righteous people in history have been preserving their faith.
8. Reasons for Revelation[ edit ]
This Surah was sent down in answer to three questions which the polytheists of Makkah in consultation with the People of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) put to the Prophet. These were:
1. Who were ‘The Sleepers of the Cave?’
2. What is the real story of Khidr?
3. What do you know about Dhul-Qarnain?
These three questions and their stories related to the history of the Christians and the Jews and were unknown in the Arabian Peninsula (Hijaz), so they were being used to test the divine knowledge revealed to the Prophet. However, God informed the Prophet of the complete answer to these questions and also employed the stories in the conflict between Islam and unbelief.
The questioners were told that the ‘Sleepers of the Cave’ believed in the same doctrine of Monotheism (Tawhid) which was being put forward in the Qur’an and that their condition was similar to that of the persecuted Muslims of Makkah. Also, the persecutors of the Sleepers of the Cave behaved in the same way as the disbelievers of Quraysh towards the Muslims. This particular story was a warning to the chiefs of Makkah, who were persecuting the small newly formed Muslim community. Additionally, the Prophet was instructed not to compromise with the persecutors nor consider the chiefs to be more important than his own followers. Likewise, the chiefs too were admonished and informed not to be distracted by the temporary life of this world but seek the eternal life of the hereafter.