Overview - Surah 18: al-Kahf (The Cave )

Naming Convention of the Surah

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The Surah is named after the Cave which the Youth retreated to for protection, as mentioned in Ayat , "And when you have withdrawn from them and that which they worship other than Allah, retreat to the Cave.... " [18:16]

There are 110 Ayat in this Surah.

Overview

Total Ayat110
Total Words *1579
Root Words *382
Unique Root Words *11
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 69th (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 6th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2,Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3,Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey,1st Pledge of Aqabah,2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Adam, Musa
Surah Index
Adam, Angels, Children, Disbelievers, Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Earth, Earth (condition of at the time of resurrection) , Forgetting, Hell, Humankind (creation of) (from a drop of sperm), Humankind (creation of) (from dust), Iblis, Insha-Allah (God willing), Jinn, Judgement (Day) , Killing, Knowledge, Metallurgy, Moses, Qur’an, Record of personal deeds, Resurrection (Day) , Revelation, Sea, Ships, Two Horned One, Weather (rain)

Central Theme

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  • Theme 1: Protection from Fitnah [trials and tribulations]

    Fitnah in religion: In the story of the youth and their tyrant King (18:9)
    Fitnah in wealth: In the story of the one with two gardens (18:44)
    Fitnah in knowledge: In the story of Musa and Khidr (18:82)
    Fitnah in governance: In the story of Dhul-Qarnayn (18:83)

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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It's Ayat protect from the Fitnah [trials] and are a protection from its dangers like a Cave protects someone from external dangers, like rain, storms,predatory animals etc. 

Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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* The begining and end of the Surah mention the Revelation and Words of Allah. Towards the end of the Surah, Allah says, "Say, "If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement." [18:109] and in the begining of the Surah, Allah says, "[All] praise is [due] to Allah, who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance..." [18:1]

* In the begining and the end of the Surah there is glad tidings for the righteous Believer - "... give good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a good reward." [18:2] and in the end of the Surah, "Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds - they will have the Gardens of Paradise as a lodging," [18:107]

* Similarly, there is a warning to the disbelievers in the begining and the end of the Surah. "[He has made it] straight, to warn of severe punishment from Him..."[18:2] and in the end, "And We will present Hell that Day to the Disbelievers, on display,Those whose eyes had been within a cover [removed] from My remembrance, and they were not able to hear.Then do those who disbelieve think that they can take My servants instead of Me as allies? Indeed, We have prepared Hell for the disbelievers as a lodging." [18:100-102]

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The last Ayat of the previous Surah al-Isra begins with, "And say, "Praise to Allah...." [17:111] - and then Surah al-Kahf begins with "[All] praise is [due] to Allah, who has sent down upon His Servant the Book....." [18:1] - The begining of this Surah is an enactement from the instruction to say, Alhamdulillah from the last Ayat of the previous Surah. 

The Virtues of the Surah

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* A protection from the fitnah of Dajjal. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "Whoever commits to memory the first ten Ayat of the Surat Al-Kahf, will be protected from (the trial of) Ad-Dajjal (Antichrist)." [Muslim] 

* A light for the one that recites it every Friday. On the authority of Abi Saeed al-Khudri that the Prophet (saw) said, "Whoever recites Surah al-Kahf on Jummah [Friday] it will be a light for him between the two Jummahs." [Baihaqi, Hakim - Hasan]

* The Messenger of Allah (saw) mentioned the Dajjal (Antichrist) saying: "If he comes forth while I am among you I shall be the one who will dispute with him on your behalf, but if he comes forth when I am not among you, a man must dispute on his own behalf, and Allah will take my place in looking after every Muslim. Those of you who live up to his time should recite over him the opening verses of Surat al – Kahf, for they are your protection from his trial. We asked: How long will he remain on the earth ? He replied : Forty days, one like a year, one like a month, one like a week, and rest of his days like yours. We asked : Messenger of Allah, will one day’s prayer suffice us in this day which will be like a year ? He replied : No, you must make an estimate of its extent. Then Jesus son of Marry will descend at the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will then catch him up at the date of Ludd and kill him." [Muslim]

Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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  • The word الْفِرْدَوْسِ Firdous (Paradise) appears only twice in the Qur'an. Once in Surah al-Kahf (18:107) and once in Surah al-Mumineen (23:11)
 
Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) *

Unique Root Words to this Surah only


11 unique root words that do not appear in any other Surah *

Top 10 Most Frequent Root Words used in this Surah

Root Word Frequency
in Surah
Frequency
in Qur'an
ق و ل 58 1722
ر ب ب 38 980
ك و ن 22 1390
أ ل ه 20 2851
ش ي أ 15 519
ج ع ل 15 346
أ خ ذ 15 273
ٱلَّذِى 14 1464
ب ي ن 14 523
و ج د 13 107

Period of Revelation

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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.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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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.

Relevant Hadith

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Lessons/Guidance/Major-Issues/Reflections

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  • Story of the Companions of the Cave who were wakened up from their sleep after hundreds of years.
  • Whenever you promise to do something in the future, always say "Insha Allah (If Allah so wills)."
  • Similitude of this worldly life and its relationship with the life after death.
  • Story of the Prophet Musa as a student of the Prophet Khidr.
  • Story of King Dhul-Qarnain.
  • The favors of Allah are countless and cannot be recorded even if all the oceans were to be used as an inkwell and other such oceans are brought to replenish this ink.
  • Muhammad (pbuh) is but a human being like you.
  • The core of this surah is to get protection from Fitna-e-Dajjal. When head of the state was cruel and the majority of society was corrupt,  some youth took refuge in Cave (distant from population)  by the guidance of Allah with the fear that society will not leave them alone on the right path and they may turn them away. Allah discusses it in this Surah and according to scholars this is a concept/ message for us to save ourselves when there is a fear for our Din and the greatest fear is of the trials associated to Dajjal.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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External Links

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