Al-Kahf (Arabic: الكهف, "The Cave") is the 18th chapter (sūrah) of the Quran with 110 verses (āyāt). Regarding the timing and contextual background of the supposed revelation (asbāb al-nuzūl), it is an earlier "Meccan surah", which means it is believed to have been revealed in Mecca, instead of later in Medina.
|Position||Juzʼ 15 to 16|
|No. of Rukus||12|
|No. of verses||110|
|No. of words||1583|
|No. of letters||6425|
Contents and themesEdit
Verses 9–26 of the chapter retells the Christian folktale of the "People of the Cave". A few young believers lived in a time when they were tortured for their beliefs. Upon the guidance of God, they fled the city, where believers were persecuted, together with their kalb (Arabic: كَـلـب, dog), and took refuge in a cave where they fell asleep. When they woke they found themselves that the people of the city had become believers.
The story of the rich and the poorEdit
In verses 32–44 the surah discusses a parable of two men, one of whom had been given blessings from God and the other poor. The rich one wronged his soul and started showing off with his wealth and noble lineage.
And he had fruit, so he said to his companion while he was conversing with him, "I am greater than you in wealth and mightier in [numbers of] men."
At the end of the parable God destroys what he had given the man.
Moses and Al-KhidrEdit
The third main story within the chapter (verses 60–82) is that of Musa (Moses) traveling to gain knowledge from another servant of God who is never mentioned by name, in tafsir of ibn Kathir he is called Al-Khidr.
Finally, the surah mentions in verses 83–98 a man who traveled a great deal and reached the east and the west of the earth – namely, Dhul-Qarnayn. The Qur'an repeats the Syrian legend of a great king who helps a tribe of people build a massive wall of iron between two mountains. It goes on to say that this wall will be only destroyed on Judgement Day. The wall may have reflected a distant knowledge of the Great Wall of China (the 12th century scholar al-Idrisi drew a map for Roger of Sicily showing the "Land of Gog and Magog" in Mongolia), or of various Sassanid Persian walls built in the Caspian area against the northern barbarians, or a conflation of the two. It was also likely inspired by a story from the Alexander Romance, where Alexander the Great supposedly built a great wall in the Caucasus to keep out barbarians.
Circumstances of revelationEdit
Arab Muslim historian and hagiographer, Ibn Ishaq, reported in his traditional Muslim biography of Muhammad, Sirat Rasul Allah that the 18th surah of the Qur'an (which includes the story of Dhu l-Qarnayn) was revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad by God on account of some questions posed by rabbis residing in the city of Medina – the verse was revealed during the Meccan period of Muhammad's life. According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad's tribe, the powerful Quraysh, were greatly concerned about their tribesman who had started claiming prophethood and wished to consult rabbis about the matter. The Quraysh sent two men to the rabbis of Medina, reasoning that they had superior knowledge of the scriptures and about the prophets of God. The two Quraysh men described their tribesman, Muhammad, to the rabbis.
The rabbis told the men to ask Muhammad three questions:
They [the rabbis] said, "Ask him about three things which we will tell you to ask, and if he answers them then he is a Prophet who has been sent; if he does not, then he is saying things that are not true, in which case how you will deal with him will be up to you. Ask him about some young men in ancient times, what was their story for theirs is a strange and wondrous tale. Ask him about a man who travelled a great deal and reached the east and the west of the earth. What was his story and ask him about the Ruh (soul or spirit) – what is it? If he tells you about these things, then he is a Prophet, so follow him, but if he does not tell you, then he is a man who is making things up, so deal with him as you see fit."
According to Ibn Ishaq, when Muhammad was informed of the three questions from the rabbis, he said that he would have the answers in the morning but did not say "if God wills it". For fifteen days, Muhammad awaited eagerly for the revelation. Muhammad did not answer the question until then. Doubt in Muhammad began to grow amongst the people of Mecca. Then, after fifteen days, Muhammad received the revelation of al-Kahf as an answer to the questions.
He who amongst you would survive to see him should recite over him the opening verses of Sura Kahf
"Whoever reads Sura Kahf on Friday, light shall shine forth for him between the two Fridays."
Common Muslim and Christian themeEdit
The story of believers falling asleep in a cave for a long period of time is present also in Christian tradition, see Seven Sleepers.
Imam Musa al-Kadhim narrates in Kitab al-Kafi that Ali would bequeath his companions to view this world with the vision of an ascetic because it dislodges its residents. Ali provides them with the parable of a lush, green garden with scented dew that accumulates under the blades of grass but then gets separated from it in the morning, as Allah has said, "Set forth to them the similitude of the life of this world: it is like the rain which We send down from the skies: the earth's vegetation absorbs it, But soon it becomes dry stubble, which the winds do scatter: it is (only) Allah Who prevails over all things. (18:45)". He advises his companions to "look at this world and the numerous things which cause you to wonder, and the scarcity of things that benefit you.".
- Surat Al-Kahf (18:9–26) – The Holy Qur'an – القرآن الكريم
- As-hab al-Kahf (Arabic: أَصـحـاب الـكَـهـف
- Surat Al-Kahf (18:34) – The Holy Qur'an – القرآن الكريم
- Quran Surah Al-Kahf ( Verse 34 )
- Surat Al-Kahf (18:32–44) – The Holy Qur'an – القرآن الكريم
- Surat Al-Kahf (18:60–82) – The Holy Qur'an – القرآن الكريم
- The Story of Musa and Al-Khidr – Tafsir Ibn Kathir
- Surat Al-Kahf (18:83–98) – The Holy Qur'an – القرآن الكريم
- Glassé & Smith 2003, p. 39.
- "Tafsir ibn Kathir". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
- Sahih Muslim – Book 41, Hadith No. 7015
- Al-Mustadrak alaa al-Sahihain, by Hakim al-Nishaburi.
- Al-Kulayni, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Ya’qub (2015). Kitab al-Kafi. South Huntington, NY: The Islamic Seminary Inc. ISBN 9780991430864.
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