The Majority of scholars considered Suratul Kahf to be a Makkan surah. The surah consists of 110 ayats and it comes after suratul Isra in the Quran. The surah revolves around 4 stories: Story of the people of the cave, story of a man with two gardens, story of Musa (AS) with Khidr and lastly story of Dhul Qarnain. Each story has a lesson to be learnt behind it.
The story of the people of the cave was about young men who believed in Allah and they invoked in him even though they were among a tribe that was ruled by a king that was unjust and they didn’t believe in Allah.
These young men introduced Allah’s religion to the tribe but they were rejected.
“Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, never shall we call upon any iIlah (god) other than Him; if we did, we should indeed have uttered an enormity in disbelief. These our people have taken for worship illah (gods) other than Him (Allah). Why do they not bring for them a clear authority? And who does more wrong than he who invents a lie against Allah but no one knows its true meanings except Allah” (TMQ, 18:14-15).
They continued to call people to Allah but they were not successful so Allah gave them an inspiration to seek refuge in the cave
“then seek refuge in the Cave; your Lord will open a way for you from His Mercy and will make easy for you your affair (i.e. will give you what you will need of provision, dwelling) but no one knows its true meanings except Allah” (TMQ, 18:16).
The Almighty Allah answered their prayers with great miracles
“And you would have thought them awake, whereas they were asleep. And we turned them on their right and on their left sides” (TMQ, 18: 18).
Allah showered them with miracles in order to protect them. They had woken up after 309 years and discovered that the people of the tribe have not become believers so they became new to the society that was filled with faith.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM THE FIRST STORY OF SURAH KAHF
1) Be in the presence of righteous company:
It is very important to be in the company of righteous people because it takes all week to put together a higher degree of eman but takes few hours to tanish it in the company of people with weak eman. As a result of this Allah tells us to be with people that remind us about our purpose in life and strictly avoid those that don’t utter his remembrance.
"And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face, and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our Remembrance, one who follows his own lusts and whose affair (deeds) has been lost." (18:28)
The Prophet (pbuh) said; ‘The likeness of a righteous companion and an evil companion is that of one who carries musk and one who works a bellows’. ‘With the one who carries musk, either he will give you some or you will buy from him or you will notice a pleasant fragrance from him. ‘With the one who work a bellows, either he will burn your clothes or you will notice a foul odour from him.’ [Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith 5534; Sahih Muslim, Hadith 2628).
Some people give excuses as to why they hang around with bad friends. Sometimes they claim the habits of the bad friends can’t affect their eman. This is certainly not true, hanging around with them means we are being trapped with shaytan. There is a damaging effect on our eman being with bad company. They will definitely influence us to do bad things and that weakens the eman. We can have taqwa and still be with bad company, but in order to remain steadfast, we have to get rid of them
The Prophet PBUH said; “Whoever wants to please the people by displeasing Allah, Allah will be displeased with him and will make the people displeased with him also. And whoever wants to please Allah by displeasing the people, Allah will be pleased by him and will make the people pleased with him also.” (Tirmidhi)
Let us save ourselves from the torment of the last day:
"No friend will ask of a friend." (70:10)
"Everyman, that Day, will have enough to make him careless of others." (80:37)
The people of the cave were righteous people and thus Allah assisted them in overcoming the trial of their faith.
2) Remembrance in the hereafter:
The Day of Judgment is the day our destinies will be decided (both believers and non-believers). We should be in constant remembrance of the Day of Judgment so as avoid grievous temptation of life.
3) Faith put to trial
Another lesson learnt from this story is that the faith of a person is also put to trial. If your faith is put to trial as long as you are steadfast in your deen Allah will help you overcome the trial.
Summary of lessons from the whole Surah Kahf
1. The story of the people of the cave serves as a trial of religion. Their faith was on trial because they were surrounded by non-believers who oppressed them, harm, tortured and threatened them so as to cause them deviate from the religion but they invoked in Allah and they became successful
2. The second lesson was on trial of wealth; the man with two gardens loved his wealth so much that it made him disbelieve in the hereafter
‘And I think not the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, (on the Day of Resurrection), I surely shall find better than this when I return to Him…but no one knows its true meanings except Allah’ (TMQ, 18:36).
3. The third lesson was on the trial of knowledge. Prophet Musa (AS) thought he was the most knowledgeable person on earth until he met Khidr. He demonstrated a sense of humility, respect and modesty in the relationship with khidr, just like a student and a teacher. It taught us never to feel arrogant about our knowledge hence forget modesty. This may make us learn something that isn’t beneficial to the society or to us individually.
“May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah)? But no one knows its true meanings except Allah” (TMQ, 18:66).
4. The last story was about a man that abuses power, oppresses his civilians and denies the existence of Allah. The story of Dhul Qarnain proved to us that wealth and power are all attributed to Allah
How to overcome the trials from Surah Kahf
The surah not only mentioned the trials, it showed us how to overcome them.
1. For the trial of faith; always be around good company.
2. For the trial of wealth always remember that all human possessions are temporary, the only real and true possession belongs to Allah.
3. For trial of knowledge, One should use humility to learn from more knowledgeable people as demonstrated by Prophet Musa (AS).
4. Lastly, the trial of power; if one is given authority over others in an organization or a country, one should strive to do good and forbid evil.
This surah is one of the most important surah in the Quran with lots of benefits and rewards from reciting and understanding of the contents. It helps us extract valuable lessons that makes us righteous slaves and steadfast in the deen.
Aisha, Stacey. (2012). Lessons from the Story of the Cave. Riyadh; IslamReligion publishing.
Khaled, A. (2009) Surat Al-Kahf (The Cave): Important points and focus on the stories. Dar al Tarjama, 4(2), pp.1-2.
Musa, I. (2014). Learning from Surah Kahf - 4 Stories with 4 Beautiful. Riyadh; IslamReligion publishing.
Saleh. S. (2003). Surah Al-Kahf (The Cave). Riyadh: Dar-us-Salam Publications.
Qutb, S. (2014). Story of Youth of the Cave. Muslim Intellectual Newspaper, 5(3), pp2-4.