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2 Lessons from Chapter Al-Kahf in the Modern-day Scenario

Part 1

Allah, the Creator of both life and man, affirms that everything on earth, the physical locus of man’s honorable mission, has been made as an adornment for it:

…in order that We may test them (mankind) as to which of them are best in deeds. And verily, We shall make all that is on it (the earth) a bare dry soil (Al-Kahf, 7-8).

Thus, for the people to succeed, they must understand what an adornment and what a substance on earth is, what is perishable and what is everlasting, what the fact and what the fiction is, and what the truth and what the falsehood is.

A person must synchronize his life undertakings with such a realization if he wanted to be best in deeds, that is, to do good deeds in the most perfect manner. He, for example, will know that:

….wealth and sons are allurements of the life of this world; but the things that endure, good deeds, are best in the sight of your Lord, as rewards, and best as (the foundation for) hopes (Al-Kahf, 46).

Conversely, failing to rise above the inhibiting constraints of matter and their ego, as well as failing to dispense with their incapacitating spiritual and intellectual impediments, disbelievers and agnostics cannot see, nor understand, when the truth is presented to them in whatever form and through whatever means.

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Their misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the truth only reflect the extent of their spiritual and intellectual deficiencies and disorders.

Owing to the nature of the content of the chapter, recurring allusions to the condition of such people have been made.

For example, Christians are said to have attributed a son to Allah because:

…no knowledge have they of such a thing, nor had their fathers” (Al-Kahf, 5).

It is all due to some cleverly fashioned and articulated falsehoods, forgeries and myths.

Also, the miracle of the Cave Sleepers many unenlightened and myopic persons wanted to reduce to just a legend or a mystery, dwelling mainly on some secondary or purely irrelevant aspects of the miracle.

That was the case also on account of such people’s ignorance, dishonesty and prejudice, resorting to “guessing at the unseen” (Al-Kahf, 22). Concerning, for instance, the number of the Cave Sleepers, the Prophet and Muslims were advised to adopt this principled mode:

Say: ‘My Lord knows best their number. It is but few that know their (real case). Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers’ (Al-Kahf, 22).

Moreover, a person who had been given two gardens of grape (Al-Kahf, 32-43) was ruined because he behaved in a state of pride and disbelief, and with his arrogant and flawed worldview, he never stopped displaying salient elements of disbelief in Allah, his Creator, and in the Day of Resurrection.

On the other hand, when Prophet Musa (Moses) met a mysterious man – or an angel in the form of a human being — called Al-Khidr, and witnessed subsequently with him a series of truly amazing and wondrous things that defied all logic and reason, Musa was able to comprehend the real state of affairs.

Although he persistently exhibited typical and overwhelming human weaknesses, he was fully aware that what had transpired was nothing but the result of a special knowledge Al-Khidr had been taught by Allah. Thus, Musa only wanted to follow the man – or the angel — so that he could learn something of what he had (Al-Kahf, 66).

There was nothing unconditionally mysterious, nor secretive, in the whole matter. Al-Khidr himself summed it up by saying:

And I did them not of my own accord (Al-Kahf, 82).

However, the only problem with Musa was that he could not hold patience. And how could he have full patience about things which he did not know? (Al-Kahf, 69). Whereas it is many people’s deficiency and snag to deny that which they encompass not in knowledge and whose interpretation has not yet come to them (Yunus, 39).

The lessons hereby are multiple and are related to the thirst for genuine knowledge, the ethics of pursuing knowledge, and being responsible when having it and patient when devoid of it.

It is also to be learnt that Allah alone is truly the Knowledgeable One. He is the Omniscient, the All-Knower, and the All-Wise. He is the One Who gives the gift of knowledge, so even the angels declared that “we have no knowledge except what You have taught us” (Al-Baqarah, 32), for, indeed:

…above everyone who is endowed with knowledge there is One the All-Knowing (Yusuf, 76).

Dhul-Qarnayn (“he of the two horns”), a mighty and wise king, likewise, was not carried away in the slightest by his enormous power and riches. He refused to say or do anything that could make him an extraordinary, yet otherworldly, legend and a folk tale hero. He was cognizant and appreciative of the truth that it was Allah, his Creator and Lord, Who had established him in the earth and had given him the means of everything (Al-Kahf, 84).

He used to say that the material, spiritual and intellectual wealth, authority and power in which his Lord had established him are most genuine and unsurpassed, and hence, better than anything the people could offer him (Al-Kahf, 95).

What’s more, Dhul-Qarnayn used to make the ordinary people participate in his astonishing feats (Al-Kahf, 96), implying thereby that he, after all, was an everyday mortal entrusted with extraordinary power with which came extraordinary responsibility, and that they and their diverse talents were also very important, without which he alone would not be what he really was.

Civilization, it stands to reason, is a composite of different roles and contributions afforded by individuals, organizations and institutions, each and every one participating and contributing an expected share. Civilization, furthermore, is not merely about individuals and groups.

Rather, as a concept and sensory reality, it is an entity, or an organism, on its own which has separate but complementary functions. The functions are expected to be performed exquisitely and in unison, generating in the process what could be described as civilizational miracles.

Modern-day Scenario

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].