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Get to Know Surah Al-Kahf – with Brother Nouman

Get to Know - Episode 5

Part 1 – Part 2Part 3Part 4

Do you want to understand Surah Al-Kahf at a deeper level?

Get to Know a Surah of the Quran is a new series of videos brother Nouman Ali Khan presented this year during the month of Ramadan.

The following is a summary of some of the most important points and reflections brother Nouman mentioned in this fifth episode.


This Surah is divided into four passages and four stories.

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You can think of this Surah as two halves:

The first half of this Surah starts with a passage which is kind like a sermon from Allah (SWT), teaching us about the temporary nature of this life, followed by the first story, followed by another sermon, followed by another story.

So there are two elements in the Surah: sermons and stories.

Sermon means a collection of ayat that are teaching you about a profound reality, like the temporary nature of this world, or what Judgement Day is going to look like, or what kinds of people are going to successful and what kinds are going to be failures.

These are all sermons…

Then there are stories like the People of the Cave, the gardeners, the story of Moses (peace be upon him) and the story of Dhul Qarnayn.

Those are stories…

But the way it is organized, there are two halves; in the first half you get sermon followed by story, followed by sermon, followed by story.

Faith vs. Materialism: Don’t Under-Estimate or Over-Estimate

So what sermons do we get?

The nature of materialism and how we are not supposed to get locked up into the beauty of this world.

Allah (SWT) says:

{Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed. And indeed, We will make that which is upon it [into] a barren ground.} (18:7-8)

This first sermon is followed by the profound story of young people who survived throughout the most difficult trials and were able to hold on to their faith.

All they knew is that there is one God and that He should be worshipped, and Allah miraculously aided them throughout the ages, and made them sleep for several hundred years in the midst of the cave where nobody else knew them, and He woke them up.

The story is very famous.

What is interesting is that the sermons complete each other and the stories also complete each other.

The second story is of two gardeners; one of them has a lot of wealth. He has a great deal of gardens and rivers flowing in between.

He has multiple properties, two gardens actually, and they produce at a 100% capacity.

The other guy is so insignificant in his assets compared to his neighbor, that his assets are not even mentioned in the Qur’an.

One of them down-talks to the other, and Allah teaches him a lesson by removing all of his assets and his entire garden is just flipped upside down.

What is amazing about these two stories, the story of the cave and the story of the gardeners, is on one hand you under-estimate young people with no material resources are capable of.

Materialism isn’t just loving money and loving wealth and loving status, but materialism is that you only believe in material resources as capable of providing aid.

Allah shatters that on the one hand by us under-estimating what young people are capable of. If they are going to hide under a cave, how long are they going to survive?

They are going to starve to death or come back and get caught.

These are the only two options.

And yet, Allah defies material science, bends the laws of nature, for these young men and saves them.

So we shouldn’t under-estimate what Allah can do, and that the material world itself is in submission to Allah.

On the other hand, it is not under-estimating it is over-estimating.

The wealthy gardener over-estimates the value of what he has:

{…He said, “I do not think that this will perish – ever} (18:35)

Don’t over-estimate the value of materials goods, Allah can take it away any time.

So if you have nothing, don’t think you have nothing, you still have Allah.

And if you have everything, don’t think you have everything, Allah can take all of that away unless you understand that you did not have anything to begin with.

Musa vs. Dhul Qarnayn

In the second half of the Surah, it is a different type of organization:

It starts with passage, then story 1, followed by story 2 then passage.

The passages are both about the Day of Judgement, they are both about Resurrection, about what truths are going to manifest on that Day.

They are both very powerful, profound passages, with multiple links to each other…

In the first two stories, the contrast was between under-estimating the youth, in the story of the People of the Cave, and over-estimating the wealth in the case of one of the two gardeners.

In the two stories in the second half of the Surah, Allah teaches us something else.

The contrast is between Musa, peace be upon him, who wants to establish justice, and Dhul Qarnayn, who also wants to do the right thing.

One of them is completely powerless to change the situation around him. He cannot do the right thing because he has been instructed: you cannot say a word, you cannot criticize.

So when the ship is being wrecked or damaged, or when the boy is killed right in front of your eyes, or you had to do hard work and put some wall up and you are not compensated for it, you cannot say a word.

That’s clear injustice.

On the other hand you have Dhul Qarnayn who sees injustice and fixes it.

He solves problems wherever he goes.

People come to him with a problem, and he solves it.

What Allah is contrasting here, is that sometimes you have the power to do things materially, and sometimes you don’t.

Sometimes there is a larger plan at work, and believers have to understand that sometimes they will have material resources at their disposal, and other times they will no have material resources at their disposal to be able to do the right thing.


In summing all of these stories up which Allah has given us in this amazing Surah, is our approach to worldly life.

Having power is not a blessing, and not having power is not a blessing.

When you have it, use it the right way.

When you don’t have it, understand that you still have much to do, you still have much to learn.

And there is a reason why you don’t have it.

When you don’t have material resources, there may be a grand plan, like the youth. Allah will aid you anyway.

And when you have a lot of material resources, money, media, power, reputation, etc., none of that means anything.

Allah can take that away whenever He wants.

So our reliance at the end of this Surah falls entirely on Allah.

To wrap up, the idea of Dajjal is actually someone who produces material and physical worldly incredible things. He can make crops grow where no crops grow.

He can travel at paces nobody can travel.

He can bring a dead person back to life, and make it look like he brought a dead person back to life.

He is doing these amazing worldly material things and people are mesmerized by it, and fall into worship of him, and the readers are told this Surah will keep you in-check because after this Surah, you will not be mesmerized by what you see.

You understand there is a reality that you see, and the much more powerful reality that you and I don’t see and don’t perceive, that is the power of Allah (SWT) that is always at play.

We should not rely on what we see, we should rely on the One whom we can’t see, Allah (SWT).

For more details on this Surah explained by brother Nouman, and to watch the full episode, please click here.