Lesson 7 From Surah Al-Kahf
Alhamdulillah last session, we were able to explore and discuss the meanings of verses 32-44. InshAllah, tonight we will be covering the meanings and lessons of verses 45-59. Verses 45-46 give us an example of the temporary nature of this world. Verses 47-49 describe some of the events that will take place on the Day of Judgment. Verses 50-53 discuss the story of Adam and Shaytān. Verses 54-59 discuss a number of topics related to Faith and the Quran.
Verse 45: Give them the parable (example) of the life of this world: It is like water We send down from the sky. Then it mixes with the vegetation of the earth. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds. And Allah is capable of all things.
In these verses, Allah ﷻ gives us an example of the reality of the life of this world and its temporary and fleeting nature to show us its true value. Allah ﷻ wants us to recognize the true value of this life especially in comparison to the life to come. We’re reminded in a very brief yet powerful way that the life of this world is temporary and fleeting; that it will very quickly come to an end. This example highlights and emphasizes the main moral from the story of the man with two gardens that we covered last week.
Allah ﷻ tells the Prophet ﷺ to give his community an example of the life of this world. Tell them “It is like water We send down from the sky. Then it mixes with the vegetation of the earth. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds.” The fleeting nature of this world is similar to plants and vegetation after they have been watered. Allah ﷻ sends down rain from the sky that causes the earth to turn green; it mixes with the vegetation of the earth giving it life, color, and vibrancy. We’re shown a very brief scene of life; the rain causes all these plants to grow. “Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the winds.” Chaff is lifeless matter; something that has no real value that is just scattered and blown away by the wind. That’s exactly how the life of this world is. At one moment it’s vibrant and alive and at the next moment, it will be gone. It doesn’t last. It has an expiration date. The world is just like a field of green crops, a beautiful, lush green garden. Something that brings enjoyment, pleasure, and benefit. But none of these things lasts forever. The crops, the plants, trees, and flowers slowly dry and start to turn yellow. Then it becomes straws like and crumbles. It goes from being something beautiful, useful and pleasing to being something that just blows away in the wind. Allah ﷻ is telling us that’s exactly how the world is. These are all the things we work for and invest in throughout our lives. We run after them, but in the end what happens? All of it ceases to exist. It no longer matters.
The only thing that actually remains is the consequences of our faith. Allah ends the verse by reminding us, “And Allah is capable of all things.” Meaning He has the power to create and the power to bring things to an end. This example of the life of the world has been given in the Quran in a number of different places. For instance, in Surah Yunus, and in Surah Al-Hadīd.
Allah then further clarifies this point by telling us what has true, everlasting value. He does so by contrasting it to what we value most in this world; wealth and children. The contrast between the two is very sharp and is meant to be hard hitting.
Verse 46: “Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world, and the everlasting good deeds are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight and a far better source of hope.”
Wealth and children are two of the most important things that we value in this life; as a matter of fact, they’re probably the most important things in our lives. If we truly think about it the vast majority of our time, energy, resources and thoughts are spent on earning money and taking care of our children. We’re constantly worried about our jobs, salaries, savings, expenses, the mortgage, and the car payment. We’re continuously thinking about our children’s education; what school they’ll go to and what profession they’ll choose. So Allah ﷻ is reminding us that “wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world”.
The word “zīnah” means beauty, adornment and decoration. Wealth and children have been made attractive and beautiful for us; they capture our attention. Allah ﷻ tells us something similar in Surah Aali ‘Imran, “Made to seem fair unto mankind is the love of passions, among them women, children, hoarded heaps of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle and tillage. Those are the enjoyments of the life of this world. And Allah, with Him, is the beautiful return.” (3:14) It’s important to note that this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Islam doesn’t prevent us from enjoying these things. As a matter of fact, they have been praised elsewhere in the Qur’ān and Hadīth. But it does teach us the correct guidelines and ways in which to enjoy them. They should never take us away or prevent us from fulfilling our true purpose in life. And we’re reminded that just like anything else in this world they too will one day cease to exist. So we shouldn’t be fooled, deceived and tricked by them as well.
Rather we should focus on what is everlasting; those things that will benefit us in this world and more importantly in the next. “And the everlasting good deeds are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.” “The everlasting good deeds” includes every single good deed we can think of; whether they’re big or small. This includes all acts of worship such as praying, fasting, giving charity, supplication, and dhikr. It includes being kind to our families, our parents, children, relatives, friends, and neighbors. All of these things “are of far greater merit in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.” Ibn ‘Abbas mention that the “everlasting good deeds” are the five daily prayers. He also said they are to say SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, la ilaha illa Allah and Allahu Akbar. ‘Uthman (ra) said they are to say la ilaha illah Allah, SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar, and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “Increase the everlasting virtues.” It was said, “What are they O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Al-Takbeer, al-tahleel, al-tasbeeh, al-tahmeed and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah.” Abu Darda narrates that the Prophet (saw) said, “SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, la ilaha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar and la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah, they are the everlasting good deeds. They shed sins like a tree sheds its leaves and they are from the treasures of Paradise.” ‘Ali said, “Wealth and children are the harvest of the world, and righteous deeds are the harvest of the hereafter. And Allah has gathered both for some people.”
- المال و البنون حرث الدنيا، و العمل الصالح حرث الآخرة، و قد جمعهما الله لأقوام.
All of these things are more valuable than any material possession. And the rationale behind it is simple and straightforward.
The Surah now transitions into a brief description of some of the events that will take place on the Day of Judgment; that Day when we’ll see the real value of the everlasting deeds.
Verses 47-48: On the Day We will set the mountains in motion, and you will see the earth an open plain. And We will gather them, and leave not one of them behind. They will be arrayed before your Lord in ranks. “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.”
In these two verses, Allah informs us about four of the scary and frightening things that will take place on that Day. 1) “On the Day We will set the mountains in motion…” Meaning, imagine that day when We will uproot the mountains from their places and pulverize them into fine particles of dust as if they had never existed before. This will be an extraordinary sight; something that will strike terror and fear into the hearts of those who will see it. Mountains are the strongest and largest naturally occurring physical structures that we can see. They’re symbols of strength and stability. But on that day they will be turned into fine particles of dust.
2) “and you will see the earth an open plain.” Meaning, we will see the Earth fully exposed. Nothing will be on it; it will be completely empty. There will be no place for anyone to hide. It will be one big, flat surface without any hills, valleys or mountains.
3) “And We will gather them, and leave not one of them behind.” Every single human being from the beginning of time till the end of time, big and small, young and old, believers and non-believers will be gathered and held accountable for what they did in this world. Allah ﷻ tells us something very similar in Surah Al-Wāqi’ah. Say, “Indeed the former and the later peoples are to be gathered together for the appointment of a known Day.” Allah ﷻ also says in Surah Hūd, “That is a Day for which the people will be collected, and that is a Day [which will be] witnessed.”
4) They will be arrayed before your Lord in ranks. “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” All of mankind will be brought in front of Allah at once in lines. The commentators mentioned that people will be lined up in rows just as they are for prayer. Each row is occupied by a particular religious community. And then it will be said to them, “Indeed you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” Meaning, just as Allah created humanity and brought them into existence from nothing, Allah will bring them back to life on the Day of Judgment. They will come before Allah ﷻ in the same state that they were created; barefoot, naked and alone without any belongings Just as Allah ﷻ says in Surah Al-An’ām, “Now you have come to Us alone, just as We created you the first time, and you have left behind that which We had bestowed upon you.” Similarly, Aisha narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The people will be assembled on the Day of Resurrection barefoot, naked and uncircumcised.” I said, “O Messenger of Allah! Will the men and the women be together on that Day; looking at one another?” Upon this the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “O Aisha, the matter will be too serious for them to look at one another.”
- “ يُحْشَرُ النَّاسُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ حُفَاةً عُرَاةً غُرْلاً ” . قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ النِّسَاءُ وَالرِّجَالُ جَمِيعًا يَنْظُرُ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ قَالَ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” يَا عَائِشَةُ الأَمْرُ أَشَدُّ مِنْ أَنْ يَنْظُرَ بَعْضُهُمْ إِلَى بَعْضٍ ” .
In order for them to feel the severity of the day and to create a greater sense of remorse, regret and sorrow it will then be said to them, “Nay, but you claimed that We would never appoint a time for you.” Meaning, you believed that this would never happen; that you would never be resurrected and never meet Allah and now here you are.
The Surah then continues to describe the scene on that day.
Verse 49: And the book will be set down. Then you will see the guilty fearful of what is in it. And they will say, “Oh woe unto us! What a book this is! It leaves out nothing, small or great, save that it has taken it into account.” And they find present therein whatsoever they did. And your Lord wrongs no one.
The “book” in this verse is referring to the book of deeds; the register in which all our deeds, good and bad, big and small, are recorded. This book of deeds serves as a comprehensive witness and record of whatever we say or do in the life of this world. This is the book we’ll receive on the Day of Judgment. Some will receive it in their right hands and others will receive it in their left hands. We ask Allah to make us amongst those who receive it in their right!
When the mujrimūn, the criminals, receive their books they will be extremely fearful of what is in it. They know that their book of deeds is full of sin and disobedience and that there’s no way for them to hide it. They realize that it is a comprehensive and accurate record and they fear the consequences. They feel this severe sense of fear, regret, remorse, embarrassment, helplessness, hopelessness and sorrow. So they will say, “Oh woe to us!” May we be cursed! May we be destroyed because of our negligence, disobedience, and sins. This is the cry of one who is worried, fearing the worst after he has been caught red-handed, unable to evade the results or find any justification. This is because he recognizes the accuracy of the record which puts before his eyes all that he has done. In their frustration, they will say, “What a book this is! It leaves out nothing, small or great, save that it has taken it into account.” This is an expression of absolute amazement and extreme shock. What a book! It hasn’t left our anything, bog or small, good or bad, significant or insignificant, except that it has been recorded in it. They fear both punishment from Allah ﷻ and disgrace in the eyes of other people. “And they find present therein whatsoever they did.” Big or small, good or bad.
Allah ﷻ tells us this elsewhere in the Qur’ān as well. “The Day every soul will find what it has done of good present [before it] and what it has done of evil, it will wish that between itself and that [evil] was a great distance. And Allah warns you of Himself, and Allah is Kind to [His] servants.” “Man will be informed that Day of what he sent ahead and kept back.”
All of this is done from the absolute justice of Allah ﷺ. “And your Lord wrongs no one.” Absolute justice and equality will be established on the Day of Resurrection. No individual will be wronged whatsoever and everyone will receive their rights in full. He will judge between His creatures for all of their deeds, and He will not treat any of His creatures with injustice. He will overlook and forgive and have mercy, and He will punish whomever He wills by His power, wisdom, and justice. He will fill Hell with the disbelievers and those who have been disobedient. Then He will rescue the disobedient, and leave the disbelievers there for eternity. He is the Judge Who never wrongs or oppresses. Allah says: “Surely, Allah wrongs not even of the weight of a speck of dust, but if there is any good, He doubles it…”
- ﴿إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَـعِفْهَا﴾
“And We place the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so no soul will be treated unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We as Accountant.”
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Lesson 6 From Surah Al-Kahf
Alhamdulillah last session, we were able to discuss the meanings of verses 27-31. InshAllah tonight we’ll be exploring the meanings of verses 32-44. Just as a quick reminder in the last set of verses the Surah dealt with some issues of general guidance. We were reminded:
1) to remain constant and steadfast in reciting and following the Quran
2) to keep the company of those who recite and study the Quran even if they may be poor
3) That the truth is only from Allah
4) describes the punishment of the non-believers 4) describes the reward of the believers.
The next set of verses, verses 32-44, discuss the story of two people, a rich man who was fooled by his wealth and a poor man who was honored for his conviction and belief, and the conversation they had with one another. In this set of verses, Allah ﷻ has given us an example of a rich non-believer who was fooled by his wealth, and a poor believer who was guided through his belief. Through this example Allah ﷻ shows us that wealth isn’t the true source of pride or honor; rather belief and obedience of Allah brings pride, honor, and respect. The first man thinks he’s extremely powerful because of the wealth he has and that causes him to forget about the Supreme Power who controls everything in a person’s life. The other is a believer who values his faith. He always remembers Allah realizing that the blessings he has are a gift from him. He recognizes the importance of praising Allah and gratitude.
Now, who exactly were these two men? There are two different reports. One mentions that they were two brothers from the people of Makkah from the tribe of Banu Makhzūm. According to Ibn ‘Abbas they were two brothers from Bani Israel; one was a believer, the other a non-believer. They inherited 8,000 dinars from their father that they split in half. The non-believer bought land, gardens and invested his wealth. The believer spent his money on charity. The story goes that the nonbelieving brother purchased some land for a 1,000 dirhams so the believing brother said, “O Allah so and so purchased land for a 1,000 and I’m purchasing land from you in Paradise for a 1,000.” So he gave a 1,000 in charity.
The second brother built a house, 3) marriage 4) servants and possessions… then the believing brother was afflicted with severe need and poverty.
Verses 32-33: “Give them an example (the parable) of two men. We gave one of them two gardens of grapevines, and surrounded both of them with date palms, and placed crops between them. Both the gardens brought forth their fruit and suppressed nothing from it, and We caused a stream to flow through them.”
Allah ﷻ is telling his Prophet ﷺ to give this example, this parable, of two men to the rich and powerful of Makkah and those similar to them who refused to accept his message. The example starts by describing the wealth of the non-believer. He was given two gardens filled with grape vines. Both of these gardens were surrounded by date palms. In between these gardens were farms. There were also streams flowing through these gardens. This land was extremely fertile so the gardens, farms and date palms produced a lot of produce. Not only did he own this beautiful land and these amazing gardens and farms, but he was also given a lot of other wealth.
Verse 34: And he had [abundant] fruit (wealth) So, he said to his companion while conversing with him, “I am greater than you in wealth and stronger in manpower.””
“And he had wealth.” Gold and silver. All of this wealth, all of these material goods caused him to become arrogant, filled with pride. He was fooled and deceived by his wealth, just as we see so many rich people fooled by their wealth. Full of arrogance and pride he told his brother that I’m more well off than you and I have more servants, workers, and children than you. Basically, he was showing off (look at my crib, look at my car, look at my clothes). His arrogance, pride and wealth blinded him to such an extent that he became extremely ungrateful and heedless. So much so that he denied that this world would come to an end and he denied the Day of Judgment.
Verses 35-36: And he entered his garden while he was doing wrong to himself. He said, “I do not think that this will ever perish, and I do not think that the Hour (Day of Judgment) has to come. And even if I am sent back to my Lord, I will surely find a better place than this to resort to.”
Allah ﷻ is actually describing the scene to us to make it more real and relatable. This man entered his garden while conversing with his brother. He was talking about his wealth and material possessions and looking down upon and belittling his brother. He’s described as “wronging himself” because of his disbelief, arrogance, and denial of resurrection. He primarily wronged himself through his ingratitude; his pride and refusal to acknowledge that his provision, wealth, properties, gardens and children are a gift from Allah. The abundance of his material possessions fooled, tricked and deceived him into believing that they will never perish. “I don’t think that any of this will perish.” All of these things that I have, these gardens, crops, gold, and silver will last forever. He became heedless or neglectful of the impermanence of all created things and his own mortality. “I don’t believe that there is a Day of Judgment.”
The reason why he is described as wronging himself is that he should have been thanking Allah ﷻ for all of these blessings, instead, he was ungrateful. He denied that a Creator even existed. He thought that all of these material blessings were a sign that if there was a Lord or Creator he must be extremely liked by him. If he weren’t then the Creator would not have given him so many things. That having wealth and power was a sign of being honored and having a high station in the sight of Allah. So if there were a day of judgment or a hereafter then he would be given more there than he was given here in the world. “And even if I am sent back to my Lord, I will surely find a better place than this to resort to.” His brother, recognizing the ignorance, shallowness, and ridiculousness of his argument, answered him saying,
Verses 37-38: His companion said to him as he conversed with him, “Do you deny the One who created you from dust, then from a drop (of semen), then fashioned you as a man? But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe no one as a partner to Him.
This is a very beautiful response given by the less well to do brother. He responds to him asking him in astonishment and amazement, “Do you really deny the One who created you from dust, then a drop and then fashioned you as a man?” This question is meant as a maw’idha, a reminder or a heart softener; something that’s supposed to move the heart of his brother. How in the world can you deny the existence of the One who is the source of all your wealth, the One who gave you these amazing blessings, the One who brought you into existence? He declares his firm belief and commitment to Allah. “But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe no one as a partner to Him.” He continues advising and counseling his brother reminding him how his attitude should be towards all of these blessings. The attitude of faith, submission, recognition, and obedience.
Verses 39-41: When you entered your garden, why did you not say, ‘[This is] as Allah wills. There is no strength save in Allah.’ If you see that I am less than you in wealth and children, (40) it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden, and unleash against it a reckoning from the sky, so that it becomes a flattened plain. (41) Or its water may sink deep so that you cannot seek after it.
He’s telling his brother that instead of being full of pride, boastful, conceited and arrogant he should’ve been grateful, thankful and appreciative to Allah ﷻ. He should’ve thanked and praised Allah ﷻ by saying, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” This is an expression of gratitude and humility. By saying this he would’ve shown thanks to Allah for his wealth, children and properties and at the same time would be recognizing that all of it is from Allah. These are two very important phrases that we as Muslims are encouraged to learn and say often. Anytime we see something that we like or think is beautiful and amazing we should say, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” This is a very common phrase in our everyday speech and it indicates a recognition that nothing happens outside of the will of Allah ﷻ.
“There is no strength except with Allah” is also a common phrase that we use, which acknowledges that we can’t achieve or do anything without the help of Allah. It’s also used when we feel helpless in the face of some difficulty or hardship. It’s also considered to be a treasure from the treasures of Paradise. Abu Musa narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said to him, “Shall I not direct you to a treasure from the treasures of Paradise? It’s to say there is no power or strength except with Allah.” Ibn Kathīr mentions that this verse is the source of our practice and custom of saying “As Allah wills” whenever we are pleased with something. Anas narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever sees something they like should say, “As Allah wills, there is no strength except with Allah.” Then nothing will harm it.
After counseling and explaining to his brother what the right attitude should be towards wealth and material possessions, he responds to his boasts and claims. “If you see that I am less than you in wealth and children, (40) it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden.” He tells him that if you consider me to be less well off than you in this world in terms of wealth and children, then I hope that my situation will be different in the hereafter because of my faith. He believes that Allah ﷻ will reward him with something much better than the garden of his brother in the life to come because of his faith and humility. He then warns him of the transient and temporary nature of the life of this world. That one day you could have all of these amazing and wonderful things and the next day it could be gone. “And unleash against it a reckoning from the sky, so that it becomes a flattened plain. (41) Or its water may sink deep so that you cannot seek after it.” It’s possible that some sort of calamity, torrential rains, a storm or any other natural disaster can come from the sky and completely destroy the gardens leaving it without any growth or vegetation. The land will become a “flattened plain” barren and dead. Or it’s possible that the water from the springs will sink deep into the earth and you won’t be able to access it leaving your gardens to slowly wither and die.
Syed Qutb while commenting on these verses writes, “This is an example of how faith makes a believer very powerful. He does not care for wealth, might, or arrogance. He states the truth clearly, without hesitation or cowardice. There is no room for bending the truth in order to please anyone, be that a friend or someone mighty. A believer feels that he is far higher than all power and wealth. What God has for him is far superior to any riches or pleasures this life may bring. God’s grace is all that he seeks, and His grace is plentiful and always available. On the other hand, God’s punishment is severe and could befall the arrogant at any time.”
The surah then tells us that the warning of his brother actually came true. Allah sent down some type of punishment, a storm or something else, that completely destroyed all of his wealth and belongings.
Verse 42: And his fruit was encompassed. So he began to wring his hands on account of what he had spent on it while it lay in waste upon its trellises saying, “Would that I had not ascribed anyone as partner to my Lord!”
“And his fruit was encompassed…” Meaning his wealth, property and gardens were encompassed by ruin; they were completely destroyed. Allah describes it as “it lay in waste upon its trellises”. And when he saw his possessions destroyed before his eyes and how he wasn’t able to do anything about it, he realized his faults. He started showing remorse, sorrow, and sadness. He began to wring his hands as a sign of remorse, sorrow, and regret. He now realizes that what his brother said was true and he is repentant for having associated partners with Allah ﷻ. “Would that I had not ascribed anyone as partner to my Lord!”
The Surah concludes this story or example by declaring in all clarity that all protection comes from Allah: all power belongs to Him; all support comes from Him; His Reward is the best reward; what He stores for us is best and everlasting
Verses 43-44: And he had no party to help him except for Allah; nor could he help himself. (44) There, protection belongs to Allah, the Real. He is best in reward and best in requital.
Despite his claims of power and strength at this time of loss and destruction, he finds himself absolutely helpless. There’s no group, party or children to help him except for Allah. He couldn’t even help himself. And it’s at that specific moment that he realizes that all protection comes from Allah; all might, power, authority, support and decision making belong to Him alone. “There, protection belongs to Allah, the Real.” Allah alone is the Walī, the Protector and He is the Truth. “He is best in reward and best in requital.”
This story is a clear reminder of the difference between true belief and disbelief. A true believer is concerned about the life to come and the disbeliever is consumed with this life. This story is a powerful reminder of the reality of the life of this world. Through this story, we’re reminded that the life of this world is temporary. That you and I, we’re, not going to be here forever. We’re made to realize that this world is temporary and fleeting. That it will eventually come to an end. And that the life to come, the life of the hereafter, is a life of eternity.
This is a message that is echoed and emphasized in several places throughout the Qur’ān. “O my people, this worldly life is only [temporary] enjoyment, and indeed, the Hereafter – that is the home of [permanent] settlement.” (40:39) “Say, The enjoyment of this world is little, and the Hereafter is better for he who fears Allah.” (4:77) “But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring.” (87:16-17) The Qur’ān constantly reminds us not to be fooled, tricked and deceived by the life of this world. “And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion?” (3:185) “O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver.” (35:5)
One of the most consuming and powerful diseases of the heart is love of the world. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “Love of the world is the origin of every sin.” The Prophet ﷺ also told us, “The life of the world is sweet and green. Allah makes you generations succeeding one another so that He may try you in respect of your actions. So beware of the beguilements of the world and those of women. The first trial of Banu Israel was through women.”
- إن الدنيا حلوة خضرة، وإن الله مستخلفكم فيها فينظر كيف تعملون، فاتقوا الدنيا واتقوا النساء؛ فإن أول فتنة بني إسرائيل كانت في النساء” ((رواه مسلم)).
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