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Lesson 5 From Surah Al-Kahf

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Alhamdulillah, last session,  we were able to complete the story of the people of the cave as it’s mentioned in the Qur’ān. InshAllah, today we’ll discuss some of the many lessons and morals that we can take from it along with verses 27-31.

Lessons from the story of the people of the cave:

There are several lessons, morals, and guidance that can be derived from the story of the people of the cave. I know that we talked about some of them briefly in the last session and I just want to highlight and stress some of the most important ones.

1) This story serves as a consolation, comfort, and support for the Prophet ﷺ, his companions and us as believers. Trials, tests and difficulties and specifically those related to faith and religion. We will be tested in our faith.

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2) The story also serves as a proof of Prophethood and the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān – the only way possible for the Prophet ﷺ to know these details regarding their story was through revelation. This is part of the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān.

3) Proof of the infinite might, power, glory, and magnificence of Allah ﷻ and proof of resurrection. It’s amongst the “signs” of Allah ﷻ that indicate towards His Existence, Oneness, and power (strengthens our faith/relationship with Allah)— symbolic parallels between their story, death, and resurrection.

4) Concern for faith and religion.

5) Being dedicated to faith and religion in one’s youth – The famous hadīth of the Prophet ﷺ about seven groups of people who will be shaded on the Day of Judgment (شاب نشأ في عبادة الله). There’s a unique relationship between youth, faith and bringing about change in society.

6) Importance of righteous companionship.

7) Faith, tawakkul (reliance), patience and their relationship with Allah’s mercy, care, and protection.

8) The concepts of Hidāyah and dalalah

9) Parallels between their seeking refuge in the cave and the Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) seeking refuge in the cave during migration.

10) Speaking truth to power.

11) Avoiding useless discussions that have no relevance or importance to one’s life, salvation, faith or relationship with Allah ﷻ.

12) Not discussing topics without knowledge!

13) The importance of saying InshAllah and recognizing the will of Allah.

According to Syed Qutb: “Every action a human being does or omits to do, indeed every breath a human being takes, is subject to God’s will. The curtains hiding the future are stretched in full so as to hide everything beyond the present moment. Our eyes cannot discern what is behind that curtain, and our minds are finite, no matter how advanced our knowledge may be. Hence a human being must never say that he is definitely doing something tomorrow unless he attaches his intention to God’s will. This is because tomorrow belongs to the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception. As such, it is known only to God. Hence, we do not make any assertion about it.

This does not mean that man should be fatalistic, giving no thought to the future and making no plans for it. He should not live for the present moment, cutting himself off from his past and future. No, this is not what the directive implies. Rather, what is implied is that every human being must make an allowance for what God may will in his case. He may intend to do whatever he wants, always seeking God’s help, feeling that His will is in full control of everything. It may well be however that God may decide something different to what he intends. Should God help him to put into effect what he intends, then all well and good. But if God’s will moves in a different direction, he should not despair or be sad. All matters belong to God at the beginning and at the end.

What this means in practice is that every person should think and plan as they wish, but they must always remember to rely on God’s help and guidance. They should realize that they only have the faculties of thinking and deliberation God has given them. This should not lead to laziness or disinterestedness. On the contrary, it should give us more strength, confidence, reassurance and resolve. Should events reveal that God’s will has moved in a direction different to what we planned, we should accept this with contentedness and reassurance. We submit to God’s will, because it is beyond our knowledge until God makes it known.”

Now the next set of verses deal with issues of general guidance in a very beautiful way. Allah ﷻ says,

  • Verse 27: Recite what has been revealed to you from the book of your Lord. There is nothing that can alter His words. And you will never find refuge other than with Him.

In this verse, Allah ﷻ is speaking directly to the Prophet ﷺ. He’s instructing His messenger to continue to recite the noble Qur’ān and remain steadfast in conveying its message to his community. To recite what has been revealed to him and follow what is in it in terms of its commands and prohibitions. This was one of the responsibilities of the Prophet ﷺ as a prophet and Messenger; to recite the actual words of revelation to his community. To convey the word of God to his family, friends, neighbors and all of society. And when the Prophet ﷺ would do so he would face all sorts of challenges. Some people would turn away and others would mock and ridicule him. They would even ask him to bring a different Qur’ān or to alter it according to their wishes.

As a response, Allah reminds them, “There is nothing that can alter His words.” The Qur’ān is divinely protected. No one can change, alter or distort its meanings and no one can add or delete anything from the Quran. If someone were to try to do so then they would find no one to help them or protect them. “And you will never find refuge other than with Him.” This is the first instruction found in this passage; to recite the Qur’ān and act upon it.

Next Allah ﷻ reminds the Prophet ﷺ to stay in the company of those who are sincere and have faith despite their economic status.

Verse 28: Make your soul patient with those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, desiring His Face. Don’t turn your eyes away from them, desiring the adornment of the life of this world, nor obeying one whose heart We have made heedless of the remembrance of Us and who follows his caprice and whose affair exceeds the bounds.

This verse has a specific background or context in which it was revealed. One day ‘Uyaynah, one of the chiefs of Makkah, came to the Prophet ﷺ while he was sitting with some of the less well to do Muslims. One of them was Salman Al-Farsi who was wearing clothes made of wool and a turban filled with sweat. Others amongst the poorer companions were luminaries like Bilal, Suhaib, ‘Ammār, Khabbāb and ibn Mas’ūd. So ‘Uyaynah being arrogant and prideful asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Aren’t you bothered by their smell? We are the leaders of Makkah. If we accept Islam then people will follow and accept as well. The only thing preventing us from following you is your closeness to these people. Leave them so we can follow you, or at least make separate gatherings for us.”

In response Allah ﷻ revealed this verse, telling the Prophet ﷺ not to follow the advice of the rich leaders of Makkah. Don’t pay attention to what they’re saying and don’t be influenced by their idea or suggestion. Meaning, keep the company of those who remember Allah ﷻ, praise Him, glorify Him and ask only Him day and night regardless of whether they are rich or poor. Their only intention is to seek and earn the pleasure of Allah ﷻ. Allah then further emphasizes this point by telling the Prophet ﷺ, “and let not your eyes overlook them, seeking the splendor of the worldly life.” Meaning, don’t look towards others for help and support besides them. Don’t seek to replace them with people who have wealth and status. The Prophet ﷺ wanted ‘Uyaynah and the leaders of Quraysh to accept Islam so that the others would follow them. But Allah is reminding him that their acceptance or rejection won’t affect the cause. Although outwardly it seems like the rich and wealthy accepting Islam would strengthen the cause, in reality there’s no need for them. True strength comes from the strength of the faith of your followers; not from material means.

Allah then further emphasizes this point by saying, “And do not obey the one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, and who has followed his desire and whose behavior has exceeded the limits.” Don’t pay attention to those people who are heedless and lost, who have preferred this world over religion. Those people who follow their desires and exceed all the limits set by Allah ﷻ. This is a very comprehensive description of those people who exceed the limits of Allah. Meaning, exceeding the limits set by Allah is the end result. It starts with heedlessness, which turns into following desires, which then results in disobeying Allah.

Lesson: Islam is the religion of equality. It doesn’t differentiate between rich and poor, powerful and weak in any aspect. Everybody is equally held accountable and responsible in the sight of Allah. Islam places all human beings on the same level, in front of God. They do not claim a position on the basis of their wealth, lineage or social standing. All these are transient. The real criterion to distinguish people is their standing with their Lord, which is determined by their sincerity in seeking His pleasure and their dedication to His cause. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “Truly Allah doesn’t look at your appearances or your wealth. Rather He looks at your hearts and your actions.” Another narration mentions that as soon as this verse was revealed, the Prophet ﷺ stood up looking for these people, the poor Muslims. He found them at the back of the Masjid busy in the remembrance of Allah ﷻ. When he found them he said, “All praise is for Allah, who has not taken my life until he commanded me to remain content with men from my nation. With them is life and with them is death.”

Throughout the Prophetic tradition, we find narrations that encourage us to honor and respect the weak and poor; to treat them with kindness, compassion, sympathy, generosity. But most importantly to spend time with them and interact with them. As a matter of fact Imām Al-Nawawi in his famous collection of hadīth has almost two entire chapters dedicated to this subject. For example, Abu al-Darda raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say, ‘Seek me among the poor and weak. Truly, you are given victory and provided for on account of the poor and weak among you.” [Abu Dawud] The Prophet ﷺ didn’t just honor the weak and poor, he loved them and wanted to be among them. He used to supplicate: “O Allah! I ask You for the means to do good, to avoid evil, and to love the poor, and I beseech You to forgive me and have mercy on me.” (Tirmidhi)

Our beloved Prophet ﷺ lived by his values. He was given the choice to live a life of ease and comfort or the life of hardship and difficulty. And the Prophet ﷺ chose a life of hardship and difficulty; a life of extreme simplicity. His simplicity is awe-inspiring. Whoever reads about the lifestyle of the Prophet ﷺ can’t help but be moved and have their hearts softened. His wife, Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that after he made this choice, the Prophet ﷺ never ate while reclining, saying: “I eat like a servant eats and I sit like a servant sits.” We know that he could have lived the life of a millionaire, but rather he was more generous than the free blowing wind.

Next, Allah ﷻ directs the Prophet ﷺ to declare that the truth has come from Allah and that it is absolutely clear.

Verse 29: And say, “The truth is from your Lord. Now, whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny.” Verily We have prepared for the wrongdoers a Fire whose canopies will encompass them. And if they will beg for help, they shall be helped with water like molten lead that will scald the faces. Vile is the drink, and how a resting place.”

In the first part of this verse Allah ﷻ tells His messenger ﷺ to announce that the truth has come from Him and that it is absolutely clear and straightforward. Meaning, O Muhammad! Tell the people that what you are preaching is the truth from your Lord; there is no doubt about it whatsoever. This truth, Islam, is the best way of life. So you can choose to believe in it or choose not to believe in it. Everybody will be held accountable for their own decisions on the Day of Judgment. Some of the commentators mention that this verse was also revealed in connection to the previous incident.

The statement, “Now, whoever so wills may believe and whoever so wills may deny,” is meant as a severe warning. The Prophet’s ﷺ responsibility is simply to convey the message. Once the message has been conveyed he’s no longer responsible. The individual who receives the message must make the conscious decision to either accept or reject the truth. And whatever they choose to do they will bear the responsibility of their choice.

The last part of the verse that describes some of the unimaginable torments of hell shows that the first part is meant to be a warning. “Surely, We have prepared for the wrongdoers a fire…” The fire of hell is described as taking the form of canopies that will surround them. They will be surrounded on all sides above and below. “And if they will beg for help, they shall be helped with water like molten lead that will scald the faces. Vile is the drink, and how evil a resting place.”

Then Allah ﷻ describes His promise of reward to those who believe.

Verse 30-31: “As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, -of course, We do not waste the reward of those who are good in deeds. Those are the ones for whom there are eternal gardens, rivers flowing beneath them. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will be dressed in green garments, made of fine silk and thick silk, reclining therein on couches. Excellent is the reward and beautiful is Paradise as a resting-place.”

Faith and action are always mentioned together; they are inseparable… Our faith, our iman, has to be something that’s real; something that translates into action. And it’s this faith coupled with action that will earn us the mercy of Allah ﷻ. “Gold jewelry, fine silk garments, and raised couches would all have signified immense luxury, particularly in the context of Arabian desert life, where rough woolen garments and sitting on the ground were the norm.”

 

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Shaykh Furhan Zubairi was born in 1983 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, he moved and spent most of his youth in Southern California, graduating from high school in Irvine in 2001. He began his pursuit of Islamic knowledge and spirituality at the Institute of Knowledge (IOK) in 1998, where he started the memorization of the Qur’an and studied the primary books in the Islamic Sciences and Arabic language. After starting college, he took a break and went to Karachi, Pakistan, for 9 months to complete the memorization of the Qur’an at Jami’ah Binoria. He returned home and completed his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 2005. He then traveled to Egypt to further his studies of the Arabic language. Thereafter, his pursuit of Islamic knowledge led him back to Pakistan, where he completed a formal ‘Alamiyyah degree (Masters in Arabic and Islamic Studies) at the famous Jami’ah Dar Al-’Ulum in Karachi. He has obtained numerous ijazat (traditional licenses) in the six canonical books of hadith, as well as the Muwata of Imam Malik and Imam Muhammad, and has also received certification in the field of Islamic Finance. Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Dean of the Full-Time and Part-Time Seminary Programs at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He also serves as IOK University Chaplain for students at UCI and Community Chaplain for the local and extended SoCal Community, and he regularly delivers sermons and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in Southern California. Learn more about Institute of Knowledge at www.instituteofknowledge.com.

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