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Lesson 6 From Surah Al-Kahf

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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

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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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) 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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) 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 raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) 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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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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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