Surah Al-Kahf: Four Stories, Four Trials, and Four Lifeboats
Surah Al-Kahf is one the Surahs of the Qur’an which comes under the ones that relate different stories in a very interesting manner. One cannot do but read it time after time without showing any sign of boredom or irksomeness. It includes four stories, four trials, and four lifeboats relative to these stories and trials. Let us take them one by one.
The First Story:
Story of the People of the Cave which represents the trial of faith.
It relates the story of a number of faithful young men who lived in a disbelieving village/city. They eventually made up their minds to abandon their village and flee to Allah with their faith after they were confronted by their own people lead by the aggressive and unjust ruler.
Then they were rewarded by Allah the Almighty Who showered upon them His Mercy in the cave and ordered the sun not to harm them in any way and they were overcome by sleep for a long time. After they were awaken up by Allah the Almighty, they found that faith has entered the hearts of the people of their own village/city, all of them and the ruler became one of the faithful as well. That was their reward!
As for the lifeboat that can be found in this story, it is nothing but the “good company” of the faithful people that can incur so many good things and brings about abundant welfare and prosperity to one.
Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,
“And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.” (Al-Kahf 18: 28)
The Second Story:
Story of the owner of the two gardens which represents the trial of money and progeny.
This is the story of a man who was given abundant grace and grants by Allah the Almighty. However, he forgot Allah’s bounty and grace over him and started to be ungrateful. He further dared to transgress and violate the very basics of faith and started to be doubtful and suspicious of everything and thought to himself that he got all these graces and bounties by his own qualities and effort and that Allah, the Creator, would give him more in the hereafter. He became persistent though his faithful friend kept reminding him of the real facts of life and faith and the good reward prepared in the hereafter for the faithful. Consequently, his two gardens were destroyed and his harvest was devastated. Indeed, it is no use crying over spilt milk.
As for the lifeboat that can be found in this story, this is to realize the true nature and fact about this present life and not to be misled by it in any way. Allah Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,
“And present to them the example of the life of this world, [its being] like rain which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it and [then] it becomes dry remnants, scattered by the winds. And Allah is ever, over all things, Perfect in Ability. Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one’s] hope.” (Al-Kahf 18: 45-46)
The Third Story:
Story of Prophet Musa (Moses) and Al-Khidr and the trial of knowledge.
When Prophet Musa (Peace and blessings be upon him) was asked by someone from among his people: Who is the most knowledgeable person on earth? He replied, “It is me.”
However, Allah the Almighty revealed to him that there is someone who is more knowledgeable than you (Musa). Then, Prophet Musa traveled to meet that man to learn from him. Truly, Prophet Musa learnt from that faithful knowledgeable man that the Divine Wisdom can sometimes be blurred to many who cannot see or realize it. However, it has always been there in all incidents and events encountered by man and all creatures of Allah. Prophet Musa was assured that Allah the Almighty is the All-Wise in all that takes place in this present life as he witnessed some weird incidents with that faithful knowledgeable man such as the story of the boy, the story of the ship and the story of the wall.
The lifeboat in this story is to show humbleness and modesty to others and before Allah the Most High. Allah says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,
“[Moses] said, “You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in [any] order.”” (Al-Kahf 18: 69)
The Fourth Story:
Story of Dhul Qarnayn and the trial of authority and dominion.
This is the story of the great king who combined and gathered together both knowledge and power and travelled the whole world to help the weak, assist the oppressed, and spread good and welfare in all four corners of the world.
He circumvented the problem of Gog and Magog through building a dam or a barrier between both parties and managed to employ the resources and scattered efforts of those people who could hardly understand his speech to implement their objective.
The lifeboat in this story is nothing but loyalty and sincerity to Allah the Almighty, the Creator of all. Allah says in the Qur’an what may mean,
“Say, “I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” (Al-Kahf 18: 110)
Satan’s Position in life
It also becomes apparent in the middle of the surah that Iblis (Satan) is the motivator and hidden player behind all these trials. Regarding this, the Qur’an says,
“…Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.” (Al-Kahf 18: 50)
But, what is the relationship between this surah and the Antichrist?
The answer to this question can be simply as follows: the Antichrist will come out and appear before the Day of Judgment and will bring with him a number of four trials:
- He will ask people to worship him instead of Allah the Almighty; this is the trial of faith.
- He will order the sky to shower rain and will try people with the treasures he has; this is the trial of property or money.
- He will tell people about some unseen news and things; this is the trial of knowledge.
- He will extend his dominion and sovereignty over many areas of the land; this is the trial of power and dominion.
That is why Muslims are advised by Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) to recite the surah of Al-Kahf every Friday as it has a great role in the protection from both the trials of this present life and the Antichrist.
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.