Tafsir Surah Kahf: Ayah 21-22

Bismillah.

Summary

  1. Lifting the veil from Ashaabul Kahf.
  2. Speaking about the unseen without knowledge is like trying to hit a target in the dark.
  3. Arguments and debates sometimes have no point or benefit.

“Thus did We make their case known to the people, that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour of Judgment. Behold, they dispute among themselves as to their affair. (Some) said, “Construct a building over them”: Their Lord knows best about them: those who prevailed over their affair said, “Let us surely build a place of worship over them.” (21)

Lifting the veil from Ashaabul Kahf

كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ- In this way, just as how Allah woke them up and they traveled to the city to purchase food, Allah ta’ala made their case known. He says: أَعْثَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ- “We made their case known to the people” أَعْثَرْنَا is from ayn-thaa-raa and it literally means to slip or to fall. From this meaning comes to know something by accident, by a coincidence, as if to expose, to make one aware of something that they were not in search of. When Ashaabul Kahf woke up and one of them traveled to the city to buy food, the people of the city realized who they were when he paid for the food with the ancient currency. Their intention was to not reveal their identity. However, Allah had other plans.

لِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ- “so that they know the promise of Allah is true”, Allah caused those who were disputing whether the resurrection would be with body and soul to see that the promise of resurrection is true. Allah is able to make them sleep for hundreds of years and then wake them up in both body and soul. Furthermore, the Promise of Allah may also refer to the promise of Allah in helping the believers; when the youth left the city to the remove themselves from the disbelief of their people, Allah ta’ala assisted them.

The entire life of Ashaabul Kahf was made as a lesson and a means of guidance for others. If Allah can make them sleep for so long and wake them up with body and soul then likewise on the Day of Judgment, mankind will be resurrected with body and soul. So to bring end to those doubts,  Allah made them a sign.

When the people of the city discovered the youth, they began to dispute as to what to do with their graves: فَقَالُوا ابْنُوا عَلَيْهِم بُنْيَانًا – then they said, let us construct a building over them. Ibn Abbass radi Allahu anhuma said this dispute was regarding building a structure. One group wanted to make a masjid over them and the other people said  that they would take construct a statue and take that place as an honor for them. Those who overpowered in their argument and had more say are those who requested the building of a masjid over them. However, it is known in Islaam that we are not allowed to take graves as places of worship, as the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said in multiple ahadeeth.

(Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth,- doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: “My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case).” Enter not, therefore, into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, nor consult any of them about (the affair of) the Sleepers. (22)

Guessing about the unseen

Allah ta’ala says their speculation is رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ- rajma is from ra-jeem-meem and it means to stone. Rajman refers to a statement that is based on supposition and assumption, as if one is throwing stones in the dark attempting to hit a target! That was the reality of their speech because it was without knowledge and there was no element of truth in it.

But what is the reality? قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ “Say, my Rabb is Most Knowing of their number, none knows them but a few.” Only a few know about the number of Ashaabul Kahf, the majority does not have knowledge concerning them. Once again, we learn from Surah Kahf that when we do not know about a matter, say Allah is Most Knowing, because the reality is: رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ, my Rabb is Most Knowing.

Arguments and Debates

فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا – Do not argue about their state, their condition, their number; any of these matters that are doubtful and that do not make an miraa’an thaahiran, an obvious and clear argument. مِرَاءً is from meem-ra-ya, and it means to argue, to debate and dispute about such a thing in which there is doubt that usually incorporates emotions.

An obvious argument means:

1- To not involve your emotions. Do not take it personally or to heart.

2- To not let the argument prolong that it gets too deep into the matter. End the discussion when it needs to be.

3- To not try to convince the other person of your viewpoint.

4- To not argue about those matters that do not have an outcome. Such as the number of Ashaabul Kahf, there is no conclusion about this matter and it is not related to our deeds, so there is no point of discussing this.

وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا – meaning do not ask the Ahlul Kitaab about the number of Ashaabul Kahf, because they do not have evidence, nor is there any benefit to inquiring. End the argument and close the chapter. Allah ta’ala has told us the story, and there is no need to ask anymore.

WAllahu alam – And Allah knows best.

Complete Tafsir Surah Kahf here.

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3 thoughts on “Tafsir Surah Kahf: Ayah 21-22

  1. This is one ayah that I have seen two different interpretations of.

    In the translation/commentary of it you see this big difference in views.

    One is the more Salafi bent Sahih International, that we use at QuranJam.com, which asserts that this was a bidah- for the same reasons you stated. The other was in a Mufti Afzal Hoosen Elias’ Quran translation (Sh. Muhammad AlShareef recommended this one) and it says, they built a masjid, as oppose to a shrine, so that people will remember to worship Allah and not the Ashabul Kahf.

    I think this is the basis of the practice of having graves and masjids attached, that you see around the world, like in al-Madinah.

    So it’s interesting, both have the same objective in mind, just go about it a little differently and see different things there. :)

    Keep it up!

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