Sura al Kahf: Gratitude – Shaykh Walead Mosaad

Shaykh Walead Mosaad tells the story of the man of two gardens who was ungrateful for the blessing he was given and what we can learn from this.

Sahib al jannatayn or the man of the two gardens is the next parable. In reality it was one big garden. It was surrounded by date palm trees. A river ran though it and it had crops in its center.

The mufassirun mentioned that this garden was self irrigated. The man didn’t have to do anything. It was an amazing garden. Allah Most High Says:

وَاضْرِبْ لَهُم مَّثَلًا رَّجُلَيْنِ جَعَلْنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيْنِ مِنْ أَعْنَابٍ وَحَفَفْنَاهُمَا بِنَخْلٍ وَجَعَلْنَا بَيْنَهُمَا زَرْعً

Strike for them a similitude: Two men, unto one of whom We had assigned two gardens of grapes, and We had surrounded both with date-palms and had put between them tillage. (Sura al Kahf 18:32)

So there two men, one of the men had this garden of grapes and it’s surrounded by big trees and it has a river running through it and also has crops for tillage. In other words it’s self-sustaining – a perfect garden.

The First Mistake Made

Some of the narrations say they were brothers, or first cousins, or from the same tribe. Some say that the other man had something similar to it, or that he had wealth similar to it, but he spent it all in the way of Allah Most High and was left with nothing for himself.

كِلْتَا الْجَنَّتَيْنِ آتَتْ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمْ تَظْلِم مِّنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ وَفَجَّرْنَا خِلَالَهُمَا نَهَرًا

Each of the gardens gave its fruit and withheld naught thereof. And We caused a river to gush forth therein. (Sura al Kahf 18:33)

He didn’t have to do much to maintain it. It was there and the rivers were flowing and everything was going great. It was a marvel of agriculture.

وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرً

And he had fruit. And he said to his comrade, when he spoke with him: I am more than you in wealth, and stronger in respect of men. (Sura al Kahf 18:34)

Here’s where the problems begin. This verse is now kufr ni‘ama, a denial of blessing from Allah. What is important is that a denial of blessing from Allah can lead to outright kufr which is denial of Allah altogether.

The first mistake he makes is that he attributes his wealth to himself and does not see it as a blessing from Allah. He says the word ana (I). Anytime you see the word ana in the Qur’an it’s bad news. The first one to say ana is Shaytan: ana khayrun minhu … “I am better than him. I am made from fire. He is made from clay and dirt. Hence I am better.”

Isn’t the man saying a similar thing? “I have more money. I have more wealth. And hence I will be more respectful, have a better reputation, be more powerful in the eyes of men and those that I think count.”

Being Self-Important

So it began with this ujub: being impressed with oneself. The reason that no one should be self-impressed is because there’s no you here in the whole thing. Especially something like this. Look at the verse before it. Look at how Allah describes it. It goes back to Allah who is the One who made the river spring forth in the middle of it. Who is the One that made the fruits bear what they bear.

When you talk about crop farming, especially if it’s your livelihood, there’s nothing really that can teach you as much tawakkul as that. The farmer works and his harvest is once a year, maybe twice a year depending on his crop. The rest of the year he’s digging, he’s tilling, he’s seeding, he’s maintaining, he’s irrigating, and he’s not getting a dime back.

Nothing is coming back in income and the whole hope is that the crop will be so successful that at harvest time all of his needs and income for the year will come from that single crop. That’s a lot of tawakkul.

So what this man did completely contravenes that. Perhaps because it was so effortless for him. Perhaps this made him think: “I did all of this and it was so easy.” He didn’t have to struggle, to irrigate – the river burst forth and ran through it. He didn’t have to make tributaries and have it run and all these type of things. It ran on its own and he became deluded by this fact. And then he looked at his friend or his brother. “You gave your whole thing away. You’re stupid. Look at me.” It begins with self-attribution.

The Sins of Pharoah and Qarun

The same thing happened to Qarun who was from the Umma of Musa, peace be upon him. What was the worst thing that he said? The people said about him: “Look how great he is, and he has all of this. We wish we had like the same as Qarun.” And Qarun says: “I have been given this because of my knowledge. I have been given this because I did things right.” He’s attributing it to himself. And Allah destroyed him. The earth enveloped him and swallowed him.

The same thing happened to Pharaoh. He said ana in the worst way: ana rabbukum. Not even Satan could say that. Pharoah said: “I am your lord.” Again, the ana gets involved.

Taking all of these things into consideration you come to no other conclusion than that the worst thing that can happen to someone is they have this ana, this jabarut, this tyrannical overtaking of themselves by themselves. Because of what they attribute to what they think they’ve done, what they think they deserve, what they think they’re entitled to.

But then it gets worse.

وَدَخَلَ جَنَّتَهُ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ لِّنَفْسِهِ قَالَ مَا أَظُنُّ أَن تَبِيدَ هَـٰذِهِ أَبَدًا

And he went into his garden, while he is wronging himself. He said: I don’t think that all of this will ever perish. (Sura al Kahf 18:35)

He is only wronging himself, at the end of the day, for when you say something wrong or do something wrong the one who’s going to pay the highest price is yourself. One of the things that happens when people start attributing things to themselves as they become deluded and they think: “I’m always going to be like this.” These are things people take for granted.

And then finally the culmination:

وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِن رُّدِدتُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهَا مُنقَلَبًا

I don’t think not that the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord I surely shall find better than this as a resort. (Sura al Kahf 18:36)

Denying Allah’s Blessing

The denial of the blessing from Allah Most High leads to the denial of Allah. Because when you deny the Day of Judgment you deny Allah. This is serious kufr. You don’t think Allah has better than what you think you have here? And you don’t think the Hour is coming?

But notice the tasalsul – the chain. See how one step leads to another. First he says: “I’m better than you because I have more than you.” Then he says: “I don’t think it will ever go away.” And finally: “I don’t even think even the Hour will come. I think this is it and I have everything.”

Then his Sahib, his friend, comes back to him.

قَالَ لَهُ صَاحِبُهُ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَكَفَرْتَ بِالَّذِي خَلَقَكَ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ سَوَّاكَ رَجُلًا

His comrade, when he spoke with him, said: Do you not believe in Him Who created you of dust, then of a drop [of seed], and then fashioned you a man? (Sura al Kahf 18:37)

The Duty of Care

Here is an important point. Allah says: His friend or companion said when he spoke with him (yuhawiruhu). The word yuhawiruhu means he is having a discourse with him. He didn’t say: “O my God! are you like a kafir? What the heck? Are we not brothers? How could you say this?” No, he actually has a concerned discourse.

Moses was called upon by Allah Most High to speak in soft tones to Pharaoh. So what about this person and his brother? He’s no worse than Pharaoh. Even in those things that may come out that are shocking, whether we hear from a Muslim or non-Muslim, sometimes people just say things to shock and sometimes they don’t know what they’re saying.

Rather than condemn them to hell as may be the initial impulse, let’s try to save them from hell first. This is what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to make him think, to reconsider what he just said. He’s not just bringing him back to his own creation. He’s bringing him back to the creation of Adam, peace be upon him, because the gardener wasn’t created from dust or dirt, our father Adam was.

Back to the Beginning

This is kind of an overture to how we all actually began. That we came from dirt, from our father Adam, peace be upon him. And then after that we became the pollinated seed from the mother and the father. Then he made you into a man. So when you’re developing inside and you’re an embryo, then become a fetus, and then you go through these three stages of development, did you do that yourself? Is that all about you?

Should you be someone who is haughty and arrogant because you did that and it was perfect? What is difference between you and the fetus and the perfection therein and all of the resources that the fetus the baby needs are perfectly provided much in the same way that your garden is working?

The companion is appealing to the gardener’s intellect. He’s appealing to his sense of recognizing inherent truth when you’re presented with it. He implores him to reconsider his words and gives him a parable. And then he is emphatic:

لَّـٰكِنَّا هُوَ اللَّـهُ رَبِّي وَلَا أُشْرِكُ بِرَبِّي أَحَدًا

But He is Allah, my Lord, and I ascribe unto my Lord no partner. (Sura al Kahf 18:38)

Gratitude Is the Way

What is the conclusion? Well, if Allah created you from dust, and then from a single seed, and then made you into a man – and only a God can do that and no one else – then why scribes partners with that or why ascribe that to yourself? Hence your assertion is false. It can’t be right.

And then he tells the gardener what he should have said.

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ دَخَلْتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلْتَ مَا شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّـهِ ۚ إِن تَرَنِ أَنَا أَقَلَّ مِنكَ مَالًا وَوَلَدًا

If only, when you entered your garden, you had said: That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no strength save in Allah! Though you see me as less than you in wealth and children… (Sura al Kahf 18:39)

Here he says: Contrast what you said before with what I would have said as a believer. If you had entered your garden and said: ma sha Allah, la quwwata illa biLlah – this is by Allah’s mercy, this is by Allah’s will, there is no power and there is no strength except through Allah, then you recognize this blessing.

He is teaching the gardener how to capture the blessing. This ayah is like a madrassa – it’s a school in the sense of all the meanings that come out of it. And you can see its manifestations. When you say: ma sha Allah, la quwwata illa biLlah, this is called tying up your blessing. Make sure it doesn’t go away.

How do you tie up your blessing? By recognizing it. How do you increase your blessing? By thanking Allah.

لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ

And if you are thankful then I will only increase you. (Sura Ibrahim 14:17)

This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

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