Shaykh Walead Mosaad gives a concise overview of some of the key meanings and themes found in Sura al Kahf, and the lessons we can draw from it.
Abu Darda’ reported that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “If anyone learns the first ten verses of the Sura al Kahf by heart, they will be protected from the Dajjal.” (Muslim)
Abu Sa’id al Khudri reports that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Whoever recites Surat al Kahf on Jumu‘a a ray of light will shine for them from one Jumu‘a to the next.” (Nasa’i, Bayhaqi, Hakim)
The Quran instructs us often in the forms of archetypes, which means that the parables, the stories, are not just mere stories to be recollected and have a nice history lesson about. In fact when we talk about Sura al Kahf we find that many of the details that some of you may want to know, such as, what were the names of the people of the cave? How many were they? How long did they actually stay there or sleep? What happened after they were found? The Sura actually doesn’t give you a lot of details about that because that’s not the point. The point is the lessons that we can learn.
The Qur’an is a Light
As we know the Qur’an is about 600 pages long, six thousand or so verses. It can’t cover every aspect, every encounter, that you’ll have in your life. And it’s not meant to do that. It’s meant to enlighten you.
Many of you know the hadith that have been reported about the merits of reciting this particular chapter of the Qur’an on Fridays. That it expiates one sins from one Friday to the next. It is a protection from the Dajjal or the Antichrist. Some other reports mention that it’s a protection from the punishment of the grave. And it’s supposed to be recited every Friday.
I thought a little bit about this. Why every week? And why particularly as a protection from the Dajjal? Every week means that it’s not just something to be read and dispensed with. But even if you have a regular chat or litany of Qur’an that you do, nevertheless you’d still include Sura al Kahf. So it might be one of the most off recited chapters of the Qur’an, f you are following the Sunna of reciting every Friday.
Additionally this idea of the Masih al Dajjal, as a tenet of faith we believe that this particular being or individual will be, and there will be great trials and tribulations associated with him towards what we would call the end of days.
Four Major Parables
If you look at Sura al Kahf and the parables that are in it, you’ll find the four major parables.
- 1. The people of the cave often referred to in the Judaic and Christian traditions as the Seven Sleepers.
- 2. You have the Sahab al Jannatayn: the two men of the gardens that they owned.
- 3. Our master Musa and our master Khidr or Abd al Salih: the righteous servant.
- 4. Dhu al Qarnayn that many of them mufassirun (exegetes) mention as being Alexander the Great.
So you have things that predated by many many many years the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. Yet somehow in each of them there’s a particular archetype or paradigm for us to learn from.
We know that in the trials and tribulations associated with the Dajjal towards the end of days that this will be a culminative process. In other words, it will culminate in that. It doesn’t start with that. In other words, our view of history, or the Islamic world’s view of history, is one that is looking at successive decline. Our decline does not mean that we will be declining in terms of the technological prowess and the things that were able to do.
The Decline of Humanity
These people that were talking about in Sura al Kahf got around on the back of a donkey and today we can fly in machines that go a thousand times the speed or ten thousand times the speed of the donkey. We can create materials that, if at one point maybe there was a million people living on the face of the earth we have things now that could probably kill all of them in one fell swoop.
We’re not talking about this type of decline, but a decline in the most important facet, the most important aspect. It’s a decline in our own humanity, in that which defines us as human beings. And what defines as human beings is not the things that we can create, not the things that we can make, but rather the actualization of those attributes in the human being that are reflection of the attributes of Allah. There is a correlation between the two.
Knowledge, wisdom, compassion, mercy – the very things that we seek from Allah Most High, those are things that should be embedded within us and those are things we should seek for our own selves. This decline began with the death of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him. And there will be no prophets after him. The only time we’re going to get a minor reset when the Prophet Isa, peace be upon him, comes. Not so much as a prophet with a new revelation but as a follower of the last Prophet, Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him.
The Minor Devils
We get a reset then, but until then, there is this steady period of decline in our own humanity. That means we may have the Dajjal, with capital t-h-e, at the end, or capital D. But we are going to have many many dajjalene: many, many people who incorporate the attributes of an imposter who sows corruption and havoc on the earth.
I’m talking about your very own self. Everybody within themselves has this this jabarut, this type of tyranny within themselves. We have the potential for it and one of the things about your humanity is to recognize that you do have the potential for this. Realise that just because you are the son or the daughter of this person or that person, or you’re from this particular town or lineage or tribe, it doesn’t make you immune.
One of the things about the believer is that they have a confidence in Allah Most High but at the same time their Iman (faith) is one where they realize that they can never truly fulfill all of its aspects. That’s why many of the theologians said it is valid for one to say: “I am a believer, insha Allah.”
Some of the other theologians said no that sounds like kufr, because you’re not sure if you’re a believer or not. But the ones who said it it is allowed and that it is valid, explain that what is meant is: “I want to believe that I have a true Iman (I have a sincere faith) and that it will ultimately be accepted by Allah Most High. So what we teeter on is whether this is going to be accepted by Allah and that automatically puts you in a position of humility.
The Meaning of Slavehood
What is the first verse of the Sura al Kahf?
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا
Praise belongs to Allah who sent down upon His slave the Book and has not assigned to it any crookedness. (Sura al Kahf 18:1)
When we talk about the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, in his highest status, he would say: “I am a messenger and I am a prophet and I am a slave of Allah.” So your highest recognition of your humanity is recognizing first and foremost that you’re a servant of Allah, that you’re a slave. And that complete agency is not for you, it is all for Allah Most High.
Sura al Kahf begins this way, reminding us right that this Book was revealed to the slave Off Allah. When Musa, peace be upon him, meets Al Abd al Salih, the righteous servant, that we know as Khidr, peace be upon him, again it’s referring to him as a slave. And this is a man who knew things Musa, peace be upon him, didn’t know.
There’s a lesson in that for us. That in order for us to actualize the most important and beautiful aspects of humanity we have to be slaves. As the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “You’re a slave to that which you love.”
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.
View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.