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Can somebody give a summary of the story as haab-e- kahaf, and most importantly what is the lesson being taught here ?

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The Companions of the Cave were a group of youth who believed in the Oneness of Allah. Allah says that because of their firm belief in Allah, He increased them in guidance.

Several of the earlier and later tafsir scholars have mentioned that they were sons of the kings and leaders of Byzantium, and that they went out one day to one of the festivals of their people. They used to gather once a year outside the city, and they would worship idols and offer sacrifices to them. They had an arrogant, tyrannical king who was called Decianus, who commanded and encouraged the people to do that. When the people went out to attend this gathering, these young men went out with their fathers and their people, and when they saw their people's actions with clear insight, they realized that the prostrations and sacrifices the people were offering to their idols should only be dedicated to Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth.

Each of them started to withdraw from his people and keep aloof from them. The first one of them to move away on his own went and sat in the shade of a tree, then another came and sat with him, then another came and sat with them, then four more followed suit one by one. None of them knew the others, but they were brought together by the One who instilled faith in their hearts.

Allah SWT assisted in gathering them together, and making their hearts firm.

And so these youth were brought before the king, and their statement essentially is the ayah from the Qur'an: “These, our people, have taken besides Him deities. Why do they not bring for [worship of] them a clear authority? And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah a lie?”

And then the next ayah talks about how they withdrew from their community and from what they worshipped other than Allah. The scholars say that boycotting the community is allowed when one fears for their life OR their religion. If one is unable to practise their religion, they have to get away.

The following few ayaat talk about how Allah SWT protected and preserved them while they slept in the cave. Nobody disturbed them, nothing happened to them. Allah SWT only mentions the regularity of the sun rising and setting. And so the lesson for us is that Allah SWT protects us if we remember Him when we need His Help.

Then the Qur'an talks about what happened when they woke up - they thought they were asleep for a day or a part of the day, one of them went out into the city to find food. The people of the city were amazed to see them, some narrations mention that the king at the time was Muslim, and then they rejoiced, and passed away shortly after. Allah says they were in the cave for 309 years.

Ibn Kathir has more details on this story in his tafseer. Here is a summary of the lessons contained in this story:

  • If your life or religion is threatened and you can't protect it except by fleeing, then you gotta get out. This can mean different things for different people. Maybe for someone it means to flee from that environment which causes them to forget to pray salah, or causes them to forget the remembrance of Allah. Of course in an extreme case it can mean to physically remove yourself and go to another place.
  • Allah will protect those who believe in him and increase them in guidance.
  • Allah's Promise is true
  • Allah is showing us how time can be so relative - they thought there were out for a day or a part of a day, and they were really asleep for 309 years.
  • Allah shows us how even after seeing such a miracle, the people can go back to shirk (if you finish the story in the surah, you'll see what happened at the end)
  • Allah SWT teaches us not to argue about matters about which we don't have knowledge, and to attribute knowledge to Allah (in this case, people argued about how many youth there were)
  • Allah SWT reminds us that we have no Wali except Him
  • In the time of the Dajjal, he will go around destroying stuff. It's immediate, his injustice and oppression. He'll kill people, demand them to believe in him as a god. So in this surah, Allah SWT is telling us what to do when that happens, and to have faith in His Help.

Source: Tafsir class notes and Bilal Philips audio of Tafsir Surat Kahf.

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