Quranreading.com shares an Infograph with stories & lessons from Surah Al Kahf.
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Transcribed for hiba by Asma Imran
I would like to highlight some lessons from the story of the Ashab-e-Kahf (People of the Cave) which I feel are significantly missing in Muslim discourse especially those related to our youth.
Withdrawal from Mainstream Culture
The first thing I want to talk about is the cultural onslaught. The People of the Cave drew themselves away from the dominant culture when they observed that it was overwhelmingly evil. Actually, a verdict was passed against them according to which they were to be executed as a result of their faith; so they pulled themselves out.
One of the most important lessons to draw from this is that until our lives are in danger, we have to engage with the society. As Muslims, we cannot have the attitude that we are not going to mingle in the society because everything outside is a Fitnah from which we have to protect and shelter ourselves, and the only way we are going to preserve our faith is by totally shutting ourselves out from the outside world. This means that we’ve already accepted defeat. It says that everybody else is attacking us, and we’ve got to save ourselves by pulling back and staying strong within our fort.
However, the entire idea of Islam and the imagery that Allah (swt) presents of Islam is that of truth being hurled against falsehood. Allah (swt) gives the image of truth being like a weapon and falsehood being the victim and running away. Thus, the truth is attacking falsehood, and falsehood is on the run. So who’s on the offense and who’s on the defence? Who’s actually questioning the wrong happening in our society and engaging with it and saying: “We are here to change things?” That’s the truth. And who’s actually supposed to go into hiding? That’s supposed to be falsehood.
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In the 2008 presidential campaign, Barrack Obama was criticized for the simplicity of his message: “Yes, we can.” I feel that this is the best and the simplest message a leader can transmit for training and developing an effective and efficient team.
In order for a team to be valuable and competent, we need to analyze the role of the leader, and how a leader guides or coaches the team. We need look no further than Surah Kahf and the example of Dhul Qarnain. Ayaat 83 – 98 of this Surah clearly demonstrate, how a leader should behave for inculcating the following in the team:
Let’s analyze these objectives one Ayah at a time.
When Allah (swt) says: “Verily, we established Him in the earth, and we gave Him the means of everything” (Al-Kahf 18:84),it clearly indicates that a person is chosen for leadership, he cannot nominate himself for it. A team must trust that their leader has not forcibly or deceptively gained the position. The second part of the Ayah brings to light that a leader must have the appropriate abilities and knowledge required to lead a team successfully. He must have the ‘means’ and the ‘know how’. The foremost aspect of training team is to make them believe that you have the proficiency to lead them forward.
With words “so he followed a way”, Ayah 85 denotes that a leader must be a guide. He must set a direction for his team to follow. A team keen to achieve results must be given a specific goal and also shown a path to follow for achieving that goal. Training the team to follow this path by default implies that the leader must not only follow that path as well, but must be at the forefront, leading the team down that path.
Ayahs 87 – 88 tell us that a leader must maintain discipline in his ranks: “He said: ‘As for Him (a disbeliever in the Oneness of Allah) who does wrong, we shall punish him; and then He will be brought back unto his Lord; who will punish Him with a terrible torment (Hell). But as for him who believes (in Allah’s Oneness) and works righteousness, He shall have the best reward, (Paradise), and we (Dhul-Qarnain) shall speak unto Him mild words (as instructions).”
For a team to complete their job and do it successfully, a leader must train his team to be disciplined, giving out rewards where appropriate and handing out punishments/reprimands when required. This also includes handing out assignments in a just and fair manner, so no member of a team feels overburdened. Honing the capabilities of each member is an essential part of training a group: utilizing each member’s abilities in the appropriate area and providing the members with the opportunity to explore all the aspects of the task at hand. In order to do this, the leader must be ready to accept minor failures by the team members as part of the learning process.
Ayah 93 brings our attention to the fact that a team is comprised of individuals with varying intellectual levels, expertise and skills: “When He reached between two mountains, He found, before (near) them (those two mountains), a people who scarcely understood a word.” When training the team, the leader must establish effective communication among the team members. The leader must provide guidelines/instructions, so that the entire team establishes a common language among themselves, in order to proceed with the task effectively. The leader must train the team and help them acquire the tools, confidence, language skills, etc., required for communicating with people.
Next, let’s look at Ayahs 94 – 95: “They said: ‘O Dhul-Qarnain! Verily! Yajooj and Majooj (Gog and Magog) are doing great mischief in the land. Shall we then pay you a tribute in order that you might erect a barrier between us and them?’ He said: ‘That (wealth, authority and power) in which my Lord had established me is better (than your tribute), so help me with strength (of men), I will erect between you and them a barrier.’” A leader must set an unfailing example for his subordinates: bribery/corruption is not acceptable. Only legal compensation is allowed. For a team to function, spiritual training is an essential part.
Last, let’s look at Ayah 96: “‘Give me pieces (blocks) of iron,’ then, when he had filled up the gap between the two mountain-cliffs, he said: ‘Blow,’ till when he had made it (red as) fire, he said: ‘Bring me molten copper to pour over it.’” A leader must be well versed in the use of latest technology, and then instruct his team in the use of it. In addition, the team must have ongoing professional training, so they are abreast with current and emerging trends in their field.
“The building of this barrier was the truest example of, in the history of man, of compassion and cooperation, between a nation of great wealth and a weak nation…” (commentary of Surah Kahf, Ali Abdur Rasheed), in other words, this models how a leader should behave and by setting an example, train his team to do the same.
Amazing! Allah (swt) has given us the perfect training model, if we only chose to follow it. Yes, we can!
Surat Al-Kahf was revealed in Makkah. Many Ahadeeth confirm the virtues of this Surah. The first and the last ten Ayahs provide protection from Dajjal. It is pivotal to understand that Surat Al-Kahf is not just a magical spell that will serve as a shield against the Antichrist. Rather, the comprehension of its underlying meaning and application of the suggested measures will save us from Dajjal.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated: “Whoever memorizes ten Ayahs from the beginning of Surat Al-Kahf will be protected from the Dajjal.” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, An-Nasai and At-Tirmidhi)
The Surah starts with Allah (swt) praising His Holy Self for revealing the Mighty Book to His noble messenger, Muhammad (sa). Then, Allah (swt) tells us that He has created the world as a temporary abode to test mankind. It is not a permanent place of settlement. The Prophet (sa) states the same: “This world is sweet and green, and Allah (swt) makes you generations succeeding one another, so He is watching what you will do. Beware of (the beguilements of) this world and beware of women, for the first affliction that children of Israel suffered from was that of women.” (Ahmad) This world will eventually come to an end. After having adorned it, Allah (swt) will wipe out everything. The land will be left dry and bare, devoid of any vegetation. Four main stories, which follow in this surah, are:
1) The people of the cave
This is a story of a few young men who lived in a disbelieving town. They decided to migrate for the sake of Allah (swt), as it was difficult for them to preserve their Iman (faith). They feared execution or conversion to disbelief. They fled and retreated into a cave. Then, they invoked their Lord I for guidance and assistance. Allah (swt) responded to their sincere prayers and rewarded them with mercy. They were put into deep slumber for 309 lunar years. When they woke up, they found that the entire village had embraced Islam.
2) The Owner of the Garden
This story highlights a potential trap of wealth and noble lineage that boastful people fall into, forsaking their faith. Allah (swt) gives a parable of two men. One is a rich idolater, blessed with two gardens and abundant fruit. The other man is a poor Muslim. The wealthy man denies the Hereafter, as he is enamored with this world and its adornments. Then, he proudly states that if the Hour occurred, he would be provided with an even better share as Allah (swt) held him dear. The poor believer rebukes him and warns him of Allah’s (swt) punishment. Finally, the rich man loses all his worldly possessions due to his disbelief. His delayed regret does not benefit him.
3) Musa’s Meeting with Khidr
When the children of Israel asked Musa (as): “Who’s the most knowledgeable among the people of the earth?” Musa (as) replied: “I am.” Allah (swt) revealed to him that there was someone who knew more than he did. Musa (as) embarked on an extended journey with his boy-servant Yusha Ibn Nun to a man called Khidr (as). Khidr (as) taught Musa (as) that his knowledge and Musa’s (as) knowledge collectively compared to Allah’s (swt) supreme knowledge was as if a bird dipped its beak once or twice in the sea.
4) Dhul-Qarnayn’s Extensive Travels
The last story in the Surah is of the great King Dhul-Qarnayn, who was given knowledge and power. He had armies, war equipment, siege machinery, etc. He was known as ‘the one with two horns’, as he dominated the east and the west. In spite of his might, he was a God-fearing and just ruler. He was able to overcome Yajooj-Majooj (an evil and destructive nation) and build a massive dam with the help of people, whom he could not even understand.
Relationship Between Surat Al-Kahf and Dajjal?
Dajjal will appear before the Day of Judgement with the following four trials:
1. He’ll ask people to worship him and not Allah (swt)- trial of faith.
2. He’ll be given powers to tempt people with his wealth – trial of wealth.
3. He’ll test people with the knowledge and news he gives them – trial of knowledge.
4. He’ll control numerous parts of the earth – trial of power.
How to Survive These Trials?
The answers are in Surat Al-Kahf:
“And keep yourself (O Muhammad) patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter of the life of the world; obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, and who follows his own lusts, and whose affair has been lost.” (Al-Kahf 18:28) This highlights a critical issue of our times, namely peer pressure. Regardless of age, status and gender, a majority of people succumb to the popular culture. They never question its ethics or morality. Allah (swt) cautions Mumins to steer clear of such people and their trends.
Understanding the Truth of this World
“And mention the parable of the worldly life: it is like the water, which We send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth mingles with it, and becomes fresh and green. But (later) it becomes dry and broken pieces, which the winds scatter. And Allah is Able to do everything.” (Al-Kahf 18:45) The antidote for the love of this world and materialism is a realization of its true value. A passenger does not invest his time, love and money in a transit lounge at the airport. A believer should realize that his/her destination is beyond this world. He/she should not long for a fleeting and short-lived abode that will eventually be destroyed.
“Musa said: ‘If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey you in aught.’” (Al-Kahf 18:69) Allah (swt) has created man from clay. One should always remember that it is this soil that everyone will return to. When Umar t, the second caliph and the conqueror of Persia and Rome, the two superpowers of his time, was advised to show humility, he placed his cheek on the ground.
“Say (O Muhammad): ‘I am only a man like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is One God. So who ever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” (Al-Kahf 18:110) Sincerity means to be free from pretence or deceit in feelings, manners and actions. A believer does not travel in two boats. He is clear about his goals in life and, hence, he formulates his ideology in accordance with Allah’s (swt) pleasure only.
Calling to Allah (swt)
“And recite what has been revealed to you (O Muhammad) of your Lord’s Book (The Quran). None can change His Words, and none will you find as refuge other than Him.” (Al-Kahf 18:27) Muslims are expected to invite the rest of the world to the true revelation of eternal salvation. This is a pivotal job entrusted to form a universal brotherhood and bring peace to others. This was the mission of the Prophet (sa) and after him, of every Muslim.
Remembering the Hereafter
“And (remember) the Day We shall cause the mountains to pass away (like clouds of dust), and you will see the earth as a levelled plain, and we shall gather them all together so as to leave not one of them behind. And they will be set before your Lord in (lines as) rows, (and Allah will say): “Now indeed, you have come to Us as We created you the first time. Nay, but you thought that We had appointed no meeting for you (with Us).” (Al-Kahf 18:47-48) When Allah (swt) created humans, He instilled a sense of accountability in them. This facilitates them to choose between right and wrong. Believers, thus, act with responsibility rather than on impulse or instinct because they clearly know that they will have to face their Lord I one day to account for their deeds.
Allah (swt) says: “O you who have believed, when (the Adhan) is called for the Salah on the day of Al-Jumuah (Friday), then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if only you knew. And when the Salah has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah often that you may succeed.” (Al-Jumuah 62:9-10)
Hudhayfah Ibn Al-Yaman (rta) said that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah made those who came before us deviate from the observance of Salah on Friday- the Jews had Saturday, and the Christians had Sunday. Then Allah brought us and guided us to take Friday as our day of Salah.” (Muslim)
Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “The best day that the sun has ever risen upon is Friday. On that day, Allah created Adam, on that day he entered Paradise, and upon that day he was expelled from it.” (Muslim)
Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said about Friday: “There is an hour on Friday during which there is no Muslim slave of Allah who stands in Salah and asks something of Allah, but Allah grants it to him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
It was reported that the Prophet (sa) said: “If it is Friday, and a man performs the ritual ablution (Ghusl), puts oil in his hair, wears the most pleasant of his perfumes, puts on his best clothes, and then goes out to pray, and does not separate two people sitting together in the Masjid, then listens to the Imam delivering the sermon, his sins will be forgiven between the present Friday and the previous Friday, and three days more (i.e. total of ten days).” (Ibn Khuzaimah)
Abu Umamah (rta) said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) say: “Angels sit at the doors of Masajid. They write the first, second, and third to enter, until the Imam comes out (to deliver the sermon), then the records are raised up.” (Ahmad)
The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever reads the Surah of Al-Kahf on Friday, light will shine for him till the next Friday.” (Al-Bayhaqi)
The Prophet (sa) said: “The best of your days is Friday. So increase blessings on me therein.” (Abu Dawood and An-Nasai)