Introduction of Al-Kahf
(Revealed before Hijrah)
According to Ibn ‘Abbas and Ibn Zubair, the whole of this Surah was revealed at Mecca (Manthur). Almost all the commentators of the Quran appear to be agreed upon this point. ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud’s report shows that it was revealed in the early days of the Meccan period. He says that Bani Isra’il, Kahf and Maryam are among those Surahswhich were revealed very early in the Prophet’s ministry (Bukhari). According to some authorities, however, the present is one of those Surahs which were revealed not piecemeal but in one whole. Anas reports that this Surah was revealed in one whole and was guarded by 70,000 angels (Manthur, vol. 4, p. 210). This hadith should not be understood to mean that some chapters of the Quran enjoyed a greater protection than others at the time of their revelation. The traditions which say that so many angels descended for the protection of such and such chapters do not speak of their protection at the time when they were being revealed but after they had been revealed. In fact, every chapter deals with a particular subject. Sometimes a chapter contains prophecies on the fulfilment of which depends the very truth of the Quran. Sometimes these prophecies pertain to physical changes, at others to the actions of men. The prophecies which pertain to the actions of men are of particular importance due to the fact that those whose punishment they predict exert themselves to the utmost of their power to escape it. As such prophecies generally are made in unusually adverse circumstances, their fulfilment appears to be highly improbable and is brought about only by a combination of extraordinary circumstances. So if a Surah contains a certain prophecy which powerful nations have to exert themselves to render nugatory, the angels who control and superintend the direction of the affairs of the world are instructed to create conditions which may lead to its fulfilment. It is evident that the schemes and machinations of the opponents of a Prophet who makes the prophecy are proportionate in scope and intensity to the greatness of the prophecy and proportionately comprehensive are the means employed by God to frustrate those plans and plots. Since the direction of the affairs of the world is entrusted to angels and since they carry it out under divine laws, a correspondingly large number of them are appointed to guard the subject matter of a Surah which contains prophecies of the highest import. The angels are directed to take such steps as are necessary for the fulfilment of those prophecies.
In short, the guarding of the Surahs by angels does not mean their protection when they are being revealed to a Prophet of God. The real work of guardianship begins after they have been revealed and continues till the time when the prophecies mentioned therein are fulfilled. As regards immunity of Quranic revelation from satanic or human interference, every chapter, every verse, every word, even every letter and vowel-point of the Quran is equally safe and under Divine protection and no particular part of it enjoys this protection in greater measure than others.
As the present Surah contains prophecies about the destruction of such powerful nations as Gog and Magog and about the nullification of Christian false propaganda against Islam, thousands of angels have been on duty to bring about the fulfilment of these mighty prophecies from the very day when the Surah was revealed.
Western scholars assign this Surah to the sixth year of the Holy Prophet’s ministry at Mecca, but most probably it was revealed in the 4th or 5th year of the Call.
According to Muslim commentators of the Quran, the connection of this chapter with the previous one consists in the three questions that the Jews had asked the Holy Prophet about human soul, the Dwellers of the Cave and Dhul-Qarnain. The answer to the first question, they say, was revealed in Surah Bani Isra’il, whilst answers to the second and third questions were revealed in the present chapter (Muhit). But this view does not accord with actual facts. The present Surah deals with some other important subjects besides the account of the Dwellers of the Cave and of Dhul-Qarnain e.g. the parable of two men (vv. 33-44) and the Isra’ or Spiritual Journey of Moses (vv. 61-83). As to why this Surah contains these accounts along with the account of the Dwellers of the Cave and of Dhul-Qarnain, these commentators have no answer to give. Wherry, however, remarks in his "Commentary on the Quran", that 'this chapter might be called the chapter of wonderful stories.' But this very novel explanation of the reverend gentleman is as far from truth as that given by some Muslim commentators. These far-fetched explanations, in fact, are born of a lack of proper realization by these gentlemen of the real significance and purpose of the Surah. As a matter of fact, on the basis of some traditions of doubtful authenticity the idea had got into their heads that the Jews had put three questions to the Holy Prophet which this Surah seeks to answer. So they came to entertain this baseless notion and made no attempt to ponder over and understand the contents of the chapter.
It is incredible that an event should have been mentioned in the Quran at length merely because the Jews had asked the Holy Prophet certain questions about it. The Quran, being a perfect code of laws, was bound to discuss all important questions bearing on human morals, Divine worship, spirituality, social relations, political economy, etc., whether or not the Prophet was asked a question regarding any one of them. If the incidents referred to above had any bearing on any of these subjects, they were bound to be mentioned and discussed in any case; if not, the Quran would not have referred to them, no matter how many questions the Jews might have asked. It is also not reasonable to suggest that these incidents have been mentioned together in the Quran because the Jews happened to inquire about them at the same time. Questions about widely different subjects may be asked at the same time in one meeting and they may be answered in the order in which they are asked in the same meeting; but it is unwise to think that questions must necessarily be answered together in a religious Scripture whose address is not confined to one country or age, irrespective of the fact whether these questions have any bearing on one another. The commentators of the Quran seem to have grievously erred in this regard.
It should also be remembered that the Quran anticipated and replied to all legitimate objections. It did not wait for any question to be asked before answering it. While dealing with a particular subject, the Quran invariably seeks to remove all possible doubts and misgivings to which a discussion of that subject is likely to give rise and which are incidental to it. It leaves alone all matters of passing interest because its Message is not for one particular people but for all peoples and all times. Hence there could be no place in it for the discussion of subjects which concern only one people or one particular period. While dealing with a particular subject it answers only those objections which spontaneously flow from a discussion of it and not the objections which may have been raised by a certain people at the time when it was being revealed. The fact is that this chapter specifically deals with Christianity and the Christian people. There are on record certain sayings of the Holy Prophet which show that he too believed that the present Surahparticularly related to Christians. He is reported to have said, "Whosoever learns by heart the first and the last ten verses of Surah Al-Kahf will become immune from the evil influence of the Dajjal or Antichrist" (Musnad, vol. 6, pp. 446, 449).
As a matter of fact the reports upon which the commentators have based their conclusions possess no reasonable basis. Most of these have been attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas who was only about four years old at the time when the Meccans are supposed to have sent their deputation to the Jews at Medina and the latter had suggested to them that they should ask the Prophet the aforesaid three questions. These reports are also contradictory of each other and even a hurried and casual perusal of them leaves no doubt about their being manifestly baseless and absurd. Either the Jews themselves knew the answer to the question which they are reported to have asked the Holy Prophet about the human soul or they did not. If they knew it, how could the truth of the Prophet be proved on the basis of an answer which they themselves knew? If they did not know it then how could they know that the one given by the Prophet was correct?
All these facts taken together unmistakably show that the above-mentioned reports about the Holy Prophet having been asked the three questions were the product of some inventive genius and were later passed on as true and genuine traditions.
After having demonstrated the falsity of the above-mentioned reports, it is necessary to add a few words to show the connection of this chapter with the preceding Surah.
In chapter An-Nahl, the prophecy had been dealt with at some length that the Holy Prophet would meet with severe opposition from Jews and Christians. This subject was further elaborated in Surah Bani Isra’il in which it was stated that he would be taken to regions where he would live among Jews and would establish new contacts with them and later meet with opposition from both Jews and Christians and in the end would conquer them. Surah Bani Isra’il also mentioned a vision of the Prophet which embodied a prophecy that he would conquer the promised Holy Land of the Jews and alluded to two revolts of the Jews foretold in the book of Deuteronomy. The first revolt took place after the time of David, as a consequence of which the Jews were expelled from their native land. They repented of their sins and their homeland was restored to them. But they relapsed into iniquity and defied God’s commandments and revolted for the second time in the time of Jesus. This second defiance of a Prophet of God brought upon them severer punishment. Their holy places were destroyed and they were exiled from their beloved land of promise. These prophecies had also mentioned the conditions and circumstances through which the first part of the Israelites—the Jews—had to pass. A description of their condition, however, gave rise to an obvious question, viz. when Christians who form the second part of the Mosaic Dispensation have been spared the punishment with which the Jews who were its first part were afflicted, does it not follow that Christians are the inheritors of the Divine blessings and favours promised to the Jews? This question having been dispensed with, there remained one more question to be answered, viz. why are Muslims warned to be on their guard lest they incur Divine displeasure by following in the footsteps of the Jews, and what does this warning portend and what has the future in store for them? These two very natural and pertinent questions have been answered in the present chapter and some light has also been shed on the vicissitudes through which the Christian Faith was to pass. Mention has also been made of how Muslims would behave and make themselves the object of Divine wrath by imitating the iniquitous ways of the Jews. An answer has also been supplied to yet another question viz. what connection is there between these matters and the story of the Dwellers of the Cave, and of Dhul-Qarnain and Gog and Magog, the parable of two gardens and the Isra’ (Spiritual Ascension) of Moses? The answer which the Surah under comment gives to this question is that these parables describe in metaphorical language the rise and fall of Christian nations and also the hardships and tribulations that Muslims had to suffer from them on account of their own iniquities.
The Dwellers of the Cave are those early Christians who suffered untold persecution for the sake of their religion and upon whom God bestowed great material and spiritual blessings and favours as a reward for their sacrifices. The incidents mentioned in this chapter had happened long before the time of the Holy Prophet because the successors of those early Christians had forsaken the path of truth by the time he made his appearance. A brief account of the Dwellers of the Cave or early Christians is given to point to the fact that when Jews incurred Divine displeasure by their persistent rejection of truth, God chose these early Christians for the bestowal of His favours. But when later Christians departed from the path of virtue and took to iniquitous ways and practices, they too forfeited Divine favours. This subject has been described in the parable of "two gardens". The "two gardens" symbolized the two periods of the progress and prosperity of the Mosaic Dispensation, viz. (a) the period of prosperity of the Jewish people and (b) the period of the progress and advancement of Christian nations. Or they symbolized the two periods of the Christian people, the one before the time of the Holy Prophet and the other in our own time. Surah Bani Isra’il contains an account of the favours which God bestowed upon the Jews and the present Surah deals with the great material progress and advancement made by Christian nations.
After this, the Surah proceeds to say that when the Israelites abused the possession of these "two gardens" and consigned to oblivion God’s great blessings and began to look down upon their cousins, the Ishmaelites, and became spiritually so depraved as to think that God’s blessings were not so many Divine favours but rewards which they had themselves earned and therefore richly deserved as of right, then God heard the supplications of the despised and oppressed Ishmaelites and destroyed the gardens belonging to the Mosaic Dispensation, i.e. God broke the power of both Jews and Christians and chose the Ishmaelites, who were looked down upon, for His favours and gave them gardens better than those He had given to Jews and Christians.
In order to expand the subject and give it more clarity, the Isra’ (Spiritual Journey) of Moses has been mentioned after the parable of the "two gardens". This Spiritual Journey of Moses describes in metaphorical language the great material and moral progress that his followers were to make just as the phenomenal progress of the followers of the Holy Prophet has been described in his own Isra’, mentioned in Surah Bani Isra’il. This Isra’ of Moses describes in detail when and how this great advancement would commence and where it would stop and when the Israelites would become deprived of Divine favours which would be transferred to the House of Ishmael. After this we are told that the Ishmaelites, after having become heirs to God’s favours, would in their turn incur His displeasure by defying His commandments and would receive severe punishment at the hands of Christian peoples—the second misguided part of the Mosaic Dispensation. The depraved followers of the Holy Prophet would be punished by Gog and Magog who would, at one time, spread over and dominate the entire world. In order to show that these nations lived also even in the time of the Holy Prophet but that God in His own infallible wisdom had kept them in a state of dormancy and had stopped them from spreading over the world, the Surah has mentioned the causes that hindered their progress. Towards the end of the Surah, mention is made of one, Dhul-Qarnain, who stood in the way of the domination of the whole world by Gog and Magog. Thus light is thrown on the material and spiritual condition of Christians both in the early stages of their faith and in the Latter Days when power, wealth and material prosperity would make them depart from the path of truth and righteousness. The Dwellers of the Cave symbolize early Christians in the period of their weakness, and Gog and Magog represent them in the heyday of their glory in our own time. Gog and Magog are Christians only in name, being quite strangers to the real spirit of their religion. The Surah closes with an assurance to the followers of Islam that God would break and shatter the forces of irreligiousness unleashed by Gog and Magog and would bring about the deliverance of Muslims by means of a second Dhul-Qarnain. This second Dhul-Qarnain is the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement.
In short, the Surah deals with two epochs of Christianity. In the first epoch the Christians led a life of virtue and righteousness and in the second they have given themselves up entirely to the pursuit and acquisition of material wealth and worldly gains. In between these two periods of Christianity’s spiritual glory and its decline and degradation the Islamic Dispensation was established and we are told that when Muslims abandoned the path of virtue and adopted satanic ways, their political power would suffer a great eclipse at the hands of Christians. Later, however, Islam would emerge unscathed from this travail. This prophecy is being fulfilled in our own time.
Such is the close connection that exists between the present Surah and the preceding one, particularly the connection between the opening verses of this Surah and the closing verses of the previous Surah. The preceding Surahended with the words, All praise belongs to Allah Who has taken unto Himself no son and Who has no partner in His Kingdom and this Surah opens with the warning that destruction shall overtake a people who propose a son for God. Similarly, the previous Surah commended as men of knowledge those who worship and glorify God and have firm faith in His promises and denounced as ignorant and deprived of all true knowledge those who assign a son to God. Moreover, while in the previous Surah true knowledge was defined and explained, the present Surah defines and explains what constitutes ignorance and lack of true knowledge. Another connection between the closing verses of the last Surah and the opening verses of the present Surah is that whereas the closing verses of the preceding chapter categorically denied the existence of any partner in God’s Kingdom, in the opening verses of this Surah the Holy Prophet is commanded to warn those who, in the pride of their power, wealth, and means, think that these things are everlasting and that they are immune from Divine punishment. The fourth connection between these two chapters consists in the fact that while the former chapter closed with the words, And extol His glory with all glorification, the Surah under comment opens with severe condemnation and castigation of those who assign a son to God. The Prophet is reported to have said that whosoever reads the first and the last ten verses of Surah Al-Kahf would be protected against the evil influence of the Dajjal or Antichrist (Musnad). This hadith shows that the Prophet understood that this Surah was a special antidote against the mischief of the Dajjal who, however, has not been mentioned in it by name. The first ten verses, the recital of which is recommended as a safeguard against the mischief of the Dajjal, speak of a people "who assign a son to God", and they are no other than the present-day Christians. The last ten verses of the Surah speak of a people who have devoted their entire time, energy and effort to the acquisition of material wealth and who are so engrossed in their mechanistic inventions and discoveries as to think that they can fathom even the very secret of creation. But the greater their inventions and discoveries the more mortifying is their realization that there is no limit to the secrets of nature and no end to God’s great and wonderful works. This description also applies to Christian nations of the west today. The Surah thus constitutes a sort of commentary on the ideas, beliefs, ambitions and doings of these nations. So when the chapters immediately preceding and following this Surah deal primarily with the Christian Faith and the great material progress and prosperity of its followers, it clearly follows that when the Holy Prophet declared the recitation of the first and last ten verses of this Surah as an infallible safeguard against the mischief of the Dajjal, by Dajjal he meant present-day corrupt Christian nations. These verses embody a severe indictment of their belief in Jesus as Son of God and of their materialistic tendencies. Thus Christian nations are certainly the Dajjal or Antichrist of the Holy Prophet’s traditions.
The subject matter of the Surah may briefly be stated as follows: God has revealed the Quran in order to remove the errors that had crept into previous heavenly Scriptures. It warns those who ascribe a son to God that by so doing they incur God’s displeasure.
These people hate Islam, but their beginning is not like their end. In the beginning they were very weak and were subjected to bitter persecution. God had mercy on them and delivered them from their trials and tribulations and put them on the road to progress and prosperity. But when they grew rich and prosperous, they became involved in idolatrous practices and instead of turning to God, they turned to the world and were entirely lost in it. Muslims are warned to take a lesson from these people and to be on their guard particularly against three evils in the day of their power and glory, viz. (a) remissness in Divine worship; (b) excessive love of wealth and worldly possessions; and (c) a life of ease and luxury.
The glory and power of Christian nations and degradation and poverty of Muslims are then graphically depicted in "the parable of two men", one rich and the other poor. The rich man—Christian nations—would be proud of his riches while the poor man would turn to God. Pride and conceit would come to grief in the long run and circumstances beyond human control would bring about the rich man’s decline and fall.
The Surah proceeds to give some details of those great changes which were revealed to Moses in his vision. Moses was told in his vision that the development and progress of his Dispensation would fall far short of the great heights which another and a later Dispensation would attain. This later Dispensation would bring to perfection and completion the teaching which the Mosaic Dispensation had left incomplete and Islam would emerge triumphant from the ashes of a declining and decadent Christendom.
After having dealt with the decline and fall of Christian nations and the rise of Islam, the Surah describes the conditions which would follow the triumph of Islam. We are told that a time would come when Muslims would also turn their backs upon religion and would become entirely engrossed in the pursuit of material wealth and power. To punish them for their sins God would once again grant success and prosperity to Christian nations which for a time had been restrained from advancing into southern and eastern regions. Then would come great destruction upon the world and all nations would become divided into two hostile camps and wedded to two opposite ideologies. Sin and iniquity would prevail and injustice and tyranny become rampant. When things came to such a pass God would create circumstances which would finally check the seemingly irresistible onrush of the flood threatening to engulf the entire world. While dealing with this subject the Surah clearly hints that the same people would play an important part in arresting and stopping this flood as had once before broken the political power of Gog and Magog—true followers of the Holy Prophet.
In fact, the Surah is complementary to, and has a deep and beautiful connection with, its predecessor—Surah Bani Isra’il. Its subject matter and the incidents mentioned therein do not lack cohesion as some commentators have mistakenly inferred but, in fact, possess an exquisite order.
یہ مکی سورت ہے اور بسم اللہ سمیت اس کی ایک سو گیارہ آیات ہیں۔ اس کا زمانہ نزول نبوّت کا چوتھا یا پانچواں سال ہے۔ سورۃالکہف کا آغاز سورۃ بنی اسرائیل کے اسی مضمون سے ہوا ہے جس میں حضرت عیسیٰ علیہ الصلوٰۃ والسلام کے بندہ ہونے کو بڑی صراحت اور جلال سے پیش فرمایا گیا ہے اور بہت ہی سادہ الفاظ میں یہ اعلان فرمادیا گیا کہ انہیں علم ہی کوئی نہیں کہ حضرت عیسیٰ کیسے پیدا ہوئے اور نہ یہ علم ہے کہ اللہ تعالیٰ تولید کے نظام سے کلیۃً پاک ہے۔ وہ اللہ پر بہت ہی بڑا جھوٹ بولتے ہیں۔ ان کے دعویٰ کی کوئی بھی حیثیت نہیں۔ اس کے بعد ابتدائی عیسائیوں کا ذکر فرمایا گیا کہ کس طرح وہ توحید کی حفاظت کی خاطر سطح زمین کو چھوڑ کر غاروں میں چلے گئے۔ اصحابِ کہف کے ذکر سے پہلے ان ابتدائی آیات میں یہ فرمایا گیا تھا کہ دنیا کی جو ظاہری نعمتیں بنی نوع انسان کو عطا کی گئی ہیں وہ ان کی آزمائش کی خاطر ہیں لیکن ایک ایسا زمانہ آنے والا ہے کہ یہ نعمتیں ان سے چھین لی جائیں گی اور اُن لوگوں کو عطاکردی جائیں گی جنہوں نے اللہ کی خاطر سطح زمین کی زینت کی بجائے غاروں میں زندگی بسر کرنے کو ترجیح دی۔ اس کے بعد دو ایسی جنتوں یعنی باغوں کی مثال دی گئی ہے جن کی وجہ سے ایک شخص دوسرے پر فخر کرتا ہے کہ مجھے تو یہ سب کچھ عطا ہوا ہے اور میرے مقابل پر تم تہی دست ہو۔ لیکن ساتھ ہی یہ تنبیہ بھی فرمادی گئی کہ جب اللہ تعالیٰ کی ناراضگی کے بگولے تمہاری نعمتوں پر اُتریں گے تو تمہیں خاکستر کردیں گے۔ وہی صَعِیْدًا جُرُزًا والا مضمون دوسرے لفظوں میں دہرایا گیا ہے۔ اسی سورت میں حضرت موسیٰ علیہ الصلوٰۃ والسلام اور آپ کے ساتھ حضرت عیسیٰ علیہ الصلوٰۃ والسلام کے اس سفر کا ذکر ملتا ہے جس میں انہیں اپنی امت کی آخری حدیں دکھادی گئیں اور اُس مقام کی نشان دہی فرمادی گئی جہاں روحانی غذا کی مچھلی واپس سمندر میں چلی گئی اور یہ عیسائیت کے ظہورِ اسلام سے پہلے کے اُس دَور کی طرف اشارہ ہے جب وہ روحانیت کھوچکی تھی۔ اس کے بعد آنحضرت صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کو ایک تمثیل میں اُس بزرگ کی صورت میں دکھایا گیا ہے جسے عوام الناس حضرت خضر کہتے ہیں اور بتایا گیا کہ جو حکمتیں اس کو عطا کی جائیں گی وہ موسیٰ علیہ السلام کی پہنچ سے بالا ہیں اور ان کی کُنہ تک پہنچنے کے لئے جس صبر کی ضرورت ہے وہ موسیٰ علیہ السلام کو عطا نہیں ہوا تھا۔ اور آنحضرت صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کو حضرت موسٰی ؑ پر یہ فضیلت عطا ہوئی کہ آپ اللہ تعالیٰ کی حکمتوں کے ہمراز بنائے گئے۔ اس کے بعد ذو القرنین کا ذکر آتا ہے جو پھر آنحضرت صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کی طرف اشارہ کر رہا ہے کہ آپؐ کو دو زمانوں کی بادشاہی دی جائے گی۔ ایک اوّلین کی اور ایک آخَرِین کی۔ اس میں جو ذوالقرنین کے سفر کی تفصیلات بیان کی گئی ہیں وہ اپنے اندر بہت سے اشارے رکھتی ہیں جن کی تفصیل یہاں بیان نہیں کی جاسکتی مگر ایک بات بہرحال حتمی ہے کہ رسول اللہ صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کی امت کا پھیلاؤ مغرب تک بھی ہوگا جہاں اہل مغرب کے باطل خیالات کے گدلے پانی میں سورج غروب ہوتا دکھائی دیتا ہے اور مشرق میں سفر اس سرزمین تک ہوگا جس سے پرے سورج اور زمین کے درمیان کوئی اوٹ نہیں۔ اس سورت کے آخر پر قطعیت سے ثابت ہوجاتا ہے کہ اس میں عیسائیت کے عروج و زوال کا قصہ بیان فرمایا گیا ہے۔ عروج ابتدائی موحدین کی وجہ سے ہوا تھا اور زوال اس وقت ہوا جبکہ ایک اللہ کا عقیدہ بگڑتے بگڑتے سینکڑوں بلکہ ہزاروں اولیاء کو خدا ماننے پر منتج ہوا۔ چنانچہ عملاً آج فرضی Saints کو جو الوہیت کا رتبہ دیا جا رہا ہے اس کا اس سورت کے آخر پر یوں ذکر ہے کہ أفَحَسِبَ الَّذِیْنَ کَفَرُوْا اَنْ یَّتَّخِذُوْا عِبَادِیْ مِنْ دُوْنِیْ اَوْلِیَآء۔ کہ وہ لوگ جو رسول اللہ صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کا انکار کررہے ہیں کیا وہ سمجھتے ہیں کہ اللہ کے بندوں کو اس کے سوا اولیاء بنالیں گے۔ آنحضرت صلی اللہ علیہ و سلم کو اس کا واضح عرفان عطا کیا گیا تھا کہ اس سورت کا تعلق دجّال سے ہے۔ چنانچہ آپ نے یہ نصیحت فرمائی کہ جو شخص اس سورت کی پہلی دس آیات اور آخری دس آیات کی تلاوت کیا کرے گا وہ دجّال کے فتنہ سے محفوظ رہے گا۔ اور باوجود اس کے کہ آپؐ بھی ایک بشر ہی تھے آپ کی زبان سے یہ اعلان کروایا گیا کہ مَیں بشر تو ہوں مگر ہر قسم کے شرک سے پاک۔ پس اگر تم بھی چاہتے ہو کہ اللہ تعالیٰ کی لقاء تمہیں بھی نصیب ہو تو اپنے آپ کو ہر قسم کے شرک سے پاک کرلو۔ یہاں وحی الٰہی کے جاری رہنے کی پیشگوئی بھی فرمائی گئی ہے۔ اللہ کے پاک بندے جو اپنے آپ کو شرک سے پاک رکھیں گے، اللہ تعالیٰ اُن سے بھی ہمکلام ہوگا۔
بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ﴿۱﴾
بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
a. 1:1. (close)
a. See 1:1. (close)
See 1:1. (close)
اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ الَّذِیۡۤ اَنۡزَلَ عَلٰی عَبۡدِہِ الۡکِتٰبَ وَ لَمۡ یَجۡعَلۡ لَّہٗ عِوَجًا ؕ﴿ٜ۲﴾
ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ ٱلَّذِيٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبۡدِهِ ٱلۡكِتَٰبَ وَلَمۡ يَجۡعَل لَّهُۥ عِوَجَاۜ
b. 25:2; 57:10. (close)
b. 25:2; 57:10. (close)
2042. Important Words:
عوجا (crookedness) is derived from عوج i.e. it was or became crooked, curved or uneven. عوج الامر means, the affair was or became difficult or troublesome.عوج (iwajun) means, crookedness, curvity, unevenness or distortion; corruption or deviation from rectitude; deflection; evilness of natural disposition (Lane & Aqrab). See also 14:4.
See the following verses. (close)
قَیِّمًا لِّیُنۡذِرَ بَاۡسًا شَدِیۡدًا مِّنۡ لَّدُنۡہُ وَ یُبَشِّرَ الۡمُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ الَّذِیۡنَ یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ الصّٰلِحٰتِ اَنَّ لَہُمۡ اَجۡرًا حَسَنًا ۙ﴿۳﴾
قَيِّمٗا لِّيُنذِرَ بَأۡسٗا شَدِيدٗا مِّن لَّدُنۡهُ وَيُبَشِّرَ ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَٰتِ أَنَّ لَهُمۡ أَجۡرًا حَسَنٗا
1662. The Qur’an as Qayyim (guardian) performs a double function. It is a guardian over the previous Scriptures in that it corrects and removes the errors that have found their way into them, and it is also a guardian over future generations because it takes upon itself their spiritual upbringing and guides them to the paths which lead to the realization of the sublime object of human life. (close)
c. 17:10, 11. (close)
c. 17:10, 11. (close)
2043. Important Words:
قیما (guardian) is derived from قام which means, he stood. They say قام بالامر i.e. he managed, conducted, superintended or looked after the affair. قام علی المرءة means, he undertook the maintenance of the woman. قومه (qawwama-hu) means, he made it straight or put it right. قیم الامر means, a manager of an affair. الدین القیم means, the right or true religion. قیم therefore, means, true; perfect; manager; superintendent; guardian (Lane, Aqrab & Mufradat). See also 4:35.
The Quran has been called قیم (guardian) in this verse. According to the different meanings of the Arabic word قیم as shown under Important Words above, the Quran performs a double function. It is a guardian of the previous Scriptures inasmuch as it corrects and removes the errors that have found their way into them, and it is also a guardian for future generations of men because it takes upon itself their spiritual up-bringing and guides them to the paths which lead to the realization of the sublime object of their life.
The believers have been promised اجرا حسنا (good reward) in the verse. The significance of "good reward" being implicit in the word اجر(reward) which in many places in the Quran has been promised to believers, the addition of the qualifying word حسنا (good) points to the fact that the reward of the believers would be productive of particularly good results. It would not spoil them, but would make them deserving of still greater reward as they would turn God’s favours to good account. (close)
مَّاکِثِیۡنَ فِیۡہِ اَبَدًا ۙ﴿۴﴾
مَّـٰكِثِينَ فِيهِ أَبَدٗا
If the verse be taken as referring to the reward of believers in Paradise, it would mean that that reward will last forever and will know no end or diminution. But if it refers to the good reward of this world, then the verse would mean that believers will get a good reward so long as they do good deeds. The continuity of their good reward would depend upon the continuity of their good and righteous deeds. (close)
وَّ یُنۡذِرَ الَّذِیۡنَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللّٰہُ وَلَدًا ٭﴿۵﴾
وَيُنذِرَ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُواْ ٱتَّخَذَ ٱللَّهُ وَلَدٗا
d. 17:112; 19:36; 21:27; 25:3; 39:5; 72:4. (close)
1663. The Qur’an is first spoken of as 'giving warning,' next as 'giving glad tidings' (v. 3), and then again as 'giving warning' as in the present verse. Disbelievers have been warned twice and in between these two warnings the believers have been given glad tidings. This double warning interspersed with glad tidings for Muslims implied three prophecies: (a) the discomfiture and destruction of the Holy Prophet’s opponents in his own time, (b) the phenomenal rise of Muslims to power and glory, and, (c) after the departure of their glory, the punishment in store for the nations who say that 'Allah has taken unto Himself a son.' (close)
a. 17:112; 19:36; 21:27; 25:3; 39:5; 72:4. (close)
It is worthy of special note that the Quran is first spoken of as 'giving warning', next as 'giving glad tidings' (v. 3) and then again as 'giving warning' as in the present verse. Disbelievers have been warned twice and in between these two warnings the believers have been given glad tidings. This seems rather strange and the words appear to have been used haphazardly. But it is not so. They serve a very useful purpose. The two 'warnings' and the one 'glad tidings' point to three important periods of the history of Islam. The first 'warning' mentioned in v. 3 pertains to the disbelievers of Mecca and all those people in the time of the Holy Prophet who had rejected his Message and were punished for their rejection and opposition. The 'glad tidings' spoken of in the same verse applies to Muslims who after their enemies had been destroyed enjoyed Divine favours for a very long time and this fulfilled the Divine promise embodied in the words, "Wherein they shall abide forever." For long centuries Muslims ruled over a large part of the globe and enjoyed great power and prestige. The 'second warning' embodied in the present verse refers to Christian nations of "the latter days" and implies a prophecy that after Muslims had enjoyed power and dominion for a long time, their glory would depart and Christian nations would again come into their own and spread over the entire world and would prove as a bar sinister to the expansion of Islam. These present-day Christian nations of the west have been warned of a severe punishment that is in store for them in the words, that it may warn those Who say, Allah has taken unto Himself a son. Thus this giving of warnings twice and interspersing these two warnings with glad tidings for Muslims implied three great prophecies viz. (a) the discomfiture and destruction of the Holy Prophet’s opponents in his own time; (b) the phenomenal rise of Muslims to power and glory and, after the departure of Muslim glory, (c) the punishment that is in store for the nations who say that Allah has taken unto Himself a son. The signs of this Divine punishment are already becoming too manifest to be overlooked. (close)
مَا لَہُمۡ بِہٖ مِنۡ عِلۡمٍ وَّ لَا لِاٰبَآئِہِمۡ ؕ کَبُرَتۡ کَلِمَۃً تَخۡرُجُ مِنۡ اَفۡوَاہِہِمۡ ؕ اِنۡ یَّقُوۡلُوۡنَ اِلَّا کَذِبًا ﴿۶﴾
مَّا لَهُم بِهِۦ مِنۡ عِلۡمٖ وَلَا لِأٓبَآئِهِمۡۚ كَبُرَتۡ كَلِمَةٗ تَخۡرُجُ مِنۡ أَفۡوَٰهِهِمۡۚ إِن يَقُولُونَ إِلَّا كَذِبٗا
e. 22:72; 40:43. (close)
a. 19:91, 92. (close)
a. 22:72; 40:43. (close)
b. 19:91-92. (close)
The expression کبرت کلمة (grievous is the word) is really کبرت ھی کلمة which means that the saying of this word is very grievous, or that it is very grievous even to open the lips with this word and it is against reason and common sense to utter it. The verse constitutes a severe indictment of the doctrine that Jesus is the son of God. This doctrine is not only blasphemous but also revolting to human intellect. It is an insult to human understanding to say that a weak and helpless man who could not save himself from being hung on the cross was God or the Son of God. Misguided and erring leaders of the Christian Church fabricated a most heinous and blasphemous doctrine without even a modicum of sense or reason to support it. They were fully aware of the fact that the disciples of Jesus and early Christians were strict monotheists and yet they departed from their pristine Faith. The later Christians, however, had with them the excellent Islamic teaching about the Unity of God, but they did not benefit by it, nor by the monotheistic beliefs of their own forebears. Without rhyme or reason they ascribed Godhead to a weak human being.
The words, they speak naught but a lie, signify that Jesus never taught such a foolish doctrine but later Christians themselves invented it and they are to blame for it. In fact, even the canonical Gospels lend no support to this blasphemous doctrine. No doubt the Bible has used the epithet "son of God" about Jesus but so has it also done about several other persons. For instance in Exod. 4:22 we have, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first born." See also Gen. 6:2, John 10:35, etc. (close)
فَلَعَلَّکَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفۡسَکَ عَلٰۤی اٰثَارِہِمۡ اِنۡ لَّمۡ یُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِہٰذَا الۡحَدِیۡثِ اَسَفًا ﴿۷﴾
فَلَعَلَّكَ بَٰخِعٞ نَّفۡسَكَ عَلَىٰٓ ءَاثَٰرِهِمۡ إِن لَّمۡ يُؤۡمِنُواْ بِهَٰذَا ٱلۡحَدِيثِ أَسَفًا
b. 26:4. (close)
1664. Bakhi‘ being active participle from Bakha‘a which means, he did a thing most effectively, the verse speaks volumes for the Holy Prophet’s concern and solicitude for the spiritual well-being of his people. His grief over their rejection of the Divine Message and opposition to it had almost killed him. God’s Messengers and His Prophets are full of the milk of human kindness. They cry and weep and grieve for mankind. But such is human ingratitude that those very people for whom they feel so deeply persecute them and seek to kill them. (close)
a. 26:4. (close)
2047. Important Words:
باخع نفسک (grieve thyself to death). باخع is active participle from بخع . They say بخع الشاة i.e. he slaughtered the lamb with extraordinary effectiveness so that the knife reached the back of the neck; the verb بخع is used to denote the doing of anything to a great extent or with extraordinary effectiveness or energy. بخع له نصحه means, he gave him his advice most sincerely. بخع نفسه means, he killed himself with wrath or grief. The Quranic expression فلعلک باخع نفسک means, And maybe thou wilt kill thyself with grief being beyond measure eager for their becoming Muslims (Lane).
It is clear from the context that the people spoken of in these verses are the western Christian nations. God had blessed them with material comforts and wealth and had bestowed upon them power, prestige and dominion. But they fell into the grievous error of taking a frail human being as the son of God. The Holy Prophet’s solicitude and concern for the spiritual well-being of these people and his deep grief over their opposition to truth had almost killed him. But such is human ingratitude that from the very people for whom he felt and grieved so much he received nothing but abuse, invective and ridicule. Never, indeed, were selfless love and kindness so ill requited!
The words, if they believe not in this discourse, allude to the reason of the Prophet’s grief. They mean to say that the Quran contains the solution of all those difficult problems that Christian nations had to face in this life, yet these people who have made so much progress in material sciences are so backward in the spiritual science that they are inviting death and destruction by refusing to accept true guidance. (close)
اِنَّا جَعَلۡنَا مَا عَلَی الۡاَرۡضِ زِیۡنَۃً لَّہَا لِنَبۡلُوَہُمۡ اَیُّہُمۡ اَحۡسَنُ عَمَلًا ﴿۸﴾
إِنَّا جَعَلۡنَا مَا عَلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ زِينَةٗ لَّهَا لِنَبۡلُوَهُمۡ أَيُّهُمۡ أَحۡسَنُ عَمَلٗا
1665. Of all the innumerable things that God has created there is not one which has not its particular use or which is devoid of all good. All of them add to the beauty of human life. Muslims were enjoined always to keep in view the great truth underlying these simple words and to devote their time and energy to delving into the great secrets of nature and to exploring the unlimited properties of elements. (close)
c. 5:49; 6:166; 11:8; 67:3. (close)
b. 5:49; 6:166; 11:8; 67:3. (close)
The words, We have made all that is on the earth as an ornament for it, point to the great moral lesson that nothing in this world has been created in vain. Of all the innumerable things that God has created there is not one which has not its particular use or is devoid of all good. All of them add to the beauty of human life. Muslims were expected always to keep in view the great truth underlined in these simple words and to devote their time and energy to delving into the great secrets of nature and to exploring the unlimited properties of its elements. But they ignored this supreme lesson while the Christian peoples of the West remembered it well with the result that they became the most advanced and powerful nations in the world.
It is to be regretted, however, that while Western nations greatly benefited by the lesson taught in the words, We have made all that is on the earth as an ornament for it, they neglected the one embodied in the words, that We may try them as to which of them is best in conduct. No doubt they sought after knowledge and made great advances in science. But the object of the advance and expansion of knowledge is that man’s conduct may become pure and human life more peaceful. But these nations, instead of employing their knowledge and resources to the service of man, have ended by making human life miserable and unbelievable. They have failed to set an example of good conduct and have put their scientific researches to evil use and have thereby laid the foundations of injustice, tyranny and corruption in the world. It is probably to this fact that the present verse refers. (close)
وَ اِنَّا لَجٰعِلُوۡنَ مَا عَلَیۡہَا صَعِیۡدًا جُرُزًا ؕ﴿۹﴾
وَإِنَّا لَجَٰعِلُونَ مَا عَلَيۡهَا صَعِيدٗا جُرُزًا
d. 18:41. (close)
1666. The verse implies a prophecy that the Christian nations of the West, after acquiring wealth, power and dominion and making great discoveries and inventions, would make God’s earth abound, as the Bible says, in sin and iniquity. Divine wrath would be excited and, as the prophecies uttered by the mouths of God’s great Prophets in the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an and Hadith, widespread calamities would descend upon the earth and all the progress that they will have made and all their handiworks, their lofty and stately buildings, the beauty of their land and all their pomp, glory and grandeur would be completely destroyed. (close)
a. 18:41. (close)
2049. Important Words:
صعیدا (soil) is derived from صعد. They say صعد فی السلم i.e. he ascended the ladder. صارت الحدیقة صعیدا means, the orchard became a desert, i.e. land without trees or herbage. صعید means, high or elevated land or ground; land or ground without any trees; the surface of earth; wide or an ample place; a road; a grave. (Lane & Aqrab).
جرزا (barren) is derived from جرز. They say جرزہ i.e. he cut it or exterminated it. جرزہ الزمان means, time destroyed or extirpated him or it. The Arabs say جرز ما علی المائدة i.e. he ate all that was on the table and did not leave anything; he ate quickly. ارض جرز means, land in which there is no herbage or from which the water is cut off so that it is dried up and is without herbage; or land that produces no herbage (Lane & Aqrab).
The verse means to say that all the things of this world are transitory. Their acquirement is not the end and object of human life. On the contrary, they have been created to serve higher and more sublime purposes—to be used for the service of humanity. But Christian nations of the west, after having acquired wealth, power and dominion and after having made great discoveries and inventions, have not turned their scientific achievements to the service of mankind, but instead have employed them generally to add to human misery. As these scientific discoveries and inventions have not fulfilled the purpose of making human life more peaceful and beautiful, all the works of these peoples would be brought to naught and entirely obliterated. The expression, And We shall make all that is thereon a barren soil, does not mean that the whole world will be destroyed. It only refers to the destruction of the works of Christian nations to whom these verses particularly apply.
Since a similar expression viz. صعیدا زلقا (barren ground) used in v. 41 of this Surah in connection with the parable of "two gardens" clearly applies to the works of Western nations, as shown by the context, the expression صعیدا جرزا (barren soil) must also be taken as applying to them. The words صعیدا جرزا as shown under Important Words mean, a land without herbage or a land of which the herbage has been cut or eaten. Now, 'herbage' in Quranic terminology stands for the works of men, and according to this sense of the word, the verse would mean that all the progress that the western nations were to make and all their handiworks, their lofty and stately buildings, the beautiful scenery of their land and all their pomp, glory and grandeur would be destroyed. This means that a terrible visitation is in store for them. (close)
اَمۡ حَسِبۡتَ اَنَّ اَصۡحٰبَ الۡکَہۡفِ وَ الرَّقِیۡمِ ۙ کَانُوۡا مِنۡ اٰیٰتِنَا عَجَبًا ﴿۱۰﴾
أَمۡ حَسِبۡتَ أَنَّ أَصۡحَٰبَ ٱلۡكَهۡفِ وَٱلرَّقِيمِ كَانُواْ مِنۡ ءَايَٰتِنَا عَجَبًا
1666A. The expression, Ashabul-Kahf, has been variously interpreted as 'People of the Cave;' 'Men of the Cave;' 'Companions of the Cave;' 'Inmates of the Cave' and 'Dwellers of the Cave.' (close)
1667. The verse declares that the Dwellers of the Cave were not strange things. There was nothing about them which might be considered as a departure from the ordinary laws of nature. Curiously enough many fantastic legends have been woven round them. The memorable story of the "Seven Sleepers," as told by Gibbon in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," provides an important clue to the solution of the mystery that surrounds the Dwellers of the Cave. 'When the Emperor Decius,' says Gibbon, 'persecuted the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in a spacious cavern in the side of an adjacent mountain, where they were doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance of the cavern should be firmly secured with a pile of huge stones.' Now it is a well-known historical fact that early Christians had to suffer untold persecution at the hands of the idolatrous Roman Emperors for their belief in Divine Unity. This persecution began as early as the time of the notorious Emperor Nero who is said to have set fire to Rome; he was fiddling while that great seat of learning and civilization burnt. It continued intermittently till after a brief respite of about forty years it began with renewed fury under Emperor Decius who wanted to restore the religion and institutions of ancient Rome, and with this object in view he began a systematic extermination of Christians. The edicts of Diocletian in 303 A.D., however, surpassed all anti-Christian measures. By these edicts Christian churches in all the provinces of the Empire were demolished, all their sacred books were publicly burnt and the property of the Church was confiscated and Christians were put out of the protection of the land' (Gibbon’s Roman Empire, Enc. Brit. & Story of Rome). To save themselves from this cruel and inhuman persecution its helpless victims sought refuge in hiding in the catacombs at Rome. For this purpose these catacombs were admirably adapted both by the intricacy of their labyrinthine passages and the numerous small chambers and hiding places at different levels which might remain undetected in the dark by pursuers. From the inscriptions on the tombstones in the catacombs it appears that the early Christians were strict monotheists. Jesus has been mentioned only as a shepherd, or a Prophet of God and Mary, his mother, as nothing more than a pious woman. It also appears that Christians who took refuge in the catacombs kept dogs at their entrance which would announce the approach of strangers by their barking. The account of the Dwellers of the Cave thus, in fact, represents the history of early Christians and shows how they suffered untold persecution for their belief in the Unity of God. The position and description of the Cave, as given in v. 18, is of secondary importance. It applies more fully and in greater detail and exactness to the catacombs at Rome than to any other place.
The story of the Dwellers of the Cave may also be taken to apply to Joseph of Arimathaea and his companions. According to William of Malmesbury, Joseph was sent to Britain by St. Philip and having been given a small island in Somersetshire there constructed with twisted twigs the first Christian church in Britain, which afterwards became the Abbey of Glastonbury. According to another account Joseph is said to have wandered into Britain in the year 63 A.D.… According to legends the first Church of Glastonbury was a little wattled building erected by Joseph of Arimathaea as the leader of the twelve apostles sent over to Britain from Gaul by St. Philip (Enc. Brit., 10th edition & 13th edition, under "Joseph of Arimathaea" & under "Glastonbury"). The latest theory, which also finds powerful support from a study of "Dead Sea Scrolls," assigns the caves, in which the early Christians sought refuge and where they committed to writing their beliefs and teachings, to the valley near the Dead Sea.
"Cave" and "Inscription" represent two most prominent aspects of the Christian Faith, viz. that it began as a religion of renunciation and withdrawal from the world and has ended by becoming a religion of entire engrossment in worldly affairs, a religion of business and trade in a world of writings and inscriptions. See also "The Larger Edition of the Commentary," pp. 1486-1490. (close)
2050. Important Words:
الکھف (the Cave). اکتھف الکھف means, he entered the cave. کھف means, a cave excavated out of a mountain in the form of a house; a spacious cave; a place of refuge (Aqrab).
الرقیم (the Inscription) is derived from رقم which means, he wrote a writing; he sealed, stamped, imprinted or impressed. رقم الکتاب means, he marked the writing with the dots or points, and made its letters distinct or plain.
رقمه (raqqama-hu) means, he figured, variegated or decorated the garment or piece of cloth and made it striped or marked it with stripes. رقمت الشیء means, I marked the thing so as to distinguish it from other things, as, for instance, by writing and the like. رقم البعیر means, he cauterized the camel. رقیم signifies any garment or piece of cloth figured, variegated or decorated with a certain or known figuring or decoration, such as is a mark; a book or writing. الرقیم means, the Inscription (Lane & Aqrab). For different accounts of this word see at the end of the commentary of the present verse.
The verse declares the Dwellers of the Cave to be no novel or out of the ordinary thing but as only one of the so many signs of God. There was nothing about them which might be considered a departure from the ordinary laws of nature. It is, however, very regrettable that while according to this verse the Dwellers of the Cave were no object of wonder but were only a sign of God, many commentators of the Quran have woven fantastic legends around them.
Who were these Dwellers of the Cave, where did they live and what were the conditions and circum-stances under which they had to live, are some of the questions that have agitated the minds of commentators for hundreds of years. A good clue to the solution of these baffling questions is to be found in some of the stories related by Muslim historians, Ibn Ishaq being most prominent among them. These stories are summarized below:
1. Ibn Ishaq relates that when idolatry first found its way among Christians, those of them who were strict monotheists being sorely distressed over the condition of their coreligionists renounced their company. This happened in the time of the Roman Emperor Decius, who was a great persecutor of Christians. Some Christian young men who refused to worship idols were arrested and brought before him. He asked them to think over and revise their attitude and himself went on a journey. Instead of submitting to the Emperor’s command they sought safety in flight and took refuge in a cave. On his return from the journey the Emperor ordered these young men to be brought before him. They feared that they would be found out and killed. So they prayed long and fervently in the cave and had hardly finished their prayer when they fell into a deep sleep. Their belongings lay beside them and their dog kept watch at the entrance of the cave. The search for them brought their pursuers to the mouth of the cave but no one could muster enough courage to enter it. The Emperor was counselled to raise a wall before its mouth. He accepted the advice and the mouth of the cave was sealed up. (Ma‘ani, vol. v, p. 16).
2. There is another story to the effect that a disciple of Jesus arrived in a town of which the ruler had commanded that every newcomer, before entering the town, should prostrate himself before the idol at its entrance. The disciple refused to carry out the king’s command. On the contrary, he began to preach against idol-worship which led to many inhabitants of the town becoming Christians. One day, as the result of a scuffle between the king’s son and the owner of a hammam (bath) the former was killed. The owner of the hammam fled. Some young men who had embraced Christianity, apprehending arrest, also fled and along with a landlord, who too had embraced Christianity, took refuge in a cave. The story then proceeds as narrated above by Ibn Ishaq (Ma‘ani, vol. v, p. 19).
3. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported to have said that he was with Mu‘awiyah in an expedition against the Romans when they saw the cave in which اصحاب کھف (Dwellers of the Cave) were believed to have lived. Mu‘awiyah sent some of his men to enter the cave but a storm suddenly arose and prevented them from entering it. According to another narration Ibn‘Abbas is reported to have said that he had even seen the remains of اصحاب کھف which seemed to be 300 years old (Manthur; vol. 4, pp. 22, 214).
4. According to Abu Hayyan there is a cave in Spain which is supposed to contain the dead bodies of the Dwellers of the Cave and also of their dog. Ibn Abi ‘Attiyyah also claims to have seen the cave where according to him the corpses of اصحاب کھف have remained for four or five hundred years. He writes that there are to be found near Granada the ruins of a town which is called the town of Decius. It contains very weird tombs built of stones (Muhit, vol. 6, p. 102).
5. Identical accounts have been given by Ibn Kathir and by ‘Abdur Razzaq and Ibn Hatim in Durr-e-Manthur (vol. 4, p. 224). Some commentators of the Quran have gone so far as to give even the names of the Dwellers of the Cave. For instance, Ibn Kathir (vol. 6, p. 131) has, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, given the names of these people and their number.
6. The memorable story of the "Seven Sleepers", as told by Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, provides an important clue to the solution of the mystery that surrounds the Dwellers of the Cave. "When the Emperor Decius", says Gibbon, "persecuted the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in a spacious cavern in the side of an adjacent mountain, where they were doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance should be firmly secured with a pile of huge stones. They immediately fell into a deep slumber, which was miraculously prolonged, without injuring the powers of life, during a period of one hundred and eighty-seven years. At the end of that time, the slaves of Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had descended, removed the stones, to supply materials for some rustic edifice; the light of the sun darted into the cavern, and the seven sleepers were permitted to awake. After a slumber, as they thought, of a few hours, they were pressed by the calls of hunger and resolved that Iamblichus, one of their members, should secretly return to the city to purchase bread for the use of his companions. The youth could no longer recognize the once familiar aspect of his native country; and his surprise was increased by the appearance of a large cross, triumphantly erected over the principal gate of Ephesus. His singular dress and obsolete language confounded the baker to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius as the current coin of the empire; and Iamblichus, on the suspicion of a secret treasure, was dragged before the judge. Their mutual inquiries produced the amazing discovery that almost two centuries had elapsed since Iamblichus and his friends had escaped from the rage of a pagan tyrant. The bishop of Ephesus, the clergy, the magistrates, the people, and, it is said, the Emperor Theodosius himself, hastened to visit the cavern of the Seven Sleepers, who bestowed their benediction, related their story, and at the same instant peaceably expired" (chapter 33).
The story of the Dwellers of the Cave may also be taken to apply to Joseph of Arimathea and his companions. According to William of Malmesbury, Joseph was sent to Britain by St. Philip and having been given a small island in Somersetshire there constructed with twisted twigs the first Christian Church in Britain, afterwards to become the Abbey of Glastonbury. According to another account Joseph is said to have wandered into Britain in the year 63 A.D. …according to the legends which grew up under the care of the monk, the first Church of Glastonbury was a little wattled building erected by Joseph of Arimathea as the leader of the twelve apostles sent over to Britain from Gaul by St. Philip (Enc. Brit., 10th edition & 13th edition, under Joseph of Arimathaea & Glastonbury).
All these accounts may appear to be no more than picturesque legends or later interpolations or they may belong to the realm of poetry rather than genuine tradition but they do not seem to be completely devoid of all reality and are not without an undercurrent of truth. Anyhow, they possess a deep and far-reaching significance. Joseph of Arimathea may or may not have gone to England or that country may or may not be "the cave", under discussion, but the story of the Dwellers of the Cave does symbolize the story of the early persecution and later rise and expansion of Christianity.
Our recent research, however, assigns the catacombs at Rome rather than Glastonbury as the site of "the cave" and a study of early Christianity lends great weight to this research. Accounts of the Dwellers of the Cave given above by IbnIshaq and other historians also seem to substantiate and reinforce this recent theory.
From these accounts the following facts unmistakably emerge:
(1) That early Christians were believers in the Unity of God and that they suffered great persecution for their beliefs.
(2) That some of these Christians fearing persecution and death took refuge in a cave in the time of a king variously known as Dacyuse, Dacyanuse or, in Latin, Decius.
(3) That the persecutors of these Christians were idol-worshippers who sought to compel them to worship their own idols and offer sacrifices to them.
(4) That these young men came out of the cave in the time of a king named Nandusis or, as Gibbon says, Theodosius.
Now it is a well-known historical fact that early Christians had to suffer untold persecutions at the hands of the idolatrous Roman Emperors for their belief in the Oneness of God. This persecution began as early as in the time of the notorious Emperor Nero who is said to have set fire to Rome and fiddled while that great seat of learning and civilization was burning. It continued intermittently till the reign of the Emperor Constantine who became converted to Christianity and made it the religion of the State. According to Tacitus Nero inflicted most inhuman tortures upon Christians in order to shift the blame for the burning of Rome on to them. He caused them to be hanged, burned alive and thrown to hungry dogs. Even St. Peter is said to have met his death at this cruel Emperor’s hands. Tertullian states that Peter was crucified under Nero, and Origen adds that at his own request he was crucified head downwards…Early in the third century the grave of Peter and Paul was shown in the Vatican and their relics were moved to the catacombs in 258 A. D. Among the tombs to be lately discovered in the catacombs are some of those disciples whose names have been mentioned in the Gospels and with whom Peter is said to have stayed (Enc. Brit., Every Man’s Encyclopaedia, & Gibbon’s Roman Empire, under Peter, Catacombs & Nero, and Story of Rome by Norwood Young).
The persecution continued in the reign of Domitian. But it was not only tyrants like Nero and Domitian who persecuted Christians but great and virtuous princes like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius also punished these unoffending people with death, exile and imprisonment. They had, however, a brief respite of about forty years after which their persecution again began with renewed fury under the Emperor Decius. This time the persecution was so severe that compared with it the former condition was a state of perfect freedom and security. Decius wanted to restore the religion and institutions of ancient Rome and with this object in view he began a systematic extermination of Christianity. The edicts of Diocletian in 303 A.D., however, surpassed all anti-Christian measures. By these edicts Christian Churches in all the provinces of the empire were demolished, all their sacred books were publicly burnt and the property of the Church was confiscated and Christians were put out of the protection of the land (Gibbon’s Roman Empire).
To save themselves from this most cruel and inhuman persecution the helpless Christians had to seek refuge in concealment and from a study of the catacombs at Rome it appears that they proved havens of safety for them. These catacombs which have been referred to in the Quran as "the cave" were admirably suited to the needs of Christians who had to remain in concealment for long intervals. They had built schools and chapels and also buried the dead bodies of their saints and holy men in them. Though some of the statements as to the employment of the catacombs in times of persecution may have been somewhat exaggerated, we have clear evidence that they were used as places of refuge from the fury of the heathen, in which the believers—especially the bishops and clergy, who would naturally be the first objects of attack—might secrete themselves until the storm had blown over. This was a purpose for which they were admirably adapted both by the intricacy of their labyrinthine passages, in which anyone not possessing the clue would inevitably be lost, and the numerous small chambers and hiding places at different levels which might be passed unperceived in the dark by pursuers. As a rule also the catacombs had more than one entrance, and frequently communicated with a sand-quarry; so that while one entrance was carefully watched, the pursued might escape in a totally different direction by another. These catacombs have several stories which are connected with each other by a vast labyrinth of narrow galleries, interspersed with small chambers, excavated at successive levels. These dark, narrow and labyrinthic galleries have gone on for hundreds of miles. Padri Marchi has estimated the length of the galleries at from 800 to 900 miles and the number of interments at between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000. Martigny’s estimate is 587 miles and Northcote’s lower still, at not less than 350 miles (Enc. Brit., 9th edition, under Catacombs).
From the inscriptions on the tomb-stones in the catacombs it appears that the early Christians were strict monotheists. There is not a single word on the inscriptions which indicated that they believed in Jesus as God or the Son of God. He has been represented only as a shepherd or a Prophet of God, which he really was. Nor has Mary, his mother, been mentioned as anything more than a pious woman. The story of the tribe of the Prophet Jonah and that of Noah’s flood find repeated and prominent mention in the inscriptions and engravings. This clearly shows that early Christians regarded the Old Testament with greater respect than do present-day Christians. It also appears that Christians who took refuge in the catacombs kept dogs at their entrance which would announce the approach of strangers by their barking.
To be brief, the account of the Dwellers of the Cave constitutes a representation of the history of early Christians and shows how they conducted a vigorous campaign against idolatry and polytheistic beliefs and suffered untold persecutions for their belief in the Unity of God and how their successors ended by disowning almost all the fundamental doctrines of their Faith. The position of "the cave", however, is of secondary importance, though from the facts narrated above its description as given in v. 18 applies more fully and in greater detail and exactness to the catacombs at Rome than to any other place.
Similarly, very strange and widely divergent accounts of الرقیم (the Inscription) have been given by commentators. According to some it was a tablet of lead or copper or a slab of stone on which the names of the Dwellers of the Cave, their ancestry, etc., were inscribed. Some say it was the name of the town or village from which they came or the name of the mountain or valley in which that "cave" was situated, yet according to others it was the name of their dog or the coin which they used. Leaving aside the mental wanderings of commentators, these two words—"cave" and "inscription"––represent the two most prominent aspects of the Christian Faith, viz. that it began as a religion of renunciation and withdrawal from the world and ended by becoming a religion of entire engrossment in worldly affairs, a religion of business and trade in a world of writings and inscriptions. See also Tafsir-e-Kabir by Hadrat Khalifatul Masih II. (close)