Then, it is undertaken by Us to explain it. [75:19]

Al-Kahf 13-26 Final Notes

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An interesting point is related in Madarik from Ibn Abbas (ra) with respect to their being seven (in number). He says, When they awoke from the sleep one person asked the question (قال قائل). This was followed by “قالوا”, indicating on three, and again “قالوا” indicating on three more. Three is the bare minimum for a plural in Arabic and intending more would require proof, since the default is absence of any increase upon three. Therefore, the total is seven. I say this interesting point may be presented to support existing evidence, but cannot be considered independent evidence, as is obvious.

The detailed rulings of saying “insha Allah” are mentioned in the books of Fiqh. The point of the above verse is simply to emphasize the importance of attaching insha Allah as a form of delegating the matter to Allah (tafweedh). A gap in this regard is not harmful. The verse is not discussing the mention of insha Allah in order to affect the ruling of a prior statement (tatheer fi al-hukm). Generally speaking, the combining of insha Allah verbally is at most mustahab. The matter of the khawaas (people of distinction), and more so the Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, who happens to be akhas al-khawaas is more high and elevated. For this reason, revelation was delayed even upon the disregard of the mustahab.

Apparently, in “… ولبثوا” Allah Most High informed of the duration of their stay. Some have related from Ibn Abbas (ra) that similar to the issue of their number, here too, the intent is to quote an opinion and then refute it by saying “قل الله أعلم”. In this case سيقولون would be assumed before the statement or it would be considered extended from the previous quoted statements. However, there is no proof for this interpretation. If “قل الله أعلم” is presented as proof, which is exactly the same deduction made in the narration from Ibn Abbas (ra), then it will be necessary to understand قل ربي أعلم above in the same light; whereas the position of Ibn Abbas (ra) himself in this regard has been quoted above, in which he adopts specification with respect to their number being seven. This is why it seems this narration from Ibn Abbas, and the deduction contained therein, is not established. The proper meaning of “قل الله أعلم” was given in the extended translation above.

In regards to the above explanation, what remains in question is that Allah Ta’ala specified their exact number through gesture and subtle signals while He mentioned the duration of their sleep in the cave explicitly – what is the reason for this distinction? It would not be surprising if the reason for this is that the lengthy sleep, due to being a simulation of the Afterlife, is a greater signification of Allah’s Omnipotence and contingency of the Afterlife as compared to their exact numbers. The polytheists of Arabia were in more need of this theme. For this reason, specific mention was made (about the length of their sleep), as opposed to the issue of their number being seven – Allah knows best.

Finally, even if the narration from Ibn Abbas (ra) is accepted as unproblematic, all it implies is that this specific number of 309 is not correct. However, at the beginning of the story سنين عددا in clear terms already established that the sleep continued for a great number of years. Therefore, for some contemporary rejecters of supernatural events to deduce from this narration that the sleep was not for a great number of years is totally unfounded, not to mention the attempt at distorting the meaning (tahreef ma’nawi) of سنين عددا, which is far worse.

As for why brief wording was not employed – ‘ثلاثمئة وتسع سنين’. I reason that this would have separated the ثلاثمئة and سنين, thus reducing the explicitness of the indication; keeping in mind that this explicit indication was purposeful in itself to illustrate Allah’s Power to the Kuffaar. Mentioning it twice would have resulted in prolonging of the text. If it is claimed that not having سنين attached to the number 9 causes the same issue in that respect – though the context does remove the vagueness – firstly, this is not harmful in light of the purpose, and secondly, 9 is a small number compared to 300. Furthermore, ازدادوا indicates clearly on its being extra and incremental, and Allah knows best.

Not bringing يسألونك in the prelude to this story, while bringing it in the other two, was perhaps because the ruh, due to being a hidden reality, and the matter of dhul qarnain, due to the length of time which had elapsed since his events, were matters worthy of asking about as opposed to the current story in which neither of the two points exist (and therefore it was not worthy of being asked). Due to occurring in the physical realm, the lack of being a hidden reality is obvious, and the time when this story occurred is also near, as will be mentioned shortly. Therefore, not bringing يسألونك here is to show that this question was not even worthy of being posed. This absence of يسألونك, therefore, conveys the same negation of self-proclaimed wonder in relation to the ahl al-kitaab that “… أم حسبت” and later “… قل عسى ربي” conveyed.

Four matters remain regarding this story. Firstly, the Christian religion had become distorted. How, then, was it considered sufficient for their salvation. In response, it is possible that the true teachings of Christianity existed within small pockets of scholars and people of knowledge. Secondly, in which century did these events occur? Tafseer Haqqaani relates that the era of this oppressive king was some time during the mid-third century according to the Christian calendar. Adding 300 years to this brings us to the middle of the sixth century. The birth of the Holy Prophet, upon him be blessings and peace, occurred approximately in 570 CE. Therefore, their awakening would have occurred 2 decades prior to the birth of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Thirdly, are they still alive or have they passed away? The vast majority of narrations suggest that they died shortly after the time of their awakening – and Allah knows best. Finally, the fourth matter is where did these events occur? Haqqaani mentions the name of the place as Ephesus, which is a city on the West coast of Anatolia. The cave itself was several miles deep and located on the slopes of a mountain approximately 20 kilometers away from the city, and Allah knows best.

Written by Yusuf Mullan

July 13th, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Surah Al-Kahf

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