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

Al-Kahf 22-26

without comments


At this point, the story of the people of the cave, to the extent of what the occasion required, has reached completion. Since the narrators differed in portions of the story and since it was possible for those that heard it differently to express these discrepancies, (especially the portions of the story which were mentioned briefly and ambiguously such as “فِتۡيَةٌ” which does not disclose their number, and “سِنِينَ” which also does not express the exact amount of years) for this reason the following verses specifically address these two points explicitly; the former clearly indicated upon by the text in the beginning “… سَيَقُولُونَ” and the latter alluded to towards the end in “… وَلَبِثُواْ until … قُلِ ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ”. Other discrepancies were left to analogy. While doing the above, the verses instruct the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) along the way, of the proper methodology in dealing with such occasions of dispute, both imperatively and prohibitively.

The essence of this methodology is that when considering the speaker and/or the addressee, there are three matters: claim, interrogation and objection.

1.1 Hence, in order to expose the erroneousness of their false claims, it was deemed sufficient to present sound textual Quranic proof, such as, “قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ”, and “قُلِ ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ”.

1.2. In response to their interrogation, provided that it has not been addressed through revelation and itself is worthy of a reply, when a promise to respond is to be made, an injunction in general terms to condition such promises with Allah’s will is made in “… وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ ”.

The interrogation above was conditioned with not having been responded to already, because if a response exists, instead of a promise to respond, that existing response itself will be quoted. In the same way, no promise for a response will be made for that which is not worthy of a response. Therefore these last two situations are not truly part of the discussion.

1.3 Finally, objections which are made based on obstinacy, in “… فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ”, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) is being prevented from engaging in their response, except briefly.

The three categories above were in relation to the antagonists. These same three categories in relation to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) are as follows:

2.1 In establishing claims, simply presenting sound Quranic text, the soundness of which is proven through its own miraculousness, was deemed sufficient. This can also be understood from “… فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ”.

2.2 Interrogation, due to being unnecessary, is prevented from in “… وَلَا تَسۡتَفۡتِ فِيهِم”.

2.3 Finally, objection is also prohibited in “… فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ”.

This is the overview of the upcoming verses. Along with illustrating the relationship with prior verses and explaining the reason for specifically addressing the issue of their number and duration of their stay, while separating the two, i.e. opening the verses with the former and closing them with the latter, in order to surround the speech with controversial issues, thus illustrating the purposefulness of this mention of controversy and how to deal with it.

و لله الحمد على ما افهمني أسلوب هذا المقام

Methodology in responding to controversial issues


سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَـٰثَةٌ۬ رَّابِعُهُمۡ كَلۡبُهُمۡ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمۡسَةٌ۬ سَادِسُہُمۡ كَلۡبُہُمۡ رَجۡمَۢا بِٱلۡغَيۡبِ‌ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبۡعَةٌ۬ وَثَامِنُہُمۡ ڪَلۡبُہُمۡ‌ۚ قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ بِعِدَّتِہِم مَّا يَعۡلَمُهُمۡ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ۬‌ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيہِمۡ إِلَّا مِرَآءً۬ ظَـٰهِرً۬ا وَلَا تَسۡتَفۡتِ فِيهِم مِّنۡهُمۡ أَحَدً۬ا (٢٢) وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَاْىۡءٍ إِنِّى فَاعِلٌ۬ ذَٲلِكَ غَدًا (٢٣) إِلَّآ أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ‌ۚ وَٱذۡكُر رَّبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ وَقُلۡ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَهۡدِيَنِ رَبِّى لِأَقۡرَبَ مِنۡ هَـٰذَا رَشَدً۬ا (٢٤) وَلَبِثُواْ فِى كَهۡفِهِمۡ ثَلَـٰثَ مِاْئَةٍ۬ سِنِينَ وَٱزۡدَادُواْ تِسۡعً۬ا (٢٥) قُلِ ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثُواْ‌ۖ لَهُ ۥ غَيۡبُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ‌ۖ أَبۡصِرۡ بِهِۦ وَأَسۡمِعۡ‌ۚ مَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِۦ مِن وَلِىٍّ۬ وَلَا يُشۡرِكُ فِى حُكۡمِهِۦۤ أَحَدً۬ا (٢٦)

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When you relate the story of the people of the cave, some people will say that they are three, the fourth is their dog; and some will say that they are five, the sixth is their dog. They are blindly throwing rocks; and some will say that they are seven and the eighth is their dog. Say to these people of dispute, My Lord knows well their accurate number, whether any of these contradictory opinions are correct, or if they are all incorrect. Very few people know them and their number accurately. Since there was no significant benefit attached to knowing this number, no judgment was made to resolve this dispute. However, narrations exist from Ibn Abbas and Abu Masood, “أنا من القليل كانوا سبعة”. In other words, “I am from these few and they are seven.” [الدر المنثور عن ابي حاتم]

The verse also seems to validate the final opinion, since it was quoted and not refuted, and Allah knows best. Therefore, after this if they still do not cease from dispute, then with the exception of minor debate, do not engage with them in argument.

Minor debate means relating the story to them as has been revealed without following up with questions and answers. This is because reciting the revelation will invalidate the contrary opinions, especially رَجۡمَۢا بِٱلۡغَيۡبِ‌ۖ, and قُل رَّبِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ, and the like thereof. However, since this recital does not result in frequent back-and-forth argumentation, it has been considered to be “minor debate”. Under the rubric of this prohibition, excessive engagement in responding to their objections, unreasonable struggle in establishing the true claim, and directing objections against them are all included; and just as prohibition has been issued with respect to engaging them in excessive debate, similarly you are also being restricted from asking them anything.

Hence, concerning them (the people of the cave), do not ask anyone of these people, since what was necessary has been revealed and the unnecessary is, of course, unnecessary; and if these people ask you something worthy of response, and you promise to respond, make sure to attach with it “insha Allah” or some similar statement. In fact, why particularly upon promising a response? Indeed it should be considered in all matters. Therefore, do not say with respect to any task, I will perform this task for instance tomorrow, except while combining the will of Allah, Most High. In other words by attaching insha Allah etc. to the speech.

Let this not occur in the future as it recently did when the questions of the people of the cave, the spirit, and dhul qarnain were asked. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) relying on revelation without saying insha Allah promised a reply the next day. Revelation did not come for 15 days, and this caused the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) great distress. Thereafter, along with the answer this injunction was also given. [كذا في اللباب عن إبن عباس]

And when you for some reason forget to say insha Allah, upon remembering, make remembrance of your Lord by saying insha Allah. This ruling is to provide benefit of blessings, which in the case of promises is an intended purpose. This is not for the purpose of conditioning and rendering ineffective, as is often intended with divorce, oaths, and freeing slaves. In the latter situations immediate attachment would be required in order for it to be effective. Separated mention would not be beneficial, and also say to them, This question you posed to me regarding the people of the cave in order to test my messengership, the response of which is surely a proof of my being a true messenger, let it not be misunderstood that (according to me) my giving this response is the greatest proof on my being a true prophet and as if this is the height of pride and glory for me, as you have mistakenly understood – evident by your perceiving it to be amazing and then inquiring about it.

So since this story is not the most amazing of signs, as was also alluded to in the prelude “… أَمۡ حَسِبۡتَ”, in terms of being a proof upon prophethood, I do not consider it the greatest and most facilitating of signs. That is to say my prophethood is so well established and proven, that the proof you people consider to be the greatest, I hold proofs far greater than it. Hence I have been presenting such proofs to you from time to time such as the miraculousness of the Quran etc. which without doubt is superior in indication upon the claim than being able to respond to this question of yours, for no human from any direction at all is capable of challenging it. As opposed to this story, since although with respect to me it is a miracle, others aware of the transmission may also have been able to respond accurately.

With respect to some of these proofs, I am hopeful that my Lord will guide me to something more facilitating than this story, in terms of being a proof upon prophethood. Subsequently, many stories of nations who were much before the people of the cave, for which no means of acquisition existed, were told to him (صلى الله عليه و سلم). In terms of informing of the unseen, these were definitely more amazing and wondrous than the story of the people of the cave; and similar to how they differ in their number they also differ in the duration of their sleep. Regarding it the precise reality is revealed. They remained in their cave sleeping for three hundred years and to that they added nine further. Upon hearing this, if they continue disputing then say, Allah, Most High, is more aware than you about the duration of their stay in the cave. Therefore, what he has stated is the truth, and why would he not know more? His status is such that to Him belongs the unseen knowledge of the heavens and the earth.

How well He sees! And how well He hears!

Therefore, by claiming to know better, these people should not attempt to challenge such a possessor of encompassing knowledge and total awareness. Otherwise, they will be worthy of punishment, and at the time of punishment, for them, from all who exist other than Him, there will be no helper independently capable of helping them; and neither does He appoint anyone a partner in his authority who as a partner would suggest benefit for anyone.

To summarize, neither is there for him a rival nor a partner. One should be very cautious when opposing such an exalted authority.

Written by Yusuf Mullan

July 6th, 2009 at 4:41 am

Posted in Surah Al-Kahf

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