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

Al-Kahf 32-44

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Above, while explaining the etiquettes of propagation, we saw the request of the Kuffar rejected when they asked for the removal of the poor Muslims from the Prophet’s gathering (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and conditioned their entry upon that. In the upcoming verses, the motives and objectives behind this request – pride and arrogance upon worldly wealth, looking down upon and belittling the poor believers on account of their poverty – are destroyed by degrading wealth and elevating faith by means of a story.

This story has come very brief in the Quran. No details of name and place have been provided about the people in the story. Consequently, some have taken it to be hypothetical. However, in al-Durr al-Manthoor the saying of Abu Amr al-Shaibaani with respect to determining the location of the river mentioned in the story has been narrated. It is a river located in the City of Ramala in the Levant region. This suggests that the story is real and since the purpose behind the story does not depend on ascertaining the location, vagueness in this regard is not harmful – Allah knows best.

Just as this story refutes the Kuffar, it also comforts and assures the poor believers that they should not be upset over poverty, rather be grateful on acquiring the true wealth of the Afterlife.

Story with regards to degrading wealth and elevating actions

۞ وَٱضۡرِبۡ لَهُم مَّثَلاً۬ رَّجُلَيۡنِ جَعَلۡنَا لِأَحَدِهِمَا جَنَّتَيۡنِ مِنۡ أَعۡنَـٰبٍ۬ وَحَفَفۡنَـٰهُمَا بِنَخۡلٍ۬ وَجَعَلۡنَا بَيۡنَہُمَا زَرۡعً۬ا (٣٢) كِلۡتَا ٱلۡجَنَّتَيۡنِ ءَاتَتۡ أُكُلَهَا وَلَمۡ تَظۡلِم مِّنۡهُ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا‌ۚ وَفَجَّرۡنَا خِلَـٰلَهُمَا نَہَرً۬ا (٣٣) وَكَانَ لَهُ ۥ ثَمَرٌ۬ فَقَالَ لِصَـٰحِبِهِۦ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ ۥۤ أَنَا۟ أَكۡثَرُ مِنكَ مَالاً۬ وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرً۬ا (٣٤) وَدَخَلَ جَنَّتَهُ ۥ وَهُوَ ظَالِمٌ۬ لِّنَفۡسِهِۦ قَالَ مَآ أَظُنُّ أَن تَبِيدَ هَـٰذِهِۦۤ أَبَدً۬ا (٣٥) وَمَآ أَظُنُّ ٱلسَّاعَةَ قَآٮِٕمَةً۬ وَلَٮِٕن رُّدِدتُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّى لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيۡرً۬ا مِّنۡهَا مُنقَلَبً۬ا (٣٦)

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And in order to elaborate upon the perishing nature of this world and the everlasting nature of the Afterlife, relate to the people the state of two men, between whom there was association of either acquaintance or relation, in order to invalidate the false understanding of the Kuffar and to comfort the believers. So We had given to one of them (who happened to be irreligious) two gardens of grape-vines, and we had encircled the two gardens with date-palms, meaning the fence was comprising of date-palms; and We had also placed between the two gardens a field of crops. Both gardens brought forth abundant produce, and there was no decrease in the fruit of either, as opposed to the majority of gardens wherein some trees at times bare little fruit, and some years the entire garden falls short, and We had caused a river to flow between the two gardens, and this person had other sources of wealth.

So one day while casually talking with that other associate of his, he said, I am more than you in wealth and my reserve is also mightier. That is to say, it is you who constantly says my way is false and unacceptable in the eyes of Allah and your own way is true and favoured with Allah. So, look at the fruits of both of our paths. If your claim was correct, the reality would be totally opposite, because no one favours the enemy and harms the friend, and (for some reason) taking his associate with him, he arrived at his garden, thereby establishing guilt of disbelief upon himself. He said, based on potential for growth and obvious factors of longevity, I do not assume that this garden will ever deteriorate in my lifetime.

Here, he spoke in the matter of Tawheed: You, who believe in a Creator for the world and establish for Him power etc., I do not believe that anyone can suspend the natural laws of cause and effect. As such, take for instance this garden for which all conventional means are gathered and secured. It has its own river. The workers are present. Enough capital is present to maintain it. In addition, that capital itself is secure. I do not believe that it is susceptible to ruin, and likewise I do not think Judgment Day has to come and assuming, for the sake of argument, if Judgment Day does arrive and I am returned to my Lord (as you claim), assuredly I will find a much better place of return than this garden. That is to say, Paradise in the Afterlife being better than the gardens of this world is something you already claim. That in turn is reserved for the accepted ones. My being an accepted one is established through what you see. Look how well I am kept here in a state of comfort and honour. Therefore, if Judgment Day is established, there too I will be given Paradise.

This person made 4 claims:

  1. That disbelief is not blameworthy (in أَنَا أَكْثَرُ),
  2. Rejecting Tawheed (in مَا أَظُنُّ أَن تَبِيدَ),
  3. Rejecting Judgment Day (in وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ),
  4. His being an honourable one with Allah (in وَلَئِن رُّدِدتُّ), which is a branch of the first claim.
قَالَ لَهُ ۥ صَاحِبُهُ ۥ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ ۥۤ أَكَفَرۡتَ بِٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكَ مِن تُرَابٍ۬ ثُمَّ مِن نُّطۡفَةٍ۬ ثُمَّ سَوَّٮٰكَ رَجُلاً۬ (٣٧) لَّـٰكِنَّا۟ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ رَبِّى وَلَآ أُشۡرِكُ بِرَبِّىٓ أَحَدً۬ا (٣٨) وَلَوۡلَآ إِذۡ دَخَلۡتَ جَنَّتَكَ قُلۡتَ مَا شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِٱللَّهِ‌ۚ إِن تَرَنِ أَنَا۟ أَقَلَّ مِنكَ مَالاً۬ وَوَلَدً۬ا (٣٩) فَعَسَىٰ رَبِّىٓ أَن يُؤۡتِيَنِ خَيۡرً۬ا مِّن جَنَّتِكَ وَيُرۡسِلَ عَلَيۡہَا حُسۡبَانً۬ا مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فَتُصۡبِحَ صَعِيدً۬ا زَلَقًا (٤٠) أَوۡ يُصۡبِحَ مَآؤُهَا غَوۡرً۬ا فَلَن تَسۡتَطِيعَ لَهُ ۥ طَلَبً۬ا (٤١)

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Upon hearing these points from him, His associate (who happened to be poor but righteous) said to him in the form of a response, What, by rejecting Tawheed and Judgment Day are you disbelieving in that sacred Being who first created you from dust which by way of the Prophet Adam (alaihis salaam) is your distant substance, then through a sperm-drop (which is your immediate source) made you in the womb of your mother, i.e. grew your body parts, then He fashioned you as a proper and intact man; meaning made you capable with respect to your arms and legs etc.. The intent here is that rejecting Tawheed and Judgment Day is disbelief in Allah. In the case of Tawheed this is true at the rational level also and in the case of Judgment Day, only through rejection of scripture. In any case, if you choose to disbelieve, that is your call. However, I am of the belief that He, meaning Allah, is my true Lord and I do not associate with my Lord anyone.

He did not say anything regarding this disbeliever’s children. According to me, the effortless explanation for this would be to say that the comfort of children is tied to wealth. If no wealth, children instead become a calamity upon one’s self and a means for one’s punishment. The field was also not mentioned in the verses for its dependence is on the water. If there is no water, it too will be devastated or because the field was subordinate. Finally, the gardens were two. Mention of only one in every place is because the intent is the genus which incorporates both.

In this reply Tawheed is explicitly established, as وَلَا أُشْرِكُ indicates. Judgment Day is also established, though by way of implication. This is understood from rabbi, because the one who is incapable of resurrection is helpless (aajiz). The aajiz in turn is not worthy of true Lordship. Since Tawheed is established and from the necessarily understood characteristics of it is absolute power, and from the branches of this is the possibility of natural means being rendered ineffective, for this reason it was incumbent upon you to look further towards the Creator of the means. And when you entered your garden why did you not say, Only what Allah wills occurs. Without Allah’s help there is no power in anyone. Hence, as long as Allah wills, He will leave this garden intact. If and when He wills, it will be destroyed. In front of His will, all conventional means are ineffective and without his help no means can benefit. Through this also the theme of Tawheed is strengthened.

This leaves two points, the first being what was mentioned initially, i.e. the deduction on kufr not being reprehensible through abundance of wealth and children etc., and the second (which is a branch of the first) being the deduction upon honourability in the sight of Allah Most High through the same. The following verse responds to these deductions: If you see me less in wealth and children (understood from the generalness of nafaran), and due to this you are confused regarding you and your path being reprehensible in the sight of Allah, then that time seems close for me wherein my Lord will grant me a garden superior to your garden, be it in this world or in the next. In it will be all possible sources of pleasure and comfort.

This also serves as a response to the abundance of gathering and children etc., since the purpose behind wanting children is increased comfort and relaxation of the heart. So, in this superior garden there will be all kinds of comfort and luxury, be it through the means of children or through means even better than children, and He will send upon this garden of yours some ordained calamity from the sky, i.e. through unseen judgment without the medium of natural causes, as a result of which suddenly that garden will turn into a level plain, or as a result of which its water flowing from the river will totally recede into the earth and dry up; then you will not even be capable of any efforts towards its recovery or extraction. Never mind actual recovery.

The gist of the above is that the source of your confusion is wealth and material things which you happen to have and I do not possess. However, it is possible for the situation to turn around even in this world, therefore its consideration as a source is incorrect.  Additionally, all these things will definitely perish one day or another; while on the contrary the blessings of the Afterlife will never perish. This is why consideration should be for there, not here.

By مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ according to the above interpretation allusion was made thus that if the calamity befalls in an extraordinary manner this will further illustrate the ineffectiveness of conventional means. By it the theme of Tawheed is further strengthened, and after this conversation the following incident occurred:

وَأُحِيطَ بِثَمَرِهِۦ فَأَصۡبَحَ يُقَلِّبُ كَفَّيۡهِ عَلَىٰ مَآ أَنفَقَ فِيہَا وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِہَا وَيَقُولُ يَـٰلَيۡتَنِى لَمۡ أُشۡرِكۡ بِرَبِّىٓ أَحَدً۬ا (٤٢) وَلَمۡ تَكُن لَّهُ ۥ فِئَةٌ۬ يَنصُرُونَهُ ۥ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مُنتَصِرًا (٤٣) هُنَالِكَ ٱلۡوَلَـٰيَةُ لِلَّهِ ٱلۡحَقِّ‌ۚ هُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ ثَوَابً۬ا وَخَيۡرٌ عُقۡبً۬ا (٤٤)

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A calamity surrounded his sources of wealth. We have no idea what kind of calamity it was. Apparently, its vagueness, indicated upon by the passive voice of أُحِيطَ, suggests that it was a great calamity. Keeping in mind that something extraordinary is the highest degree of great, it is not far-fetched to believe that it was something of a supernatural nature. Hence, it is written in al-Khazin that it was a fire which descended from the sky burning the entire garden and field and drying up the water source. In addition, some have interpreted حُسْبَان itself to mean fire. [أخرج ذلك ابن أبي شيبة وابن أبي حاتم  عن الضحاك كذا في الروح]

Even if this did not actually happen, the above interpretation of مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ would still be acceptable, because this was the prediction of the believer. Its definite fulfillment was never necessary.

So he was left wringing his hands upon all he had invested in it, and the garden lay fallen upon its trellises, regardless of whether they too were burned or all was semi-burned. The specific mention of the garden was because it was what he had invested the most in and it was also the most beloved. There was no mention about anguish upon the garden’s destruction since that was obvious. Instead the investment was specifically noted, illustrating the double anguish on the present and also on the past, directly and also indirectly; and he began saying, Would that I had not associated with my Lord anyone! (i.e., had he not disbelieved and rejected the Afterlife). Since Tawheed was the greatest of all, it was singled out for mention.

It seems he understood that this calamity came in punishment of kufr; for this reason, he was regretful upon disbelieving. In other words, had he not done so, the calamity would not have struck, and if it did he would have received compensation in the Afterlife. Now, all that is left is the theme of خسر الدنيا والآخرة. All of these consequences of kufr etc. must have reached his ear through the believer. In any case, from the above, it does not follow that this person became a believer since the regret is due to the harm suffered. It is not established that it is resulting from kufr being detestable to him; and he had no such reserve that could help him in exclusion to Allah Most High by preventing the calamity from reaching him or removing it after reaching. Instead, all pride and arrogance associated to the reserve was no more, nor was he able to avenge himself from Us. In such a situation helping is the sole dominion of Allah, the true God. It is His reward which is the best in the Afterlife and in this world also, it is His consequence which is the best; meaning if his accepted servants receive any harm, they will receive a righteous reward in both worlds. As opposed to the disbeliever who remains in utter loss.

Written by Yusuf Mullan

July 26th, 2009 at 3:37 am

Posted in Surah Al-Kahf

One Response to 'Al-Kahf 32-44'

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  1. Assalamualaikum wrwb,
    Very good impressive explanation, which I have been searching got from your kind website.
    jazakallah Kairan


    20 Mar 11 at 3:05 am

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