Lecture 4 in Tafseer series on Surah Kahf in Month of Ramadaan delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town on 6 April 2022

After the concluding message last night wherein the Companions of the Cave decided to migrate to the Cave and declared that Almighty Allah will bring about ease we now continue from that point to see how matters unfolded.

Verse 17 of Surah Kahf states:

وَتَرَي الشَّمْسَ إِذَا طَلَعَت تَزَاوَرُ عَن كَهْفِهِمْ ذَاتَ الْيَـمِينِ وَإِذَا غَرَبَت تَقْرِضُهُمْ ذَاتَ الشّـِمالِ وَهُمْ فِي فَجْوَةٍ مِنْهُ ذَلِكَ مِنْ ءَايَاتِ اللَّهِ مَن يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيّاً مُرْشِداً

“And (had you been there) you might have seen the sun when it rose, declining from their Cave towards the right, and when it set, leaving them away unto the left, and they were in a wide space thereof. This is of the Signs of Allah, whomever Allah guides, he is rightly guided, and whomever He leaves to stray, you shall never find for him any guiding friend.”

This verse is explaining the location of the Cave which was basically facing north east. This ensured that they don’t get direct sunlight or no sunlight at all in the main chamber of the Cave where they were located. They got indirect sunlight which meant they were not exposed to the direct rays of the sun which could damage their skin and bodies. The Quran then says just this very phenomenon is among the signs of Allah.


Through this explanation we learn that Almighty Allah does not necessarily need to perform miracles to protect you but can provide you with safety through very normal means.

Thus the verse concludes by saying if Allah guides you, then you are truly guided. And if Allah lets a person go astray, he will never find a guardian or guide.

We all have freewill and need to seek guidance ourselves, but to continue on the path of guidance we need the support of Almighty Allah.

When we willingly move away from the guidance of Allah, we end up not having His support and thus are not guided.

Sometimes arrogant people think they are great for not believing in Allah and are not in need of His guidance but don’t realise that they are going completely astray as they have no guide. In fact he is thrown out of the court of Allah. We learn this reality in Dua Abu Hamza Thumali wherein Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s) says to his Lord that whenever he intends to make dua that he suddenly feels sleepy and lazy. He then analyzes that one of the possible causes is that Almighty Allah has expelled him.

He describes the same to be the case when he intends spending time in the company of ulama and learning circles that some obstacle arises in his life that prevents him from attending such gatherings. He feels that his interest to be in the company of those who are vain results in him being denied the opportunities to be in the company of the scholars.

Verse 18 of Surah Kahf states:

وَتَحْسَبُهُمْ أَيْقَاظاً وَهُمْ رُقُودٌ وَنُقَلّـِبُهُمْ ذَاتَ الْيَـمِينِ وَذَاتَ الشّـِمَالِ وَكَلْبُهُمْ بَاسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالْوَصِيدِ لَوِ اطَّلَعْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَوَلَّيْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِرَاراً وَلَمُلِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ رُعْباً

“And you might think them awake while they were asleep, and We turned them unto the right and unto the left (sides), and their dog stretching out his paws on the threshold. If you looked at them you would certainly turn back from them in flight and you would certainly be filled with terror of them.”

Without the sleepers realizing, Almighty Allah turned them from their right side to their left side so that they don’t get bedsores and their body is protected.

They were sleeping with their eyes wide open. This caused a scene of terror to anyone who saw them in that state and would fear coming them.


Verse 19 of Surah Kahf states:

وَكَذَلِكَ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِيَتَسَآءَلُوا بَيْنَهُمْ قَالَ قَآئِلٌ مِنْهُمْ كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْماً أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالُوا رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثْتُمْ فَابْعَثُوا أَحَدَكُم بِوَرِقِكُمْ هَذِهِ إِلَي الْمَدِينَةِ فَلْيَنظُرْ أَيُّهَآأَزْكَي طَعَاماً فَلْيَأْتِكُم بِرِزْقٍ مِنْهُ وَلْيَتَلَطَّفْ وَلاَ يُشْعِرَنَّ بِكُمْ أَحَداً

“And in like manner We did raise them that they might question among themselves. One of them said: ‘How long have you tarried?’ They said: ‘We have tarried a day, or part of a day’. (Finally) they said: ‘Your Lord knows best how long you have tarried. Therefore send one of you with this money of yours to the city and let him see which of them has purest food, and bring you provision from it, and let him behave with (care and) gentleness, and let him not inform any one about you.”

After sleeping for over 300 years, they felt rather hungry! But their memory was in tact as they thought they only slept for a day or two. Thus they sent someone to the city to fine pure food and was told to be courteous and not reveal his identity.

Verse 20 of Surah Kahf states:

إِنَّهُمْ إِن يَظْهَرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ يَرْجُمُوكُمْ أَوْ يُعِيدُوكُمْ فِي مِلَّتِهِمْ وَلَن تُفْلِحُوا إِذاً أَبَداً

“For verily if they prevail against you, they will stone you, or turn you back to their religion, and then never will you succeed.”

In the abovementioned verses Almighty Allah uses the word “ba’ath” (بعث) to indicate that He awoke them from their sleep. The same word is used for raising people again on the day of Judgement. In this case they were not dead, but the Quran uses the word “ba’ath”. In other words sleeping is a form of death. In different narrations from the Ahlul Bait (a.s) they inform us that sleep is a semi death.

Therefore when we sleep, our soul is partially detached from our bodies which gives it the opportunity to experience dreams.


Another important point is that they say when you enter the market, you should show courtesy. The word used is “wal yatalattaf” (وَلْيَتَلَطَّفْ) which interestingly is exactly in the middle of the Quran. This word comes from “lutf” (لطف) which means courtesy.

You would think that a hungry person who did not eat for 300 years would accept anything that comes his way to eat – but they were very particular about pure food.

The translaters have said “lutf” is to be cautious or attentive when he is in the market to buy the pure food as they did not want him to get into any debate or argument with the seller as this would draw attention to them and their existence would become known.


The Quran praises the Companions of the Cave and at the same time continuously refers, in different ways, how they practiced Taqiyyah.

Though Almighty Allah praises them for their belief and increased them in guidance and fortified their hearts and so on, yet they did not want their identity to be revealed. They did this to protect themselves of being stoned to death or being forced to become idolaters.


Verse 21 of Surah Kahf states:

وَكَذَلِكَ أَعْثَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَعْلَمُوا اَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَاَنَ السَّاعَةَ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهَآ إِذْيَتَنَازَعُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَمْرَهُمْ فَقَالُوا ابْنُوا عَلَيْهِمْ بُنْيَاناً رَبُّهُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِهِمْ قَالَ الَّذِينَ غَلَبُوا عَلَى أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَ عَلَيْهِم مَّسْجِداً

“And in like manner We did make (the people) to get knowledge of them that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that, as for the Hour (of Judgment), there is no doubt about it. When they disputed among themselves of their affair then they said: ‘Build a building (monument) over them; their Lord best knows of them.’ Those who prevailed over their affair said: ‘We will build over them a place of worship’.”

When the Companion of the Cave wanted to pay for his food, he used coins from his time which were outdated.

When the seller saw these coins he got a shock and people around him became inquisitive regarding who he was.

At the same time it should be known that the story of the sleepers of the cave was well known in their City in that they fled persecution but nobody knew what happened to them in the end.

But the coins broke their secret as it indicated that they came from that era and were still alive!

At the same it should be remembered that we previously indicated that the government had changed and the new ruler was a monotheist who got this news and was now keen to meet them.

That being said, there were the skeptics in this same Monotheistic society who, though they believed in the fundamentals of Deen they were skeptical about physical Resurrection. They only believed in spiritual Resurrection.

Until today there are modernist Muslims who are skeptical about the same issue. For example they believe that the Miraj of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was a spiritual experience and did not involve travelling with his body.

So the exposure of the whole City to these sleepers, who had awoken after having slept for over 300 years without sustenance, was to show the skeptics in the City that the Resurrection was a physical one!

This is the most important lesson about the companions of the Cave – the reality of physical Resurrection. The promise of Resurrection is true and there is no doubt in it.


After being exposed to a completely new world after the companions of the Cave were awoken, they prayed to Almighty Allah to take them back and they all died at that point. 

This now brought about a new dispute. The same people who were skeptical about physical Resurrection now had the view that the Cave should be closed off as they wanted to prevent the lesson of this story from surviving over the ages.

However the other believers disagreed and resolved to building a mosque at that very position of the graves of the companions of the Cave to keep their memories alive!

The Quran does not call this act of establishing a mosque over the graves of certain personalities as shirk or polytheism!

On this basis we build shrines over the graves of the Awliyaa to keep their memories alive and to keep our connection to them alive.

Part 5 in this series continues tomorrow In-sha’Allah.

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