It is a story we are all familiar with: the story of the seven sleepers of the Cave in Surah Al Kahf. Every Friday we read this surah and we teach this story to our children when they reach the age of understanding. Surah Al Kahf enlightens us about taqwa (God consciousness) and perseverance in both truth and in faith. I have been reading Al Kahf weekly for as long as I can remember, but I only truly appreciated the parable and the lessons therein when I stood at the opening of the cave which had housed the seven sleepers:
Journal Entry: 28 September 2012, Amman – Cave of the Seven Sleepers
The unassuming cave is set in between eroded stone and wind battered rock, surrounded by age-old boulders that have witnessed the passage of time. To the far left, a masjid stands, built in honour of the Youths of The Cave; a perfect juxtaposition of ancient and modern, a seamless union of a cave that protected those who had faith with a place of prayer that promises to refresh faith.
The cave’s primordial beauty brings to the life the words of Allah (SWT) and for the first time, I truly feel the magnitude of Surah Al Kahf descend upon me. I try imagining this group of boys – for mere boys they were – struggling to gain insight to their actions. They fled because they preferred their faith over all else: over their homes, their families and their friends. How is it that purity of faith, steadfastness on deen and unyielding taqwa could be found in those so young?
Standing at such a historical site, rife with so many lessons, I am forced to introspect and internalise the magnitude of the actions of these youth. I work with young teens and that level of bravery, confidence and pure faith does not exist in many contemporary young Muslims. As youngsters, we battled to conform to dictates of society; taking a stand was not on our agenda. The Ashab ul Kahf make me question why.
My spirit is bolstered and my convictions strengthened by the miracles that Allah (SWT) performed in keeping the youth alive: turning them on their sides so that both sides would have equal blood circulation, keeping their eyes open to prevent them from drying out, ordering the sun to move in a slightly different course so that a specific amount of sunlight would hit the cave.
“And never say of anything, ‘I shall do such and such thing tomorrow.’ Except (with the saying), ‘If Allah will!’ And remember your Lord when you forget and say: ‘It may be that my Lord guides me unto a nearer way of truth than this.”(Al Kahf: 23-24).
This command of Allah acts as a catalyst for all good intentions that have lain dormant for so long, now revived and renewed.
We walk out into the sunlight, leaving the cave and the graves of its sleepers. We make a collective du’a, asking Allah (SWT) to purify our intentions, to equip us with the perseverance of faith that He had given these boys and to make our hearts incline towards the teachings of His Book. We leave the site of the Ashab ul Kahf slightly subdued and wiser than before.
How is it that purity of faith, steadfastness on Deen and unyielding taqwa could be found in those so young?
I realised then that Surah Al Kahf is not just a surah to be read every Friday for protection against evil. It contains a universal message for all the youth of the deen – standing up for deen is the right thing to do. No matter the current fashionable trend, the Muslim youth should stand out as those who refuse to conform. In their behaviour and utter rejection of all that was evil, the People of The Cave have set the standard for young Muslims everywhere.
The Qur’an does not specify the location of this cave and as such, there are three such places on Earth that are alleged to be the location of Ashab ul Kahf (People of the Cave): Jordan, Amman; Turkey, Ephesus and Turpan, Tuyukhojam. Allah (SWT) knows best.
It’s All About You(th)!
It must be noted that Allah (SWT) does not usually mention the ages of the people mentioned in the Qur’an. He does not mention the age of Musa (AS) or of Yusuf (AS) in their respective parables. However, in Surah Al Kahf Allah (SWT) specifically mentions that the sleepers of the Cave were in their youth. It is important to ask ourselves “why?”
In the present time, we constantly hear that the ummah needs to save its youth. Keeping this Qur’anic lesson in mind, our youth must realise that is indeed they who must save the ummah.
Being a teenager means worrying endlessly about what people will think and struggling daily to conform to the dictates of society. Here, Allah (SWT) shows us the example of the youth who drew themselves away from a dominant culture that was overwhelmingly evil. These youths understood where culture and faith clashed, and they chose faith, even to the detriment of their lives.
Raeesa Patel is a mommy, teacher and writer whose life is filled with sunshine & rainbows because of the first, hope and exhilarating challenges because of the second and a dream come true because of the third.