Showing posts with label 18th Chapter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 18th Chapter. Show all posts

Tuesday 22 October 2019

Surah Al-Kahf - The Cave: 18th Chapter of Quran - Part IV

Sürah Al-Kahf " الكهف " is the eighteenth surah with 110 ayahs with 12 rukus, part of the 15-16th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. This Surah takes its name from verse 9 in which the word (al-kahf) occurs.

The last Sürah Al Isrāʼ began with singing the glory and praises of Allah: and ended on the same note, concluding the argument. This Sürah takes up the same theme from another point of view, and opens with the same note, "Praise be to Allah".

As already explained in the Overview of the Sürah, the exegesis / tafseer has been divided into four parts, each part containing important historical events as mentioned in the Sürah as under:
  • Part I   : Ruku / Sections 1-4 [Verses 1-31] - Story of Sleepers of the Cave
  • Part II  : Ruku / Sections 5-7 [Verses 32-53] - Story of two men and their garden
  • Part III : Ruku / Sections 8-10 [Verses 54-82] - Story of Moses and Khidr
  • Part IV: Ruku / Sections 11-12 [Verses 83-111] - Story of Dhul-Qarnain
We have already resented the first three parts of the exegesis of Sürah Al-Kahf. Let us now read the exegesis / tafseer of the last part, i.e., Part IV, in which last of the four stories, that is that of Dhul-Qarnain has been mentioned. The translation and exegesis / tafseer is in English. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Ruku / Section 11 [83-101]

The 11th Ruku makes an exclusive mention of Dhul Qarnain. In this ruku, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is told that when the people ask about Dhul Qarnayn, he should tell them about him.  He had been given power and the means to achieve many great things.  Once on an expedition he came across a group of people.  God told him to either punish them or show kindness to them.  Dhul Qarnayn chose to punish the ones who had done evil and noted that they would also be punished a second time by God.  He spoke gently to the ones who were not doing evil. 

Then he set out on another expedition.   He came upon another group of people for whom God had not provided any shelter.  And so it was; he traveled on until he came to a point between two mountains.   Dhul Qarnayn could barely communicate with the people there.  The people managed to ask him if they could pay him to build a wall.  The wall was to keep out Gog and Magog who were destroying their land.  Dhul Qarnayn said that what God provided him with was better than any tribute they could pay him but if they provided him with men to help he could put up a fortification.

They filled the gap between the mountains with iron and poured molten copper over it.  Gog and Magog could not scale it or tunnel through it.  This is a mercy from God, Dhul Qarnayn said, but one day God will flatten it to the ground, this is a promise from God.  Know that on that day the two parties, (Gog and Magog) will surge against each other like waves.  This is one of the signs that the Day of Resurrection is near.  On Judgment Day, Hell will be shown to the disbelievers, because they thought they could take God’s servants as their Masters.  They will rest in Hell.

 وَيَسۡـئَلُوۡنَكَ عَنۡ ذِى الۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ​ ؕ قُلۡ سَاَ تۡلُوۡا عَلَيۡكُمۡ مِّنۡهُ ذِكۡرًا ؕ‏ 
( 83 )   And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about Dhul-Qarnayn. Say, "I will recite to you about him a report." 
It is quite obvious that the conjunction wao joins this story with the previous story of Khidr. Thus it is a self evident proof that the previous two stories of the sleepers of the cave and Moses and Khidr were also related in answer to the queries of the disbelievers of Makkah who, in consultation with the people of the Book, had put these questions to Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a test of his Prophethood.

The identification of Zul-Qarnain has been a controversial matter from the earliest times. In general the commentators have been of the opinion that he was Alexander the Great but the characteristics of Zul-Qarnain described in the Quran are not applicable to him. However, now the commentators are inclined to believe that Zul- Qarnain was Cyrus, an ancient king of Iran. We are also of the opinion that probably Zul-Qarnain was Cyrus, but the historical facts, which have come to light up to this time, are not sufficient to make any categorical assertion.

Now let us consider the characteristics of Zul-Qarnain in the light of his story as given in the Quran:
(1) The title Zul-Qarnain (the two-horned) should have been quite familiar to the Jews, for it was at their instigation that the disbelievers of Makkah put this question to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore we must turn to the Jewish literature in order to learn who was the person known as the two-horned or which was the kingdom known as the two-horned.
(2) Zul-Qarnain must have been a great ruler and a great conqueror whose conquests might have spread from the east to the west and on the third side to the north or to the south. Before the revelation of the Quran there had been several persons who were such great conquerors. So we must confine our research for the other characteristics of Zul-Qarnain to one of these persons.
(3) This title should be applicable to such a ruler who might have constructed a strong wall across a mountain pass to protect his kingdom from the incursions of Gog and Magog. In order to investigate this thing, we will have to determine as to who were Gog and Magog. We will also have to find out when such a wall was built and by whom and to which territory it was adjacent.
(4) Besides possessing the above mentioned characteristics, he should also be a God-worshiper and a just ruler, for the Quran has brought into prominence these characteristics more than anything else.
The first of these characteristics is easily applicable to Cyrus, for according to the Bible, Prophet Daniel saw in his vision that the united kingdom of Media and Persia was like a two-horned ram before the rise of the Greeks. (Dan. 8: 3, 20). The Jews had a very high opinion of the twohorned one, because it was his invasion which brought about the downfall of the kingdom of Babylon and the liberation of the Israelites Please also refer to (E.N. 8 of Surah Al-Isra).

The second characteristic is applicable to him to a great extent but not completely. Though his conquests spread to Syria and Asia Minor in the West and to Bakhtar (Balkh) in the East, there is no trace of any of his great expeditions to the North or to the South, whereas the Quran makes an explicit mention of his third expedition. Nevertheless, this third expedition is not wholly out of question for history tells us that his kingdom extended to Caucasia in the North. As regards to Gog and Magog, it has been nearly established that they were the wild tribes of Central Asia who were known by different names: Tartars, Mongols, Huns and Scythians, who had been making inroads on settled kingdoms and empires from very ancient times. It is also known that strong bulwarks had been built in southern regions of Caucasia, though it has not been as yet historically established that these were built by Cyrus.

As regards to the last characteristic, Cyrus is the only known conqueror among the ancient rulers, to whom this may be applicable, for even his enemies have been full of praise for him for his justice, and, Ezra, a book of the Bible, asserts that he was a God worshiper and a God fearing king who set free the Israelites because of his God worship, and ordered that the Temple of Solomon should be rebuilt for the worship of Allah, Who has no partner.

In the light of the above, we admit that of all the conquerors, who had passed away before the revelation of the Quran, Cyrus alone is the one to whom the characteristics of Zul-Qarnain are most applicable, but we need more evidence to determine specifically that Cyrus is definitely Zul-Qarnain. Anyhow, there is no other conqueror to whom the characteristics stated in the Quran are as much applicable as to Cyrus.

Historically, it is enough to say that Cyrus was a Persian ruler, whose rise began about 549 B.C. In a few years, he conquered the kingdom of Media and Lydia and afterwards conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. After this no powerful kingdom was left to oppose him. His conquests extended to Sind and the territory known as Turkestan on one side, and to Egypt and Libya and to Thrace and Macedonia and to Caucasus and Khawarzam in the North. In fact, the whole civilized world was under his sway.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Literally, "the Two-horned one", the King with the Two Horns, or the Lord of the Two Epochs. Who was he? In what age, and where did he live? The Qur'an gives us no material on which we can base a positive answer. Nor is it necessary to find an answer, as the story is treated as a Parable. Popular opinion identifies Zul-Qarnain with Alexander the Great. An alternative suggestion is an ancient Persian king, or a pre-historic Himyarite King. Zul-Qarnain was a most powerful king, but it was Allah, Who, in His universal Plan, gave him power and provided him with the ways and means for his great work. His sway extended over East and West, and over people of diverse civilizations. He was just and righteous, not selfish or grasping. He protected the weak and punished the unlawful and the turbulent. Three of his expeditions are described in the text, each embodying a great ethical idea involved in the possession of kingship or power.
( 84 )   Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Great was his power and great were his opportunities ("ways and means"), which he used for justice and righteousness. But he recognized that his power and opportunities were given to him as a trust by Allah. He had faith, and did not forget Allah.
( 85 )   So he followed a way
حَتّٰٓى اِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ الشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغۡرُبُ فِىۡ عَيۡنٍ حَمِئَةٍ وَّوَجَدَ عِنۡدَهَا قَوۡمًا ؕ ​قُلۡنَا يٰذَا الۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ اِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تُعَذِّبَ وَاِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تَتَّخِذَ فِيۡهِمۡ حُسۡنًا‏  
( 86 )   Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allah said, "O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness."
“The setting place of the sun” does not mean the place of the setting of the sun. According to Ibn Kathir, it means that he marched to the west conquering one country after the other till he reached the last boundary of the land, beyond which there was ocean.

“He found it setting in a muddy spring”: If Zul Qarnain was Cyrus, then that place would be the western limit of Asia Minor and the black waters would be the Aegean Sea. This interpretation is supported by the use of the word ain instead of bahr in the Quran.

“We said” does not necessarily mean that Allah directly revealed to him these words, and that Zul-Qarnain was a Prophet or was the one who received inspiration from Allah, and the same is the reasonable conjecture. This concerns the time when Zul-Qarnain had taken possession of the land as a conqueror and the conquered people were utterly at your mercy. Then Allah posed a question before his conscience, as if to say: Now is the time of your trial. These people are utterly at your mercy, and you have the option either to behave unjustly towards them or to treat them generously.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
This is the first of the three episodes here mentioned, his expedition to the west. "Reaching the setting of the sun" does not mean the extreme west, for there is no such thing. West and East are relative terms. It means a western expedition terminated by a "spring of murky water." This has puzzled Commentators, and they have understood this to mean the dark, tempestuous sea. If Zul-Qarnain is Alexander the Great, the reference is easily understood to be to Lychnitis (now Ochrida), west of Macedonia. It is fed entirely by underground springs in a limestone region, where the water is never very clear.

He had great power and a great opportunity. He got authority over a turbulent and unruly people. Was he going to be severe with them and chastise them, or was he going to seek peace at any price, i.e., to wink at violence and injustice so long as it did not affect his power? He chose the better course, as described in the next verse. To protect the weak and the innocent, he punished the guilty and the headstrong, but he remembered always that the true Punishment would come in the Hereafter-the true and final justice before the throne of Allah.
( 87 )   He said, "As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Though most powerful among kings, he remembered that his power was but human, and given by Allah. His punishments were but tentative, to preserve the balance of this life as he could appraise it. Even if his punishment was capital ("wrong doer sent back to his Lord") it was nothing compared to the dire consequences of sin, in the final Justice of Allah.
( 88 )   But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we will speak to him from our command with ease."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
He never said like Pharaoh, "I am your Lord Most High!" (lxxix. 24). On the contrary his punishments were humbly regulated as not being final, and he laid more stress on the good he could do to those who lived normal lives in faith and righteousness. His rule was easy to them: he imposed no heavy tasks because of his power, but gave every opportunity to rich and poor for the exercise of virtue and goodness. Such is the spiritual lesson to be learned from the first episode.
( 89 )   Then he followed a way 
( 90 )   Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had not made against it any shield.
That is, when he advanced towards the east, conquering one country after the other, he reached a territory where the limits of the civilized world had come to an end and beyond which was the territory of barbaric people, who had no shelter at all of tents or buildings.”

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
We now come to the second episode. This is an expedition to the east. "Rising of the sun" has a meaning corresponding to "setting of the sun" in xviii. 86, as explained in n. 2430.

The people here lived very simple lives. Perhaps the climate was hot, and they required neither roofs over their heads, nor much clothing to protect them from the sun. What did he do with them? See next note.
( 91 )   Thus. And We had encompassed [all] that he had in knowledge.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
They were a primitive people. He did not fuss over their primitiveness, but left them in the enjoyment of peace and tranquility in their own way. In this he was wise. Power is apt to be intolerant and arrogant, and to interfere in everything that does not accord with its own glorification. Not so Zul-Qarnain. He recognized his own limitations in the sight of Allah: man never completely understands his own position, but if he devoutly looks to Allah, he will live and let live. This is the spiritual lesson from the second episode.
( 92 )   Then he followed a way ( 93 )   Until, when he reached [a pass] between two mountains, he found beside them a people who could hardly understand [his] speech.
The “two mountains” must have been parts of that mountain range which runs between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea as stated in (Ayat 96). This must be so because beyond them was the territory of Gog and Magog.

That is, it was difficult to communicate with them: their language was almost foreign to Zul-Qarnain and his companions, and, as they were quite barbaric, none could understand their language, nor were they acquainted with any foreign language.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
It does not mean that they had no speech. It means that they did not understand the speech of the Conqueror. But they had parleys with him (through interpreters), as is evident from the verses following (xviii. 94-98).

The place where this wall was built has bot been mentioned in the Qur'an. There have been many speculations as will be discussed herein under, but these are mere guess work. Please also read another research work on "Where Is The Wall Of Yajuj Wa Majuj (Gog & Magog)" which still gives yet another insight into the matter, though still remaining inconclusive of the exact place.
( 94 )   They said, "O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed Gog and Magog are [great] corrupters in the land. So may we assign for you an expenditure that you might make between us and them a barrier?"
As has already been pointed out, Gog and Magog were the wild tribes of North Eastern Asia which, from the very early times had been making inroads on settled kingdoms and empires in Asia and Europe and ravaging them. According to Genesis (Chapter 10), they were the descendants of Japheth, the son of Noah, and the Muslim historians have also accepted this. And according to the book of Ezekiel (Chapters 38, 39), they inhabited the territories of Meshech (Moscow) and Tubal (Tubalsek). According to the Israelite historian Josephus, they were the Scythians and their territory spread to the north and the east of the Black Sea. According to Jerome, Magog inhabited the territory to the north of Caucasia near the Caspian Sea.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
What we are mainly concerned with is its interpretation. The Conqueror had now arrived among a people who were different in speech and race from him, but not quite primitive, for they were skilled in the working of metals, and could furnish blocks (or bricks) of iron, melt metals with bellows or blow-pipes, and prepare molten lead (xviii. 96). Apparently they were a peaceable and industrious race, much subject to incursions from wild tribes who are called Gog and Magog. Against these tribes they were willing to purchase immunity by paying the Conqueror tribute in return for protection. The permanent protection they wanted was the closing of a mountain gap through which the incursions were made.
( 95 )   He said, "That in which my Lord has established me is better [than what you offer], but assist me with strength; I will make between you and them a dam.
That is, as a ruler it is my duty to protect you from the ravages of your enemies: therefore it is not lawful for me to levy any extra taxes on you for this purpose. The treasury that Allah has placed in my custody suffices for this purpose. You shall, however, have to help me with your manual labor.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Zul-Qarnain was not greedy and did not want to impose a tribute to be carried away from an industrious population. He understood the power which Allah had given him, to involve duties and responsibilities on his part-the duty of protecting his subjects without imposing too heavy a taxation on them. He would provide the motive force and organizing skill. Would they obey him and provide the material and labour, so that they could close the gap with a strong barrier, probably with well-secured gates? The word radm, translated "Barrier," does not necessarily mean a wall, but rather suggests a blocked door or entrance.
( 96 )   Bring me sheets of iron" - until, when he had leveled [them] between the two mountain walls, he said, "Blow [with bellows]," until when he had made it [like] fire, he said, "Bring me, that I may pour over it molten copper."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
I understand the defenses erected to have been a strong barrier of iron, with iron Gates. The jambs of the Gates were constituted with blocks or bricks of iron, and the interstices filled up with molten lead, so as to form an impregnable mass of metal. It may be that there was a stone wall also, but that is not mentioned. There was none in the Iron Gate near Bukhara.

Made it (red) as fire. What does "it" refer to? Probably to the iron, either in sheets or blocks, to be welded with the molten lead.
( 97 )   So Gog and Magog were unable to pass over it, nor were they able [to effect] in it any penetration.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The iron wall and gates and towers were sufficiently high to prevent their being scaled and sufficiently strong with welded metal to resist any attempt to dig through them.
( 98 )   [Dhul-Qarnayn] said, "This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord comes, He will make it level, and ever is the promise of my Lord true."
That is, though I have built a very strong iron wall, as far as it was possible for me, it is not ever lasting, for it will last only as long as Allah wills, and will fall down to pieces when the time of my Lord’s promise shall come. Then no power in the world shall be able to keep it safe and secure.

As regards to the time of Allah’s promise, it has two meanings. (1) It may mean the time of the destruction of the wall. (2) It may also mean the time of the death and destruction of everything destined by Allah at the end of the world i.e. the Hour of Resurrection.

Some people have entertained the misunderstanding that the wall attributed here to Zul-Qarnain refers to the famous wall of China, whereas this wall was built between Derbent and Daryal, two cities of Daghestan in the Caucasus, the land that lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian. There are high mountains between the Black Sea and Daryal having deep gorges which cannot allow large armies to pass through them. Between Derbent and Daryal, however, there are no such mountains and the passes also are wide and passable. In ancient times savage hordes from the north invaded and ravaged southern lands through these passes and the Persian rulers who were scared of them had to build a strong wall, 50 miles long, 29 feet high and 10 feet wide, for fortification purposes, ruins of which can still be seen. Though it has not yet been established historically who built this wall in the beginning, the Muslim historians and geographers assign it to Zul-Qarnain because its remains correspond with the description of it given in the Quran. Ibn Jarir Tabari and Ibn Kathir have recorded the event, and Yaqut has mentioned it in his Mu jam-ul-Buldan that when after the conquest of Azerbaijan, Umar sent Suraqah bin Amr, in 22 A.H. on an expedition to Derbent, the latter appointed Abdur Rehman bin Rabiah as the chief of his vanguard. When Abdur Rehman entered Armenia, the ruler Shehrbraz surrendered without fighting. Then when Abdur Rehman wanted to advance towards Derbent, Shehrbraz informed him that he had already gathered full information about the wall built by Zul-Qarnain, through a man, who could supply all the necessary details and then the man was actually presented before Abdur Rehman. (Tabari, Vol. III, pp. 235-239; AIBidayah wan-Nihayah, Vol. VII, pp. 122-125, and Mujamul- Buldan, under Bab-ul-Abwab: Derbent).

Two hundred years later, the Abbasid Caliph Wathiq (227- 233 A.H.) dispatched a party of 50 men under Sallam-ul- Tarjuman to study the wall of Zul-Qarnain, whose observations have been recorded in great detail by Yaqut in Mujam-ul-Buldan and by Ibn Kathir in AI-Bidayah. They write that this expedition reached Samarrah from where they reached Tiflis (the present Tbilisi) and then through As-Sarir and Al-Lan, they reached Filanshah, from where they entered the Caspian territory. From there they arrived at Derbent and saw the wall. (AIBidayah Vol. II, p. 111, Vol. VII, pp. 122-125; Mujam-ul-Buldan: under BabulAbwab). This clearly shows that even up till the third century of Hijrah the Muslim scholars regarded this wall of the Caucasus as the wall of Zul-Qarnain.

Yaqut in his Mujam-ul-Buldan has further confirmed the same view at a number of places. For instance, under Khazar (Caspian) he writes:

This territory belongs to the Turks, which adjoins the wall of Zul Qarnain just behind Bab-ul-Abwab, which is also called Derbent. In the same connection, he records a report by Ahmad bin Fadlan, the ambassador of Caliph Al- Muqtadar-billah, who has given a full description of the Caspian land, saying that Caspian is the name of a country whose capital is Itil (near the present Astrakhan) right through which flows River Itil, which joins the Caspian from Russia and Bulghar.

Regarding Bab-ul-Abwab he says that this city is called both Al-Bab and Derbent, which is a highly difficult passage for the people coming from the northern lands towards the south. Once this territory was a part of the kingdom of Nausherwan, and the Persian rulers paid particular attention to strengthening their frontiers on that side.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
After all the effort which Zul-qarnain has made for their protection, he claims no credit for himself beyond that of discharging his duty as a ruler. He turns their attention to Allah, Who has provided the ways and means by which they can be helped and protected. But all such human precautions are apt to become futile. The time must come when they will crumble into dust. Allah has said so in His Revelation; and His word is true. And so the lesson from the third episode is: Take human precautions and do all in your power to protect yourselves from evil. But no protection is complete unless you seek the help and grace of Allah. The best of our precautions must crumble to dust when the appointed Day arrives.

Here the story of Zul-Qarnain comes to an end. Though this story has been related in answer to the questions put by the disbelievers of Makkah as a test along with the stories of the sleepers of the cave and Moses and Khidr, the Quran has utilized this story, too, for its own aim and object, as if to say: Zul Qarnain, about whose glory you have heard from the people of the Book, was not merely a conqueror, but also a believer of the doctrines of Tawhid and the life after death and acted upon the principles of justice and generosity. He was not a mean person like you who have been puffed up by the possession of petty estates, and give yourselves airs of superiority.
( 99 )   And We will leave them that day surging over each other, and [then] the Horn will be blown, and We will assemble them in [one] assembly.
“That Day”: “The Day of Resurrection”. As if to continue the theme of life after death to which Zul-Qarnain referred as the time of my Lord’s promise, the Quran has added (verses 99-101) to it.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
And so we pass on to the Last Days before the Great Summons comes from Allah. All human barriers will be swept away. There will be tumultuous rushes. The Trumpet will be blown, and the Judgment will be set on foot.
( 100 )   And We will present Hell that Day to the Disbelievers, on display
If men had scoffed at Faith and the Hereafter, their eyes will be opened now, and they will see the terrible Reality.
( 101 )   Those whose eyes had been within a cover [removed] from My remembrance, and they were not able to hear.
Those very men who refused to see the many Signs of Allah which in this world convey His Message and to hear the Word of the Lord when it came to them, will then see without any mistake the consequences fully brought up before them.

Ruku / Section 12 [102-110]

The last ruku of the surah concentrates on the necessity of worship is for God alone. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is told to tell the people that the person who loses the most, by his or her actions, is the one whose efforts are lost even though they think they are doing well.  These people disbelieve in God’s verses and signs, and deny that they will ever come face to face with Him.  This disbelief renders their deeds worthless.  All they will gain is Hell.  On the other hand, those who believe and do good deeds will find themselves in the gardens of Paradise, where they will live forever and never have any desire to leave.

If all the oceans were ink for writing, the ink would run dry before the words of God’s attributes, grandeur, and knowledge were exhausted.   Even if another amount of ink just like it were to be added it would not be enough.  Prophet Muhammad is told to say that he is just a human being, the same as everyone else, and it has been revealed to him that the Lord God is One.  Everyone among the people who fears their meeting with God should do good deeds and never let anyone else or anything share in the worship that is due to God alone.
( 102 )   Then do those who disbelieve think that they can take My servants instead of Me as allies? Indeed, We have prepared Hell for the disbelievers as a lodging.
This is the conclusion of the whole Surah and is not connected with the story of Zul-Qarnain only but with the subject matter of this Surah as a whole. That theme was enunciated at the beginning of the (Surah Ayats 1-8): The Prophet (peace be upon him) invited his people. (1) To give up shirk and adopt the doctrine of Tawhid instead. (2) To give up the worship of the world and to believe in the life of the Hereafter. But the chiefs of his people, who were puffed up with their wealth and grandeur, not only rejected his invitation but also persecuted and insulted those righteous people who had accepted his invitation. The discourse deals with the same themes and utilizes in an excellent manner the three stories which were related in answer to the questions put by the opponents of Islam as a test of his Prophethood.

That is, do they still stick to their presumption even after hearing all this and believe that their attitude will be profitable for them?
( 103 )   Say, [O Muhammad], "Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds?
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
That is, those who prided themselves on their works in this life, and now find that those works are of no avail. Their loss is all the greater because they had a misplaced confidence in their own deeds or in the assistance of false "protectors". Allah is the only Protector: no one else's protection is of any use.
( 104 )   [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work."
This verse has two meanings. (1) The one is the same that we have adopted in the translation. (2) The other meaning is this: Those who confined all their endeavors to the worldly life. That is, whatever they did, they did for this world without paying any regard to God and the Hereafter. As they considered the worldly life to be the real life, they made the success and prosperity in this world their sole aim and object. Even if they professed the existence of Allah, they never paid any heed to the two implications of this profession: to lead their lives in a way to please Allah and to come out successful on the Day they shall have to render an account of what they did in this world. This was because they considered themselves to be mere rational animals who were absolutely independent and free from every kind of responsibility and had nothing else to do but to enjoy the good things of the world like animals in a meadow.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Many people have such a smug sense of self-righteousness that while they go on doing wrong, they think that they are acquiring merit. So, in charity, all the elements that make for outward show or selfishness (as to get some worldly advantage) nullify the deed of charity. In the same way hypocrites sometimes affect to be surprised that their declared effort for somebody's good is not appreciated, when they are really seeking some hidden gain or false glory for themselves. The sincere are only those who believe in their spiritual responsibility and act as in Allah's sight.
( 105 )   Those are the ones who disbelieve in the verses of their Lord and in [their] meeting Him, so their deeds have become worthless; and We will not assign to them on the Day of Resurrection any importance.
“So worthless will be their deeds” in the sense that they will be of no avail to them in the life after death, even though they might have considered them as their great achievements but the fact is that they will lose all their value as soon as the world shall come to an end. When they will go before their Lord, and all their deeds shall be placed in the scales, they will have no weight at all whether they had built great palaces, established great universities and libraries, set up great factories and laboratories, constructed highways and railways, in short, all their inventions, industries, sciences and arts and other things of which they were very proud in this world, will lose their weights in the scales. The only thing which will have weight there will be that which had been done in accordance with the divine instructions and with the intention to please Allah. It is, therefore, obvious that if all of one’s endeavors were confined to the worldly things and the achievement of worldly desires whose results one would see in this world, one should not reasonably expect to see their results in the Hereafter, for they would have gone waste with the end of this world. It is equally obvious, that only the deeds of the one, who performed them strictly in accordance with His instructions to win His approval with a view to avail of their results in the Hereafter, will find that his deeds had weight in the scales. On the contrary, such a one will find that all his endeavors in the world had gone waste.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
What weight can be attached to works behind which the motives are not pure, or are positively evil? They are either wasted or count against those who seek to pass them off as meritorious!
( 106 )   That is their recompense - Hell - for what they denied and [because] they took My signs and My messengers in ridicule.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
False motives, pretence, deception, and hypocrisy, flourish because people do not take the higher life seriously. In effect they treat it as a jest. Signs and Messengers are sent as a special and personal Mercy from Allah, and for such things the first person singular is used as in this verse, even when it involves a sudden transition from the first person plural as in the last verse.

اِنَّ الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَعَمِلُوا الصّٰلِحٰتِ كَانَتۡ لَهُمۡ جَنّٰتُ الۡفِرۡدَوۡسِ نُزُلًا ۙ‏ 
( 107 )   Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds - they will have the Gardens of Paradise as a lodging,
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Firdaus in Persian means an enclosed place, a park. In technical theological language the word is used for the inner circle of Heaven, or the highest Heaven, the destination of those who perfectly fulfill both requirements, viz.; a sound faith, and perfectly righteous conduct. Small faults in either respect are forgiven; the Mercy of Allah steps in.
( 108 )   Wherein they abide eternally. They will not desire from it any transfer.
“No desire will they have to be removed there from” because they will find no place and no condition better than those in Paradise.
( 109 )   Say, "If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement."
By “words” are meant the marvelous works, the excellences and the wonders of His Power and Wisdom.
( 110 )   Say, "I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord - let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Righteousness and true respect for Allah-which excludes the worship of anything else, whether idols, or deified men, or forces of nature, or faculties of man, or Self-these are the criteria of true worship.

With the explanation of verse 110, which strongly condemns shirk (associating someone with status of Allah, we come to the end of Sürah Al-Kahf in which three important stories from the history have been retold to answer the queries of the disbelievers of Makkah. In these there are several lessons for the believers as well. Only if we could pick these and follow these so that we do not have to be embarrassed when we will be raised on the Day of Judgment. 

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sürah Al-Kahf with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Juzʼ / Part backwards for chapters in 30th Juzʼ / Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources:
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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Saturday 19 October 2019

Surah Al-Kahf - The Cave: 18th Chapter of Quran - Part III

Sürah Al-Kahf " الكهف " is the eighteenth surah with 110 ayahs with 12 rukus, part of the 15-16th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. This Surah takes its name from verse 9 in which the word (al-kahf) occurs.

The last Sürah Al Isrāʼ began with singing the glory and praises of Allah: and ended on the same note, concluding the argument. This Sürah takes up the same theme from another point of view, and opens with the same note, "Praise be to Allah".

As already explained in the Overview of the Sürah, the exegesis / tafseer has been divided into four parts, each part containing important historical events as mentioned in the Sürah as under:

  • Part I   : Ruku / Sections 1-4 [Verses 1-31] - Story of Sleepers of the Cave
  • Part II  : Ruku / Sections 5-7 [Verses 32-53] - Story of two men and their garden
  • Part III : Ruku / Sections 8-10 [Verses 54-82] - Story of Moses and Khidr
  • Part IV: Ruku / Sections 11-12 [Verses 83-111] - Story of Dhul-Qarnain
Let us now read the translation and exegesis / tafseer in English of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter. For Arabic Text, please refer to the references given at the end and may also listen to its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Ruku / Section 8 [54-59]

In verses 54-59 Quran makes a mention that Allah has given all kinds of examples in the Quran, so that the people may understand His Message:
( 54 )   And We have certainly diversified in this Qur'an for the people from every [kind of] example; but man has ever been, most of anything, [prone to] dispute.
If men had not cultivated the habit of contention and obstinacy, they would have found that the parables and similitudes of Scripture had fully met their difficulties, and they would gladly have obeyed the call of Allah.
( 55 )   And nothing has prevented the people from believing when guidance came to them and from asking forgiveness of their Lord except that there [must] befall them the [accustomed] precedent of the former peoples or that the punishment should come [directly] before them.
This is to warn the people that the Quran has left no stone upturned in making the truth plain. It has employed all kinds of arguments, parables, similitude and used all the possible effective ways to appeal to the heart and the mind of man, and adopted the best possible style. If, in spite of this, they do not accept the truth, it is obvious that they are waiting for God’s scourge like the one that visited the former communities to make them realize their error.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
But man's obstinacy or contrariness asks or calls for a repetition of what happened to the wicked and those who rejected Faith in ancient times. Out of curiosity, or by way of challenge, they seem to court the Punishment and ask that it be brought to pass at once. But it will come soon enough, and then they will think it too early!

Cf. Surah xiii. Ar-Ra'd: 6. "They challenge you to hasten the coming of evil upon them before the coming of any good,14 although people who followed a like course before had met with exemplary punishment (from Allah). Verily your Lord is forgiving to mankind despite all their wrong-doing. Verily your Lord is also severe in retribution."
( 56 )   And We send not the messengers except as bringers of good tidings and warners. And those who disbelieve dispute by [using] falsehood to [attempt to] invalidate thereby the truth and have taken My verses, and that of which they are warned, in ridicule.
This verse has two meanings.
(1) We send Our Messengers to forewarn the people before the coming of the judgment of the good results of obedience and the evil consequences of disobedience. But these headless people are not taking advantage of these fore-warnings and insist on seeing the same evil end from which the Messengers desire to save them.
(2) If they insist on meeting with the scourge, they should not demand this from the Messenger because the Messenger is sent not to bring a scourge but to warn the people beforehand to escape from it.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The Prophets of Allah are not sent to humour us with dialectics or satisfy the vulgar curiosity for miracles or dark unusual things. There is no "crookedness" (xviii. 1) in their preaching. They come to preach the Truth,-not in an abstract way, but with special reference to our conduct. They give us the good news of salvation lest we despair in the presence of Sin, and to warn us clearly of the dangers of Evil. Vain controversies about words only weaken their mission, or turn it into ridicule. The ungodly have a trick also of treating the earnest preaching to them itself as a jest and ridiculing it.
( 57 )   And who is more unjust than one who is reminded of the verses of his Lord but turns away from them and forgets what his hands have put forth? Indeed, We have placed over their hearts coverings, lest they understand it, and in their ears deafness. And if you invite them to guidance - they will never be guided, then - ever.
Allah puts a covering over the heart of a person and makes his ears hard of hearing the truth when he adopts the attitude of contention, dispute, wrangling and argumentation towards the admonition of a well wisher and tries to defeat the truth with the weapons of falsehood and cunning. Naturally this attitude produces in him obduracy and obstinacy so that he turns a deaf ear towards guidance, and is unwilling to realize his error before seeing his evil end. For such people pay no heed to admonition and warning and insist on falling into the abyss of perdition: then and then alone they are convinced that it was perdition towards which they were rushing headlong.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Considering the power of sin, and how it gets hold of the hearts of men, and considering all the wrongs that men have done, it is the height of folly and injustice on their part to turn away from warnings which are given expressly for their good. But a stage of callousness is reached, when, by their own choice, they have rendered themselves impervious to Allah's Grace. At that stage a veil is put over their hearts and they are left alone for a time, that they may commune with themselves and perhaps repent and seek Allah's Mercy again. If they do not, it is their own loss. See next verse.

وَرَبُّكَ الۡغَفُوۡرُ ذُوۡ الرَّحۡمَةِ​ ؕ لَوۡ يُؤَاخِذُهُمۡ بِمَا كَسَبُوۡا لَعَجَّلَ لَهُمُ الۡعَذَابَ​ ؕ بَلْ لَّهُمۡ مَّوۡعِدٌ لَّنۡ يَّجِدُوۡا مِنۡ دُوۡنِهٖ مَوۡـئِلًا‏  
( 58 )   And your Lord is the Forgiving, full of mercy. If He were to impose blame upon them for what they earned, He would have hastened for them the punishment. Rather, for them is an appointment from which they will never find an escape.
This is to warn the foolish people that they should not be deluded by the respite that is given to them and presume that they will never be taken to task whatever they may go on doing. They forget that Allah gives them respite because He is Forgiving and Forbearing and does not punish the evil doers on the spot, for His Mercy demands that the evil doers should be given respite so that they may mend their ways.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Min duni-hi: should we take the pronoun to refer to "the appointed time" or to "your Lord" mentioned at the beginning of the verse? Most Commentators take the former view, and I have translated accordingly. But I agree with those who take the latter view, and the better translation would be: "But they have their appointed time, and except with Allah, they will find no refuge." That means that even during the period allowed them, when they are left to wander astray as they have rejected Allah's Grace, Allah's Mercy is open to them if they will repent and return; but nothing but Allah's Mercy can save them.
( 59 )   And those cities - We destroyed them when they wronged, and We made for their destruction an appointed time.
The ruined habitations were of Saba, Thamud, Median and the people of Prophet Lot, which were visited by the Quraish during their trade journeys, and which were quite well known to other Arabs also.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The instances of exemplary Punishment in former times were also subject to this rule, that Allah gives plenty of rope to the wicked, in case they might turn, repent, and obtain His Mercy.

Ruku / Section 9 [60-70]

From here on the story of Moses to gain knowledge from another servant of God who is never mentioned by name, but in all authentic Islamic literature, he is called Al-Khidr, who is described as a messenger, prophet, wali, slave and angel, who guards the sea, teaches secret knowledge and aids those in distress. This is the only surah in which mention of Al Khidr has been made wherein he has been sent to educate Prophet Moses (Musa). He was very knowledgeable and Moses hoped to learn from him but Khidr expressed doubts that Moses would have the patience he needed.

When they both set off, Khidr made three strange things like making a hole in the boat, killing a young boy and repairing a wall in a village where people even refused to give them some eatables. This all definitely tempted Moses to interrupt while Khidr had advised him not to question him. After the third interruption, Khidr told Moses that due to his impatient behaviour he could no longer accompany him and that this was the end of their time together.  But before departing Khidr told the wisdom behind his actions, as have been explained in the verses below. Khidr said he did not do these things of his own accord, he was following God’s plan.

Though this story was told in answer to the question of the disbelievers, it has been used to impress a very important truth on the minds of both the disbelievers and the believers. It is this: those people who draw their conclusions only from the seeming aspects of events, make a very serious error in their deductions, for they only see what is apparent and do not go deep into the divine wisdom that underlies them. When they daily see the prosperity of the tyrants and the afflictions of the innocent people, the affluence of the disobedient people and the indigence of the obedient people, the enjoyments of the wicked people and the adversity of the virtuous people, they get involved in mental conflicts, nay, they become victims of misunderstandings because they do not comprehend the wisdom behind them. The disbelievers and the tyrants conclude from this that the world is functioning without any moral laws and has no sovereign, and, if there is one, he must be senseless and unjust: therefore one may do whatever he desires for there is none to whom one shall be accountable. On the other hand, when the believers see those things, they become so frustrated and disheartened that sometimes their faiths are put to a very hard trial. It was to unravel the wisdom behind this mystery that Allah slightly lifted the curtain from the reality governing His factory, so that Moses (peace be upon him) might see the wisdom behind the events that are happening day and night and how their seeming aspect is quite different from the reality.

Now let us consider the question: When and where did this event take place? The Quran says nothing about this. There is a tradition related by Aufi in which he cites a saying of Ibn Abbas to this effect: This event happened after the destruction of Pharaoh when Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had settled his people in Egypt. But this is not supported by other more authentic traditions from Ibn Abbas which have been cited in the collection of Bukhari and other books of traditions, nor is there any other source which may prove that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) ever settled in Egypt after the destruction of Pharaoh. On the contrary, the Quran says explicitly that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) passed his entire life after exodus from Egypt in the desert (Sinai and At-Tih). Therefore the tradition from Aufi cannot be accepted. However, if we consider the details of this story, two things are quite obvious. (1) These things would have been demonstrated to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) in the earlier period of his Prophethood because such things are needed in the beginning of Prophethood for the teaching and training of the Prophets. (2) As this story has been cited to comfort the believers of Makkah, it can be reasonably concluded that these demonstrations would have been shown to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), when the Israelites were encountering the same conditions as the Muslims of Makkah did at the time of the revelation of this Surah. On the basis of these two things, we are of the opinion (and correct knowledge is with Allah alone) that this event relates to the period when the persecution of the Israelites by Pharaoh was at its height and, like the chiefs of the Quraish, Pharaoh and his courtiers were deluded by delay in the scourge that there was no power above them to take them to task, and like the persecuted Muslims of Makkah, the persecuted Muslims of Egypt were crying in their agony, as if to say: Our Lord, how long will the prosperity of these tyrants and our adversity continue. So much so that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) himself cried out: Our Lord, Thou hast bestowed on Pharaoh and his nobles splendor and possessions in the worldly life; O our Lord, hast Thou done this that they might lead astray the people from Thy Way. (Surah Younus, Ayat 88).

If our conjecture is correct, then it may be concluded that probably this event took place during Prophet Moses’ (peace be upon him) journey to Sudan, and by the confluence of the rivers is meant the site of the present city of Khartum where the Blue Nile and the White Nile meet together.

The Bible does not say anything about this event but the Talmud does relate this though it assigns it to Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Levi, instead of to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), and according to it the other person was Elijah who had been taken up alive to heaven and joined with the angels for the purpose of the administration of the world. (The Talmud Selections by H. Polano, pp. 313- 16).

It is just possible that like the events, which happened before the exodus, this event also might not have remained intact but during the passage of centuries changes and alterations might have been made in it. But it is a pity that some Muslims have been so influenced by the Talmud that they opine that in this story Moses does not refer to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) but to some other person bearing the same name. They forget that every tradition of the Talmud is not necessarily correct, nor have we any reason to suppose that the Quran has related the story concerning some unknown person bearing the name Moses. Above all, when we learn from an authentic tradition related by Ubayy-bin-Kaab that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself made it clear that in this story, by Moses is meant Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), there is absolutely no reason why any Muslim should consider any statement of the Talmud at all.

The Orientalists have, as usual, tried to make a research into the sources of this story and have pointed out that The Quranic story may be traced back to three main sources. (1) The Gilgamesh Epic. (2) The Alexander Romance. (3) The Jewish Legend of Elijah and Rabbi Joshua hen Levi (Encyclopedia of Islam new edition and Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam under the heading Al Khadir). This is because these malicious scholars decide beforehand that their scientific research must lead to the conclusion that the Quran is not a revealed book: therefore they have, anyhow or other, to produce a proof that whatever Muhammad (peace be upon him) has presented as revelation, has been plagiarized from such and such sources. In this these people brazen facedly use facts and quotations so cunningly and cleverly as to achieve their mean end and one begins to have nausea at their research. If that is research what these bigoted forgers make, then one is compelled to curse their knowledge and research.

We ask them to answer our questions in order to expose their research:
(I) What proof do they have to make the claim that the Quran has based a certain statement on the contents of a couple of ancient books? Obviously it will not be research to build this claim on the scant basis that a certain statement made in the Quran is similar to the one found in these books.
(2) Do they possess any knowledge that at the time of the revelation of the Quran there was a library at Makkah from which the Prophet (peace be upon him) collected material for the Quran? This question is pertinent because if a list were to be made of the numerous books in different languages, which they allege were sources of the stories and statements contained in the Quran, it will become long enough for a big library. Do they have any proof that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had arranged for such translators as translated into Arabic those books from different languages for his use? If it is not so and their allegation is based on a couple of journeys which the Prophet (peace be upon him) made outside Arabia, a question arises: How many books did the Prophet (peace be upon him) copy or commit to memory during these trade journeys before his Prophethood? And how is it that even a day before he claimed to be a Prophet, no sign at all was displayed in his conversation that he had gathered such information as was revealed in the Quran afterwards?
(3) How is it then that the contemporary disbelievers of Makkah and the Jews and the Christians, who like them, were always in search of such a proof, could not put forward even a single instance of plagiarism? They had a good reason to produce an instance of this because they were being challenged over and over again to refute the claim that the Quran was a revealed book and it had no other source than divine knowledge and that if they said that it was a human work, they were to prove this by bringing the like of it. Though this challenge had broken the back of the contemporary opponents of Islam, they could not point out even a single plausible source that might prove reasonably that the Quran was based on it. In the light of these facts one may ask: Why had the contemporaries of the Prophet (peace be upon him) failed in their research and how have the opponents of Islam succeeded in their attempt today after the passage of more than a thousand years?
(4) The last and the most important question is: Does it not show that it is bigotry and malice that has misled the opponents of Islam to discard the possibility that the Quran may be a revealed book of Allah and to concentrate all their efforts to prove that it is not so at all? The tact that its stories are similar to those contained in the former books, could be considered equally in this light that the Quran was a revealed book and was relating them in order to correct those errors that had crept into them during the passage of time. Why should their research be confined to prove that those books are the real source of the stories of the Quran and not to consider the other possibility that the Quran itself was a revealed book?
An impartial person who will consider these questions will inevitably arrive at the conclusion that the research which the orientalists have presented in the name of knowledge is not worth any serious consideration.
( 60 )   And [mention] when Moses said to his servant, "I will not cease [traveling] until I reach the junction of the two seas or continue for a long period."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
This episode in the story of Moses is meant to illustrate four points. (1) Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Even so that wisdom did not comprehend everything, even as the whole stock of the knowledge of the present day, in the sciences and the arts, and in literature, (if it could be supposed to be gathered in one individual), does not include all knowledge. Divine knowledge, as far as man is concerned, is unlimited. Even after Moses received his divine mission, his knowledge was not so perfect that it could not receive further additions. (2) Constant effort is necessary to keep our knowledge square with the march of time, and such effort Moses is shown to be making. (3) The mysterious man he meets (xviii. 65), to whom Tradition assigns the name of Khidr (literally, Green), is the type of that knowledge which is ever in contact with life as it is actually lived. (4) There are paradoxes in life; apparent loss may be real gain; apparent cruelty may be real mercy; returning good for evil may really be justice and not generosity (xviii. 79-82). Allah's wisdom transcends all human calculation.

The most probable geographical location (if any is required in a story that is a parable) is where the two arms of the Red Sea join together, viz., the Gulf of 'Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez. They enclose the Sinai Peninsula, in which Moses and the Israelites spent many years in their wanderings.

وَاِذۡ قَالَ مُوۡسٰى لِفَتٰٮهُ لَاۤ اَبۡرَحُ حَتّٰۤى اَبۡلُغَ مَجۡمَعَ الۡبَحۡرَيۡنِ اَوۡ اَمۡضِىَ حُقُبًا‏ 

Huqub means a long but indefinite space of time. Sometimes it is limited to 80 years.
( 61 )   But when they reached the junction between them, they forgot their fish, and it took its course into the sea, slipping away 
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
literally, 'the Junction of (the space) between the two,' i.e., the point at which the two seas were united.

Moses was to go and find a servant of Allah, who would instruct him in such knowledge as he had not already got. He was to take a fish with him. The place where he was to meet his mysterious Teacher would be indicated by the fact that the fish would disappear when he got to that place.
( 62 )   When they had journeyed further on, Moses said to his servant: "Bring us our repast. We are surely fatigued by today's journey."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
When they came to the Junction of the Seas, Moses forgot about the fish, and his attendant forgot to tell him of the fact that he had seen the fish escaping into the sea in a marvelous way. They passed on, but the stages now became heavier and heavier, and more fatiguing to Moses.
( 63 )   He said, "Did you see when we retired to the rock? Indeed, I forgot [there] the fish. And none made me forget it except Satan - that I should mention it. And it took its course into the sea amazingly".
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The attendant actually saw the fish swimming away in the sea, and yet "forgot" to tell his master. In his case the "forgetting" was more than forgetting. Inertia had made him refrain from telling the important news. In such matters inertia is almost as bad as active spite, the suggestion of Satan.
( 64 )   [Moses] said, "That is what we were seeking." So they returned, following their footprints.
That is, the same was the sign of the place of our destination. This shows that Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) had taken this journey at Allah’s behest to meet His servant. He had been told that he would meet the servant at the place where the fish would disappear.
( 65 )   And they found a servant from among Our servants to whom we had given mercy from us and had taught him from Us a [certain] knowledge.
The name of this servant has been stated to be Khidr in all the authentic books of traditions. Thus there is no reason why it should be considered at all that his name was Elijah, as some people have asserted under the influence of the Israelite traditions. Their assertion is incorrect not only because it contradicts the assertion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) but it is also absurd because Prophet Elijah (peace be upon him) was born several hundred years after Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Though the Quran does not mention the name of the attendant of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), according to some traditions he was Joshua, the son of Nun, who succeeded him.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
One of Our servants: his name is not mentioned in the Qur'an, but Tradition gives it as Khidr. Round him have gathered a number of picturesque folk tales, with which we are not here concerned. "Khidr" means "Green": his knowledge is fresh and green, and drawn out of the living sources of life for it is drawn from Allah's own Knowledge. He is a mysterious being, who has to be sought out. He has the secrets of some of the paradoxes of Life, which ordinary people do not understand, or understand in a wrong sense, as we shall see further on. The nearest equivalent figure in the literature of the People of the Book is Melchizedek or Melchisedek (the Greek form in the New Testament). In Gen. xiv. 18-20, he appears as king of Salem, priest of the Most High God: he blesses Abraham, and Abraham gives him tithes.

Khidr had two special gifts from Allah: (1) Mercy from Him, and (2) Knowledge from Him too. The first freed him from the ordinary incidents of daily human life; and the second entitled him to interpret the inner meaning and mystery of events, as we shall see further on.
( 66 )   Moses said to him, "May I follow you on [the condition] that you teach me from what you have been taught of sound judgement?"
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Moses, not understanding the full import of what he was asking, makes a simple request. He wants to learn something of the special Knowledge which Allah had bestowed on Khidr.
( 67 )   He said, "Indeed, with me you will never be able to have patience.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Khidr says that there will be many things which Moses will see with him, which Moses will not completely understand and which will make Moses impatient. The highest knowledge often seems paradoxical to those who have not the key to it.
( 68 )   And how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?"
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Khidr does not blame Moses. Each one of us can only follow our own imperfect lights to the best of our judgment, but if we have Faith, we are saved many false steps.
( 69 )   [Moses] said, "You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in [any] order."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
Moses has Faith. He adopts the true attitude of the learner to the Teacher, and promises to obey in all things, with the help of Allah. The Teacher is doubtful, but permits him to follow him on condition that he asks no questions about anything until the Teacher himself mentions it first.
( 70 )   He said, "Then if you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I make to you about it mention."
Ruku / Section 10 [71-82]
( 71 )    Then the two went forth until, when they embarked on the boat, he made a hole in it, whereupon Moses exclaimed: "Have you made a hole in it so as to drown the people in the boat? You have certainly done an awful thing." 
 The explanation follows in xviii. 79.
( 72 )  He said, "Did I not say that with me you would never be able to have patience?"( 73 )   [Moses] said, "Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not cover me in my matter with difficulty."( 74 )   So they set out, until when they met a boy, he killed him. [Moses] said, "Have you killed a pure soul for other than [having killed] a soul? You have certainly done a deplorable thing."
 The explanation follows in xviii. 80-81.
( 75 )   he said, "Did I not tell you that with me you would never be able to have patience?"( 76 )   [Moses] said, "If I should ask you about anything after this, then do not keep me as a companion. You have obtained from me an excuse."
( 77 )   So they set out, until when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to offer them hospitality. And they found therein a wall about to collapse, so he restored it. [Moses] said, "If you wished, you could have taken for it a payment."
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The inhabitants were churlish. They broke the universal Eastern rule of hospitality to strangers, and thus showed themselves beyond the pale of ordinary human courtesies. Note that they would have been expected to offer hospitality of themselves, unasked. Here Moses and his companion actually had to ask for hospitality and were refused point-blank.

As they were refused hospitality, they should, as self-respecting men, have shaken the dust of the town off their feet, or shown their indignation in some way. Instead of that, Khidr actually goes and does a benevolent act. He rebuilds for them a falling wall, and never asks for any compensation for it. Perhaps he employed local workmen for it and paid them wages, thus actually benefiting a town which had treated him and his companion so shabbily! Moses is naturally surprised and asks, "Could you not at least have asked for the cost?"
( 78 )   He said, "This is parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.
The story and the interpretation are given with the greatest economy of words. It would repay us to search for the meaning in terms of our own inner and outer experience.
( 79 )   As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working at sea. So I intended to cause defect in it as there was after them a king who seized every [good] ship by force.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
They went on the boat, which was plying for hire. Its owners were not even ordinary men who plied for trade. They had been reduced to great poverty, perhaps from affluent circumstances, and deserved great commiseration, the more so as they preferred an honest calling to begging for charity. They did not know, but Khidr did, that that boat, perhaps a new one, had been marked down to be commandeered by an unjust king who seized on every boat he could get-it may have been, for warlike purposes. If this boat had been taken away from these self-respecting men, they would have been reduced to beggary, with no resources left them. By a simple act of making it useless, the boat was saved from seizure. The owners could repair it as soon as the danger was past. Khidr probably paid liberally in fares, and what seemed an unaccountably cruel act was the greatest act of kindness he could do in the circumstances.
( 80 )   And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
This seemed at first sight even a more cruel act than scuttling the boat. But the danger was also greater. Khidr knew that the youth was a potential parricide. His parents were worthy, pious people, who had brought him up with love. He had apparently gone wrong. Perhaps he had already been guilty of murders and robberies and had escaped the law by subtleties and fraud. See next note.
( 81 )   So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy.
Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The son was practically an outlaw,-a danger to the public and a particular source of grief to his righteous parents. Even so, his summary capital punishment would have been unjustified if Khidr had been acting on his own. But Khidr was not acting on his own: see the latter part of the next verse. The plural "we" also implies that he was not acting on his own. He was acting on higher authority and removing a public scourge, who was also a source of extreme sorrow and humiliation to his parents. His parents are promised a better-behaved son who would love them and be a credit to them.
( 82 )   And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience."
In connection with this story, a very hard problem arises to which an answer must be found. Two of the three things done by Khidr are obviously against those commandments of the law which have always been in force since the creation of man. No law allows anyone the right to damage the property of another and kill an innocent person. So much so that if a man were to know by inspiration that some usurper would illegally seize a certain boat, and that a certain boy would be involved in a rebellion and unbelief, even then no law, sent down by Allah, makes it lawful that one should bore a hole in the boat and kill the innocent boy by virtue of his inspiration. If in answer to this, one were to say that Khidr committed these two acts by the commands of Allah, this does not solve the problem, for the question is not this: “By whose command did Khidr commit these acts”, but it is this: “What was the nature of these commands”? This is important because Khidr did these acts in accordance with divine command, for he himself says that these acts of his were not done by his own authority, but were moved by the mercy of Allah, and Allah Himself has testified this by saying: “We gave him a special knowledge from Ourselves”. Thus it is beyond any doubt that these acts were done by the command of Allah, but the question about the nature of the command remains there, for it is obvious that these commands were not legal because it is not allowed by any divine law, and the fundamental principles of the Quran also do not allow that a person should kill another person without any proof of his guilt. Therefore we shall have to admit that these commands belonged to one of those decrees of Allah in accordance with which one sick person recovers, while another dies: one becomes prosperous and the other is ruined. If the commands given to Khidr were of this nature, then one must come to the conclusion that Khidr was an angel (or some other kind of Allah’s creation) who is not bound by the divine law prescribed for human beings, for such commands as have no legal aspect, can be addressed to angels only. This is because the question of the lawful or the unlawful cannot arise about them: they obey the commands of Allah without having any personal power. In contrast to them, a man shall be guilty of a sin whether he does any such thing inadvertently by intuition or by some inspiration, if his act goes against some divine commandment. This is because a man is bound to abide by divine commandments as a man, and there is no room whatsoever in the divine law that an act may become lawful for a man merely because he had received an instruction by inspiration and had been informed in a secret way of the wisdom of that unlawful act.

The above mentioned principle has been unanimously accepted by scholars of the divine law and the leaders of Sufism, Allamah Alusi has cited in detail the sayings of Abdul Wahhab Shiirani, Muhy-ud-Din ibn-Arabi, Mujaddid Alf Thani, Shaikh Abdul-Qadir Jilani, Junaid Baghdadi, Sirri Saqti, Abul-Hussain An-nuri, Abu Said-al- Kharraz, Ahmad ud-Dainauri and Imam Ghazzali to this effect that it is not lawful even for a sufi to act in accordance with that inspiration of his own which goes against a fundamental of law. (Ruh-ul-Maani, Vol. XVI, pp. 16-18). That is why we have come to the conclusion that Khidr must be an angel, or some other kind of Allah’s creation, exempted from human law, for he could not be the only exception to the above mentioned formula. Therefore we inevitably come to the conclusion that he was one of those servants of Allah who act in accordance with the will of Allah and not in accordance with the divine law prescribed for human beings.

We would have accepted the theory that Khidr was a human being, if the Quran had plainly asserted that the servant to whom Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was sent for training, was a man. But the Quran does not specifically say that he was a human being but says that he was one of Our servants which does not show that he was necessarily a human being. Besides this, there is no tradition which specifically says that Khidr was a human being. In the authentic traditions related by Said bin Jubair, Ibn Abbas, Ubayy bin Kaab from the Prophet (peace be upon him), the Arabic word rajul has been used for Khidr, which though generally used for human beings, is not exclusively used for human beings. In the Quran itself, this word has been used for Jinns also (Surah Al-Jin, Ayat 6). It is also obvious that when a jinn or an angel or an invisible being will come before a human being, he will surely come in human shape and, in that form; he will be called a bashar (man), just like the angel who came before Mary in the shape of a human being (Surah Maryam, Ayat 17). Thus the word rajul, used for Khidr in the above mentioned tradition by the Prophet (peace be upon him), does not necessarily mean that he was a human being. Therefore we are quite justified in the light of the above discussion to believe that Khidr was one of the angels or some other kind of Allah’s creation who is not bound by the divine law prescribed for human beings. Some of the former scholars of the Quran have also expressed the same opinion which has been cited by lbn Kathir in his commentary on the authority of Mawardi.

Yousaf Ali Explanation:
The wall was in a ruinous state. If it had fallen, the treasure buried beneath it would have been exposed and would certainly have been looted, among so churlish and selfish a people. The treasure had been collected and buried by a righteous man. It was not, in any sense of the word, ill-gotten gains; it was buried expressly in the interests of the orphans by their father before his death. It was intended that the orphans should grow up and safely take possession of their heritage. It was also expected that they would be righteous men like their father, and use the treasure in good works and in advancing righteousness among an otherwise wicked community. There was thus both public and private interests involved in all the three incidents. In the second incident Khidr uses the word "we", showing that he was associating in his act the public authorities of the place, who had been eluded by the outlaw.

Age of full strength: Cf. xvii. 34.

Those who act, not from a whim or a private impulse of their own, but from higher authority, have to bear the blame, for acts of the greatest wisdom and utility.

With the explanation of verse 82, we come to the end of Part III of the exegesis of Sürah Al-Kahf. Our next post, that is Part IV, Ruku / Sections 11-12 [Verses 83-111] will focus on yet another story from the history about another prophet Dhul-Qarnain!!

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Sürah Al-Kahf with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary / exegesis of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Juzʼ / Part backwards for chapters in 30th Juzʼ / Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2] 
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources:
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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