Saturday, September 12, 2015

Surat Al-Kahf : The stories that make up the surah

The stories that make up the surah are:

1. The Seven Sleepers
2. The Owners of the Gardens
3. Moses and Khidr
4. Dhul-Qarnain and his Conquests

Surat Al-Kahf stories
Surat Al-Kahf stories

The first story of this surah revolves around TIME. It doesn’t take too much reflection to understand that the length of a man’s life is his first priority. Man’s first goal is to achieve sustenance to continue his existence on earth. God himself, through the incident of the 7 sleepers, showed how time, and ultimately life, is in the hands of God. It is interesting that God Almighty chose 7 youths to convey this reality. If their physical appearance showed signs of age, this reality would not have made such an impact on those who came across them. It further conveys the idea that a long life isn’t really worth living if one does not possess the freshness and vigor's of youth. 
The next story is that of the Owners of the garden. The primary angle from which this surah expounds on the theme is that of WEALTH. The Quran speaks about how men become so competitive over attaining wealth that they forget who granted them wealth in the first place. Further, they become so deluded into thinking that the wealth they receive is a sign that they are superior, to the extent that even if God and accountability existed, it would only show that God had a certain preference for them, i.e. it was their birth-right. This is how they justify their own actions in light of the call of their own moral conscience. The Quran also speaks about God’s will, just as it did earlier in the surah when saying to the Prophet (S):

The next story, that of Moses and Khidr, discusses another aspect that man desires so heavily, and that is KNOWLEDGE. Moses (AS) boasted that nobody could compete with him (AS) in this respect, so God Almighty, to teach Musa (AS) certain lessons, told him to proceed to Khidr (AS) and follow him for a certain period. An interesting point in this surah is regarding the fish. While Musa (AS) boasted about his knowledge, it was only when he told his servant to bring them some food, and the attendant brought light to the fact that the fish disappeared, did Moses (AS) remember the fish. This is actually an irony, considering Musa (AS) was boasting about his superior knowledge, but he forgot to remember a significant fact regarding the journey. This fact itself was a sign of God that was necessary to the journey in the first place. The Quran also speaks about knowledge from the dimension of patience. Knowledge and Patience go hand in hand. To possess absolute knowledge of the workins behind reality would essentially nullify the purpose of the test. It further prevent mans from cultivating his own moral character. 

The Quran refers to POWER and dominion. This story speaks about the limitations man can achieve in dominion. DHul-Qarnain, despite being a noble and pious person and being blessed by God in his dominion, was also limited in the extent of his conquests. In one conquest, he was halted by a geographical limitation, that of the sea. In another conquest, he came across a people who could not understand the communciations of the King nor could they speak to him. Hhis dominion in this area was essentially useless, despite him having power over the people. As far as Gog and Magog, Dhul-Qarnain could only establish a barrier to prevent the assaults of Dhul-Qarnain, i.e. he could not maintain an army in that regions, and that barrier too, as Dhul-Qarnain pointed out, would ultimately collapse despite being built with the most formidable of materials. When humanity, including Gog and Magog. will be called forth by God, even the barrier that was sent to keep Gog and Magog from passing through the mountains will collapse as the people will spill forth into the regions like waves. Even the strongest of limitations in this world are subject to the will of God. Another interesting aside to this story is that Dhul-Qarnain, despite being an able-king, had to employ the services of the people he was to protect. His army alone could not sufficiently do the job.

So there it is, in summary. The Quran beuatifully summarizes the totality of man’s existence from 4 different angles:



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