Category Archives: Masjid Al Aqsa



In any other era, if we were to see an adult aimlessly and mindlessly spinning a silly, colourful, childish toy between his fingers, we would perhaps start to doubt the fact that his mental capacities were still functioning according to the Divinely set and apportioned harmonious equilibrium normally found in adults. Or, in simpler terms, we would consider calling the psychiatrist. But not in the era we are living in. This techno-tronic era we find ourselves in is an exaggerated form of The Brave New World of Aldous Huxley, and the 1984 of George Orwell, satirical works written many decades ago about a futuristic world devoid of, well, everything even remotely humane. An era in which Dajjal calls the shots (at least according to his deficient and limited mental scope), and we, the Ummah, obediently follow in utter subservience, choosing to ignore and lay to waste the great gift of intelligence given to us by Allah Ta’ala, and the ability to think for ourselves.

Fidget spinners, as these new toys are called, have been quite aptly named. It is claimed that they help bring about concentration and calmness, and remove fidgeting. Outwardly it may seem so, but in reality this toy has been cleverly designed to do just quite the opposite – it is nothing but a time-wasting distraction which causes excessive and dangerous fidgeting of the spiritual heart, and the fidgeting it is actually supposed to remove is quite different from anything we may imagine. The saddest and most distressful part is the fact that Muslims have been rushing to buy, and even sell the toy, despite knowing well that Allah has categorically and clearly stated in the Quran, “Beware! It is only and only through the remembrance of Allah that the hearts can attain peace, contentment, tranquillity, happiness.”  

Concentration and calmness cannot be achieved through fidget spinners when a person is involved in the disobedience of Allah, because to disobey Allah is to forget Him. Peace can only be achieved through staying away from sin, and involving oneself in salaah, dhikr, recitation of the Quran, pondering over the power and beauty of Allah, sitting in the gatherings of the Awliyaa, among numerous other praiseworthy deeds.

Whoever has seen a fidget spinner will know that they come in various colourful designs and shapes. When spun, the rotation of the designs creates a mesmerising, hypnotic effect similar to what is used in actual hypnosis sessions. Similarly, the spinner comes with an option of LED lights, for spinning in the dark. The effect created by these fast spinning, colourful LED lights is almost the same as the effect of flashing, pulsating, rotating disco lights. Disco lights aren’t how they are without any reason, the lights have been specifically designed to achieve sinister objectives. Disco lights were created to blanket the human mind into a mildly hypnotic stupor, and this is what happens with the LED lights on the fidget spinner. Not everyone goes to the disco, so they simply brought the disco lights home in the form of a seemingly harmless toy. From this we get to know that the spinning of the colourful designs and/or the LED lights exercises a tranquilising, hypnotising effect on the brain, relaxing its natural guards and alarms, so that the mind becomes more willing to accept subliminal messages and suggestions, and becomes more vulnerable and susceptible to subconscious programing.

In layman’s terms, fidget spinners have been designed to make our minds more willing to blindly accept, consciously or subconsciously, whatever Dajjal and his cronies want us to believe, without even knowing what we are actually doing. It thus effectively removes the ‘fidgeting’ of the mind, otherwise more commonly known as critical thinking. Not co-incidentally, television works according to the same principle of flashes of colourful lights moving with high speed, to achieve a similar objective.

Fidget spinners are extremely dangerous and harmful toys for adults as well as children, which can destroy our dunya as well as Aakhirat. Let us not become gullible, blind slaves to the fads and crazes being propelled by the West. Let us learn to think for ourselves, and look deeply into matters with the noor of the heart, to be able to see the reality that is not apparent at first glance. May Allah save all of us from the traps of Dajjal.

Ahadith On the Virtues of Masjid al-Aqsa

Infograph source:

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Second House of Allah on Earth
1, Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) reported that he asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, which Masjid was built first on earth”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “The Sacred Masjid of Makkah”. Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) again asked, “Which was next”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Masjid Al-Aqsa”. Abu Dharr (radhiyallahu anhu) further asked, “How long was the period between the building of the two Masjids”? The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Forty years”. Apart from these, offer your prayer anywhere when it is time to pray, although excellence is in praying in these Masjids”. (Bukhari)

The Importance of Visiting Masjid Al-Aqsa
2, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “You should not undertake a special journey to visit any place other than the following three Masjids with the expectations of getting greater reward: the Sacred Masjid of Makkah (Ka’bah), this Masjid of mine (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah), and Masjid Al-Aqsa (of Jerusalem)”. In another narration the words are, “For three Masjids a special journey may be undertaken: The Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah), my Masjid and Masjid of Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa). (Muslim, Bukhari, Abu Dawud)

Greater Virtue of praying in Masjid Al-Aqsa
3, Abu Darda (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallqm) said, “A prayed in Makkah (Ka’bah) is worth 1000,000 times (reward), a prayer in my Masjid (Madinah) is worth 1,000 times and a prayer in Al-Aqsa Sanctuary is worth 500 times more reward than anywhere else”. (Tabarani, Bayhaqi, Suyuti)

4, Anas Ibn Malik (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, ” The prayer of a person in his house is a single prayer; his prayer in the Masjid of his people has the reward of 27 prayers; his prayer in the Masjid in which the Friday prayer is observed has the reward of 500; his prayer in Masjid Al-Aqsa (i.e. Al-Aqsa Sanctuary) has a reward of 5,000 prayers; his prayer in my Masjid (the Prophet’s Masjid in Madinah) has a reward of 50,000 prayers, and the prayer in the Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah) has the reward of 100,000 prayers”. (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)

The Importance of Donating to Masjid Al-Aqsa 
5, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) relates, I asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “Apostle of Allah, tell us the legal injunction about (visiting) Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).” The Apostle of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, ”Go and pray there. If you cannot visit it and pray there, then send some oil to be used in the lamps”. (Bukhari)

6, Maymunah Bint Sa’d (radhiyallahu anha) relates that she asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, inform us about Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)”. He said, “Visit it for prayer “. She further asked, “If one of us cannot visit it, what should we do”? He said, “If you cannot go for prayer then send some oil to be used for its lamps, will be as if he has prayed in it”. (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, Tabarani)

The Virtues of Wearing Ihram From Masjid Al-Aqsa
7, Umm Salamah (radhiyallahu anha) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “If anyone puts on Ihram for Hajj or Umrah from Masjid Al-Aqsa and then proceeds to the Sacred Masjid (Ka’bah), their past and future sins will be forgiven, or they will be entered into Paradise”. (Abu Dawud)

The Blessed Land of Masjid Al-Aqsa
8, Zaid Ibn Thabit (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “How blessed is Al-Sham”! The Companions (ra) asked, “Why is that”? The Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “I see the Angels of Allah spreading their wings over Al-Sham”. Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) added, “And the Prophets lived therein. There is not a single inch in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) where a Prophet has not prayed or an Angel not stood”. (Tirmidhi, Ahmad)

9, The Prophet Mohammed (saw) said, “Allah has blessed what lies between Al-‘Arish (in Egypt) and the Euphrates and has made Palestine particularly Holy”. (Kanz Al-Umal)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The First Qiblah (direction of prayer)
10, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates, “We prayed along with the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) facing Al-Quds (Jerusalem) for 16 or 17 months. Then Allah ordered him saw) to turn his face towards the Ka’bah (in Makkah). (Bukhari)

11, Al-Bara (radhiyallahu anhu) added, “Before we changed our direction towards the Ka’bah in prayer, some Muslims had died or had been killed and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers). Allah then revealed: And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e. the prayers of those Muslims facing Bayt Al-Maqdis were valid) {2:143} (Bukhari)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Station of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj
12, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “On the night journey Allah’s Apostle (sallallaahu alayhi wasallan) was taken on a night journey (Al-Isra and Al-Miraj), two cups, one containing wine and the other containing milk were presented to him (saw) at Al-Quds (Jerusalem). He looked at them and took the cup of milk. Angel Gabriel said, “Praise be to Allah, who guided you to Al-Fitrah (the right path); if you had taken (the cup of) wine, your Ummah would have gone astray”. (Bukhari)

13, Regarding the statement of Allah in the Holy Quran, “And We granted the vision (ascension to the Heavens) which we made you see (as an actual eye witness) was only made as a trial for the people”. (17:60) Ibn Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) said, “The sights which Allah’s Apostle was shown on the Night journey where he was taken to Bayt Al-Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) were actual sights, (not dreams). And the Cursed tree (mentioned) in the Quran is the tree of Zaqqum. (Bukhari)

14, Jabir Ibn Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “When the people of Quraysh did not believe me (i.e. the story of his Miraculous Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it”. (Bukhari)

15, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “I saw on the night of Al-Isra and Al-Miraj (the Night Journey) a white column resembling a pearl which the Angels were carrying . I asked them, “What are you carrying”? They said, “The Column of the Book, we have been ordered to place it in Al-Sham. Later in my sleep, I saw the Column of the Book being taken away from under my headrest. I began to fear lest Allah the Almighty had abandoned the people of the earth. My eyes followed the Column of the Book. It was a brilliant light in front of me. Then I saw it was placed in A;-Sham. (Tabarani)

16, Anas (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “I was brought the Buraq, a tall white beast, bigger than a donkey, smaller than a mule. It could place his hooves at the farthest boundary of his gaze. I mounted it until I arrived at Bayt Al-Maqdis. I tied it at the ring where the Prophets tied it before (i.e. Buraq Wall or the Western Wall). I entered Masjid Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and prayed 2 rak’ah there…” (Muslim)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Place for Major Events
17, Mujamma Ibn Al-Harith (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Ibn Maryam (Jesus) will kill Al-Dajjal (the Anti-Christ) at the door of Ludd (a town in Palestine)”. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

18, The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said regarding Al-Dajjal: “He will stay in the land forty days; he will enter every place on earth except the Ka’bah, the Prophet’s Masjid, Al-Aqsa Sanctuary and Mount Sinai”. (Ahmad)

19, Nahik Ibn Suraym Al-Sakuni (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “You will fight the pagans until the remnant of you fights on the river of Jordan, you to the east of it (present day Jordan) and they to the west of it (occupied Palestine)”. (Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani)

20, Maymunah Bint Sa’d (radhiyallahu anha) reports that she asked the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “O Messenger of Allah, give us a pronouncement about Al-Quds (Jerusalem)”. The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “It is the land where they will be raised (Al-Hashr) and gathered (Al-Mahshar)”. (Ahmad, Tabarani)

21, Muadh Ibn Jabal (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The Flourishing state of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) (under the non-Muslims) will be taken when Yathrib is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the Great War comes, the outbreak of the Great War will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when Al-Dajjal (Anti-Christ) comes forth”. He (the Prophet) struck his thigh with his hand and said, “This is as true as you are here or as you are sitting (meaning Muadh Ibn Jabal). (Abu Dawud)

22, Awf Ibn Malik (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The rest of the world will be destroyed forty years before Al-Sham is”. (Ibn Asakir)

23, The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said regarding the inhabitants of the blessed land, “They and their wives, children and slaves (male and female) are in ribat (guardians, literally a fort) in the cause of Allah”. (Tabarani)

24, Al-Nawwas Ibn Saman Al-kalbi (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “If Al-Dajjal comes forth while I am amongst you then I shall dispute with him on your behalf, but if he comes after I am not with you, a man must dispute on his own behalf, and Allah will take to protecting every Muslim. Those of you who live up to his time should recite over him the opening verses of Surah Kahf, for they are your protection from his trial”. We asked, “How long will he remain on earth”? He (saw) replied, “Forty days, one like a year (1 day will be equivalent to 1 year), one like a month, one like a week and the rest of his days like yours”? We asked, “Will one day’s prayer suffice us in the day which will be like a year”? He replied, “No, you must estimate of its extent. Then Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Virgin Mary) will descend at the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will then catch Al-Dajjal up at the gates of Ludd and kill him”. (Abu Dawud)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The place of Mujahideen
25, Umamah Al-Bahili (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A group of my Ummah will remain on truth, they will vanquish their enemy and those who disagree with them will not be able to harm them until Allah commands”. “Where are these people”? The Companions (ra) asked. The Prophet (saw) said, “In and around Al-Quds (Jerusalem). (Ahmad)

26, Mu’awiyah Ibn Sufyan (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “There is a group among my followers who will continue to be openly on the truth. No one who opposes them can harm them until the coming of the Hour”. The Companions (radhiyallahu anhum) asked, “Where will they be”? The Messenger of Allah said, “They will be in and around Bayt Al-Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem)”. (Ahmad)

27, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “A group of my Ummah will not cease to fight at the gates of Damascus and at the gates of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and its surroundings. The betrayal or desertion of whoever deserts them will not harm them in the least. They will remain victorious, standing for the truth, until the Final Hour rises”. (Tabarani)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Best Place of Residence
28, Abdullah Ibn Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, There will be migration upon migration. The best of the inhabitants of earth will reside where Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) migrated (Jerusalem)”. (Abu Dawud)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Desired Site of Musa (Moses)
29, Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “The Angel of death was sent to Musa. When he came to Musa, Musa punched him on the eye. The Angel returned to Allah and said, “You sent me to a servant who does not want to die”. Allah ordered the Angel, ‘Return to him and tell him to put his hand on the back of an ox and for every hair that will come under it, he will be granted one year of life’. Musa asked, “O Lord! What will happen after that”? Allah replied, ‘Then death’. Musa decided, let it be now’. Musa then requested Allah to let him die close to the Sacred Land (near Masjid Al-Aqsa) so much so that he would be at a distance of a stone’s throw form it”. Abu Hurayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) added, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) then said, “If I were there, I would show you his grave below the red sand hill on the side of the road”. (Bukhari)

Liberation of Masjid Al-Aqsa Prophesied
30, Awf Ibn Malik relates, “I went to the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) during the battle of Tabuk while he was sitting in a leather tent. He said, ‘Awf, Count six signs, between now and the approach of the Hour (Qiyamah/Doomsday): my death, the conquest of Al-Quds (Jerusalem); a plague that will afflict you (and kill you in great numbers) as the plague that afflicts sheep; the increase of wealth to such an extent that even if one is given 100 hundred Dinars (Arabian currency), he will not be satisfied; then an affliction which no Arab house will escape; and then a truce between you and Banu Asfar (i.e. Byzantines) who will betray you and attack you under eighty flags. Under each flag will be twelve thousand soldiers”. (Bukhari)

31, Shadad Ibn Aws (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Sham will be conquered and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will be conquered and you or your sons will be Imams there, if Allah will”. (Tabarani)

The Preference of Masjid Al-Aqsa
32, Once the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) advised Abdullah Ibn Hawwala (radhiyallahu anhu) to join the army in al-Sham, over any other. However, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), noticing Ibn Hawwala’s indifference said, “Do you know what Allah says about Al-Sham? Allah said, ‘Al-Sham you are the quintessence of My lands (safwati min biladi) and I shall inhabit you with the chosen ones among My servants’”. (Tabarani)

33, Abdullah Ibn Amr (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) repeated the following statement three times: “When the dissension takes place belief shall be in Al-Sham”. One version of hadith states, “safety will be in Al-Sham”. (Tabarani)

34, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “At some point you will be (split into) standing armies: one army in Al-Sham, on in Yemen and one in Iraq”. Abdullah Ibn Hawala asked he Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), “Choose for me, Messenger of Allah in case I live to see that day”. The Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) replied, “You must go to Al-Sham, for it is the chosen land of Allah in all His earth. He protects, by sending them there, the chosen ones among His servants. If you do not wish to go there, then go to Yemen. Allah has given me guarantee concerning Al-Sham and its people. (Abu Dawud, Ahmad)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Site of the Future Caliphate
35, Abdullah Ibn Hawwala Al-Azdi (radhiyallahu anhu) reported, the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) put his hand on my head and said, “Ibn Hawwala if you see that the Caliphate has taken abode in the Holy Land then the earthquakes and tribulations and great events are at hand. The last Hour on that day will be closer to people than my hand is to your head”. (Ahmad, Abu Dawud)

36, Yunus Ibn Maysarah  relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “This matter (the Caliphate) will be after me in Madinah, then Al-Sham, then Al-Jazira, then Iraq, then in Madinah, then in AL-quds (Jerusalem). If it is in Al-Quds, its home country is there, and if any people expel it, it will not return there forever”. (Ibn Asakir)

37, Al-Numan Ibn Bashir (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Prophethood will last with you for as long as Allah wants it. Then Allah will end it if He wishes to end it. Then there will be the Rightly Guided Caliphs according to the method of Prophethood and things will be as Allah wishes them. Then Allah will end it if He wishes it. Then there will be a voracious kingdom and things will be as Allah wishes them. Then Allah will end it if He wishes. Then there will be Khilafah (Caliphate) according to the method of Prophethood. Thereafter the Prophet (saw) fell silent”. (Ahmad)

38, Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Abi Umayrah (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “There will be an oath of allegiance according to guidance in Al-Quds (Jerusalem)”. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – The Place Where Allah’s Revelation Descended
39, Abu Umama (radhiyallahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Prophethood descended upon me in three places: Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham. Once it is brought out from any of them, it shall never return to it”. (Abu Dawud) In another narration it states, “The Quran was revealed in three places – Makkah, Madinah and Al-Sham”. (Tabarani) Ibn Kathir, the great scholar of Islam, said, “Al-Sham here means Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). (Abu Dawud, Tabarani)

Masjid Al-Aqsa – Mentioned By Name In The Holy Quran
40, Aishah (radhiyallahu anha) reports that the Prophet (saw) used to recite Surah Al-Isra every night in his prayer:
Glorified (and Exalted) be He (Allah) Who took His slave (Muhammad Sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) for a journey by night from Al-Masjid-al-Haram (at Makkah) to the farthest mosque (in Jerusalem), the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, in order that We might show him (Muhammad SAW) of Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.). Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. (17:1)

May Allah Ta’ala protect Masjid al-Aqsa and protect its surroundings from the enemies. Aameen.

Existence of Masjid Al-Aqsa During Isra’ Wal Miraj



Glory to (Allah) Who did take His Servant for a Journey by night
from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless – in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things). [Qur’an 17:1]

Many Christian missionaries point to an ‘alleged difficulty’  concerning the above passage. They claim that:

The Farthest Mosque (Al-Masjid-ul-Aqsa) was built many years after the death of Muhammad. It is utterly impossible that Muhammad visited it on his Night Journey.

They further add:

The Temple of Solomon had been completely destroyed in 70 AD, i.e. 550 years before the alleged time of the Miraj in 622 AD, the twelfth year of Muhammad’s mission. A Temple that didn’t exist anymore does not provide any better solution to this problem than a Mosque which wasn’t built yet.

Similarly, the Christian apologist ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi says:

Moreover, the Further [sic!]  Mosque was not in existence at the time of Muhammad, but was built about a hundred years after his death! How could he have prayed in it, then, or described its gates and windows? [1]

Firstly, al-Aqsa mosque was built not “about a hundred years” after the death of the Prophet in 11 AH / 632 CE. In 49-50 AH / 670 CE, Bishop Arculfus, a Christian visitor in Jerusalem, reported:

On the famous place where once stood the temple, the Saracens worship at a square house of prayer, which they have built with little art, of boards and large beams on the remains of some ruins… [2]

By the time Bishop Arculfus was in Jerusalem, some 40 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, the al-Aqsa mosque was already being used as a place of worship by Muslims. Secondly, as usual, the solution to such a “difficulty” lies in part in an elementary knowledge of the Arabic language as well as an understanding of basic Islamic concepts relating to the word “masjid”.

What Is A Masjid??

We will begin by dealing with the word masjid from both the linguistic and legal points of view. The Arabic word for “mosque” is masjid. Discussing with the word masjidfrom a linguistic point of view al-Zarkashi says:

Masjid from a linguistic point of view

Linguistically, it comes on the scheme of maf’il with a kasrah  [i.e. the ‘i’ of masjid] which is ism makan [i.e., name of location] for prostration, while with a fathah [i.e., masjad] it is a masdar.

Abu Zakariyya al-Farra’ [a famous grammarian] said: Every verb coming on the scheme of fa”ala  [in the past form] yaf’ulu [in the present form] like dakhala yadkhulu [which means “to enter”] admits the form maf’al  with a fathah as a noun or  masdar without distinction like in dakhala madkhalan. There are some nouns that were bound to take a kasrah on the second letter of its root like masjid, matli`,  maghrib, mashriq and others, thus making the kasrah a sign of the noun, and some Arabs may say it with a fathah.

Indeed, masjid and masjad, and matli’ and matla’ were all narrated.

He said: Putting a fathah in all these forms is admissible even if we did not hear it before.

He said in Al-Sihah: Masjad with a fathah refers to one’s forehead which is the place involved in prostration. [3]

The Arab grammarians classify masjid as “ism makan”, i.e., “name of location”; it indicates the place where an action takes place.  Masjid being derived from the root sa-ja-da (to prostrate), it means “place of prostration”. Since a place of worship is a place where believers prostrate to God, “masjid” is a general term to designate any place of worship without any religious distinction. Later, this word was used to designate Islamic places of worship in particular, i.e., the mosques.

The Prophet’s night journey was from “the inviolable place of worship” (al-Masjid al-Haram) to “the farthest place of worship” (al-Masjid al-Aqsa). The former is certainly located in Makkah, but what about the latter? The reference to Allah blessing its surroundings (…whose precincts We did bless) suggests a location in the “Holy Land” (cf. 21:81; 7:137; 34:18). Neal Robinson states:

The [Muslim] tradition which identifies it [i.e., al-Masjid al-Aqsa] with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem makes admirable sense in view of the fact that the ‘place of worship’ (masjid) whose destruction is evoked in v. 7 [i.e., 17:7] is clearly the Temple. [4]

This view is also shared by many western scholars. [5]

As it was mentioned earlier that masjid refers to a place of prostration without any religious distinction; an excellent example of the usage of the word “masjid” referring to a non-Islamic sanctuary can be seen in the verse 17:7. The verse describes briefly the destruction of the masjid in Jerusalem (i.e., the Temple) by the enemies of Children of Israel. Allah says in the Qur’an that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was a punishment was inflicted upon the Children of Israel for their tyranny and arrogance.

Now that the linguistic issues are clarified, let us now turn to the legal issues (i.e., Islamic Law) concerning the word masjid. Al-Zarkashi says:

Masjid from a legal point of view

From a legal point of view it refers to every place on earth since the Prophet – peace be upon him – said: “The earth was made a masjid for me” which is a particularity of this ummah. This was said by the Qadi `Iyadh because the previous nations used not to pray except in the places they were sure of their pureness whereas we were allowed to perform the prayers in any place not known to be impure. [6]

Further he emphasizes:

Since prostration is the most honourable act in prayer because of the nearness of the servant to his Lord, the name of the location was derived from it. This is why we call it masjid [location of sujud / prostration] and not marka` [place of ruku` / inclination]. [7]

In summary, masjid from a linguistic point of view means a “place of prostration” without any religious distinction. From a legal point of view the word masjid in shari’ah constitutes every place on earth that is fit for prostration. In other words masjid does not designate a building but only a “place of prostration”; the place may or may not have the building. In support of the argument, we quote hadith #323 in Sahih al-Bukhari that has already been mentioned by al-Zarkashi:

Muhammad Ibn Sinan, i.e., al-‘Awqi told us, Hushaym told us; and Sa`id Ibn an-Nadr told me, Hushaym informed us that Sayyar informed us, Yazid, i.e., Ibn Suhayb al-Faqir told us, Jabir Ibn ‘Abd Allah told us:

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “I have been given five things which were not given to any amongst the Prophets before me. These are:

1. Allah made me victorious by awe [by His frightening of my enemies] for a distance of one month’s journey.

2. The earth has been made for me [and for my followers] a “masjid” [Arabic: a place for prostration] and a means of purification. Therefore, my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.

3. The booty has been made halaal [lawful] for me [and was not made so for anyone else].

4. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively but I have been sent to all mankind.

5. I have been given the right of intercession [on the Day of Resurrection]. [8]

So, according to this hadith, any place on the earth is a masjid for Muslims. Therefore, whether there was a building or not when the Prophet made his heavenly trip, it is the location of the “Farthest Mosque” that is intended by the verse and not a building per se because the location where it lies was blessed by God as mentioned in verse 17:1 “the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless”. Therefore, no one can claim that the word “masjid” in the Islamic terminology refers necessarily to a building. Imam Ibn Hajar confirms this opinion in Fath al-Bari (his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari) :

(the earth has been made for me a “masjid”) means a place for prostration, i.e., prostration is not restricted to any particular place of the earth. It may also be a metaphor of a construction built for prayer. This is due to the fact that once prayer is authorized everywhere on earth it becomes like a mosque for that purpose. Ibn al-Tin said: “The earth has been made for me a masjid and a means of purification” both were given to the Prophet, peace be upon him, while it was only a place for worship for others and was not a means of purification, because Jesus used to walk around and pray whenever prayer was due. Al-Dawudi said likewise before him. It was also said that they [the previous generations]  were authorized to perform prayer in places known for sure to be pure, whereas this ummah is authorized to pray anywhere on earth except in the places known for sure to be impure. The strongest opinion is that of al-Khattabi who says that earlier nations were authorized to perform prayer in special places like synagogues and churches. This is confirmed by the wording of the narration of Ibn Shu`ayb “And before me people prayed in their churches.” This is a controversial [?] wording but the specificity was established [??]. This is supported by the narration of al-Bazzar from the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas similar to the present hadith which includes “Prophets did not pray until they reached their chamber”. [9]

Before we close this issue, one should realize that verse 17:1 also speaks of “The Sacred Mosque” which is in Makkah around the Ka`bah. Did a building for the mosque exist there in the time of the Prophet? The answer is that the Ka`bah was there but there was no building for the mosque. This further adds to the argument that the word masjid in this verse refers to a place of performing the prostration and does not imply the presence of a “building” in the modern understanding.

The above understanding of the wordmasjid as a place of worship not building per se is also well supported by archaeological and historic evidence. Below we present a picture of an early mosque in a place called Besor in Occupied Palestine. [10]



Moshe Sharon comments about the Besor mosque. He says:

To the west of the village on the top of the hill, overlooking the valley and the houses of the village, was the threshing floor, and to the south of it a small open mosque with a rectangular mihrab made of 3 blocks of stones [bottom figure]. The mosque was built to a height of probably two layers of stones, no more than 0.5 m., and was almost square, about 3 x 3 m. and could contain no more than 8-10 men at a time. [11]

There are many other examples of early mosques from Negev region that are nothing but a few stones arranged to mark the mihrab. [12,13]





It is clear from the above pictures that a mosque is simply a place where Muslims prostrate in prayer. It does not need an

elaborate building to be called a mosque. The open mosques that we have seen above do exist even today in Middle East and North Africa.

Concerning early mosques, Creswell states:

… their [i.e., Muslims’]  architectural resources, before they started in their career of conquest, were barely enough to give expression to their needs. In other words Arabia constituted an almost perfect architectural vacuum…The first mosques in the great hiras, or half nomadic encampments of the conquest, such as Basra, Kufa and Fustat, were primitive in the extreme, and in Syria the first mosques were churches that had been converted or merely divided: In fact there is no reason for believing that any mosque was built as such in Syria until the time of al-Walid (705-15) or possibly ‘Abd al-Malik (685-705), for over a generation the Arabs remained quite untouched by any architectural ambitions… [14]

It is worth noting that the Prophet disliked extravagance and impressive architecture in buildings, especially mosques. The relative simplicity of early mosques is in fact a historical example of how the Prophet’s Companions diligently followed his wishes. This is true to a greater extent even today.

Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa: A Place Of Prostration For Jews

The Qur’an refers to al-Aqsa as a masjid, a place of prostration. Was this place used for prostration in early times?

Al-Masjid al-Aqsa and the surrounding area (i.e., Dome of the Rock among others) is usually identified with the place where the Temple of Solomon once stood. Bet ha-Miqdash, as the Temple is usually known in Jewish literature, was primarily a place of assembly for the entire people, for purposes of sacrifice, prayer, and thanksgiving. It is in the prayer ritual that prostrations were performed by the priests. Encyclopaedia Judaica provides an interesting account of the prayer ritual by the priests of the Temple.

The priest who had gathered the coals entered the sanctuary first, scattered them over the incense altar, prostrated himself, and departed. Then the priest who was chosen by lot to offer the incense entered, bearing the pan of incense in his hand. He was accompanied by a priest appointed for this task who instructed him in the proper ritual, and he did not offer it until he was told: “Offer the incense!” The officiating priest waited until the space between the hall and the altar was cleared of people, offered up the incense, prostrated himself, and departed (Tam. 6; Kelim end of ch. 1). During the offering of the incense in the sanctuary, the people used to gather in the azarah for prayer, and even outside the Temple these times were set aside for prayer (cf. Luke 1:10; Judith 9:1). After the departure of the priest who had offered the incense, all the priests filed into the sanctuary, prostrated themselves, and went out again. [15]

It is interesting to note that the Temple was considered as the only place of prostration by some Rabbis and that they would refuse to completely prostrate outside the Temple in Jerusalem. [16]

The Jewish concept of worship has extensive vocabulary, out of which hishtahawah, “to prostrate oneself,” is the most frequently used in the Hebrew Bible (86 times). [17]

Yet Another Problem!

In the same article, the missionaries express another objection:

In Yusuf Ali’s commentary on this verse we read: “The Farthest Mosque must refer to the site of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem…” So, it is interpreted to be not the building itself, but only the site, the location where it had been. I might be wrong, but this seems to be contradicted by a hadith and Muhammad’s understanding that Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a is something that is built, not just a location. Al-Masjid-ul-Haram after all was a building.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 636:

Narrated Abu Dhaar:

I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Which mosque was built first?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Haram.” I asked, “Which (was built) next?” He replied, “Al-Masjid-ul-Aqs-a (i.e. Jerusalem).” I asked, “What was the period in between them?” He replied, “Forty (years).” He then added, “Wherever the time for the prayer comes upon you, perform the prayer, for all the earth is a place of worshipping for you.”

This hadith actually introduces yet another problem. Abraham supposedly (re)built the Kaaba, (and Abraham lived about 2000 BC) and the Temple was built by Solomon in about 958-951 BC, then Muhammad gave another historically false information based on a major confusion about the time when these people lived.

Firstly, we have already shown that the word masjid does not necessarily refer to a building but rather to a location, i.e., the place of prostration. Secondly, the missionaries try to deceive the readers in the above paragraphs. Indeed, they admit the Islamic opinion that Abraham rebuilt the Ka`bah (it was Adam who built it originally according to the Islamic tradition), but for unjustified reason they overlook the Islamic traditions addressing the construction of the farthest mosque, presumably to generate a “contradiction”. 

They identify the Farthest Mosque with the Temple of Solomon without further justification, and point out an error that they had invented themselves. Let us for example see what Imam Ibn Hajar says about this hadith in Fath al-Bari:

His saying (40 years) 
Ibn al-Jawzi said: It raises a problem since Abraham built the Ka`bah and Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis [another name of al-Masjid al-Aqsa cf. Hebrew Bet ha-Miqdash] and there are 1,000 years between them. His evidence for saying that it is Solomon – peace be upon him – who built the Farthest Mosque is the narration of al-Nasa’i from the hadith of `Abd Allah Ibn `Amr Ibn al-`As attributed to the Prophet with an authentic isnad that “When Solomon built Bayt al-Maqdis he asked God the Most High for three things etc.” and in al-Tabarani from the hadith of Rafi` Ibn `Umayrah that “David – peace be upon him – started building Bayt al-Maqdis but God inspired him: I shall accomplish its building with Solomon” and the hadith has a story. He[Ibn al-Jawzi] said: “The answer to that is that the mention concerns the first construction and the foundation of the mosque and it is not Abraham who built the Ka`bah for the first time nor is it Solomon who built Bayt al-Maqdis for the first time. Indeed, we have narrated that the first one who built the Ka`bah is Adam. Then his progeny spread out on earth. Therefore, it is possible that one of them built Bayt al-Maqdis. Later, Abraham (re)built the Ka`bah according to the Qur’an.” Likewise, al-Qurtubi said: The hadith does not indicate that Abraham and Solomon were the first ones to build the two mosques. It was only a renovation of what had been founded by others.  [18]

After quoting other opinions, Ibn Hajar insists:

But the possibility mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi is more pertinent. And I found evidence supporting those who say that it is Adam who founded both mosques. For instance, Ibn Hisham mentioned in “Kitab al-Tijan” that when Adam built the Ka`bah, God ordered him to walk to Bayt al-Maqdis and build it and so he did and offered worship in it. And the construction of the House [Arabic: al-Bayt, i.e., the Ka`bah] is famous and we have mentioned earlier the hadith of ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Amr that the House was elevated in the time of the flood until God showed Abraham its location. Ibn Abi Hatim narrated from the way of Ma’mar from Qatadah: God founded the House with Adam when he descended. But Adam missed the voices of the Angels and their prayers. Therefore, God told him: I sent down a House around which [people] will revolve like it is revolved around my Throne, so set out to it. Adam set out to Makkah – He had descended in India, and his steps were enlarged until he reached the House and revolved around it. It was also said that when he had prayed at the Ka`bah, he was ordered to set out to Jerusalem where he built a masjid [mosque]  and prayed therein so that it became a qiblah to a part of his progeny.  [19]

In summary, the verse 17:1 refers to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad. From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like Ibn Hajar and Ibn al-Jawzi showing that it was Adam who built both mosques for the first time and that the job of Abraham and Solomon was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries.


The word masjid from a linguistic point of view refers to a place of prostration without any religious distinction. From a legal point of view the word masjid in shari’ah constitutes every place on earth that is fit for prostration, whether or not it is a building.

The verse 17:1 may very well refer to the holy locations in Jerusalem and Makkah because they are blessed regardless of the presence or absence of a building at the time of the heavenly trip of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Jerusalem to the Heavens. From an Islamic point of view, evidence has been given by eminent Muslim scholars like IbnHajar and Ibn al-Jawzi who have discussed the issue. They have shown that it was Adam who built both mosques for the first time and that the duty of Abraham and Solomon was only a renovation/reconstruction of these sanctuaries.

And Allah knows best!

Appendix: Who Turned The Temple Mount Into A Garbage Dump??

Let’s now deal with some side issues. The Christian missionaries tell us that when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount filled with garbage:

“When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount abandoned and filled with refuse. … `Umar ordered it cleaned and performed a prayer there. The sanctuary [the Dome of the Rock] … was built by Caliph `Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan around 72/691.”

Two question now arise, who abandoned the Temple Mount and why was it filled it with rubbish? The facts become clearer when we actually fill in the blanks “…”  in the Christian missionaries’ quotation:

When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount abandoned and filled with refuse. The abandonment of the Temple site was in accordance with Jesus’ prophecy that not a stone would be left standing on another.`Umar ordered it cleaned and performed a prayer there. [20]

So, it was the Christians who abandoned the Temple some 600 years before the Muslims entered it. But who used the Holy place a rubbish dump?

Ever since the Persian occupation, when the Jews had resumed worship on the platform, the Christians had used the place as the city rubbish dump. When `Umar reached the old ruined gates of the Temple, says the Muslim historian Mujir al-Din, he was horrified to see the filth, “which was then all about the holy sanctuary, had settled on the steps of the gates so that it even came out into the streets in which the gate opened, and it had accumulated so greatly as almost to reach up the ceiling of the gateway.” The only way to get up to the platform was to crawl on hands and knees. Sophronius went first and the Muslims struggled up behind. When they arrived at the top, the Muslims must have gazed appalled at the vast and desolate expanse of Herod’s platform, still covered with piles of fallen masonry and garbage. [21]

It was the Christians! The Christian attitude towards Jerusalem can be understood by reading the New Testament. Paul’s Epistles and the Book of Revelation may have defined a theological framework for the attitude towards Jerusalem, but the two synoptic Gospels of Luke (19:42-44) and Matthew did more than that. They also provided guidelines for political or quaispolitical actions after Christianity became the officially established religion of the Roman Empire. The Gospels relate how Jesus rebuked his disciples when they admired the Temple’s beauty from the Mount of Olives: “His disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left any stone upon another.'” (Matthew 24:1-2).

Art historians such as Nuseibah and Grabar have reached a similar conclusion concerning the Christian attitude towards the Temple Mount:

More importantly, not only was the Haram left barren, but that very barrenness was given the Christian significance of fulfilling Christ’s prophecy, “There will not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). The ruins of the Jewish Temple and whatever else had been there were to remains as signs of the triumph of Christianity. [22]

Thus the Christians preferred to leave Temple as it was after its destruction; it was left abandoned and became a place of dumping city garbage. It would not be out of place to cite the attitude towards Jerusalem in the early Christian literature. We will take the examples from the writings of John Chrysostom and Athanasius, both of them contemporaries. John Chrysostom of Antioch was the founding father of Christian anti-semitism, whose writing against Jews are extremely vitriolic and of bad taste (no wonder the Christian Church honoured him!).[23] He lived during the period (4th century CE) when Christian eschatology was being linked to Jerusalem or (euphemistically) the Temple Mount. In the wake of Jewish proselytizing efforts, which he feared would empty the churches, Chrysostom vented unbridled wrath against the Jews of Antioch, levelling various accusations against Jews and Judaism. He censured the Jews for celebrating Passover outside Jerusalem, thereby disobeying their own commandments. [24] Above all, he claimed that Jerusalem’s destruction testified the truth of Christianity. Jerusalem has been in ruins and lost to the Jews for three hundred years; why should they await a change? [25] They tried to rebuild the Temple three times – in the time of Hadrian (Bar Kochba revolt), Constantine (an unknown attempt) and Julian. All the attempts failed. It should make amply clear to the Jews that their status will not change. It is true that the prophets referred to an end to exile, but they did not mean the present exile, which is eternal. [26] In this way, Jerusalem’s status came to be identified by the Christians with the fate of Jews; the latter’s final, eternal defeat.

Like his contemporary John Chrysostom, Athanasius was involved in anti-Jewish polemics but not as bitterly as the former.[27] Athanasius thought that the incorporation of Jerusalem into Christian Empire provides the proof of new religion’s truth. According to Jesus’ prophecy, the Holy City as well as Temple have been taken from them forever.

The Christian Jerusalem, before of the advent of Islam, had undergone subtle developments. The Christians had appropriated a body of Jewish traditions concerning the Temple Mount (some of them mentioned in the New Testament) and were now applied to the Church of Holy Sepulchre and Church of Resurrection. The process of “consecration” of Jerusalem and making it into a Christian city met with little opposition; the pagans had no opposition, while the Jews had not been permitted to reside in Jerusalem since the time of Hadrian (the Bar Kochba revolt). And as expected the Temple Mount was left in the state of pile of fallen masonry and rubbish.

It was Islam that restored the sanctity of Temple Mount, and made it a place of prostration and prayer of One God.


[1] `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur’an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), p. 271.

[2] A. Duncan, The Noble Sanctuary: Portrait Of A Holy Place In Arab Jerusalem, 1972, Middle East Archive: London (UK), p. 24.

[3] Badr al-Din bin Muhammad bin Bahadir al-Zarkashi, I`lam Al-Sajid Bi-Ahkam Al-Masajid, 1995, Dar al-Kutub al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut (Lebanon), p. 13.

[4] N. Robinson, Discovering The Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach To A Veiled Text, 1996, SCM Press Ltd.: London, p. 192.

[5] See for example the recent work of Heribert Busse, “The Destruction Of The Temple And Its Reconstruction In The Light Of Muslim Exegesis Of Sura 17:2-8”,Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1996, Volume 20, p. 1.

[6] Al-Zarkashi, I`lam Al-Sajid Bi-Ahkam Al-Masajid, op. cit., pp. 13-14.

[7] ibid., p. 14.

[8] Sahih al-Bukhari, available online.

[9] Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari available online.

[10] M. Sharon, Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarium Palaestinae, 1999, Volume II, Brill: Leiden, see plates P29 and P30.

[11] ibid., p. 172.

[12] G. Avni, “Early Mosques In The Negev Highlands: New Archaeological Evidence On Islamic Penetration Of Southern Palestine”,Bulletin Of The American Schools Of Oriental Research, 1994, Volume 294, pp. 83-100. All the pictures are taken from here.

[13] U. Avner & J. Magness, “Early Islamic Settlement In The Southern Negev”, Bulletin Of The American Schools Of Oriental Research, 1998, Volume 310, pp. 39-57. This articles throws further light on an early Islamic open mosque and a settlement.

[14] K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account Of Early Muslim Architecture, 1968, Librairie Du Liban, Beirut, pp. 15-16.

[15] “Temple”, Encyclopaedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition), 1997, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Limited.

[16] “Tahnum”, ibid.

[17] “Worship”, ibid.

[18] See ref. 4.

[19] ibid.

[20] “Dome Of The Rock” in C. Glassé,The Concise Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1989, Stacey International: London, p. 102.

[21] K. Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, Ballantine Books: New York, p. 229.

[22] S. Nuseibah & Oleg Grabar, The Dome Of The Rock, 1996, Thames and Hudson: London (UK), p. 35.

[23] St. John Chrysostom (translated by P. W. Harkins), Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, 1979, The Catholic University Of America Press: Washington, DC.

[24] ibid., See discourse IV: 4.9, 5.1-3, 6.1-5.

[25] ibid., See discourse V: 3.13-15; also 5.10

[26] ibid., See discourse V: 4.5.

[27] St. Athanasius (translated by C. S. M. V.), The Incarnation Of The Word Of God: Being The Treatise Of St. Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, 1944, The Centenary Press: London (UK), see the chapter VI, “Refutation Of The Jews”, p. 64.

In Qur’an, Does Allah Promise Israel to Jews??

Initially, there is nothing in Surah Al-Israa or Bani Israel to justify that Palestine belongs to the Jews; and not anywhere in the Qur’an. In Surah Al-Israa, Allah is telling us at the beginning that Bani Israel will corrupt twice in the Earth. At the end of the chapter, it says that Allah will bring them forth from everywhere; we read what means:

{And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture: indeed you would do mischief in the land twice and you will become tyrants and extremely arrogant!} (17:4)

{And We said to the Children of Israel after him: “Dwell in the land, then, when the final and the last promise comes near [i.e. the Day of Resurrection or the descent of Christ [‘Îsa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) on the earth], We shall bring you altogether as mixed crowd (gathered out of various nations). (Tafsir Al-Qurtubi,)} (17:104)

Scholars have concluded that the second mischief must be during our current time since the Jews did gather from everywhere as Allah told us above, in the state of Israel.

In summary, Allah asked the Jews who were in Egypt with Moses (peace be upon him) to enter Palestine but they refused until later generation when David (peace be upon him) did. At that time, the people who lived in it were ruthless invaders; They themselves were invaders of the land.

The point here is that Allah told the believers from Bani Israel (the word Jews was invented later) to enter Palestine and drive those invaders out and not the original inhabitants.

The prophets who ruled were David and Solomon both prophets of Islam since all prophets from Adam to Muhammad (peace be upon them all) preached Islam.

Allah mentions about this subject mainly in Surah Al-Baqarah, the second chapter in the Quran. For details, you need to read the articles referenced at the end.

At this point in time, Palestine belongs to Israelis. Before the second world war it belonged to Palestinians.

If you ask me as a Muslim, Palestine belongs to Muslims, Christians and Jews because there is history in this land for all these three religions.

However, currently there is oppression from the Israelis side because both Muslims and Christians are deprived from certain areas of the land; in addition to the expansion of Israeli settlements on the account of the original inhabitants.

There are no shortages of opinions on this matter. Human rights abuses occur all around us and some of these problems are easy to resolve. Unfortunately, some problems, like the topic of Palestine/Israel, are much more complicated now than they were when they began.

I don’t want to get into an in-depth history lesson here, so suffice it to say that for the greatest part of Islamic history, from Prophet Muhammad’s time to today, even before that actually, the name of that region was known to all as Palestine, and the vast majority of its inhabitants were Muslims.

Historically Palestine belongs to Muslims. In the past century, there was a struggle of control between Arabs and Zionists. Currently, there is a struggle for Palestinian survival and identity as most of their land has been occupied and taken away by “settlers”.

In the beliefs of some Jews and Christians this land was called Israel based on scriptures. However, their books, as we know, have been tailored with.

The only time that Palestine was under the control of Israel’s descendants, the 12 tribes of Prophet Jacob, peace be upon him, was during the time of Prophets David and Solomon, peace be upon them.

Since they were prophets of God and did no injustice to anyone, they are both, along with their followers considered to be Muslims in the religious sense, but Jews in ethnicity.

Most of the early history of the 12 tribes of Israel/Jacob, of which Moses, peace be upon him, was a member, was spent in the land of Egypt, not Palestine.

Since the time of David and Solomon, peace be upon them, there has been very minimal presence or power over the land by any Jewish government until the last 70 years or so.

If we believe that land belongs to those who are in control of it, lived there for a significantly long period of time (centuries?) then the best claim to Palestine is with people who have lived there for centuries. This includes Muslims, Christians, Jews, or any other person.

To say that this land belongs to Jews exclusively disregards the rights of inhabitants of other ethnic backgrounds or religious beliefs whose history on that land goes back hundreds of years.
Control of Palestine, except for about 100 years of Crusader occupations, was continuously and firmly under control of Muslim governments.

It is only in the last 100 years or so that outside influence, namely British/French/American/Zionist forces have struggled to take control of this land from its Palestinian inhabitants.

Prior to that, it was the Ottoman Caliphate that governed Palestine continuously for over 700 years. Christians and Jews were guaranteed their rights to their lands and property. Control of lands by Caliphates and Muslim governments over the centuries has primarily been characterized by respect to properties of non-Muslims.

That is why the earliest churches and Jewish temples still exist in Palestine, and why Christians and Jews with centuries of history in Palestine still live there.

The problems that exist today in Palestine are a result of Zionists trying to force Palestinian Christians and Muslims off of their ancestral lands in order to make way for non-Palestinian Jews.

Palestine has been the home of Christian, Muslim and Jewish families since the beginnings of each. To chase people off their ancestral land is unjust, especially when based merely on religious beliefs.

Further Reading:
Refuting the Jewish Claim of Their So-Called ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine

[Part-2] Refuting the Jewish Claim of Their So-Called ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine

[Part-2] Refuting the Jewish Claim of Their So-Called ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine

Continued from ➡ Refuting the Jewish Claim of Their So-Called ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine

The Stone Which the Jews Rejected

Luke 20:9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. Luke 20:10  When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Luke 20:11  And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. Luke 20:12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Luke 20:13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son (servant the Messiah); perhaps they will respect him.’ Luke 20:14  But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’  Luke 20:15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? Luke 20:16  He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” Luke 20:17  But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Luke 20:18  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” [English Standard Version]

How did the Jewish people come to occupy Palestine originally? According to their own Scriptures, it was done by vicious murder and genocide. They conquered a land already occupied by indigenous peoples. Supposedly this was done by the command of God; but God also warned them that if they departed from Him and His commandments, He would drive them out of the land again, and “curse” them. According to their Scriptures and history, God did indeed drive them out by means of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

Then God permitted them to return again to Judea and Jerusalem, but he also gave a prophecy to Daniel (9:24-27) that they would once again violate God’s covenant, and a ‘decreed end’ would come upon the nation of Israel. Within a period of 490 years (“70 weeks” of years – 70×7 years) “Messiah” would appear and then be “cut off” from them; and after that the “people of the Prince” would come and thoroughly destroy the city and Temple.

Again history tells us that this did indeed occur when the Roman army conquered Judea and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple (in A.D. 70). Many orthodox Jews recognize that this destruction was the punishment of God for their sins; they maintain that they have a commandment from God to submit humbly to God’s punishment and not take any steps, particularly military, to remove themselves from the punishment and reinstate themselves in their “ancestral land”. They must live peacefully in whatever lands to which they have been dispersed by God’s retribution, and pray for the peace and welfare of those lands. They totally repudiate Zionism, and say that the only hope for peace in the Middle East is for the Israeli government to be disbanded and government of the whole land restored to the Palestinian peoples (including the Muslims, Christians, and Jews who lived there before Zionist Israeli occupation took place). They say that no Zionist can be a true Jew, and no true Jew can be a Zionist.

Those who are Christians should repudiate Zionism, because Jesus himself – in the parable related in Matthew 21:33-46 – explicitly stated that as a result of their rejection of him (“Messiah the Prince”) and his message, the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to another nation which would – unlike the Jewish people – bring forth appropriate ‘fruit’ for the kingdom. Mat 21:42  Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Mat 21:43  Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people  (“ethnos” – which means “nation”; the Jews use it to refer to nations other than the Jews, and it is frequently translated “Gentiles”) producing its fruits. Mat 21:44  And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”  There is simply no room in that prophecy for a revived “kingdom of the Jews” in the sight of God. When God brought the Roman army on Jerusalem, it signified “the end” for Jewish leadership in God’s kingdom. The Jewish people no longer occupy a special place in God’s favor (if they ever did), and have no ‘Divine right’ to any piece of real estate.

We Muslims of course recognize in this prophecy of the Prophet Jesus that the other nation to which the kingdom would be given – instead of the Jewish nation – is that other branch of the Abrahamic family which God promised to make a great nation: the family of Ishmael. This is the “stone” which the Jewish builders rejected, but God has made the “chief cornerstone” in His kingdom.

Despite all of this, however, the Zionist movement arose in the late 19th Century, calling for the Jewish people to retake Palestine and establish a Jewish nation there. In the 1940s they accomplished their mission, with the help of several ‘western’ governments, by means of terrorism and military violence. Their slogan was “A people without a land for a land without a people”. What could be more vicious than that slogan and the attitude it represents? It was either an outright lie – that Palestine had no occupants, so who could object to Jews moving to a vacant territory? – or it was, even worse, a statement that the Palestinians who were at that time inhabiting the land were sub-human, not even worthy to be considered people! Who could object to the Zionist Jews slaughtering a bunch of animals in order to retake their land?

While one could hope that they were ‘only’ telling an outright lie, the only real conclusion that can be reasonably reached based on the actions and statements of Israeli leaders since then is that the second alternative is the correct one. The Zionists don’t consider the Palestinians to even be people. No wonder what the Satan Netanyahu can state, without blushing in shame, that the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers in “Judea and Samaria”. How can you be foreign occupiers in a land which was previously inhabited only by animals?

Is it that those innocent  Palestinians shouldn’t object at all to being violently driven from their houses and lands???

The traditional Christian understanding of “the stone which the builders rejected” is that it refers to Jesus Christ himself. It’s the interpretation which the Christians accept.  In fact, it seems so obvious to them that it never occurred that there might be any other possible understanding of the reference. We Muslim interpreters insist that the “stone” was in fact the Arab people descended from Ishmael, to whom the Message of the Qur’an was given through the Prophet Muhammad – and from whom a ‘mountain’ has arisen which fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35 in the ‘Old Testament’ of the Bible).

Because it was so obvious to the Christians that the “stone” was Jesus Christ himself, they will naturally think that this Muslim interpretation is absurd – an evidence of Muslims trying too hard to find Islam and Muhammad in Biblical prophecy. They definitely will not just immediately exclaim: “That’s right! Why couldn’t we see that before?”

However, they should continue to give it consideration, and seek out Muslim writers who could give a clear explanation of why they understood the prophecy in this way. This should ‘opened their eyes’; but this explanation now will seem clear and simple to them.

The whole point of the parable, of course, was to reach the conclusion that the Jewish “tenants” of the “vineyard” (God’s kingdom) had failed so miserably in their duty, and had proven to be so treacherous toward God, that their honored position in the kingdom would be removed from them and another people would be given that position – another people who would produce the ‘fruit’ of the kingdom and render it up to God. That is the inevitable conclusion of the parable, and in Matthew’s account the listeners themselves were so taken in by the parable that they themselves rendered the verdict that the “tenants” would be destroyed by the owner of the vineyard and others would get the lease.

By the way, this is an example in the Gospels that clearly shows the Bible is not inerrantly ‘inspired’. In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus asked the question  “What will he do to those tenants”, it was the listeners who responded with the verdict that those “wretches” would be killed and the vineyard leased to others. In Mark and Luke, though, it was Jesus who answered his own question. In fact, in Luke, the listeners were so far from rendering the verdict themselves that they responded “surely not” when Jesus gave the verdict. (I love the way the King James Version renders the phrase: “God forbid!”  However, “surely not” is actually a closer rendering of the phrase. “God” is not present in the Greek phrase. More literally, it would be “Let it not be”.) However, this is also a good example to show that while the details of the story may vary (and in fact are technically contradictory), the point of the story is not affected.

Notice, then, that it is in support of this verdict that the tenants are to be replaced with other more faithful people that Jesus refers to Psalm 118:22: “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?” The point of the parable was not that one of the emissaries of the owner would be restored in order to collect the rightful ‘fruit’ – not even the “son” who had been killed – but that the tenants themselves would be replaced. The point of Jesus’ quotation of the Psalm was that the Jewish Scriptures themselves declared this very thing.

In Matthew, this is clear in that immediately following the listeners’ verdict that the treacherous tenants would be killed and replaced, Jesus said  “Have you never read in the Scriptures…?” In other words, it’s as if he had said “Isn’t that precisely what the Psalmist said?” Then Jesus followed up the quotation with his own conclusion: Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” He did not say “Therefore I tell you, the son (servant) whom you will treacherously try to slay will be resurrected to inherit the kingdom.” Then, immediately after saying that another nation/people will be given the kingdom of God, he says “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” There is nothing in the statements of Jesus to indicate that the stone was a person rather than a “people/nation”, and everything to indicate that the “stone” and the “nation” were one and the same.

If possible, this conclusion is even clearer in Luke’s account of the parable. In his account, the listeners had exclaimed “surely not” when Jesus said that the tenants would be destroyed and the vineyard leased to others. Jesus responded by saying  “What then is this that is written…?” Nothing could be clearer than that Jesus was asking how they could object to his conclusion, since the Psalmist had said the same thing: the Jewish nation which was currently the “cornerstone” in God’s kingdom – but which had failed miserably in its duty to bring the kingdom to all nations according to the promise to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) – would be replaced by another “stone” which the Jewish builders had rejected; and that “stone” would produce the intended “fruit”.

Who that other nation/stone was should have been obvious to those who were familiar with the Hebrew Torah and the promises made to Abraham. God not only promised to make a great nation or nations from the seed of Abraham’s second son Isaac, but he promised that he would produce a great nation from the seed of Ishmael (Genesis 17:20 and 21:13 and 18). The Jewish “builders” weren’t too pleased with that, though. Although they did not entirely delete God’s promise concerning Ishmael from their Scriptures, they tried to obscure and cover it up as much as possible. After the Genesis 17:20 promise that God would bless Ishmael and make him fruitful, making a great nation of him, He then proceeded to say in verse 21 “And [or also] I will establish my covenant with Isaac…” But the Jews (and Christians) have, without any logical reason at all, read that as But I will establish my covenant with Isaac”; as if it were being said “but My blessing of Ishmael is really inconsequential; my real blessing and covenant will be with Isaac.”

Although Isaac was never at any time Abraham’s “only son”, they nevertheless inserted Isaac into the story  of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his “only son” as if Ishmael didn’t exist (Genesis 22:2 ff) . When God promised to bless Ishmael and make him fruitful, He said (Genesis 16:12) “He shall be a fruitful man, his hand with every man and every man’s hand with him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his kinsmen.” However, to show their hatred of Ishmael, the Jews (and Christians following in their footsteps) distorted that by claiming “fruitful man” should be read “wild ass of a man”, and “with” should be read “against”. (We will post on it later)

When Sarah (in Genesis 21) became upset at Ishmael’s laughter, the Jews have interpreted that laughter to be laughing at (mocking) Isaac (although the text itself only says that Sarah saw Ishmael laughing – not laughing at anyone or anything). The Christian apostle Paul even interpreted this to mean that Ishmael was persecuting Isaac (Galatians 4:29). The Ishmaelites don’t figure much in the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures because the Jews figured they were at best unimportant. At worst, the Jews despised the Arab descendants of Ishmael.

Who else, then, could the nation/stone which the Jewish “builders” rejected be but that great nation descended from Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael? The promise of God to Abraham had been that in him all nations would be blessed. When the descendants of Isaac were rejected by God, then the descendants of that other son replaced them. God raised up a prophet from the seed of Ishmael; his Arab brothers embraced his/His message; and instead of thinking that they should hoard God’s blessing to themselves (as the Jews did), they fulfilled the duty of God’s covenant by bringing the message of God to all the nations.

The Christian Church did indeed keep alive the name of Jesus Christ, and expanded greatly. But while doing so, it distorted the message so greatly that it can hardly be recognized for “the way” that Jesus proclaimed. When Christianity became allied with the Roman Empire, it was more a defeat for the “Christian” version of the kingdom of God than a triumph. Rome conquered Christianity rather than vice versa. Only the Message of God through Muhammad, originally delivered to the nation descended from Ishmael, has spread the message – in its purity – of God’s kingdom throughout the earth. This “nation” has indeed been a faithful and fruitful “cornerstone” in the kingdom of God.

I would like to say more about the intriguing nature of the use of the word “stone” for the Islamic “nation”.

The Stone That the Builders Rejected

I presented reasons why I have come to believe that Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 118:22, 23 had reference to the Muslim “nation” beginning with Muhammad and his Arab kin – the “great nation” which God promised Abraham from the descendents of his son Ishmael.

Here, I want to explain why I believe the use of the concept of a “stone” to refer to the descendents of Ishmael as the “foundation” of God’s kingdom on earth is very appropriate – and also answer an objection to my interpretation of the prophecy.

Perhaps we don’t think of it very much, but the use of stones as altars to serve as focuses in the worship of the One God was common among the “fathers” of Judeo-Christian faith. Genesis 12:8 tells of Abraham building an altar at Bethel. Genesis 28:18, 19 tells of Abraham’s grandson Jacob taking a single stone which he had used as a pillow, making it a pillar, anointing it with oil, and making a vow to the LORD – which also is said to have taken place at Bethel. In Joshua 4 we are told that the Israelites, by God’s command, gathered 12 stones to set up as a remembrance after crossing the Jordan River.

As I’m sure is well known, Islam also has a very famous Black Stone which is a centerpiece in the Ka’ba in Mecca. The Qur’an explains that Abraham and Ishmael built the Ka’ba as a House of God in the place now known as Mecca, and set up the Black Stone. This stone is said by tradition to have come down from heaven. Some believe it is meteorite stone, though I don’t believe that has been officially confirmed.

Now despite the fact that no one seems to think Abraham, Jacob, or the Israelites were guilty of idolatry when they used stones as holy altars, anointed them with oil, and used them in their worship of God, many Jews (and Christians) delight in ridiculing Muslims as idolaters for their reverence for the Black Stone as ‘part’ of their worship of the One God. Quite literally, this is a stone which the Jewish builders rejected. And that is why it was so apropos that the Psalmist and Jesus should refer to a stone when prophesying that another nation would replace the Jews as the cornerstone in the kingdom of God. The Jewish ‘builders’ rejected the nation descended from Ishmael, and they rejected the center of worship in Mecca, with its Black Stone. Therefore, the “stone” is properly a metonym for the people and religion with which it is associated.

There have been various theories as to the origin of this stone. Some believe it is a meteorite or a fragment of one; others believe it might be volcanic rock. Whatever its origin, it was definitely not hewn by human hands from a mountain or quarry. Therefore, it fits beautifully with Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:31-45. In that dream, Nebuchadnezzar had seen a huge statue. Dan 2:32  The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, Dan 2:33  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. Dan 2:34  As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Dan 2:35  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

The different metals in the statue represented 4 different kingdoms or empires, with the 4thbecoming divided (iron mixed with clay). Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian kingdom were represented by the golden head. The silver chest and arms represented the Medo-Persian Empire which followed Babylon. Afterward came the bronze middle and thighs, which represented the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great. Finally, the legs and feet of iron mixed with clay represented the Roman Empire – which became divided into Eastern (Byzantine) and Western sections.

But Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone cut out without human hands which struck the feet of the statue, which were a mixture of iron and clay. This caused the statue to collapse and be destroyed, and the stone itself became a great mountain filling the earth. This stone which destroyed the statue and became a great mountain is interpreted by Daniel to mean a great kingdom which the God of heaven would set up “in the days of those kings”. This kingdom would destroy the other kingdoms, and would itself never be destroyed or left for another people.

So here we are presented with 4 consecutive Empires or Kingdoms beginning with Babylon, with no break in between them; and then a 5thkingdom or Empire which arises “in the days of those kings”  – specifically, in the last days of the 4th kingdom when it was in a weak state. It seems hard for me, now, to avoid the understanding that the 5th kingdom, set up by the God of heaven and represented by a stone cut out without human hands, is none other than the religion and Empire of Islam which originated with the Arabian descendents of Ishmael and spread out to “the whole earth”. It is a kingdom which in point of fact did arise in the last days of the weakened Roman Empire, and wound up putting the finishing touch to that Empire (and indeed the whole ‘statue’) when it conquered Constantinople (the Capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire – present day Istanbul) in 1453 A.D.

This “kingdom” remains intact to this day. Despite some parts of that vast kingdom having been conquered by invaders from time to time, it remains distinctively Muslim (submitted to the One God) in character. Even the Mongol hordes converted to Islam after they conquered Islamic nations. The conquerors were themselves ‘conquered’ by the religion of the One God. This kingdom has indeed not been left to another people.

Now this prophecy of the “stone cut out without hands”  in Daniel fits very well with Jesus’ prophecy of “the stone which the builders rejected”. As Daniel had predicted that the kingdom would never be destroyed or left to another people, Jesus said that “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him”  (Luke 20:18). In Psalm 118, from which the quotation about “the stone that the builders rejected” is taken, the context is of a victorious conqueror. “(7) The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me… (10) All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!… (15) Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the LORD does valiantly’…”

In Daniel 2:44, the stone which crushes the statue is specifically said to be a kingdom, not a king. This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ prophecy, confirming that “the stone that the builders rejected” is the people/nation which replaced the Jews as the ‘cornerstone’ in God’s kingdom, not the ‘son’ and ‘heir’ of the kingdom whom the ‘tenants’ killed.

All of these things fit so well together! The nation and kingdom which replaced the nation and kingdom of the Jews as the cornerstone of God’s kingdom is that ‘great nation’ which descended from Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael, which has filled/is filling the earth. And this kingdom is very fittingly represented by a “stone cut out without hands…which the builders rejected”.

This leaves us with the objection that the apostle Peter specifically ascribes to Jesus himself the honor of being “the stone that the builders rejected” (Acts 4:11, and 1 Peter 5:7). Nothing could be more explicit than the statement in Acts 4:11: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.”  What can I say to this? Doesn’t this undermine my whole argument which I have gone to such great lengths to establish?

If Peter and the other apostles were in fact the infallible spokesmen that many Christians claim them to be, then it would certainly be true that Peter by that one simple statement completely destroyed my argument. However, that’s simply not the case. The Biblical authors and apostles are atrocious interpreters of the “Old Testament”. Take as an example ‘Matthew’s’ statement in Matt. 2:15 that the infant Jesus was taken by his parents to Egypt, and then brought back to Galilee and Judea, in order to fulfill Hosea 11:1 – “Out of Egypt I called my son”. When one actually looks up that ‘prophecy’ of Hosea, he/she discovers that Hosea was not making a prediction about a future Messiah; instead he was making a reference to the deliverance of the Jewish people (whom God is said to call “My son”) from Egyptian slavery hundreds of years before Hosea wrote his prophecy. Hosea is pointing out the ungratefulness of the Jewish nation for the blessings they had received from God, not predicting that a baby way off in the future would spend a short period of time in Egypt before being brought back home.

Another example can be found in the letter named “Hebrews” in the New Testament. In 2:13, the author quoted Isaiah 8:18 –  “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”  The writer of Hebrews would have us believe that the speaker in Isaiah’s prophecy was Jesus Christ, and the “children whom the LORD has given me”  were the children of God whom God gave to Jesus as his brothers. Yet that is clearly not the case. Isaiah was talking about himself and his own children. God had given him those children, and told him to give them very symbolic names (like “a remnant shall return”, “haste, haste to the spoil”, and “God is with us”), so that they would serve as signs and symbols for the Jewish people. The writer of Hebrews in fact winds up making a mockery of the prophetic Scriptures by the way he used them. By that system of “hermeneutics” (interpretation), one can make statements mean anything one wishes. I could use God’s commandment to Abraham to leave his country and kindred, and go to a land that He would show him, as a “prophecy” about Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt by the command of the angel!

There are plenty of other examples of such clearly wrong “interpretations” of the Old Testament by New Testament writers. Consider the examples of Peter himself in Acts 1:20 – where he refers to short excerpts from Psalm 69 (verse 25) and Psalm 109 (verse 8 ) to find guidance for replacing Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ. I won’t deal with it here; just check it for yourself and see if by any stretch of the imagination those little snippets have anything to do with Judas and the apostles’ duty to replace him.

So I have no difficulty at all in acknowledging that Peter’s interpretation of “the stone that the builders rejected” is in error. It is understandable, inasmuch as the Jewish ‘builders’ did indeed reject Jesus (as they did many other prophets before him); but Peter is clearly in conflict with Jesus’ interpretation of the Psalm. I’ll accept Jesus’ interpretation over Peter’s.

Of course, one is free to question whether either Jesus or Peter got it right. Perhaps they’re both wrong, and the Psalmist was speaking only of himself. But I’m quite willing to believe that David was indeed a prophet, and he was speaking – by the Spirit of prophecy – of things future to him when he wrote that Psalm. The “I” in the Psalm was the coming deliverer who would bring God’s kingdom to the earth. The “stone” was the nation/kingdom of Ishmaelite descendents which he represented, and who would become the first followers of his God-given message.

The fact that the New Testament writers and apostles made errors in their handling of Old Testament Scriptures does not, of course, necessarily mean that they were always wrong – or even usually wrong. It does mean, though, that the exhortation of the apostle Paul is always relevant: “1Th 5:20 Do not despise prophecies, 1Th 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1Th 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil”(1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). No ‘prophet’ gets a free pass, giving him exemption from testing.

The Kingdom of God vs. The Kingdom(s) of This World

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another peopleIt shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end,  and it shall stand forever, Dan 2:45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.

Luke 20:15 “And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? Luke 20:16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” Luke 20:17 But he [Jesus – peace be to him] looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Luke 20:18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  John 16:9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; John 16:10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; John 16:11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (Quotations from the English Standard Version of the Bible).

Some people may think that the title of this sub-topic is inappropriate. They will say that there is no opposition between God’s kingdom and human government. They’re 2 entirely distinct “kingdoms”, each having its own sphere; and the 2 must never meet. God’s sphere is that which is “spiritual”, and only that; while the sphere of human government has to do strictly with the material world. God is not concerned with matters of human government and society, and human government is not concerned with the things of God and spirituality. So why should I speak as if they were in conflict with each other? As long as we don’t try to mix the 2 spheres, there’s no conflict. Right?

Well, actually that’s quite wrong. Anyone who is consistently a believer in the Almighty, Infinite, and Ineffable One must acknowledge that the Creator of all things is also the Sustainer and Governor of all things. It is quite untrue to say that God’s “sphere” is restricted to the “spiritual” as opposed to the material.

Ultimately, the problems societies face are the result of seeking to ignore God in political, social, and generally “every day” affairs – and consequently substituting other authorities in the place of the King of all the earth. An individual assumes the role of ultimate authority in government, or a group of men do, or “the people” are seen as the ultimate authority. Basically speaking, that is simply atheism; but many supposed “theists” rationalize this by establishing those “categories” or “spheres”.

Those who truly worship the LORD their God, and serve Him only, realize that the only human government which is good, honorable, and just is that government which is in submission to the law of God – Who rules over all things and all “spheres” of life. They pray and work for the “coming” of God’s kingdom to earth in such a way that the will of God will be done by humanity as willingly and voluntarily as it is done by the angels of God in heaven.

Even those Deists – such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison – who drew up the founding documents of the government of the United States of America recognized this fact. They may not have believed in infallibly inspired Prophets and Revelations, but they nevertheless believed in the law of God which can be found in nature and can be discerned by human reason and intuition. For them, the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” were the ultimate laws which supersede even the “will of the people”. Of course, “the people” may refuse to follow the laws of God; but the result will be unjust government.

Those theists, though, who do believe that God has not left it entirely up to human reason and intuition (which are very fallible) to discern correctly God’s law – and that He has sent Prophets from time to time with Revelation to shine light on the darkness of the human mind and reason – find that God has promised that the day would come when He would establish His own righteous government in the earth. He would shatter and crush all ungodly governments.

The Biblical statements quoted at the beginning of this article are examples of this promise of God, and hope of His people. Daniel, for instance, had interpreted a dream of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in which he had seen a giant statue representing human government throughout the ages – beginning with his own government. It was one statue or government, yet it was divided into four segments or kingdoms. Looking back historically, we can see that the four kingdoms which constituted one “statue” were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Then Nebuchadnezzar had seen a stone “cut out without human hands” which struck the statue on its toes (which were part of the fourth kingdom, Rome), and caused the whole statue (representing ungodly human government) to collapse. Then the stone itself grew to where it encompassed the whole earth – meaning the kingdom or people whom God would raise up as a godly kingdom would overthrow all the previous corrupt governments (which were in fact only one corrupt government in various forms) and establish God’s kingdom in their/its place.

I have now come to the conclusion that this “stone” which was “cut out without human hands” ( and which Jesus –peace be to him – called “the stone which the builders rejected”, referring to Psalm 118) is the “great nation” promised to Abraham through his son Ishmael – or rather beginning with that Ishmaelite nation, and then spreading to people throughout the earth. Just as Daniel had said that the stone would crush ungodly empires, so Jesus said that the stone would break and crush all its opponents.

Having said that concerning the nation/stone which would replace the nation of Israel as the cornerstone in God’s kingdom – and which would “bring forth the fruits” of that kingdom – he also spoke of a Prophet (“helper”, “counselor”, or “comforter”) who would come for the good of men after Jesus (peace be to him) departed. One of the reasons for the coming of this other Prophet was to “convict the world … concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged”. This “ruler of this world” is none other than the great statue, representing ungodly world government, which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream and which the Prophet Daniel explained. As there were 4 parts to the statue, so there were several manifestations of the “ruler of this world”; but the coming of the Prophet whom Jesus Christ predicted would indicate God’s judgment of this ruler (whether the ruler is a literal evil spirit named Satan, or a general evil principle pervading all government not submitted to the law of the One Creator and Sustainer of the worlds).

The great characteristic of the Religion of God, whose last Prophet was Muhammad, is simply that it proclaims the greatness and kingdom of God over all, and calls men to submit to God. The “kingdom” of Islam (submission to God) is that kingdom which “the God of heaven” has set up.

This “Muhammadan” Islam is not intended to be a separate religion from previous religions such as Judaism and Christianity, and in conflict with them. Rather the “Muhammadan” revelation is a continuation of, and fulfillment of, those religions. In fact, they all constitute the one “Religion of God” which is Islam (submission to the One God). The revelation given to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be to him and his family) just confirms the others, and ‘rescues’ them from corruption which had set in.

When God said to Muhammad,  “it is He who has sent forth His Apostle with [the task of] spreading guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over all [false] religion, however hateful this may be to those who ascribe divinity to aught but God” (Qur’an 61:9, Muhammad Asad version), the “religion of truth” spoken of is not “Islam” as opposed to Judaism, Christianity, or other monotheistic religions. It is the one “Islam” which pervades all those true religions, but which has reached its perfection in the revelation given to Muhammad.

Many Christians have fallen into the snare of thinking that because Jesus the Messiah/Christ/Anointed One said that his kingdom was “not of this world”, and that the kingdom of God is “within you”, we should not be concerned with seeking and establishing righteous and godly human government. They have fallen for the “separate spheres” mode of thinking. But Jesus Christ himself denied the correctness of that conclusion.

Yes it is true that God’s kingdom must begin within people, and spread outward. And it is true that Jesus himself was not the one appointed by God to smash and destroy ungodly human governments. But he said that another Prophet and Leader of another (non-Jewish) nation would come after him who would effectively demolish ungodly government and establish God’s kingdom in human society.

Those whose “eyes and ears are open” to God, and who love His kingdom, should be delighted to see God fulfilling His promise of His glory filling the earth as the waters cover the sea! But so many people are deathly afraid of the spread of Islam (submission to God) and “Shariah” (God’s law). As the Qur’an says in 24:48 –  When they are summoned to God and His apostle, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline (to come).   [Yusuf Ali English Version]. Why is that? Is it that there is a disease in their hearts? or do they doubt, or are they in fear, that God and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them? [Verse 50] I’m afraid that there is an underlying doubt of God’s goodness and trustworthiness in many people who are afraid of the “triumph” of the Religion of God. Such a doubt is of course in reality atheism or agnosticism. Those of us who claim to believe in the God of all the earth (and of all the worlds) should check ourselves carefully to make sure such a doubt of God does not lie secretly within us.

For myself, I can say that I am delighted to see the continued spread of Islam (submission to God) throughout the earth – even in the midst of tremendous opposition – because this is the spread of the Religion of God and the Kingdom of God; the Kingdom which the God of heaven has set up and which will certainly prevail over all false religion and government (religion and government which establishes other ‘gods’ or authorities beside the One) no matter how much those who serve other authorities than God may hate it. I believe, with Abraham, that “the Judge of all the earth will do right” and I have no fear of His religion as my rule and authority – though I certainly want to make sure whatever rule asserts itself to be “of God” is really what it claims to be. 

One of the basic premises of this Divine Revelation in the Qur’an is “freedom of religion”.  For instance: [2:256] There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.  [10: :99]  And [thus it is:] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldst compel people to believe..? As shown in the “Muhammadan” manifestation of the Religion of God, Islam (submission to God), is both multicultural and religiously pluralistic.

May God cause His light to shine upon us; and may His rightly guided leader (“Mahdi”) appear soon to lead us fully out of the mess we have  made of things and into a truly godly society with godly government.

Refuting the Jewish Claim of Their So-Called ‘Divine Right’ to Palestine

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Fundamentalist Christians and Zionist Jews vociferously proclaim the ‘Divine right’ of the Jews to statehood in Palestine, and are willing to joyously support all manner of Jewish atrocities done in order to kick others out of that land and keep them out. It was the support of western ‘Christian’ nations that originally (following World War 2) ‘granted’ the Jewish people the right to supplant the Palestinian Christians and Muslims who were at that time inhabiting the land. (Christian supporters of Israel conveniently overlook the fact that a large portion of Palestinians are in fact Christians; they’re not all ‘evil’ Muslims, whom some Christians love to hate). Any opposition to any Zionist Jewish acts, no matter how atrocious, is considered opposition to God and His purpose and Word.

So what is the basis of this supposed Divine right of Jews to the land of Canaan? Well, of course it is to be found in the promise of God to Abraham found in Genesis 17:8 – “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”  This is taken to be a true historical event, and is to be interpreted literally (according to the fundamentalist Christians, and Zionist Jews). And of course it is pointed out that this covenant is ‘everlasting’.

Now first of all, the word ‘everlasting’ means ‘for an age’; that is, for a long time – not ‘forever’ the way the Zionists want us to think of it. And secondly, despite this ‘everlasting’ covenant, the Hebrew Scriptures themselves warn that if the Jewish descendants of Abraham violated the terms of the covenant, God would ‘curse’ them and drive them out of the land (see Deuteronomy 28 and 29 for instance). According to these Scriptures, God even warned that he would violate His own promise due to their disobedience: “The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again”  (Deut. 28:68). The curses and threats in Deuteronomy were fulfilled by the Babylonians and Assyrians; and then finally, after warnings by the Jewish Prophet Jesus and his followers, it was fulfilled by the Romans in 70 C. E. Jesus even said (Matt. 21:43): “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” That word ‘people’ is the Greek word “ethnos” which is frequently rendered as ‘Gentile’ and ‘heathen’; it means a non-Jewish people or nation. From a Muslim viewpoint this means that the kingdom of God is to be found in people of every nation and tongue in whose hearts God reigns supreme, who hear and obey His word. It includes Jews who love and serve the One God, but they are only a part of God’s people, not a ‘chosen nation’ any more (if they ever were such). That of course was in fact part of that original covenant promise to Abraham: that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. Who can imagine that God would ‘go back’ to a former predominant concern with the Jewish nation (if He ever had such a predominant concern) now that He is blessing the whole world?

If it be objected that in Deuteronomy 30 God said that He would bring back the Jews to their land, from whatever part of the world in which they had been scattered, it should be noted when such a return would occur: “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, THEN the LORD your God will restore your fortunes…”  (Verses 1-3). Will any thinking person (particularly the fundamentalist Christians) say that such was the case in 1948, or any time since? I don’t think so! A good portion of Jews are atheists today (or even devil worshipping Free Masons); how many of those who are not atheists love God with all their heart and all their soul I wonder? Would it not be fair to say that most non-atheists are still just nominal Jews, fulfilling rituals but not heart-felt lovers of God? Well, who am I to judge, right? There are certainly at least some Jews who are truly devout, anyway. But surely the fundamentalist Christians (and modernist ‘Muslims’ like the Saud’s), who are such avid supporters of Israel, won’t be willing to admit that any but the Muslims would truly fit into the category of those who fulfill those verses quoted above. Therefore, Jews don’t have any claim to the fulfillment of that prophecy yet; and current support for them based on that promise is without foundation.

Having said all of that, though, the real question to be examined is whether or not the events depicted in the ‘historical’ books of the Hebrew Scriptures are indeed genuine history, and to be understood literally. We really need to know who wrote those accounts, and whether or not they can be trusted as having given us accurate historical accounts. It has traditionally been believed by the Jews and Christians that the first 5 books of the Bible (the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) were written by Moses; and the next book – Joshua – was written by Joshua. Conservative Christians still defend this idea, but it won’t hold up to examination. First of all, nowhere in the Pentateuch is it ever claimed that Moses was the author of the books, and Joshua doesn’t make any claim that Joshua was its author. Secondly, the books are all written in the 3rd person about  the characters in those books, just the way one would expect in a ‘history book’. Moses did such and so, and Joshua did this or that; not “I did” or “I said”. Now if the books made claim to being written by Moses or Joshua, one could acknowledge that a person could write about himself in the 3rd person; but absent such a claim to authorship, there is simply no basis to assume this.

There are so many more plain proofs that these books were not written by Moses or Joshua, though – rather they were written by some other unknown person or persons several hundred years later. Would Moses have said about himself: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)? Such a claim by Moses himself would prove the claim was untrue! How could Moses write about his own death and burial in Deuteronomy 34? Note the account of Moses’ death and burial is written in the 3rd person, past tense (as one would naturally expect). Whoever wrote this lets us know that he is writing a long time after the events, because he said: “to this day no one knows where his grave is” (verse 6); “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses” (verse 10); and “For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (verse 12). These statements, and others like them in the Pentateuch and Joshua, show that the writer lived a long time after the events being described. (In Joshua 24, the death of Joshua is reported, so the same question applies as did to Moses’ death: can we really be expected to believe that Joshua wrote about his own death??!)

In Genesis 14:14 we read: “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan”. The problem with that statement is that the city named ‘Dan’ did not go by that name in the time of Abraham or Moses. It was not named Dan until after the death of Samson, several hundred years after the time of Moses. Judges 18:27-29 tells us when that town came to be named Dan: “Then they [the Danites] took what Micah had made [idols], and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down the city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel – though the city used to be called Laish”. So whoever wrote Genesis could not possibly have done so before the Danites destroyed Laish and renamed it Dan.

In Genesis 26:31 there is this statement: “These are the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned…”  Of course, the first Israelite king to reign was Saul, so whoever wrote Genesis at the very least had to have written after Saul became king. The city of New York used to be called New Amsterdam; the name was changed in 1644. Anyone who writes about events in New York, calling it by that name, by that very fact indicates that he is writing after 1644 even though the writer does not identify himself or tell us when he was writing. So it is with the writer of Genesis. Even though the writer is anonymous, and does not tell us when he wrote, the fact that he says those Edomite kings lived “before any Israelite king reigned” unquestionably tells us that he was writing after Israelite kings began to reign.

This is only a small portion of the evidence available that Moses and Joshua were not the authors of those books traditionally attributed to them. What’s the point, though? The point is that we have no idea who the author was, so we know nothing about his character and trustworthiness. The events happened many hundreds of years before he wrote, and we don’t know what sources he used for his accounts (and the trustworthiness of those sources). Any claim of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan, based on the Biblical story of Abraham, Moses, and Joshua, is worthless because the validity of those accounts is utterly unprovable! They are stories compiled and edited by scribes relatively late in ‘Old Testament’ Israelite history, and as ‘histories’ they are just examples of prejudiced Jewish propaganda designed to validate themselves as a nation with a country to inhabit.

In fact, I believe many of the stories were deliberately made up so that we would be taken in by the ‘letter’ to fool people into believing the so-called ‘right’ of the Jewish people to the Land of Canaan. Consider the deplorable morality of some of the stories. For instance, consider Deuteronomy 20:16 and 17: “However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…” That is precisely what Joshua did to the city of Jericho, as recorded in Joshua 6:21. What person who has any feelings for the honor of the God of love, mercy, compassion, justice and righteousness would ever be a party to such slanderous lies against God by believing such examples of moral depravity in the name of God? We must either believe they are outright lies, or that the writers (forgers) intended us to know from their loathsomeness that these stories were fabricated in order to suit the Holy Land agenda of the Jews.

An indication of what the higher truth is can be found in the great ‘faith chapter’ of Hebrews 11 in the “New Testament”. In verses 8-10 we read concerning Abraham: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” This city is then further explained in verses 13-16: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – A HEAVENLY ONE. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”.

The “land of Canaan” is not a material, earthly territory, but is a ‘heavenly one’. The story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son (whether it was Isaac, as in the Bible, or Ishmael as in the Qur’an) is an allegory teaching us that we must be willing to let go of even the dearest earthly attachments if they hinder our pursuit of God and His kingdom. In our struggle to inherit the heavenly Canaan, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” –those ‘Old Testament’ accounts of combat are allegories of the heavenly struggle – “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world [age] and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Those Zionist Jews and fundamentalist Christians who promote Jewish occupation of the earthly Canaan, and building of a material Temple in earthly Jerusalem, have entirely ‘missed the boat’. The true Jerusalem is the one which ‘comes from above’, and the true Temple is the people of God, not a building. The true Canaan is the ‘heavenly country’ which God has prepared for those who love Him. Don’t ‘miss the boat’. And when you see or hear about despicable atrocities being done by anyone ‘in the name of God’, denounce them for the hypocrites and impostors they are, whether they’re Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists or Hindus (or anyone else).

To Whom Was the Earthly Land of Canaan Given?

Gen 17:9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” 15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” 22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham. 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. (English Standard Version)

According to the Biblical story, God made a covenant with Abraham – spoken of in several places in Genesis – whereby God would be in a special manner his God, bless him greatly, and give to him and his offspring the land of Canaan. Genesis 15:18 said that this land would extend from the “river of Egypt” to the Euphrates – quite a sizable area. The vexing question, though, is: who are the offspring of Abraham to whom this portion of land was said to be given by God?

The traditional answer given by Jews and Christians is considered to be obvious: it was given to that line of offspring descending from Abraham’s son Isaac, and grandson Jacob. Ishmael and the other children of Abraham are said to be excluded from this promise of land. This is based on verse 21 of Genesis 17 (quoted above): But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year;  and on Genesis 21:12 – But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. This is understood to mean that God’s covenant is only with Isaac (not Ishmael or any other of Abraham’s children), and only the offspring of Isaac would be counted as Abraham’s offspring.

But is that traditional answer true? If you read this 17th chapter of Genesis from the beginning, you’ll see that the promise God was making to Abraham – based on the command to walk before me and be blameless – was that He would confirm the covenant promises to Abraham and greatly increase the number of Abraham’s offspring. Abraham would become the father of many nations, and kings would come from his descendants (the “many nations”). God would establish His covenant with those “many nations” offspring, and give them that land of Canaan.

Now one would assume from this that the covenant – with its promise of the land of Canaan – was intended for all of those “many nations” descendants (so long as they also fulfilled the covenant requirement to walk in blamelessness before God). As a confirmation of the correctness of this assumption, God proceeded to give Abraham a covenant sign – circumcision – which was to be applied to all of his male descendants throughout their generations. In fact, the covenant – with its sign – was not only for those who were physically descended from Abraham, but also with all the servants who were purchased and therefore members of his household. As long as all of these “descendants” (whether direct or purchased slaves) continued to practice that sign of the covenant, they were included in the covenant promise of being God’s people and inheriting the land of Canaan.

As a result, verse 23 says that Abraham proceeded to obey God by circumcising Ishmael, every other male born in his household, and all of those who had been purchased with money. They all received the sign of the covenant, and all – including Ishmael – were included in that covenant.

Note that this was a year before the birth of Isaac. Ishmael was already included in this covenant before Isaac was even conceived. However, while God was making this covenant promise and requirement, He told Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son – to be named Isaac. Abraham, though, was 99 years old and Sarah was 89; and despite the fact of the greatness of Abraham’s faith and trust in God, this was more than he could believe it would seem. He fell on his face laughing at this idea, and asked God to just let Ishmael “live” before Him.

God patiently responded that Sarah would indeed give birth to a son – to be named Isaac – and God would establish His covenant with that son. Ishmael would be blessed with fruitfulness, and a great nation would spring from him; but I will establish my covenant with Isaac. And it’s with that little word “but” that the problem arises. Despite the very apparent previous inclusion of all of Abraham’s circumcised descendants (including Ishmael) in the covenant of promise, that one little word seems to suddenly place a huge restriction on who would inherit the promise. Doesn’t that seem a good bit strange??

It would indeed be very strange; but that’s not what the Genesis account tells us that God said. Despite the fact that the translators are almost unanimous in putting that word “but” in there, the correct translation is “and” or “also”! Young’s Literal Translation renders it: and My covenant I establish with Isaac, whom Sarah doth bear to thee at this appointed time in the next year.

A web site called  “Ark of Salvation” has an article  explaining and defending this rendering of “and” rather than “but”. In this particular article, he points out that the word “but” in Genesis 17:21 is a single letter – transliterated as ‘V’ in English letters – which is prefixed to the first word of the sentence. As the author says, The Hebrew prefix “V-“ (Vav) is defined by Langenscheidt’s Hebrew Dictionary as a conjunction meaning “and, and therefore, also, then, yet”. He comments that beginning Hebrew students are taught that this prefix “V” means “and”. This would be the clear and obvious meaning in Genesis 17 if Hebrew prejudice and arrogance had not twisted it in order to make themselves “God’s special people”.

When the statement in Genesis 17:21 is read as “and” or “also”, it takes on an entirely different meaning than if it’s read “but”. The meaning in context then comes to this: God told Abraham that He was so pleased with him that it simply wasn’t sufficient that He was going to provide Abraham offspring through Ishmael; he was also going to give him another son whom God would also make to be very fruitful, and with whom He would also establish His covenant. [Compare this to what the LORD said to his servant (the messiah) in Isaiah 49:6 – he (the LORD) says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  The idea is the same in what God is reported to have said to Abraham.] Ishmael was already obviously included in the covenant, but God was going to add to that blessing by establishing His covenant with another son also. Verses 20 and 21 would then read: As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 And I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.  Or if one insists on keeping the word “but” in the translation, it would read But also I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.

Some people maintain that it was certainly a very great blessing God bestowed on Hagar and Ishmael – making a great nation to come from them – but this was entirely separate from establishing His covenant. The covenant was a far greater blessing than just causing a huge number of descendants to come from them.

My response is that, on the contrary, the promise of fruitfulness and their descendants becoming a great nation (or nations) is precisely what the covenant was all about. Notice that in verses 15 and 16, this is precisely the promise that is made regarding Sarah and Isaac (which verse 21 defines as meaning God would establish His covenant with Isaac): And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” When God says he will make Ishmael fruitful, and cause a great nation to descend from him, that is the definition of establishing His covenant with Ishmael. (And the fact that Ishmael’s offspring would become a great nation necessarily implies that they would have a land to inhabit. And what would that land be other than at least a part of the promised land which would extend from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates – a land promised to the “many nations” offspring of Abraham?)

When verse 19 says: “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son…”, that was not a negation of Abraham’s request that Ishmael would “live” before God (as the context makes very clear); rather if there is any negation involved at all, it is negating Abraham’s denial that he and Sarah could possibly conceive a child at their advanced ages. In fact, the word rendered “nay, but” is probably not a negative at all. The KJV renders it “indeed” (And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed…); and the NIV renders it “yes, but” (Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son…). The Hebrew word appears 7 times in the Bible, and in the KJV is rendered “verily” 3 times; “indeed” twice; and “nevertheless” twice. In response to Abraham’s incredulity, God was telling him that His promise of a son through Sarah would indeed come to pass – without at all denying that Ishmael also would have God’s covenant blessing.

So verse 21 is not saying “but I will exclusively establish my covenant with Isaac”; rather it is saying “in addition, I will also establish my covenant with Isaac”.

This same idea of additional blessing, rather than exclusivity of blessing, can be seen in the passage in Genesis 21:12 and 13: (12) But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. (13) And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” Here’s how Young’s Literal Translation renders these verses: (12) and God saith unto Abraham, `Let it not be wrong in thine eyes because of the youth, and because of thy handmaid: all that Sarah saith unto thee–hearken to her voice, for in Isaac is a seed called to thee. (13) As to the son of the handmaid also, for a nation I set him, because he is thy seed.’ When Sarah jealously insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be “cast out” from the household, Abraham was understandably very distressed. But God is said to have reassured Abraham.   Abraham could safely do what Sarah requested, because God Himself guaranteed that Hagar and Ishmael would be safe, and would in fact thrive. Isaac would indeed bear offspring for Abraham; but Ishmael also was Abraham’s offspring, and God was going to fulfill His previously made promise and see to it that Ishmael survived to have a large family which would eventually become a great nation. Abraham’s offspring would be “called” from both of those sons.

That is the story as it is presented in the Hebrew Scripture. If it is a historically accurate account, then the “Israelites” don’t have a leg to stand on in arrogating to themselves sole “ownership” of the land of Canaan, and sole (or even primary) inheritance of God’s covenant with Abraham. The land belongs to all of Abraham’s descendants (including those from Ishmael) who keep God’s covenant requirements. If the story is not historically accurate, but is instead either false or allegory, then obviously again the “Israelites” don’t have any legitimate right to claim the “Abrahamic covenant” and the land as their own. The covenant is for all who follow in the steps of Abraham’s faith, and the “land” is allegorically interpreted as the “heavenly” inheritance.

It is certainly true that the Hebrew people twisted and distorted this Abrahamic covenant to make it theirs exclusively; and this distorted interpretation was reflected later in the writings of the prophets. But it is high time that this misuse of “sacred Scripture” should be corrected. The Qur’an points out in a number of passages that the Jewish people tended to pull verses out of context and distort their meanings. This is one example of such abuse.  Nevertheless, the interpretation of the particular text was wrong, although the principle he was seeking to establish was correct. This is a proof that God is able to bring forth good out of evil!

Is Israel God’s ‘Chosen Nation’??

“Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” [Acts 10:34, 35].

In this article I want to pursue the related idea of whether Jews (the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) have any special place in the purpose of God. This is obviously the key issue in the controversy over any national right of Israel to a particular land. It is the most basic element in the claims of Zionist Jews and their fundamentalist Christian supporters: the Jewish nation is God’s ‘chosen people’, made by God to be above all of the other nations and peoples of the earth; all nations must serve the Jews, and whoever opposes them opposes God Himself.

That viewpoint is so distorted, though, that one has to cry out in astonishment to Christians or Jews who hold such a view: “for you are still carnal [of the flesh]” [1 Corinthians 3:3]!  The key point of that story, though, is that Abraham and his descendants were being set apart as God’s witnesses to the nations, in order to – by their testimony – bring all the nations into the kingdom of God, and thereby into God’s blessings on an equal basis with themselves. God wasn’t setting up a national hierarchy, with one nation superior to all others. When the physical descendants of Abraham broke God’s covenant through disobedience, and failed to be a testimony to the nations of God’s righteousness and justice, mercy and kindness, then God cut them off from His blessing – as their own prophets testified.

Hosea, in chapter one, gave symbolic names to his children indicating that Israel would be called “not pitied” and “not my people” because of their disobedience. The point here is that it is not one’s genetic lineage that makes him part of the ‘people of God’, but one’s belief in God as manifested by an obedient life. The Hebrew prophets were clear in showing that it was never a violation of God’s covenant with Abraham when He removed unbelieving and disobedient descendants of Abraham (physically speaking) from the covenant blessings. The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 illustrates the point beautifully. Elijah complained to the LORD that he was the only person in Israel still loyal to God, and the Israelites were seeking to kill him. The LORD responded that Elijah was mistaken; there were still 7000 in Israel who refused to worship Baal. These 7000 would be spared by God while the rest (the unbelievers) were cut off from God’s blessing and destroyed – despite their verifiable claim to be genetically pure descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The prophet John (“the Baptist”), when castigating his Jewish hearers for their sinful departures from obedience to God’s covenant and calling on them to repent before God cut them off (he said: “Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” – Matthew 3:10), made this very interesting statement in verse 9: “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham”! He was using the metaphorical and hyperbolic language of the Hebrew people to refer to the fact that all of creation ‘sings praises’ to God; trees ‘clap their hands’ and mountains ‘skip like lambs’ in joy at God’s presence and blessings. So metaphorically speaking, the very stones believe in and praise God, and are therefore children of Abraham (children of his faith) in contrast to the disobedient physical descendants whom God was about to cut off from His blessings. Here it is made plain that not only must Jews be believers to be the true ‘people of God’, but there can be children of Abraham who have no physical connection to him at all. The only thing that matters is obedient faith, such as Abraham illustrated.

Jesus taught this truth when he said (in Matthew 21:43): “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom”.  The physical Jewish descendants of Abraham were to be disinherited, and another nation (the ‘nation’ of believers from ALL nations – including the remnant of believing Jews) would inherit the promises forfeited by the (national-Zionist) Jews. (This was equivalent to John’s prophecy that the axe was at the root of the Jewish ‘trees’ and was about to cut them down).

The fact of the matter, then, is that God has never blessed a people based on their physical descent, doesn’t now, and never will. That is why Peter’s new understanding of God, quoted at the beginning of this article, is of such importance. Peter had once believed the carnal distortion of many Jews that those who are Jews by physical descent from Jacob were a ‘special’ people to God, separate from the ‘unclean Gentiles’. He told the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean (Acts 10:28). And so he said (as quoted at the start of this article): “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation ANYONE who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him(Acts 10:34 and 35). The nation of Israel has no special claim on God’s favor, and never will! With the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the dispersal of the Jewish people throughout the nations, in 70 AD, God has torn down the ‘first tabernacle’ with all of its outward trappings (land, Temple, sacrifices, and other regulations of worship) in order to open the way to the ‘holiest of all’ (Hebrews 9). You may be sure that God will never ‘rebuild’ that ‘first tabernacle’ with its outward ordinances and land. Anyone holding to the Zionist illusion should disillusion himself, and set his eyes on that ‘spiritual, heavenly country’ which is the inheritance of those in every nation who fear God and do what is right. This includes Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and anyone else who truly loves and serves God. They show the law of God and of his anointed written on their hearts, even if it is not recognized intellectually. It is they who are the true ‘children of Abraham’ and receive the covenant promises.

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. Gen 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.Gen 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Isa 45:22 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

John 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

John 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Acts 10:28 [The Christian apostle Peter speaking to the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius – SGP] And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean …
Act 10:34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, Act 10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Qur’an 49:13 People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you should get to know one another. In God’s eyes, the most honoured of you are the ones most mindful of Him: God is all knowing, all aware.

Qur’an 5:18 The Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of God and His beloved ones.’ Say, ‘Then why does He punish you for your sins? You are merely human beings, part of His creation: He forgives whoever He will and punishes whoever He will. Control of the heavens and earth and all that is between them belongs to Him: all journeys lead to Him.’

[Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version; Qur’an quotations are from the Abdel Haleem English Version.]

Those verses, taken from the Hebrew and Christian portions of the Bible, and the Qur’an (Koran), proclaim with utmost clarity a most basic principle of the Religion of God in all its manifestations: God is King of all the earth (indeed of all worlds), all human beings come from Him, and He has no favorites among them – except that He favors all those from every nation and tribe who believe in Him and do righteous deeds.

This is actually something which should be clear to anyone who uses the reason God gave him/her, even without any ‘Divine Revelation’. Yet the darkness of human understanding is sometimes so great that even the most clear and evident truths of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” are not seen or are ignored.

Some people have imagined that the color of one’s skin makes him/her superior to everyone else: “white supremacy” for instance – whether its manifestation in the Ku Klux Klan in the USA; or the white, blond haired, blue eyed ‘Aryans’ of Nazi infamy; or any other manifestation. And of course there was the reaction of the “Black Muslims” of the “Nation of Islam” who maintained (maintain?) that the true ‘master race’ is the race of black skinned people.

Others imagine that “God’s elect” are those who belong to a particular expression of the Religion of God. Perhaps most obvious would be some from the Christian religion (“evangelicals”, “fundamentalists”, etc.) who think that they alone belong to the family of God – because they have come to believe in the ‘right’ Prophet, and believe the ‘right doctrines’ concerning that Prophet (that he is – supposedly – Pagan doctrines like “God the Son”, the “Second Person of the Trinity”, and that he died as a substitute for all believers to bear the wrath of God against them and so-called ‘save’ them).

Such ‘supremacist’ imaginations are demolished by the above quoted verses.

But there is another group of people who believe they are “the apple of God’s eye” because of a combination of physical genealogical descent from Abraham through his grandson Jacob/Israel, and their religious faith and obedience to the Law of Moses. For many, it is the genealogical descent which at least seems to be the biggest factor. These people, of course, are the Jews – or at least some from among the Jews. I’m not one who believes that they’re all alike.

Nevertheless, even though not all Jewish people are ‘racists’, I imagine it must be with difficulty that they avoid it. It is so ingrained in Jewish thinking based on interpretations of the Bible and the Talmud, that it seems to me that one must either reject a large portion of those books as forgeries and fable, or resort to what appears to many as ‘far fetched interpretations’ of them. Still, there may be some truth to the idea that much of what are known as the ‘historical’ portions of the Hebrew Scriptures was never intended to be understood as ‘true history’, but rather as Zionist propagandism. It is not “the truth” historically, but it contains a truth. And perhaps the stories were written in such a way as to be unbelievable and even atrocious, in order to ‘cue us in’ that they were in fact forgeries rather than true histories.

However, historically the Jewish Scriptures have been understood by much of the Jewish ‘nation’ as very literally teaching that they are “God’s chosen people”, vastly superior to the ‘dogs of the Gentiles’. An illustration of just how ingrained such thinking is in Jewish thought is the story in Acts 10 and 11 of the Christian “New Testament” concerning Peter and the household of Cornelius.

Peter would not even have considered entering the house of Cornelius – a Roman centurion – if he had not been given a vision by God showing him that God doesn’t show favoritism. This despite the fact that Peter had spent so much time in the presence of Jesus Christ; and the fact that Cornelius was considered a ‘righteous’ and ‘God-fearing’ man, even by the Jews – who respected him (Acts 10:1, 2, 22). Despite his righteousness and fear of God, he was still a ‘dog of the Gentiles’. He may have been a ‘good dog’, but he was a ‘dog’ nevertheless. He was not an ‘equal’ of the Jews, and no good Jew would think of entering his house and eating with him.

It took visions given to Peter and Cornelius to convince Peter that this notion of Jewish superiority was invalid. And when he returned to Jerusalem, he had some explaining to do – because the Jewish disciples of Jesus  there were horrified that Peter had done something as unthinkable as entering the house of an uncircumcised Gentile and eating with him (again despite the fact that Cornelius was respected by the Jews as a righteous and God-fearing man) [Acts 11:1 and 2].

This idea of Jewish superiority is easily seen today in what is known as ‘Zionism’ and ‘the Jewish State of Israel’. Most Jewish people seem to accept without hesitation that the land of Palestine belongs to them by so-called ‘Divine Right’. They are “God’s chosen people”, and they just don’t seem to comprehend that there might be some problem with them ‘cleansing’ the land of its non-Jewish inhabitants, demolishing their houses and cities, burning their crops, etc.

They eagerly accept fables about the land of Palestine being uninhabited, barren, and unfruitful – just waiting for “the apple of God’s eye” to come in and make the ‘desert’ blossom like a rose! Their blind prejudice is reflected in the slogan they adopted about the land: “a land without a people for a people without a land”. Despite the fact they had to murder or drive out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the land in order to turn it into a ‘Jewish State’, they still said it was a ‘land without a people’. I guess that’s because of the ‘fact’ that those Palestinian ‘Gentiles’ weren’t really people, but ‘dogs’! (Naudhubillah).

All of those olive and orange groves (as well as other types of agriculture) which the Zionist Jews had to destroy in order to be able to plant their own crops and turn the ‘desert’ into a ‘fruitful field’ were only imaginary, I guess. After all, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote that in his travels in Palestine he found the land uninhabited and barren! (We’re supposed to ignore the fact, I suppose, that Mr. Clemens also said the same thing of Greece – in perhaps even stronger terms. Mark Twain was a great writer of fiction and humor; but it sounds like his “non-fiction” was perhaps not quite so ‘non’ fictional.)

What is truly amazing, though, is that many Christians – and even some (westernized dajjalized) Muslims – buy into the absurd notion of Jewish ‘chosenness’ and their ‘Divine Right’ to the land!

In the past two and a half years that I have been reading the Qur’an, I have seen that the Qur’an does indeed confirm what remains of the truth in the former revelations; and it definitely confirms the truth seen by Peter that God shows no favoritism, but those in every nation who believe in God and do good works are accepted by Him. The quotations from 49:13 and 5:18 given at the beginning of this article are quite explicit. 5:18 in particular says that neither the Christians nor the Jews are God’s special people; they’re just human beings, and God bestows His blessings on whom He will among human beings.

Surah 2:124 says this: When Abraham’s Lord tested him with certain commandments, which he fulfilled, He said, ‘I will make you a leader of people.’ Abraham asked, ‘And will you make leaders of my descendents too?’ God answered, ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’ This confirms the Biblical assertions that Abraham believed God (and showed it by his works), and this was accounted to him for righteousness; and that it is those who have the same faith as Abraham (shown by righteous works) who are his descendents and heirs. Those who disbelieve and disobey are not Abraham’s heirs.

Sura 17:4-8 says this about the children of Israel: (4) We declared to the Children of Israel in the Scripture, ‘Twice you will spread corruption in the land and become highly arrogant’. (5) When the first of those warnings was fulfilled, We sent against you servants of Ours [Assyrians and Babylonians] with great force, and they ravaged your homes. That warning was fulfilled, (6) but then We allowed you to prevail against your enemy. We increased your wealth and offspring and made you more numerous – (7) whether you do good or evil it is to your own souls – and when the second warning was fulfilled [We sent them] [“servants of Ours” – the Romans this time] to shame your faces and enter the place of worship as they did the first time, and utterly destroy whatever fell into their power. (8) Your Lord may yet have mercy on you, but if you do the same again, so shall We: We have made Hell a prison for those who defy [Our warning].

This again confirms the prophecies of the Hebrew prophets. Isaiah and Jeremiah for instance predicted the Assyrian/Babylonian captivity, while Daniel in particular (though not only Daniel) predicted the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the “last days/end” for the Jewish State. Daniel 9:24-27 predicted that from the time Cyrus the Persian freed the Jews from the Babylonian captivity there would be 490 years (70 “weeks/sevens” of years). Messiah the Prince would appear in the 69th “week/seven”, and be “cut off” in the 70th “week/seven”. After that, and as a result, the “people of the Prince” would come and destroy the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. When the “people of the Prince” is referred to, I believe the Prince is the same “Messiah the Prince” previously referred to who would come and be “cut off”. The Roman legions are seen as being sent at his command, by the will of God, to fulfill God’s purpose. However, others believe that this Prince whose people would destroy the Temple is Titus, the Roman General (son of Emperor Vespasian) who was the actual Roman leader.

In keeping with this prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Romans – and its fulfillment – the Qur’an says this in 5:78 and 79: (78) The Children of Israel who defied [God] were rejected through the words of David, and Jesus, son of Mary, because they disobeyed, they persistently overstepped the limits, (79) they did not forbid each other to do wrong. How vile their deeds were!  

I believe this Qur’anic statement about David and Jesus proclaiming God’s rejection of the Jewish people who defied and disobeyed God refers in particular to a parable and statement of Jesus given (with minor variations) in 3 of the 4 “Gospels” (the “Synoptics” – Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Jesus told a parable about the owner of a vineyard leasing it out to some tenants, and then leaving on a trip. From time to time the owner would send servants to collect some of the fruit from the tenants (lease payment); but the tenants beat some and killed others of those servants. Finally, the owner sent his son (servant) (the last Prophet of Bani Israel), figuring that the tenants would at least honor him. Instead they tried to kill him, thinking that with the heir dead they would inherit the vineyard themselves.

According to Matthew’s account, Jesus then asked his hearers:  Mat 21:40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? Their response (verse 41) was: He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.

Then followed this response: Mat 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Mat 21:43  Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. Mat 21:44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

So Jesus confirmed the conclusion of his hearers, and applied it to the Jewish nation by quoting from David (Psalm 118:22 and 23) and making his own declaration of God’s rejection of Israel and replacement of them by another people.

Yes, I without hesitation adhere to what some (even Christians, interestingly) disparagingly label “replacement theology”. God honored the faithful obedience of Abraham by telling him that his descendants would bring the blessing of God to all the nations. The descendants of Abraham’s grandson Jacob were chosen to have the opportunity to fulfill that purpose and be a “light to the nations” (not to be superior to, and slave masters over, the nations). When those descendants of Jacob became arrogant and disobedient, and became a “blight to the nations” rather than a “light to the nations”, God repudiated them and gave that position to the descendants of Abraham’s firstborn son, Ishmael. The Arabic people, beginning with the leadership of Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), fulfilled the purpose of being a “light to the nations”. They did not arrogantly imagine that God had made them superior to everyone else as the Jews had done. People from all nations and races have become “Muslims” (submitted and devoted to God), and the Arabs have no superior place among that “Muslim” people. They became the “cornerstone” in the kingdom, but they are not the kingdom itself.

To conclude then: it is simply impossible that God would adopt some particular nation or tribe of people – or followers of one particular Prophet out of the many He sent – to be His “chosen” or “special” people in any sense that makes them superior to everyone else. The Jewish people were chosen to have the opportunity to bring God’s light to other nations; but when they brought instead a “blight” to the nations, God rejected them and replaced them with a people who would not be arrogant and unfaithful. And it remains true of Arab Muslims as well as all other Muslims that if they are unbelieving and disobedient, they too will be rejected by God. God simply doesn’t play favorites!

In the next part we will try to identify the people of “The Stone which the Jewish People Rejected” and “the kingdom of God will be takeb away from you anf giveb to a people producing its fruits.” Insha Allah.

Faith Versus Materialism [The Message of Surat-ul-Kahf]

[By Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (rahimahullah)]


My  Acquaintance  with  Surat-ul-Kahf [One of the  Surahs  or  the  chapters  of the  Qur’an  which  I  am accustomed  to  recite  on  Fridays,  since  my  childhood,  is  Surat-ul-Kahf  (The  Cave) I acquired  this  habit  owing  to  the  insistence  of  my  mother who  always  Instructed me  to recite  the  Surah  on  each  Friday,  and, from  time  to  time, she  ensured  that I was  following  her instructions. I  thus  committed  the  whole  of  it  to  my  memory.  My  mother,  who could  recite  the  entire  Qur’an  from  memory,  died  in  Jamadi-ul-Ula, 1388 A.H].  In  the  course  of my  study  of the  Traditions,  l learnt  that  the  Prophet  exhorted  his  followers  to  learn  and  recite this  chapter  as  a  means  of deliverance  from  the  scourge  of Dajjal. This  led  me  to think  of the  ways  and means  hinted at in  this  Chapter [It  has  been  related  on  the  authority of Abu  Sa’eed  Khudri (radhiyallahu anhu) that whoever  recites  Surat-ul-Kahf in  the  way  It  was  revealed,  would be  out  of  reach  of Dajjal.  (Mustadrak lil-Hakim).  Another  tradition related  on  the  authority of  ‘Ali (radhiyallahu anhu),  quotes  the Prophet of Islam (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) as saying ‘Whoever  recites  Surat-ul-Kahf on  a  Friday  shall  be  protected from  the  evil  of Dajjal  for  eight  days,  and  If the  latter  appears  during this  period,  he  shall  be  saved  from  the  curse  of  Dajjal“.  Other Traditions  promise  protection  from  Dajjal  for  those  who  recite  the first  or  the  last  ten  verses  of thls  chapter] , which  could  be  efficacious  in  achieving  deliverance  from  that despicable  ‘man of sin’,  for,  the  Prophet of lslam  not only  repeatedly beseeched  divine  protection  against  him  but  also  vigorously commanded  his  followers  to  earnestly  seek  refuge  from  that  evil. The  Prophet  described  Dajjal  as  ‘the greatest evil  since  the  birth  of Adam  to  the  Doomsday‘ [Sahih  Muslim. (On  the  authority  of ‘Amr  ibn  Hasin)]. This  naturally  aroused  my  curiosity  to find  out  why,  of all  the  chapters  of the  Qur’an,  the  Prophet  selected this  Surah  for  protection  against  this  omnious  evil. [The  Old  Testament  gives  evidence  of a  general  Jewish  belief in  a  hostile  person  or  power  who  in  the  end  time  would  bring  an attack  against  God’s  people  -an  attack  which  would  be  crushed by  Jehovah  or  His  Messiah.  Psalm 2  gives a  picture  of the  rebellion of the  world  kingdoms  ‘against  the  Lord  and  against  his  anointed.’ The  same  sort  of  contest  is  described  In  Ezekiel  38,  39  and  in Zechariah  12-14.  In  the  Book  of  Daniel  there  are vivid  descriptions of  the  Antichrist  which  find  their  echo  in  the  writing  of the  apostles (cf.,e.g. 11 Thess 2:4  with  Daniel  11 :36f,  and  Rev. 13:1-8  with  Daniel 7:8,  20f;  8:24;  11  :28,  30). In  his  eschatological  discourse  Christ warns against  “the false Christ”  and  ‘the  false  prophets’  who  would  lead  astray,  if possible, even the  elect (Matt 24:24;  Mark  13:22).  In  Mathew 24:15  he refers to  ‘the  abomination  of  desolation’ spoken  of by  Daniel. Paul gives  us, in  II  Thessalonians  2:1-12,  a  very  full  description of the  working  of Antichrist,  under  the  name  of the  “man  of sin”,  in which  he  draws  on  the  language  and  imagery  of the  Old Testament. In  I  John  2:18,  John shows  that  the  coming  of  the  Anti-christ was  an  event  generally  expected  by  the  Church.  It  is  apparent, however,  that  he  Is  more  concerned  about  directing  the  attention of  Christians  to  anti-Christian  forces  already  at  work  (“even  now are  there  many  antichrists”).  He  says  that  teachers  of  erroneous views  of the  person  of  Christ (evidently  Gnostic  and  Ebonite)  are antichrists  (I  John  2:22;  4:3;  II  John  7). In  the  Book of Revelation  the  Beast of Revelation  (17:8) recalls the  horned  Beast of Daniel  (7:8).  He claims  and  is  accorded  divine homage  and  evil  comes  to  its  final  decision].

The Portending Calamity and  Surat-ul-Kahf

I  felt  an  irresistible  urge  to  find  out  the  reason  for  the selection  of this  chapter as a  deliverer  from  the  calamity  of gathering clouds:  I  wanted  to  know  what  the  Surah  had  to  do  with  the portending  evil  of Dajjal?

The  Qur’an  has  a  number  of chapters  of varying  length  but why  was  this  Surah  selected  at  all  as  a  recipe  to  dwell  in  safety during  a  period  of frightful  calamity? [A  number of the  learned  doctors  of Faith  and  commentators of  the  Qur’an  unanimously  hold  the  view  that  the  Surat-ul-Kahf is significantly  related  with  the  evil  of Dajjal.  Muhammad Tahir of Patan (in  Gujrat)  (d.  1578/986),  an  eminent Traditionalist and  lexicographer relates  the  view  held  by  earlier  doctors  that  the  Tradition  of  the Prophet extol  this  chapter  as  a  sheet-anchor of safety  against  Dajjal, who would appear  in  the  end time. It would  afford  protection  against deceit and  cruelty  to  all  those  who  would  recite  and  try  to  understand it  just  as  the  Companions  of  the  Cave  were  kept  safe  from  the clutches  of  a  ruthless  emperor.  He  adds  that  the  efficacy  of  the Surah  is  because  of its  inherent  qualities  known  to  the  Prophet  of Islam  (Majma’  Bihar u/-Anwar,  see  the  entry  dajjal)]

Gradually  I  was  led  to  the  conclusion  that  Dajjal  shall symbolised  the  abounding  evil  of the  last  time,  while the  Surat-ul-Kahf provides,  more than  any other chapter of the  Qur’an,  the  means to  identify  him  and  guard  our spiritual  gains  against the  incursions of that evil.  Anyone  who tries to  understand the Surah  with  patience and  fullness  of  knowledge,  through  its  frequent  recitation  and pondering  over  the  lesson  it  contains,  shall  undoubtedly  be  able  to guard his  soul  against  that  ruthless  and  insidious  wickedness.

The Surat-ul-Kahf clearly shows the making of the seductive adversary  of the  last  time,  or,  dwells  upon  his  characteristics  so minutely  that  he  can  be easily  identified  in  every  age  and  place,  in whatever  shape  he  might  exist.  The  Surah  appraises  us  of the underlying  thought  and  content  of this  evil,  the  rallying-cry  of its call;  and  prepares  us  to  withstand  and  fight the evil  out to the finish. The  Surat-ul-Kahf.  thus,  gives  a  lie  to  the  concept  that  determine this  wordly  attitude  of this  principle  of evil  and  firmly  rejects  it  as a  way  of life.

Subject  matter  of  the  Surah

When I  turned  to  have  a  closer  look  at  the  Surah  again, with  the  point  of view  I  have  just  explained,  I  found  it  displaying the  vista  of a new world,  conveying a  range of meaning yet unknown to  me,  pertaining  to  the  sole  topic  which  can  be  denoted  as  the ‘struggle  between  faith  and  materialism’  or the  ‘Invisible  Power  and the  world  of causation’.  The  parables  and  illustrations,  allusions and  explanations  couched  in  the  Surah  teach,  somewhere covertly and  at  places  even  overtly,  the  same  lesson  about  the  mystery  of life.
This  discovery  filled  me  with  delight.  It  unfolded  before me a  new aspect of the  propbethood  of Muhammad,  and a  recorded miracle  of  the  Qur’an.  I  had  never  imagined  that  the  Scripture revealed  in  the  sixth  century  A.D.  so  vividly  depicts  the  features  of a  Godless civilization,  working  by  signs  and  wonders  and  seeking Divine Worship,  although it came  into  the  world  in  the  seventeenth century  and  ascended  to  its  over-ripe  culmination  in  the  twentieth century.  This  God-opposing,  seductive  agency  personified  in  the prophetic  language  as  Dajjal,  or  as  a  tyrant  to  deify  the  political power,  had  been graphically  described  centuries  before it  saw  the light  of day.

I  put  forth  my  views  in  an  article  written  about  35  years back when I was teaching  the exegesis of the Qur’an at the Nadwatul ‘Ulama,  Lucknow. The article was published  by Mautana  Syed Abul ‘Ala  Maududi  in  his  journal Tarjuman  ul-Qur’an.  I  also  had  an opportunity  to  stay  at  Hyerabad  for  a  short  while  in  1946,  as  a guest  of the  late  Maulana  Syed  Manazir  Ahsan  Gilani,  the  then Head  of the  Department of Theology  in tho  Osmania  University  of Hyderabad.  This  provided  me  with  an  opportunity  to  discuss  the matter  with  Maulana  Gilani  who  had  gone  through  my  article.  He intended,  as  he then  told  me,  to  write a  detailed  commentary of this chapter  of the  Qur’an  and  get  it  published  in  the  monthly  journal ‘Al-Furqan‘  of  Lucknow.  Later  on,  the  said  journal  did  bring  out the  entire  article  of the  Maulana,  but,  alas,  after  his  death.

l  again felt  inclined to expand  my thesis  after going  through the  lengthy  article  of  Maulana  Gilani  which  had  been  published years  after my own earlier paper.  I  intended to  highlight the inspiring theme  of the Surah  which  is  closely connected  with the  underlying concept of the philosophical thoughts  and the intellectual movements of the  last  age,  and,  from  that  angle,  to  focus  attention  on  the  signs and  indications,  lessons  and  notes  of  warning  contained  in  this chapter.  I  undoubtedly  took  advantage  of the masterly  exposition  of the  Surah  by  Maulana  Gilani.  I  have,  however,  not  followed  the conventional pattern of the  Qur’anic commentaries.  On the  contrary, it  is,  on  the whole,  an exposition of my own thoughts and  impressions on  the  content  and  essence  of the Surah.

Key  to  the  Personality  of Dajjal

The  name  of  Anti-christ,  known  as  Dajjal [lbn  Manzoor  writes  in Lisan-ul-Arab,  the  biggest  lexicon  of Arabic,  that  ad-dajil from  which the  word  Dajjal  is  derived  means a liar or  a  deceiver.  Dajjal  is also  called the  False  Christ because the spell  of his  falshood  will  be the  most potent means  of his deception. Abu  ‘Amr,  whose  explanation  of the  world  is regarded  as the  best by  lbn  Khaluveh  says  that  Dajjal  being  a  cheat  or  a  swindler,  he resembles  a  plater  coating  a  base  metal  with  silver  or  gold  to deceive  others.  Azhari  too  agrees  with  Abu ‘Amr  and  holds  that Dajjal signifies  an  outward  appearance  or show to  hide reality.  For this  reason  gold  coating  is  also  termed  as  Dajjal. Abul ‘Abbss  says that  is  so  named  because  he  would  deceive  others  by  presenting falshood  in  the  most  attractive  manner].  in  Arabic, provides  a  clue  for  the  comprehension  of  the  hidden  traits, characteristics  and features  of a  concept whose distinguishing  mark signifies  evil  and  mischief,  apostasy  and  enmity  to God.  Falsehood and  deception  are  then,  the  two  central  notions  from  which  radiate the  attributes,  characteristics,  functions  and  mission  of  what  is symbolised  in  the  person  of Dajjal.

The  distinguishing  mark  and  symbol  of  the  present-day materialistic [Independence,  socialism,  democracy,  higher  standard  of living,  economic  prosperity,  welfare  state,  fundamental  rights, culture  and  civilization,  artistic  refinement,  law,  equity  and  justice are  nowadays increasingly employed as  slogans to  deceive  people] civilization  is  trickery  and  swaggering  deception revealing  its dominant  trait in  every  walk of life.  Not a  single aspect of the  life  today  is  free  from  its  contaminating  effect.  Things  are presented  exactly  by  opposite  names.  A  jumble  of high-sounding names  and  nomenclatures,  clichcs  and  terminologies  abound  to  the extent  of meaninglessness: the outward appearance has  hardly  any relation  to  its content within;  the beginning and the end,  the objective in  view and  the  means  adopted  to  realise  it,  the  ideals  and  concepts reverently  put  forth  and  the  conduct  of their  propagators  arc  all diametrically  opposed to each other.  Similar  is the  case  of all  those philosophies,  or,  more  accurately,  jargons,  which  have  bewitched people  and  taken  the  place  of  religion.  An  aura  of  inviolable sacredness  is  created  round  the  teachings  and  pronouncements  of its  mentors,  love  and  respect  are  demanded  for  them as  articles  of faith  and  the  expression  of  the  least  doubt  in  their  greatness  or eminence is  dubbed as  reactionary  and  obscurantist denial  of a  well-known and  accepted  fact.  And  this  is  not  true  of the  populace  and laity  alone;  even  the  most  intelligent  and  highly  educated  elite  can be  seen  singing  the  praise  of  modernist  ideologies  without  giving any thought to the  sincerity and  truthfulness  of their propagators or to  a  dispassionate  evaluation  of the  harm  or good  these  ideologies have  done  to  the  humanity.  Lacking  both  in  moral  courage  and intellectual  integrity,  they  are  carried  away  by the  fallacious  claims of these  ideologies;  and  so  they  remain  completely  oblivious  of the well-being  or  its  absence  obtained  as  the  end-result  of  their endeavours  absence  obtained  as  the  end-result  of their  endeavours in  pursuit  of these  illusive  ideals.  All  this  is  the  product  of  the hypnotizing spell  of a  deceitful  delusion  conjured  up  by the seductive agencies  which  are  no  more  than  mere  fore-runners  of  the  Great Deluder,  terribly  more  powerful  and  irresistible,  in  whatever  time or  clime  he  might  make  his  appearance.

This  spirit of falsehood,  deceit and  artful  trickery pervades modern  civilization  simply  because  it  has  turned  its  back  to  the overlordship  of  God,  prophethood,  unseen  realities  and  divine revelation;  decided  to  depend  exclusively  on  the  senses  and perceptible,  immediate  gains,  and power.   And  this  is  what  this Surah  seeks  to  contradict.  The  events  recounted  and  the  parables alluded  to  in  this  chapter  point  to  the  same  moral-the  brevity, uncertainty  and  vanity  of  the  worldly  life,  its  traps  and  illusions.

Role  of  Judaism  and  Christianity

We  have  to  acknowledge  the  fact,  albeit  regretfully,  that the  roles  of Christianity  (which  lighted  the  path  of Europe  during the  medieval  ages)  and the revengeful  Judaism,  despite  fundamental differences  in  their  faiths  and  beliefs,  have  played  more  or  less  a complementary  role  in  the  making  of the  present-day  materialistic civilization.  Both  these  are,  to  be  sure,  equally  responsible  for pushing  humanity  towards  an  extremist  and  uncompromisingly materialistic  outlook  of life  whose  essential  ingredients  are  denial of ethical-spiritual  values  and  the  teachings  of the  prophets.  The Christian  nations  of  the  West  which  had  already  grown  off  the yoke  of the  Church  and  Papacy  by  the  end  of the  sixteenth  century, and  severed  their  relations  from  true  Christianity  preaching  unity of  God  and  clemency  even  earlier,  adopted  a  purely  utilitarian concept  of life.  The  rapid  strides  in  technological  discoveries  and manufacture  of  devastating  weapons,  coupled  with  a  complete imbalance  between  knowledge  and  emotions,  intellect  and conscience,  business  and  morals  have  confronted  humanity  with the  imminent  danger  of its  swift  annihilation.

The  world  Jewry  took  a  keen  interest  in  the  recent  past, owing  to  a  variety  of  causes  pertaining  to  their  racial  pride, educational  advancement,  political  ambitions,  etc.,  to  accelerate the pace  of technological  progress.  This  has  enabled  them  to  assume the  control  of  modern  civilization.  They  have  gained  the  start  in every  field,  literature  and  education,  political  thought  and  practical politics,  press  and  industry-in  fine,  they  have  become  the  torch-bearers of modern  western culture and  its  way of life.  Even  a  cursory survey  of the  recent  developments  in  international  politics  would convince  us  of the  pivotal  role  played  by  the  world  Jewry  in  the western  society.  Now  this  civilization  is  rushing  ahead,  with  all  its treasure  of knowledge  and  glittering  progress,  towards  its  doom-a product  of unyielding  despair  and negative  view  of life.  This  is  to happen,  then,  because  of  the  falsehood  and  deceit,  strife  and dissension  fomented by  the Jews  who  have  been allowed,  regardless of  their  defiant  and  revengeful  pre-disposition,  treacherous  ways and  cloak  and  dagger  methods,  to  strengthen  their  roots  in  the nutritious  soil  of the  western  society.  The  modern  West has  afforded them  with an  opportunity to  nurse and  flourish  the  secret springs  of the  Jewish  life  in  a  manner  they  have  never  had  in  the  past.  This  is the  tragedy  of the  modern  times:  a  grave  and  menacing  challenge not  only  to  the  Arabs  who  are  presently  faced  with  a  life and  death struggle  owing  to  it,  but  also  an  approaching  danger  for  the  entire mankind.

This  is  perhaps  the  reason  why  this  chapter of the  Qur’an is  intimately  connected  with  the  beliefs  of the  Jews  and  Christians. The Surah  begins  with  a  reference  to  what  the  latter  regard  as  the most  important article  of their  faith.

Praise  be  to  Allah  Who  hath  revealed  the  Scripture  unto His  slave,  and  hath  not  placed  therein  any  crookedness,
“(But  hath  made  it)  straight,  to  give  warning  of  stem punishment from  Him,  and to  bring  unto  the  believers  who do good  works  the  news  that  theirs  will  be  a  fair  reward. ”Wherein they  will  abide  for  ever; “And  to  warn  those  who say;  Allah  hath  chosen  a  son,
“(A  thing)  whereof they have no  knowledge,  nor (had) their fathers.  Dreadful  is  the  word  that  cometh  out of their  mouths. They  speak naught  but  a  lie.” [Al-Kahf: 1-5]

Christianity  is  the  cradle  of modern  civilization  which  is passionately  fond  of the earthly  life  and  its  comforts:  laying  undue emphasis on  the material  welfare,  this  materialistic  civilization  has rejected  all  ethical-spiritual  values,  and  has  impetuously  plunged head-long to  capture  power and glory,  gold  and  and  riches.  And  this is  the ground where Judaism  finds  a  meeting-point with  Christianity despite  its  differences  and  enmity  with  the  latter.

One  hardly  finds  any  clear-cut  reference  to  the  Hereafter, Day  of Judgement  and  requital,  preparation  for  the  eternal  abode of bliss,  description  of  Paradise  and  its  rewards,  finite  nature  of earthly  life,  denigration  of covetousness,  contempt  for  power  and pelf,  condemnation  of fomenting  trouble  and  strife,  exhortation  to abopt  such  moral  virtues  as  contentment,  righteousness  and  piety in  the  verbose  narrations  of the  Old  Testament.  Absence  of  any emphasis  in  the  old  Testament  on  the  fleeting  nature  of earthly sojourn  in  this  terrestrial  world  and  the  eternal  rewards  and punishments in the Hereafter,  thus,  makes it conspicuously different from  other  revealed  scriptures.

It  is,  therefore,  not at  all  surprising  if the  history  of Jewish people  finds  expression  in  its  will  to  capture  power  for  power’s sake,  thirst for  revenge,  pangs of jealousy,  racial  pride,  covetousness, egotism  and  chauvinism.  All  these  inclinations  and  propensities  are fostered  and  stimulated  by  their  religious  scriptures,  literature  and history;  and  we  can  find  visible  traces  of these  in  their  thoughts, philosophies,  political  movements,  discoveries  and  intellectual endeavours.  Likewise,  their code of social  conduct  has  no place  for such  values  and  sentiments  as  humanitarianism,  generosity,  self-abnegation,  benevolence,  forbearance,  detachment  from  wordly pleasures  and  longing  for  reward  in  the  Hereafter.

God  has,  for  these  very  reasons,  sterly  admonished  the Christians  for their adoptionist  belief in  regard  to  Jesus  Christ,  which made  him  an  associate  in  the  Divinity of God.  They  have also  been warned  against  the  scrambles  for  the  worldly  goods  and  fleeting pleasures.

Lo  I  we  have placed  all  that  is on the  earth  as  an ornament thereof that  We  may  try them; which of them  is  best in conduct.” [Al-Kahf:7]

Administering  a  reprove  to  those  who  deny  Hereafter  and place  confidence  in  their  worldly  possessions,  the  Qur’an  says:

Say:  Shall  We  inform  you  who  will  be  the greatest  losers by  their  works?
“Those  whose  effort  goeth  astray  in  the  life  of the  world, and  yet  they  reckon  that  they  do  good  work.” (Al-Kahf:  104-5)

Unflinching  belief in  the  Hereafter,  unseen  realities,  Creator of the  Universe  and  His  Omnipotence  is,  thus,  the  central  theme  of the  Surat-ul-Kahf.  In  its  rationale,  motive and judgement this  belief runs  counter to the  sprit,  ideation and conception  of the materialistic view  of  life  which  places  confidence  only  in  the  senses  and  their perceptions.  The  latter  loudly  extols  earthly  benefits,  sensual pleasures  and  racial  and  national  superiority  while  the  Surah scornfully  rejects  these  as  abominably  loathsome.  The  Surat-ul-Kahf in  this  wise,  drives  home  the  uncertainties  and  paradoxes  of our  earthly  life,  for,  this  worldly  attitude  of the  Christian  nations has  led  them  more  than  any  other  people  to  promote  and  patronize the  materialistic  world-view.  The  Jews.  have,  after the  Christians, assumed  its  direction  and  patronage,  although  they  have  been  the greatest  adversaries  of Christianity  since  its  inception.  Now  this civilization  is  destined  to  attain  its  culminating  point  under  the inspiration  and  guidance  of  the  Jews,  one  of  whom  would, undoubtedly,  show  signs  of the  Great Antichrist  or Dajjal-i-Akbar, by  overshadowing  all  the  other  standard-bearers  of  deceit  and falsehood,  irreligion  and  godlessness.

The  Prophet  of  Islam  is  reported  to  have  said  that  the recitation  of this  Surah,  particularly  its  initial  portion,  would  save one  from  the  evils  of Dajjal.  There  is  a  sequence  and  significance  in the  initial  and  closing  verses  of  the  Surah  which  can  easily  be discerned.  The Surah,  as  a  whole,  is  thus,  intimately  conncctes  with the  scourge  of Dajjal.

The  contents  of this  Surah  can  be  divided  into  four  parts which  unfold  its  central  theme.

(I)  The  story  of the  Companions  of the  Cave.
(2)  Parable  of the  owner  of two  gardens.
(3)  The  story  of Prophet  Moses  and  Khidhr.
(4)  The  story  of Zul-Qarnain.

The  Two  World-Views

Normally.  there  is  a  necessary  connection  between  the  cause and  the  effect  (or  consequence)  in  a  physical  phenomenon.  ln  other words,  the  cause  or  sum  total  of circumstances  are  inherent  in  the effect  i.e.  their  presence  gives  rise  to  the  effect.  The  causes  and effect  are  thus  inter-dependent  and  the  former  almost  always  leads, in  the  given  circumstanccs,  to  the  appearance  of the  latter.  Now, there  are  people  who  can  never  look  beyond  the  basic  causal dependence  capable of analysis  by  speculative  thought  of scientific observation  and,  therefore,  their  view  is  Limited  to  the  material, perceptible  objects  and  events.  They  naturally,  believe  in  the universal  causative  origin  of alI  phenomena.  To  them,  no  effect  or consequence  can  appear  without  the  cause  nor  do  they  recognise any  power  which  can  intervene  between  the  cause  and  the  effect. They  maintain  universality  of the  cause-effect  relationship,  existing outside  and  independent  of any  intelligent  and  All-Powerful  Being which  can introduce  or  modify  the  effect  with  or  without  the  cause in  accordance  with  its  will.  The  people  believing  in  the  objective existence of the  external  world  and  asserting its  primacy and  eternity elevate  the  matter  to  the  position  of God.  Their  view  implies  denial of everything else save matter,  which is,  to  them, the common  source of the origin  of all  that exists  or takes  places. They  deny  the existence of the  Creator and the  Lord  of the  Universe whose  writ  runs  supreme in  this  cosmos,  His  omnipotence,  the  Day of Judgment  and  the  Life after  death.  As  a  consequence,  they  devote  their  energies  to discovering  the  necessary  relationship  between  the  cause  and  the effect,  the  common  source  of the  diverse natural  phenomena,  matter and  its  properties and the physical  laws,  with  a  view  to  commanding these  forces  of nature.  Their overweening quest to capture the  matter, unfortunately,  makes  them  the  slave  of the  material  world.  Matter becomes  the  Alpha  and  Omega  for  them;  everything  else,  even  the consciousness,  mind  and  intellect  become  a  product  of  matter,  a reflection  of the  external  material world.  And,  when  they gain  control over some of these  forces  and  put them  in  requisition  for  their selfish ends,  they  begin  to  behave  as  demigods,  claiming overlordship  over other  people,  their  life  and  property either  in  their  own  right  or  in the  name  of society,  party  or  nation.  Nothing  can  then  deter  them from  inflicting  the  most  horrible  tortures  on  their  fellow  human beings  whom they  brand  with the infamy of opposing their  cheirshed social  or  political  views  of life.

There  is  another world-view  essentially  different,  in  its  basic postulates  as  well  as  in  the  solution  of the  fundamental  question  of philosophy,  from  the  one  already  mentioned.  It  proceeds  from  the principle  that apart  from  the cause and  effects,  physical laws,  matter, substance  and  its  properties,  there  is  a  transcendental,  omnipotent Power  which  pre-determines  the  cause  and  effect.  The  functional dependence of the  cause on  this  All-Pervasive  Power  is  as  absolute and  exclusive  as  that  of  the  effect  on  the  cause.  Every  physical phenomenon,  event  and  incident  depends  wholly  on  the  will  and pleasure  of  God,  who  brings  into  existence,  whatever  He  likes,  from non-existence  with  or  without  a  primordial  cause.  He  creates conditions  for  the  action  of the  cause  and,  if He  so  desires,  severs the  functional  relationalship  between  the  objects  themselves;  for His  relationship  also  exists  outside  and  independent  of the  matter, and  is  introduced  in  the  world  of phenomena  by  the  will  of God.  He is  thus  the  Supreme  Cause,  the  Cause  of all  causes.

The  creation  of the  planetary  system  and  the  causative law does  not  make  this  universe  free,  even  for  a  moment,  from  the absolute  control  of  its  Creator  nor  is  it  capable  of becoming  so. The causative  origin  of phenomena  too  has  never  been  a  whit  more than  a  passive  instrument designed  to  carry  out  the  will  of God,  nor was  it  ever  endowed  with  an  objective  character,  striking  off  the fetters  of Divine  bondage.  No  material  object  can  claim  freedom  of action  nor  cast  off  its  shackles.  For  it  is  God  who  has,  with  His infinite  wisdom,  united  tbe  properties  with  material  objects,  and causes  witli  their  consequences.  Verily.  He  alone  creates  and annihilates.  unites  and  separates,  and  brings  into  being  whatever He  likes  out  of naught.

But  His  command,  when  He  intendeth  a  thing,  is  only  that He  saith  unto  it: Be!  and  it  is.” (Ya’seen:  82)

This  holds  out  a  consistent  view  of the  nature  and  society-social  life  as  well  as  natural  phenomena.  At  the  same  time  it recognises  those  imperceptible  yet  far  more  potent  and  effective causes  which  shape  the  human  conduct  and  determine  the  destiny of  nations.  The  operation  of  these  causes  is  remarkably  more effective  nnd  their  outcome  more  far-reaching  and  momentous  than those  attended  by  observable  causal  relation  and  environments. The  operative  agencies  in  this  view  of  life  and  the  world are  faith,  righteous  action.  ethical  conduct,  unflinching  submission to  God.  justice  and  equity,  mercy  and  love  working  against  other intangible  dark  forces  represented  by  atheism  and  godlessness, cruelty  and  selfishnes, vice  and  sinfulness  and  sedition  and sabotage.

Anybody  betaking  himself to  these  spiritual-moral  norms without of course,  disregarding  the  physical laws  of nature,  shall find  the  entire  cosmos  co-operating  with  and  assisting  him  in  the achievement  of his  objectives. Divine  succour shall  bear a  hand  to him  and,  not  unoften,  even  the  physical  laws  of causation  shall  be made  subservient  to his  cause.  Celestial  miracles  shall  unfold themselves  to  espouse  his  cause. On  the  contrary,  whoever  shall rely  solely  on  the  physical  laws  without  any  regard  to  the  spiritual-ethical norms  of morality,  he  shall  ultimately  find  the  entire universe standing  against  him. The  forces  of  nature  he  has  captured  shall defy  and  deceive  him; instead  of being  subservient  to  him,  these shall  be  hard  upon  him,  his dependence on the artificial  contrivances shall  go  on  increasing  till  he  is  debased  by the  most pitiable  servitude of his  own  making.

Surat-ul-Kahf: A  Story  of Struggle between  Faith  and  Materialism

Surat-ul-Kahf is  the  story  of an  unending  struggle between the  two  ideologies  or  concepts  diametrically  opposed  to  each  other. One  of  these  is  materialism  denoting  the  primacy  and  objective existence  of the  external  marerial  world.  The  other  one  asserts  the existemce of realities  which  lie  beyond the range  of human  perception, as,  for  instance,  the  existence  of  God,  moral-spiritual  forces  and their  interaction,  and so  forth.  The Surah  explains  the  meaning  and the  purpose  of faith  in  the  Ultimate  Reality  and  warns  man  against leaning  exclusively  of  observable  environment,  grounds  and consequences  which  eventually  lead  to  the  denial  of God  and  His authority.


Of the  four  stories  told  in  this  Surah,  the  first  one  relates  to the  Companions  of the  cave.  Who  were  these  Companions  of the Cave,  what  is  the  moral  and  wisdom  concealed  in  the  story,  why did  the  Qur’an  verify  the  tale  and  why  has  man  yielded  to  its fascination  ever  since  it  was  recounted?  These  are  some  of  the questions  which  ought  to  be  given  thought  for  gaining  an understanding  of the  Surah.

The  Christian  Sources

Before we narrate  the  story as  told  by  the  Qur’an  in  its  own inimitable  way,  presenting  only  the  core  of the  story  intertwined with  moral  lessons,  admonitions,  warnings  and  good  tidings,  let us have a  look at the traditions and  the  hagiographical  literature handed down  in  regard  to  this  legend.  Thereafter,  these  versions  can  be compared  with  the Qur’anic  description  to  find  out  how  much they corroborate  or  contradict  the  story  told  by  the  Qur’an.

The  story  of  the  Cave  does  not  find  a  place  in  the Old Testament  since  the  incident  is  reported  to  have  happened  in  the earlier  phase  of the  Christian  history.  This  was  the  time  when  the faith  of  the  Christians  was  matured  and  their  numbers  were  fast multiplying  owing  to  the  fiery  zeal  of the  earlist  followers  of Jesus Christ.  By  that  time  even  the  later  books of the  Old  Testament  had been  compiled and,  therefore  the  Jews  could  hardly  be  expected  to preserve  the  legend  in  their  Scriptures.  The  fascinating  story,  on the other  hand,  was  divinely  inspiring  for  the  Christian  who  were irresistibly  carried  away  by  its  charmful  mystery  and  electrifying character.  The  story  furnished an  ennobling  example  of the  living faith  of the  earliest  Christians,  their  unfaltering  adherence  to  the revealed  truth  and  their  readiness  to  sacrifice  everything  for  the sanctity  for  the  religious  precepts.  It  had  a  meaning  and  a  lesson for  the  believer  who  considered  it  his  birthright  to  assert  the inalienable  right  of conscience.  Not  only  this,  the  story  can  exhort, inspire  and  awaken  even  today  the  spirit  of sacrifice  and  struggle for  the  defence  of one’s  faith and the  way of life.  These  were,  than, the  distinctive  features  of the  story which  made  it an  immortal  drama stirring  such a  large  number of people  in  different times  and  climes. This  also  explains  why  it  was  handed  down  so  meticulously  by one generation  to another.  Now  we  have  to  see the  story,  extant  in  a number of languages and  in  diffrent  versions  pertaining  to the  early Christian  sources,  to  find  out  what  the  early  narrators  of the  story thought  of it.  An  outline  of the  story  briefly  summarised  by  lgnaza Guidi for the Encyclopaedia of Religion  and  Ethics,  from  the earliest Cristian  sources  is  given  below:-

“The  legend  of the  Seven  Sleepers  is  one  of the  most  widespread  and  pleasing  of hagiographical  legends.  The elements of the story common to the earliest text are briefly  as  follows’ [Edward  Gibbon’s  description  of the  story  in  the  ‘Decline  and fall  of  the  Roman  Empire  (vol.  Ill,  pp.  413-14;  London:1908) discusses  the  sources  and historicity of the  event but unnecessarily also  gives  vent  to  his  prejudice  against  Islam  and  its  Prophet]:

”The  Emperor Decius  comes  to  Ephesus, [An  Ancient  Ionian  city  on  the  coast  of Asia  Minor was situated near the  modern  village  of Ayasotuk (Saljuk)  in  the  Izmir’il of Turkey. In  historic  times  it  was  located  on  the  lower  slopes  of  the hills, Coressus and  Pion, which rise  out of the  fertile  plain  near the  mouth of river  Cayster.  The  temple  of Artemis  or Diana,  to  which  Ephesus owed  much  of its fame,  was  in  the  plain  about  one  mile  north-east of Pion  (modern  Panjir  Dagh). The  Romans  had  made  it the  capital of  their  West-Asiatic  possessions  and  it  rose to  become  a  well-known  trade  centre  of its  day. The  cult  of  Artemis  combined,  like  other  idolatrous  forms  of worship  elsewhere,  with  the  stinking  pleasures of the  flesh.  (For further  details  see  Btaclde’s  A  Manual  of  Bible  History)]. and there  revives the  worship  of idols,  commanding  that  all,  and  especially the Christians  should  offer  sacrifices  to  them;  some  Christians abjure  the  faith,  others  remain  steadfast  and  suffer  tortures. Seven youths,  (or,  according to some texts eight),  who  live  in the  imperial  palace  and  whose names  are variously  given,  are accused of being  secretly  Christians,  and when  brought before Decius, refuse  to  sacrifice  to  the  idols.  In  the  hope  that  they may  waver  in  their  resolution,  Decius  grants  them  a  respite and  then  leaves  Ephesus.  The youths  leave  the city and  hide  in a  cave  in  the  neighbouring  Mount  Anchilus.  One  of  them, Oiomedes  (or  Lamblichus)  disguised in rags goes  down  in  the city,  to  enquire  about  what was  happening  in  it  and  to  buy food.  Decius,  returning  after  a  short  time  to  Ephesus,  orders the  youth  to  be  conducted  in  his  presence. 
Diomedes informs his companions  of  the  order;  sadly  they  take  food  and  then they  all  fall  by divine  Providence  into a  deep,  long sleep. When Decius  cannot  find  the  youths  in Ephesus,  he  summons  their parents,  who  try  to  excuse  themselves  for  the  flight  of their sons  and tell  that they  are hidden  in  a  cave  in  Mount Anchilus. Decius  orders  d1e  entrance of the  cave to  be  blocked with  large stones,  so that  ilic  youth  may  be  buried  alive.  Two  Christians, Theodore  and  Rufinus,  write  the  story  of the  young  martyrs on  metal  plates,  which  they  place  under the  stones  closing  the cave.  After  307  years  in  the  reign of the  emperor Theodosius ll,  a  heresy  breaks  out,  led  by  bishop  Theodore,  denying  the resurection  of the  dead,  and  the emperor is  greatly  perturbed. Then God suggests to Adolius,  the  proprietor of the field  where the  cave  is,  to  build a  sheepfold  for  his flocks;  for this  purpose the  workman  use  the  stones  which  close  the  entrance  of the cave  and  thus  the  cave is  reopened.  God  awakens  the  youths, who  think  they  have  slept  only  one  night,  and  exhort  each other  in  turn  to  suffer  martyrdom  at the  hands  of Decius,  if need  be.  Diomedes  goes  down  to  Ephesus  as  usual,  and  is  so surprised to see  the cross  over the gates  of the city that he  asks a  passer-by  if it  is  really  Ephesus.  He  is  anxious  to  return  to his  companions  with  the  news,  but  first  he  buys,  paying  for with  the  money  he  had  about  him,  which  was  of the  time  of Decius. The  vendor  and the  market-people,  seeing  the  ancient money,  think  that  the  youth  has  found  a  hidden  treasure  and wish  to  share  it  with  him;  they  drag  him  with  threats  through the  city;  many  people  assemble,  and  the  youth  looks  in  vain among  them  for  some  one  of  his  acquaintance.  The  bishop and  the governor question  Diomedes,  who  narrates the  whole story,  and  invites  them  to  come  to  the  cave  and  see  his companions.  They  climb  the  hill  and  find  the  two  tablets  of lead,  which  confirm  the youth’s  story;  they then enter the  cave and  find  the  companions  alive  and  shining  in  appearance. Theodosius  is  informed  of  what  has  happened  and  comes  to Ephesus to the cave.  One of the youths,  Maximilian  (Achillides or  others)  tells  him  that,  in  order  to  demonstrate  the  truth  of the resurrection,  God  had  caused  them  to  fall  asleep  and  then resuscitated  them  before  the  Judgement  Day:  after  this  the youth  fall  asleep  in death [The  story  has  been  told  by  lbn  Jarir  Tabri  and  other commentators  of  the  Qur’an  on  the  authority  of  Muhammad  ibn ls’haq  but  owing  to  the  absence  of  adequate  details  as  also  of more  reliable  sources  discovered  later  on,  a  good  many  myths had been  introduced  by them  vide  Tafsir-1-Kabir,  vol.  XV, pp.  123-6. The  original  Christian  sources have  therefore  been  given  preference]. A  basilica  was  erected on  the  spot.” [Encyclopaedia  of  Religion  and  Ethics  :  (1934)  Art.  Seven Sleepers  : Vol.  XI,  p. 428].

In  so  far  as  the  historicity  of the  legend  is  concerned,  no critic  has  been  able  to  prove  it as  entirely  baseless nor  has  anybody demonstrated  it as simply a  flight of imagination.  The  story  is  extant in  a  number  of versions : Greek,  Syriac,  Latin,  Coptic  Arabic, Armenian,  Ethiopic  and  Georgian,  and  there  is  also  no  reason  to doubt  the  authenticity  of the  ancient  texts.  Edward  Gibbon,  who normally gives  little  credence to  miraculous  and  outlandish  stories, writes  of this  legend:

“The  origin  of this  marvellous  fable  cannot  be  ascribed  to the  pious  fraud  and  credibility  of the  Modern  Greeks, since  the authentic  tradition  may  be  traced  within  half a century  of the supposed miracle. James  of Sarug [James,  one  of  the  orthodox  fathers  of  the  Syrian  Church, was  born  A.D.  452;  he  began  to  compose  his  sermons,  A.D. 474; he  was  made  bishop of Batnae,  in  the  district of Sarug,  and province of  Mesopotamia,  A.D. 519,  and  died  A.D.521  (Assemanni,  tom.i, pp.  288,289)’.  for  the  homily  de  Pu eris  Ephesinis,  see  pp.  335 ,339)],  a  Syrian  bishop,  who  was born  only  two  years  after  the  death  of younger Theodosius, has  devoted  one  of his  two  hundred  and  thirty  homilies  to  the praise  of the  young  men  of Ephesus.  Their  legend  before  the end  of the  sixth  century,  was  translated  from  the  Syriac  into the  Latin language,  by the  care of Gregory  of Tours.  The hostile communions  of the  East  preserve  their  memory  with  equal reverence;  and  their  names  are  honourably  inscribed  in  the Roman,  the  Abyssinan,  and  the  Russian  calender,  Nor  has their  reputation  been  confined  to  the  Christian  word”. [Edward Gibbon: The  Decline  and  Fall  of the  Roman  Empire: London  (1908);  Vol.Ill,  pp.  413-414].

The  duration  of the  time spent  by  the  Companions  of the Cave  in  deep  slumber has been  variously  given  in  different versions. Some  Christian  writers  reckon  it  to  be  as  much  as  353  or 373  years  but  the  general  consensus  of opinion  is  that  the  youth  slept  for  a period  ranging  from  300 to  307 years.  In  round  numbers,  300  years in  the  solar  calendar  would  come  to  309  in  the  lunar calendar.

Ibn Kathir  is  of the  view  that  number  of years  spent  in  the cave,  from  the  time  the  youths  miraculously fell  into  sleep  to  time  they  were awakened,  was  made known  to the  Prophet  of Islam through  revelation.  The  period given  by  lbn Khatir too  is  300 years according  to  the  solar  calendar,  and 309  according  to  the  lunar calendar.  He  further  says  that  since  every  hundred  solar  years  are equal  to  one  hundred  and  three  of the  lunar  calendar,  the  Qur’an says  :  “and  added  nine”  after  ”three  hundred  years”.

Most  of the  Christian  sources  as  well as  Gibbon  and  other Muslim  writers hold the view  that  the  youths  concealed  themselves in  the  cave  during  the persecution by  Decius  (A.D.  250),  known  by the  name  of Daqianus  to  the  Arab  historians.  Decius  is  known  to have  instituted  an  organised  persecution  of the  Christian throughout the  Roman  empire.  The  second sovereign  mentioned  in the tradition is Theodosius (408-450 A.D.)  in  whose  reign  the  youths  are reported  to  have  been  awakened.  Taking  250  A.D. and  450 A.D. we get an  interval  of 200  years.  Gibbon relies on  the tradition which give  this  period  as  one  hundred  and  eighty-seven  years  and,  taking his  stand  upon it,  exercises  his  wit  to  ridicule  the  period  mentioned in  the  Qur’an.  Some  of the  earliest  as  well  as  recent  commentators of  the  Qur’an  for  instance,  Jamaluddin  Qasim and  Abul  ‘Ala Maududi  have,  therefore,  tried  to  explain  away  this  apparent contradiction by putting forth the view that the words “three hundred years  and  add  nine”,  mentioned  in  the  Qur’an,  simply  repeat  the then  current traditional view instead of indicating  any definite period of  the  deep  slumber  of  the  youths.  They  argue  that  the  abovementioned  passage  is to  be  read  in  the  context  of the  preceding verses:  “(Some)  will  say :  They were  three,  their dog the  fourth…” This  view  is  attributed  to  Qatadah  and  Mutrif ibn  ‘Abdullah.  The commentators  who  prefer  this  interpretation  also  point  out  the succeeding  verses  which says:  “Allah  is  Best Aware  how  long they ·  tarried.”  Their contention  is  that  if God had  revealed  the exact period, He  would  not  have  drawn  attention  towards  His  Own  perfect knowledge  immediately  after  the verses  in  question.  This  exegesis is  ascribed  to Ibn  ‘Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu)  but  Alusi,  another  commentator,  points out  that since Ibn ‘Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) gives  the  number  of the  Companions  of the  Cave  as  seven,  he  ought to  have-placed  reliance  on  the  periods too,  for,  both  the  verses  mentioning  the  number  of the  companions and  the  period  of slumber  are  followed  by  a  similar  warning  about the  true  knowledge  being  with  God  alone. [Ruh-ul-Ma’ani,  (Surat-ul-Kahf)].

There  are,  however,  several  other  eminent  commentators of the Qur’an who  do  not agree with this  explanation.  They hold  the view  that  it  is  not  correct  to  put  a  construction  on  any  verse  which is  not  explicitly  clear.  Similarly,  no  interpretation  should  be acceptable  unless  it  can  be  reliably  explained  with  the  help  of elaborate  details.  Imam  Raazi,  a  commentator  of  note,  says  in  the Tafsir Kabir ;

“The  verses  intervening  between  the  revelation:  ‘(Some) will  say :  They were  three,  their  dog  the  fourth  …… ”  and  the verse  giving  out  the  number  of years  show  that  the  two  are entirely  unconnected.  On  the  other  hand,  the passages  ‘So contend  not  concerning  them  except  with  an  outward contending‘,  and  ‘Say : Allah  is  Best  Aware  how  long  they tarried‘,  do  not  refer  to  any tradition  or  fable  mentioned earlier. These can,  therefore,  only mean  that instead  of relying on  what others  (Jews  and  Christians)  say,  one  should  pin  one’s  faith  in the  revealed  truth. [Tafsir-i-Kabir, Vol.iii]. 

lbn  Taimiyah  says: “The  view  taken  by certain  commentators,  on the  basis  of the  words  :  ‘Say,  Allah is  Best  Aware‘,  that  the  Qur’an  quotes  the  tradition  (in  regard to  the period  of sleep)  current  among  the  Jews  and  Christians, is  erroneous. The  period  indicated  is  not  repetition  of  what others  say:  it  is  a  revelation  from  God.” [ Al-Jawab  al-Suhih  liman  baddala  din il-Masih].

It  has  to  be  remembered  that  the  so-called  discrepancy pointed  out by Gibbon in the  period  of sleep  mentioned  in  the Qur’an, proceeds from  the  assumption  that  the  youths  concealed themselves in  the cavern  during  the  Decian  persecution.  Decius  was  proclaimed Emperor  in  September  249 A.D.  and  died  in  June,  251 A.D.  It seems  most probable  that  Decius  was  assigned  the  role  of a  villain in  this  tragic  drama,  by  the  later  scribes,  owing  to  his  atrocious cruelty  in  the  persecution  of those  Christians  who  disobeyed  his, edict to  perform  a  pagan  religious  sacrifice [See  Encyclopaedia  Britannica  (1968),  Vol.  1,  p.  157,  Art Decius.  It  was,  however,  not  under  the  reign  of Decius,  but  much earlier,  under  Trajan  (98-117  A.O.)  that those  accused  of Christianity were  first  directed  on offer sacrifice  to  the  heathen  gods. Those  who refused  to  do  so would be punished  for  a  crime  exposed to  captial punishment.  Under  Trojan  were  martyrised  Symeon,  Bishop  of Jerusalem, and  Ignatius,  Bishop  of Antioch. (George  H.  Dyer: History of the  Christian  Church,  New  York-1896,  Vol.  I,  pp.65-66)]  in  the  presence of duly appointed  commissioners,  who  were  to  issue a  certificate  (Libellus) that  they  had  done  so.  Thiis  imperial  edict  is  reported  to  have  been issued  in  June,  250,  and  then  early  in  251,  but  a  few  months  before the  death  of Decius,  the  Commissioners  seem  to  have  ceased  their activities.  Decius, who  ruled  for  less  than  two  years,  had  to  spend the  greater  part of his  brief rule  amidst  the  cares  of war,  first  against the  Emperor  Philip  and  then against the  Goths.  His  final  engagement took  place  on  a  swampy  guound  in  the  Dobruja  in June  251  and ended  in  the  defeat  and  death  of Decius. [Historians  ‘History  of  the  World  (London-1908),  Vol.  VI,  pp. 413-14  and  Edward  Gibbon  :  The  Decline  and Fall  of the  Rotnan Empire :  (London-1909),  Vol.  I,  pp.  246-50]. He perhaps  never  got  the time  to  visit  his  far  off eastern  dominions at  least  the accounts  of his  rule  given  by  the  historians  are silent about  any  such  excursion by  him.

The  ecclesiastical  writers  of the  fourth  or  fifth centuries seem  to  have  exaggerated  the  earlier  martyrdoms  owing  to  the implacable  and  unrelenting  zeal  which  filled  their  own  breasts against  the  idolaters  of their own times.  Gibbon says,  on  the authority of Origeo,  that the  number of early  martyrs  was  very  inconsiderable and  that,  under  the  rigorous  persecution  of Decius;  only  ten  men and  seven  women  suffered  for  the  profession of the Christian  faith.
[Edward Gibbon: The  Decline  and Fall of the Roman  Empire: (London-1909),  Vol.  II, pp.  98]. These  account  are,  however,  silent  about  any  persecution  of  the Christians  in  or  around  Ephesus  under  the  orders  of Decius.

It  seems  that  the  concealment  of the  Christian  youths  was a  local  affair  of  minor  significance  to  attract  the  attention  of the historians.  On  the  other  hand,  their  miraculous  awakening  after  the prolonged  sleep,  their  dramatic  appearance  in  the  city  and  their presentation  before  the  authorities  must  have  a  memorable  affair raising  a  tumultuous  commotion  in  the  entire  Christendom.  The story  of  the  Seven  Sleepers,  with  its  reminiscences  of  classical mythology,  must  have captured  the  imagination  ofthe  clergy  and the  laity,  the  poets  and  the  historians,  making  it  one  of the  most enchanting  fables  of  the  day.  The  point  of  the  story  does  not, therefore,  lie  in  the  name  of any  given  Emperor  mentioned  by  the later  scribes but in  the  fact  that the  beginning  of the  period  of slumber coincided  with/the  reign  of  an  Emperor  who  persecuted  the Christians.  Viewed  from  this  angle,  it  seems  highly  probable  that the  Seven  Sleepers  hid  themselves  in the  reign  of Hadrian (Elius Hadrianus) [ Hadrian  learnt  on  August  11 ,  117  in  Syria,  of  Trajan’s  death and  assumed  the  government.  For  12  of his  20  years  as  emperor Hadrian  was  absent  from  Rome,  which  was  perhaps  the  most notable  feature  of  this  principate.  In  121  Hadrian  left  Rome  on  his first  travels.  He  toured  first  to  the west and  then  to  the  east; traversing  Asia  Minor,  he  returned  by way  of  Sicily  to  Rome by  the end  of  126.  The  next  year was  spent  at Rome,  and,  after  a  visit  to Africa,  he  set  out  on  his  second  great journey  in  September 128. He travelled by way  of Athens.  In  the  spring  of 129  he  again  visited Asia  Minor and  Syria, where  he  invited  the  kings  and  princes  of the East  to  a  meeting  at  Samosata.  Having  passed  the  winter  at Antioch,  he  set  out  for  the  south  in  130.  He  ordered  Jerusalem  to be  rabuilt  under  the  name  of  Aelia  Capitolina,  to  be  peopled  with gentile  Roman  citizen, and  name  of Aelia  Capitolina,  to  be  peopled with  gentile  Roman  citizens, and then  made  his way  through  Arabia to  Egypt.  Hadrian returned  through  Syria  to  Europe,  but was  obliged to  hurry  back to  Palestine  to  deal  with  the  Jewish  revolt  that broke out  in  132.  For  a  while  he  commanded  in  the  field  himself,  then  in 134,  leaving  the  conduct  of  affairs  in  the  hands of  Julius  Severus he  returned  to  Rome.  He  died  at  Baiae  on  June  10,  138.

Palestine  blazed  with  the  last  and  most  desperate  of  its rebellions,  for  three  years,  during  the  reign  of Hadrian.  When  the end  came  in  135,  Palestine  was  a  ruined  and  largely  depopulated city.  The  holy  city  was  henceforth  prohibited  to the  Jews.

Hadrian was  “proud  and  vainglorious,  envious and  destructive, hasty  and revengeful, inquisitive  into  other  man’s  affairs,  and  often induced  by sycophants  to  acts  of  cruelty  and  injustice.  He  permitted the  revival  of a  bad  disposition, which  it was the  whole  study  of  his life  to  correct  or  to  conceal.”  (The  Historians’  History  of the  World: (Londone-1908),  Vol.  VI,  p.  281.)

“Hadrian  was  no  old  Roman”,  writes  George  H.  Oyer,  “but  a modern  spirit,  curious,  religious,  and  skeptical.  He  maintained Trojan’s  policy,  put  cautioned  against  wholesale  accusations.”  (A History  of the  Christian  Church:New  York-1896,  Vol.  I,  p.  66.)] who  donned  the  imperial  purple  for  a  fairly  long  time from  117  to  138.  In  April  129  Hadrian  undertook  a  long journey to the  eastern  provinces  of the empire,  from  which  he did  not  return  to take  up  his  residence  on  the  Tiber  until  the  year  134.  It  is  not necessary  that  the  persecution  of d1e  Christians  of Ephesus  should have  taken  place in  the  presence of Hadrian  or even  under his  orders. ln  the  extensive  dominions  of  the  Roman  Empire,  any  magistrate who  exercised  in  the  provinces  the  authority  of the  emperor,  or  of the  senate,  and  to  whose hands  alone  the jurisdition of life and  death of the  subjects  was  entrusted,  could  have  behaved as  a  remorseless tyrant.  It  is  not  improbable  that  some  such  functionaries  of  the State,  stimulated  by  motives  of avarice of personal  resentment,  might have  been  more  zealous  in  enforcing  the  royal  edict.  This  is  no mere  assumption,  for  we  can  find  analogous  examples  in  every age.  We  can  thus  reasonably  conclude  that  the  Companions  of the Cave  concealed  themselves  during  the  reign  of Hadrian,  who  visited Ephesus,  and  they  were  raised  from  their  deep  slumber  in  the  time of the  younger  Theodosius.  This,  if agreed,  would  not  only  bring the  Christian  traditions  in  conformity  with  the  period  indicated  in the  Qur’an,  but also sap  the very foundations  which  provided Gibbon with an  opportunity  to deride  the  Divine revelation.  And  this  appears to  be  all  the  more  reasonable  because  no extant source  is  definite about  the  beginning  or  even  the  end  of the  prolonged  sleep  of the youths. There  is  also  a  wide  variation  between  the  periods  reckoned on  the  basis  of various  sources  by  different authorities.  The  Syriac sources,  for  example,  claim  that  the  Seven  Sleepers  woke  up  in  425 or  437 A.D.  while Greek  tradition  fix  the  incident  in  446  A.D. or the  thirty-eighth  year  of the  reign  of Theodosius ii.

It is  our  unalterable  faith  that the Qur’an,  being  the  custodian of the revealed  truth  and  earlier scriptures,  is  much  more trustworthy than  all  those  ancient  texts  which  were  always  open  to  change  and amendments.

The  persecution of  the  Christians,  falsely  charged  with burning  the  Roman  capital,  and  punished  with  the  most  horrid tortures,  had  been  initiated  by  Nero  as  early  as  in  64 AD and  it continued  unabated  under  Trajan.  Hadrian  and  Marcus  Aurelius. There  were  occasional  periods  of peace  in  between  long  years  of persecution  till  Constantine  embraced  Christianity  in  the  beginning of  the  fourth  century.  The  perplexity  produced  by  the  scanit  and discordant  historical  material  about  the  early  years  of Christianity is  another  reason  for  not  placing  reliance,  as  did  Gibbon, on  any particular  tradition  or  an  ancient  text  in  regard  to  the  exact  period and  dates  of the  prolonged  sleep  of the  Seven  Sleepers.  After  all. the  hiding  of a  band  of unknown  person  in  a  far  off province  of the empire,  would  have  been  a  minor  incident  of no  significance.  Their awakening,  on  the  other  hand,  during  the  reign  of an  Emperor  who professed  the  faith  of the  persecuted  fugitives must  have  stirred  the imagination  of the  people.

The  real  significance  of the  story  can,  however,  be  realised in  the  context of the  raging  controversy  about the  resurrection  of the body  and  retribution  in  the  Hereafter.  An  irrefutable  evidence,  an overwhelming demonstration  of the Iife after death  was  then  required to  revive  the  belief  in  resurrection,  and  the  event  did  happen  to proclaim  this eternal  circulated story  throughout the  Roman  empire. As  it  could  be  hoped in  such  circumstances,  the  story  circulating from  mouth  to  mouth  would  necessarily  have  become  somewhat vague  in  regard  to  its  details  and  the  dates  before it  was  reduced  to writing.

Why  the  story  was  re-told  in  Qur’an

The  reason  for  the  revelation  of Surat-ul-Kahf,  as  related  by Muhammad  ibn  ls’haq,  is  reported  to  be  certain  questions  asked from the Prophet  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) by  the  idolaters  of Makkah  who  were instructed  by  the  Jewish  rabbis  to  do  so as  a  test  of his  prophethood. [lbn  Jarir  relates  on  the  authority  of  ibn  ‘Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu)  that  the  Quraish had  deputed  Nadhr  ibn  at-Harith  and  ‘Uqba  ibn  Abi Muyit  to  the Jewish  doctors  of Yathrib  to  ask  them  about Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and  his teachings,  since  the  Jews were  considered  to  be the  custodians  of ancient  scriptures  and  also  possessing  the  knowledge  of  the prophets  of  yore.  The  story  has  also  been  related  by  Marmaduke Pickthal  who  says  that  when  the  two  delegates  arrived  in  Yathrib, they  told  Jewish rabbis  about  the  character  and  teachings  of Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and  begged  them  to  inform  if he  was  to  be  believed. The  Jewish  doctors  instructed  them  to  ask  three  questions;  for  they  said,  Muhammad  would  answer  them  correctly  on  if he  were a  true  prophet.  “Ask  them”,  said  the  Rabbis,  “of some  youths  who were  old,  what was  their  fate,  for  they  have  a  strange  story;  and ask  him  of  the  much-travelled  man  who  reached  the  limits  of  the east  and  west.  what  was  his  history;  and  ask  him  of  the  Spirit, what  it  is.  If  he  is  able  to  answer  these  questions  correctly,  then follow  him;  if  he  is  unable  to  give  correct  replies,  then  treat  him  as an  impostor.”  The  two  emissaries  then  turned  back  to  Makkah  and told  the  Quraish  that  they  had  returned  with  a  crucial  test  for Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). They put all  the questions  to  Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  as directed by  the  Jews.  The  Prophet  said  that  he  would  surely  answer  them upon  the  morrow,  without  adding  “Insha’ Allah”.  As  a  reproof for  that  omission,  the  wished  for  revelation  was  withheld  from him  for  fifteen  days.  The  Quraish  bitterly  reproached  the  Prophet for  his failure  to  answer  the  questions,  but  at length  Jibra’eel (alayhissalaam)  brought revelation  (Surat-ul-Kahf)  containing  replies  of  all  the  three questions.  The  revelation  contained  an  admonition  for  the  Prophet’s grief as  well  as  the  story  of the  youth  and  the  much-travelled  man. It  also  repeated  the  question  put by  the  idolaters  about  spirit  (They will  ask  thee  concerning  the  Spirit,  Say  : The  Spirit is  by  command of  my  Lord  and  of  knowledge  ye  have  been  vouchsafed  but  little [Kahf: 85].  It  is,  however,  to  be  noted  that  one  of  the  intervening narrators  of  this  Tradition  viz.  ‘Akramah,  from  whom  lbn  ls’haq relates  it,  not  being  trustworthy  it  cannot  be  treated  as  perfectly authentic]. One  of the  three  questions  of the  cave.  Even  if this  Tradition  were

correct.  it  cannot  be  regarded  as  the  sole  reason  for  the  selection  of an  event,  amongst  innumerable  incidents  of unbridled  cruelties  in the  name  of  religion,  for  narration  in  the  Qur’an.  ln  any  case;  the event  normally  regarded  as  the  immediate  cause  of the  revelation  of any  particular  Surah, and sometimes  given  undue emphasis  by certin doctors  of  religion,  is  not  given  much  weight  by  the  eminent commentators.  The  Qur’an  was,  in  truth  and  reality,  revealed  for exposition  of tbe  Truth  and  presentation  of  the  Divine  Guidance which  man  had  lost because  of  his  negligence  and  wickedness.  Ever since  the  beginning  of  Divine  revelations,  the  inclinations  and propensities,  dispositions  and  natural  affections  of man  have  not undergone  any  notable  change:  he  still  needs,  as  ever,  the  same intellectual  and  moral  bases  of the  Right  Path  which were  revealed to  the  earlier prophets  and  which  reached  their eventual  consumation in  the  teachings  and  the  life  of the  last  Prophet,  Muhammad,  on whom  be peace and  blessings  of God.  This  is  the  cogent  reason,  the underlying cause much  more  potent and  intelligible that  any  isolated incident  narrated  as  the  background  for  any  particular  piece  of revelation.  Shah  Walliullah Dehlwi  (d.1176/1763),  one  of  the  greatest savants  of the  Qur’an,  has  gone  at  length  to  explain  this  fact.

Normally,  the  commentators of the  Qur’an  describe  some incidents  or  events  to  explain  the  background  of  the  verses, dealing  with  or  containing  divine  commands,  as  if it  were  the sole  reason  for  the  revelation  of that  particular verse.  This  is, however,  an  accepted  fact  that the  central  theme,  and the chief object  for  which  the  Qur’an  has  been  revealed  are  guidance  of mankind,  eradication  of heretical  beliefs  and  abandonment  of immoral  practices.  The  existence  of these  vices  among  any people  is,  thus,  a  sufficient  reason  for  the  revelation  of divine guidance  and  commandments.  Cruelty  and  wickedness  of any people  provide,  in  the  same  way,  the  ground  for  revelations designed  to  eradicate  these  evils.  Reckless  disregard  of  the bounties  of  God  or  obstinate  indifference  to  the  portents mentioned in Qur’an  are,  in  fact,  the  chief reasons  for  revelation of verses  conveying  grim  warnings  to  the  evil-doers.  Except for  those  incidents  which  have  been  hinted  at  in  any  particular verse,  and  which  happened  during  the  Life-time  of the  Prophet or earlier,  there  is  really  no need  to go  into  those  details  which have  been  laboriously  gone  into  by  certain  commentators  of the  Qur’an.” 

Surat-ul-Kahf was  revealed  at  Makkah  at  a  time  when  the small  band  of helpless  Muslims  was facing  almost the same type of religious  persecution  which  had  led  the  Companions  of the  Cave to hide  themselves  in  a  cavern  from  the  fury  of  the  then  Roman Emperor.  A  picturesque description  of the conditions then obtaining in  Makkah, preserved  in  the  Qur’an,  illustrates  the  perilous  situation of the  Makkan  Muslims and this  can perhaps  apply  equally  to  the youths  of Ephesus  seeking  refuge  in  the  cave.

And  remember,  when  ye were  few  and reckoned  feeble  in the  land,  and  were  in  fear  lest  men  should  extripate  you ………. ” (Al-Anfaal: 26)

The  collections  of  the  Prophet’s  Traditions  and  his biographies  are  replete  with  incidents  of  untold  oppressions  and atrocious  persecutions  inflicted  on  his  followers-Bilal, ‘Ammar, Khabbab,  Mus’ab,  Summaiya  and  others (radhiyallahu anhuma).  These  atrocities  are fiendish  enough  to  pain  and  bruise  every  sensitive  heart.  The mounting  wave  of  barbarous  oppression  was  met  by  exemplary endurance of the  faithful;  yet,  without  a  ray  of hope  and  tired of the ceaseless  tortures,  the  patience of the  poor  victims  was  reaching  its breaking point.  Hooked  in  the frightful  claws  of devouring  brutality, the  Makkan  Muslims  were  placed,  literally  speaking,  between  the devil  and  the  deep  sea.  Their  struggle  for  life  and  death  has  been deftly  depicted  by  the  Qur’an.

 …………..  When  the  earth,  vast as  it  is,  was  straitened  for them,  and  their  own  souls  were  straitened  for  them  till  they be thought  them that  there  is  no  refuge from  Allah  save  toward Him.”  (At-Taubah: 118)

It was  precisely at this  moment of sad despair that  the  divine revelation  descended  with  a  comforting  and  soothing  message, rehearsed  a  tale  of miraculous  succour  to  the  oppressed  and  held out the  promise of prosperity after adversity,  comfort after suffering  and  victory  after  defeat.  The  meaning  and  lesson  of this  wonderful story lay beyond  the  accepted  categories  of human  experience  and speculative  thought,  in  the ultimate  unreality  of the  positions  of the tyrant  and  his  victim;  it  demonstrated  how  God  could  deliver  a small  and  oppressed  band  of helpless  youths  from  the  tyranny  of any  encircling  violence-passionate,  capricious,  easily  irritable  and formidable  in  anger-possessing all  the sinews of power and  position, wealth  and  glory.  It  disclosed  how  God  brings  out  dead  from  the alive  and  alive  from  the  dead,  turns  a  furious  and  blood-thirsty enemy  into  a  gracious  and  affectionate  ally and  allows  a  believer to profit  by  the  inheritance  of a  non-believer.

Makkan Muslims  and  Companions  of the  Cave

In  this  darkest  hour  of  tragic  despair  and  helpless melancholy,  the Qur’an  narrated!  to  the  Makkan  Muslims  the  stories of Yusuf (alayhissalaam)  and  his  brothers,  Musa (alayhissalaam)  and  Pharaoh and the  Companions of the  Cave.  The  first  was  the  tale  of a  Prophet  raised  from  slavery to  kingship,  the  second  was  the  story  of  a  nation  and  a  Prophet clasped  in  the  clutches  of a  tyrant  king,  while  the  last  one  spoke  of a  handful  of helpless  youths  subjected  to  the  most gruelling  test  by a  cruel  oppressor.  These  tales  differ  from  one  another  in  so  far  as the  time,  the  circumstances  and  the  principal actors  of these  sinister dramas  are  concerned  but  the  common  chord  of a  similar  objective and  an  identical  ending  runs  through  all  of  them.  All  these  tales demonstrate  how the  overruling  will  of God  imposes  itself,  in  some inscrutable  and  incomprehensive way,  and  how  He  allows  the believer  to  gain ground  upon  the  non-believer,  the  God-fearing  upon the  blasphemer,  the  victim  upon  the  tyrant  and  the  poor  upon  the rich.  Divine justice  is  very  often  dispensed  in  such  wise  leaving  none to speak  of doubt  in  the  omnipotence  of God. Here  is  the  moral  drawn from  the  story  of Yusuf (alayhissalaam)  by  the  Qur’an.

In  their  history  verify  there  is  a  lesson  for  men  of understanding.  It  is  no  invented  story  but  a  confirmation  of the  existing  (Scripture)  and  a  detailed  explanation  of everything,  and  a  guidance  and a  mercy for  folk  who  believe” [Surah Yusuf]

After  recapitulating  the  story  of Prophet  Hud,  the  Qur’an says:

And  all  that  We  relate  unto  thee  of  the  story  of  the messengers  is  in  order  that  thereby  we  may  make  firm  thy heart.  And  herein  hath  come  unto  thee  the  Truth  and  an exhortation  and  a  reminder  for  believers.”  [Surah Hud]

Now,  when  we  consider the  appallingly desperate situation in  which  the  Muslims  of Makkah had then  been  placed  by  Providence, the  striking  similarity  between  them  and  the  Companions  of the Cave  stands  out clearly  in  our view. The youths  of Ephesus  concealed themselves  in  the  cave  to  preserve  their  faith  and  worship;  they remained  in  it  till  the  inevitable  end  of the  most  powerful  empire of  the  day.  The  empire  was  presided over  by  numerous  zealons tyrants  as  well  as  most  amiabe  and  philosophic  characters,  but, disdaining every  consideration  of justice  or  moral  virtue,  everyone submitted  the  innocent  and  passively  obedient  followers  of ‘Eesa Masih alayhissalaam (Jesus Christ)  to  horrible  tortures.  At  last,  the  Seven  Sleepers  woke  up during  the  reign  of an emperor whose  respectable  attachment to the Gospel  urged  him  to  further  the  interests  of true  religion  and  restore justice  to  those  whom  it  had  been  denied  earlier.

The  Muslims  of Makkah  too  bad  to  endure the  most  bitter trials  and  tribulations,  as  if standing  on  the  lava  of violence  under the  scorching  Sun,  until  the  divine  succour  came  in  the  form  of permission to migrate from  Makkah.  They were allowed to take shelter in  the  spacious  cavern  commonly  known  by  the  name  of Yathrib. God  had,  however,  destined  these  new  fugitives  and  refugees  to accomplish a  greater  and glorious task than  that fated  for  the  earlier ones.  The  Makkan  exiles  were  chosen  to  disseminate  and  flourish the  message  of God  to  the  four-comers  of the  world.

He  it is  Who  hath  sent  His  messenger  with  the guidance and  the religion  of truth,  that  He  may make  it conqueror of all religion  however,  much  idolaters  may  be  averse.” [As-Saff: 9]

Apostleship  of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  therefore,  did  not  merely signify  consummation of Prophethood  in his  person;  it  also  charged his  followers  with  the  responsibility imposed on  the  earlier prophets.

Ye  are the  best  community  that  hath  been  raised  up  for mankind.  Ye  enjoin  right  conduct  and  forbid  indecency;  and ye  believe  in  Allah”.  [Surah Aal-i-‘lmran: 11]

The  Prophet  too,  on  whom  be  the  peace  and  blessings, directed the  Muslims  thus: “You  have  been sent  to  relieve  and  not  to  create difficulties. ” [Tirmidhi,  on  the  authority  of Abu Huraira (radhiyallahu anhu)].

For the  believers,  although  a  minority,  the town  of Yathrib was too  small  a  place,  cut off from  the mainstream of life  in Arabia.

In  fact,  the  future  of the  entire  humanity  was  dependent  on  these persons,  who  were,  in  the  words  of ‘Eesa al Maseeh (alayhissalaam),  the  salt  of  the earth.  This  small  band  of the  believers  was  destined  to  resuscitate the  dying  world  and  breathe  fresh  life  into  it.  God  had,  therefore, decided  not  to  destroy  these  persons  like  the  companions  of  the Cave,  nor did  He  allow  them  to  fall  in  a  deep  slumber or to  renounce the  world  and  live  like  hermits.  On  the contrary,  they  were  burdened with  the  responsibility  of preaching  the  religion  of God,  of fighting falsehood  and  irreligion  and  of asserting  the  supremacy  of the  one and  only  God  over  everything  else.

And  fight  them (the oppressors) until  persecution  is  no  more,  and  religion is  all  for  Allah.”  [Al-Anfal :39]

When  Diomedes. one of the  companions  of the  Cave,  came out  of his  cavern,  he  found  an  entirely  new  world so  different  that he  cod  no longer  recognise  the once familiar  confines  of his  native city.  The  lad  was  astonished  to  find  the  cross  over  the  gates  of Ephesus  and  the  country  rule  by  an  Emperor  of  his  own  faith. Likewise,  when  the  Makkan  refugees  went  back  to  their  native  land they  found  the  banner  of Islam  fluttering  over  the  city,  the  keys  of Ka’bah  in  the  hands  of the  Prophet,  the  humiliated  religion  being held  in  the  highest  esteem  and  the  idols  worshipped  by  the  pagans cast aside  with  contemptuous  ignominy. Those  who  had  been  forced to  leave  Makkah  as  the  humiliated  and  harrassed  immigrants  were now  received  back  as  the  benefactors  of humanity  with  the  most distinguished  marks  of honour.

Viewed  in  this  light,  we  find  a  striking  similarity  between the  companions  of the  Cave  and  the  refugees  of Makkah.  Whatever apparent  dissimilarity  was  there  it  was  due  to  the  difference  in  the setting of the two  occurrences,  variant  character and  deportment of the  two  peoples  and  the  distinctive  teachings  of the  two  faiths.

History Repeats Itself

God  has  ordained  Islam  to  flourish  in  eternity  and  its votaries  to  survive,  transmit  and  diffuse  His  message  to  the  end  of time.  It  is,  therefore,  beseeming  that  it  should  pass  through  and confront  all  the  situations  faced  by  the  earlier  nations.  lts  call  has of necessity  to  combat the  obsessions  and  prejudices,  hatreds  and the fullness  of heart which  always obstruct the way  of righteousness. It  is,  therefore,  no wonder  that we find  lslam,  on different occasions, victorious  and  defeated,  powerful  and  weak,  acclaimed  and reproached.  Like  the  poor and  persecuted followers  of almost every prophet,  we  still  see  movements  trying  to  have  Islam  teased  and tortured,  disbanded  and  dispersed,  sometimes  through administrations  avowedly  anti-Islamic  while,  on  occasions,  by governments  styling  themselves  as  Islamic  States.  The  potentates of  the  so-called  Muslim  or  Islamic  states  take  pride  in  Islam, construct palatial  mosques, solemnly commemorate the  birthday of the  Prophet,  celebrate  the  ‘Ids  but,  along  with  these,  they  also entertain  a  mortal  fear  from  the  true  and  unalloyed  faith  and  its practice.  Strange  though  it  may  seem,  these  leaders  consider  Islam and  the  way  of life  enjoined  by  it,  even  more  dangerous  for  their existence  than  the  atheistic  philosophies  or  heathen  practices. Wherever such  unscrupulous  rulers  come into  power,  the drama of Seven  Sleepers  is  re-enacted in the  lands  of Islam:  there  is  again  an arduous  struggle  between  the weak,  small and the  helpless  minority  of devout  believers  and  the  powerful  and  hypocritical  majority.  The story of the  Companions  of the  Cave then  again  yields  a  striking  as well  as  needful  lesson  for  the  Muslim  youths.

Lo  they  were young  men  who  believed  in their  Lord,  and we  increased  them  in  guidance.

“And we made firm  their  hearts  when they  stood forth  and said:  Our  Lord  is  the  Lord  of the  heavens  and  the  earth.  We cry  unto  no  God  beside  Hirn,  for  then  should  we  utter  an enormity.” [Al-Kahf:  13-14]

Sometimes horrifying  circumstances  make it difficuIt  for  a believer  to choose between his  life and the freedom  of his  conscience. A  true Muslim  is  then  left with  no  alternative  but to  withdraw from society  and  lead  a  scheduled  life.  Such  a  perilous  situation  may arise  only  occasionally  once  after  centuries  but  the Prophethood  of Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam),  being  the  perfect  and  eternal  guidance  vouchsafed  to mankind,  not  only  identifies  such  dismal  circumstances  but  also provides  adequate  direction  to  face  them.  The  Prophet  of  Islam made  this  prediction: 

A  time  will  soon  come  when  the  best possession  of a  Muslim  will  be  his  goats  with  which  he  will  seek asylum  in  a  vaJley  or  in  the  hills  for  the  sake  of his  faith.” [Bukhari,  on  the  authority  of Abu  Sa’eed  Khudri (radhiyallahu anhu)].

These  are  the occasions  when  Surat-ul-Kahf comes  to  the rescue  of the  believer  and  illuminates  the  path  he  ought to  tread. We  will  now  present  the  story  of  the  companions  of the Cave as  recounted  in  the  Qur’an.  Although  the  Qur’an gives  only an outline  of the  story-leaving  out  unnecessary  and  irrelevant  details but in  its  own  inimitable  style,  it  displays  in  the  most  lively  colours the  main  theme  of the  story  in  order  to  bring  out  the  meaning  and moral  underlying  it.

Idol  Worship  and  Licentiousness

In  the  days  of  early  Christianity,  Ephesus  was  a  city  of gods  celebrated  for  the  occult  arts  and  grosser  allurements  of sensuality.  History  bears  such  an  irrefutable  evidence  of tile  close connection  between  idolatrous  cults  and  licentiousness  of frivolous dissipation  as  if  the  former  depends  for  its  existence  on  the connivance  of the  latter.  If  we  cast  our  eyes over  the  archaeological remains  of the  ancient cities  of India.  Greece,  Egypt,  or  the  lands  of the  pagan  Arabia  we  shall  notice  a  deep  gloom  settled  over  the populace  by  sordid  abuse of pleasure.  So  it  also  happened  in  Ephesus where  the  pagan  tradition  of Artemis  combined  with  gay  luxuries to  debase  the  moral  and  virtuous  sentiments.  A  grossly  materialistic society  thus  came  into  existence  in  the  centre  of the  empire  which justified  die  ideals of  sensual  enjoyments,  satisfaction  of desires, immediate  gain  and  primacy of outer material  world.  The  ideology soon  conquered,  with  the  help  of  political  economic  power  at  its command,  the hearts  of the  populace;  since,  it  could also offer  riches, respect  and  authority  to  its  votaries.  Manners  and  morals  of  the ruling  class,  as  ever  fascinated  the  common  people and  gave  rise to  a  seemingly  sophisticated  yet  servile  class  bent  upon  gratifying its  carnal  desires,  achieving  power  and  pelf  and  climbing  to  the positions  of authority  at  every  cost.

The government  of the  day,  stem  and  intolerant,  explicitly supported  the  pagan  traditions  and  ceremonies  as  the  common culture  of the  land. [Speaking  of the  Roman  society  In  the  days  of  early Christianity, says  Gibbon: ”The  religion  of  the  nations  was  not  merely  a speculative  doctrine  professed  in  the  schools  or  preached  In  the temples.  The  innumerable  deities  and  rites  of  polyteism  were closely  interwoven  with  every  circumstance  of business  or pleasure, of  public  or  private  life;  and  it  seemed  impossible  to  escape  the observance  of  them,  without,  at  the  same  time,  renouncing  the commerce  of  mankind  and  all  the  offices  and  amusements  of society.” (The  Decline  and Fall  of the  Roman  Empire, Vol. II, p.16)]  It  was,  therefore,  furiously  indignant  against any  sect  of the  people  which  should  oppose  the  prevalent  forms  of worship  and  moral  ideals,  and  dub  them  as  idolatrous  and  impious. It  administered  vindictive  punishment  upon  those  who  separated themselves  from  the  mainstream  of unifying  culture  and  traditions by  taking  away  their  rights  of  citizenship  or  imposing  capital punishments  on  them.  The  opulent  society  of the  Roman  times abounded  with  superstitious  observances  and  pursuits  of pleasure and  allowed  no  freedom  of conscience  in  its  bid  to  impress  all  the citizens  with  a  common  stamp.  It  wanted  to  level  down  all nationalities  into  a  homogeneous  lot,  an  unidentifiable,  identical reproduction  of the  same  culture,  manner  and  morals.

Courageous  Believers

In  an  environment  so luxurious  but oppressive,  dominated by  the  most  imposing  fabric  of human  government  but  polluted  by the  stains  of  idolatry,  there  were  also  men  of upright  nature  who responded  to  the  call  of Jesus  Christ,  as  soon  as  it  reached  them, with  an  exclusive  zeal  for  the  truth  of religion  and  strict  morality. The  precepts  of the  gospel  so  powerfully  captured  the  heart  and soul  of the  early  Christians  that  it  became  impossible  for  them  to live  without their  faith.  They could  not barter  away  their  beliefs  for any  price,  not  even  at  the  cost  of their  lives;  and  therefore,  they withstood  every  persuation  and  persecution  to  wean  them  away from  their  modes  of faith  and  worship.

These  were  the  reasons  which  first  gave  rise  to  a  deep disquiet,  an  inner  struggle  in  the  hearts  of the  Christians  which manifested  itself  in  the  heroic  tussle  with  the  forces  of evil.  They had  of necessity  to  chalk  out  a  way  of their  own  as  dictated  by  their faith  and  moral  precepts;  directly  opposed,  though  it  was,  to  the demand  of the  Empire. [“Every  Christian  rejected  with  contempt”,  says  Gibbon,  “the superstitions  of  his  family,  his  city,  and  his  province.  The  whole body  of Christian  unanimously refused  to  hold  any  communion  with the  gods  of  Rome,  of  the  empire,  and  of  mankind.  It  was  in  vain that  the  oppressed  believer  asserted  the  inalienable  rights  of conscience  and  private  judgement.  Though  this  situation  might excite  the  pity,  his  arguments  could  never  reach  the  understanding, either  of  the  philosophic  or  the  believing  part  of  the  Pagan  world. To  their  apprehensions  it  was  no  less  a  matter  of surprise  that  any Individual  should  entertain  scruples  against  complying  with  the established  mode  of worship,  than  if they  had  conceived  a  sudden abhorrence  to  the  manners,  the  dress,  or  the  language  of  their native  country “The  Decline  and Fall  of the  Roman  Empire.  Vol.  II.  p.  75)“]  The  Government  was  fervently  idolatrous, and  was  averse  to  tolerate  anything  else  than  heathen  cults.  The society  coveted  every  pleasure  that  might  gratify  the  sensual  and degrade  the  soul;  it  would  not  be  satisfied  with  an  enjoyment  less voluptuous  and  surfeited.  And,  obviously,  if  any  body,  led  by seemingly  petty  scruples  of  religious  belief:  dared  to  provide  the displeasure  of the  government  and  society,  it  became  difficult  for him  to  win  his  bread.

Every  ostensible  consideration-the philosophical  category dr.noting  the  inevitable  connection  between  cause  and  effect, demands  of social  life,  the  grim  facts  of worldly  existence-compelled one  to  adopt  the  manners  and  morals  of  the  pagan  society.  The unerring  logic  of observable  phenomena  as  well  as  the  facts  of logical reality  always  endorse  the  prevailing  psychology  of the  masses that  one  ought  to  ride  high  on  the  hog’s  back.  Their  arguments,  as ever are:  for  man  cannot live  without  bread  and  bread  cannot  be had  without  money,  one  should  seek  favour  of the  powers  that  be Respect,  power  and  glory  are  concomitants  of the  offices  of state, therefore,  why  not  try to achieve  these  if you  can.  Peace and security are  the  essential  pre-requisites  of  one’s  existence,  therefore,  one should  purchase  these  even  if it  demands  conviction  in  the  popular traditions  and  beliefs  of the  surrounding  people.

But,  if there  is  someone who  rejects  with unyielding temper the  persistent  logic  of things,  the  facts  accepted as  incontrovertible and inescapable  by others,  he would necessarily have  his gaze  fixed on  certain  transcendental  truths  beyond  the  reach  of the senses,  but divulged  by  the  power  of his  pure-eyed  faith.  He  knows  that  in addition  to  the  causative  appantus  in  the  possession  of  the governments  and  societies,  there  is another potent,  genetic  cause in the  hands  of the  Creator  of causes:  the  Will  of God  which  is  the original,  propelling  force  behind  the  ostensible  relationship  of all causes  and  effects,  grounds  and  consequences.  Where  the Will  and Pleasure  of  God  is  available  to  furnish  its  support,  the  law  of phenomenal  causation  becomes  ineffective.  The  Creator  of  the World,  the  Omnipotent  Lord can cause the  world, time and  space  to change  their  natural  course  for  his  bondsmen  whom  be  wants  to help;  create  favourable  situations  and  circumstances  as  he  likes and  bestow  abundant  blessings  on  whom  He  will.  One  need  not, therefore,  bend  in  submission  to  a  being other  that God  nor espouse the  cause that are  themselves  weak  and  ineffective.  All  one  needs  is a  firm  and  unshaken  faith  in  the  Omnipotent  Lord.  Verily,  it  is  the innermost  conviction  that  moves  the  mountains,  subdues materialistic urgings  through sincere belief and  annihilates  the  logic of reason  through  the  logic  of faith.  And this  is  the  essence and  pith of the  story  of the  Companions  of the  Cave.

Lo!  they  were  youngmen  who believed  in  their  Lord,  and we increased  them  in guidance.  And  we  made firm  their hearts when  they  stood  forth  and  said : Our  Lord  is  the  Lord  of the heavens  and  the  earth.  We  cry  unto  no  God  beside  Him,  for then  should  we  utter  an  enormity.

These,  our people,  have  chosen  (other)  gods  beside  Him though they  bring no clear  warrant  (vouchsafed)  to them.  And who doth greater wrong than  he  who  inventeth a  lie concerning Allah?”  [Al-Kahf: 13-15]

The Life  without  Faith

But  the  question  is  how were  they  enabled  to  cling  to  their faith  in  the  face  of teething  opposition disowned  by  their  native land,  rejected  by their government and  society and denied  all  means of  subsistence?  They  had  no  choice  before  them: the  ghastly alternative  open  to  them  was  either  a  life  without  faith  or  a  faith without the  vital  flame  of life  and  freedom  of conscience.

In  a  situation  so  frightening  as  this,  the  faith  came  to  their rescue  and  fortified  the  conviction  that  the  earth  is  wide  enough  to provide refuge to them. They should,  therefore,  cut themselves  adrift from  all the  benefits  and  pleasures,  and pin their  faith  in the help  of God  alone.

“And  when  ye  withdraw  from  them  and  that  which  they worship except Allah,  then  seek refuge  in the  Cave;  your  Lord will  spread  for  you  of His  mercy  and  will  prepare  for  you  a pillow in  your  plight.”  [Al-Kahf:  16]

The Correct Way  of Migration

lt was  just possible that they would have stealthily dispersed to  seek  a  shelter  in  a  cavern  or on  the  summit of a  hill.  They  would have  very well  lived like  hermits  as the degenerate  Christians of the medieval  ages  had  decided  to  direct  the  correct  decision  to  leave their  native  land  collectively.  It  was  thus  that  they  departed  from the  city  to  preserve their  spiritual  life.  God,  however,  helped  them to  take the  correct  decision  to  leave their native land  collectively.  It was  thus  that  they  departed  from  the  city  to  preserve  their  faith, religion and the mode of worship,  seeking succour from God, pinning their  faith  in  Him  and  confident  of His  relief in  their  distress.  This was  an admirable  course  adopted  by  the  companions  of the  Cave, which,  manifestly,  demonstrates  the  way  to  be  adopted  by  all believers placed in similar  dreadful  circumstances threatening their faith  and  religion.

The  Reward of Lasting  Conviction

And  what  is  the  outcome of such  a  steadfast  conviciton? When  the  two  preconditions  of unshaked,  faith  and  courageous defiance  of  the  evil  are  fulfilled  by  a  believer,  Divine  succour descends  from  the  clouds  to  render  relief in  his  sufferings.  
They were  young  men  who believed  in  their  Lord,”  says the  Qur’an.  The reward  of their  unflinching  belief is  further  described  in  the  words of God.  :  “We  increased  them  in  guidance.”

This  was  not  a  solitary  incident,  for  it  happens  very  so often.  When  a  Muslim  revolts  against  the  grinding  tyranny  of an intolerant  society  and  a  government,  he  needs,  above  all,  courage, patience  and  divine  guidance.  His  eminent  requirement  at  that moment is  solace  and  peace  for his  smitten  heart.  This,  by  the  way, also  explains  why  God  made  the  companions  of the  cave  firm and resolute before the persecuting  tyrant.  Their agitated heart was  made firm;  their  fear,  hesitation  and  despair  were  replaced  by  courage, determination  and  confidence.  These  are  indeed  the  supreme armaments ever required by the crusaders  of faith  who  have  always to  struggle  against  irreligion  and  godlessness.

One more question  arises  here.  What reward  did  the youths of  Ephesus  get  for  bidding  farewell  to  their  city;  its  delightful pleasures,  their means  of living  and the distinguished  families [Alusi  writes  in  the  Ruh-ul-Ma’ani  that  the  youth  belonged  to  the affluent  and  respectable  families. (Vol. V,  p.  11)] they hailed  from?

The  first  proof of the  affectionate  regard  by  God  came  in the  shape  of a  spacious  and  healthful  cave [ The  Arabic  word  used  is  Kahf denoting  a  spacious  cave  or  hollow in  a  rock.  A  less  spacious  and  small  cave  is  known  al-magharat (Lisan-ul-‘Arab)]  to  which  Providence guided them  to  take  shelter.  It would have  been  difficult for  them  or even  by  a  more  organised  effort,  to  dig  out such  a spacious  cavern in  the  hills  in  those  days.  The  cave,  although  bright  and  airy,  did not  have  excessive heat  of the  sun  within  it.

And  thou  might have  seen the  sun  when  it  rose  move away from  their cave  to  the right,  and when it set go past them on the  left, and they  were in  the  cleft thereof.” [Alusi  says  that  the  youths  slept  well  inside  the  cave  unperturbed by  the  sun  and  its  heat.  (Ruh-ul-Maani,  Vol.  p.  20)  Imam  Razi says  that the  cave  opening  to  north  would  have  the  sun  on  its  right when  it  rose,  and  on  its  left  side  when  it  set.]  [Al-Kahf:17]

The  Companions  of the  Cave  had  thus  been  allowed  to sink  into  sleep  in a  cool  and  comfortable  place-the  most  they  could desire  at  that  time  of the  benefits  of  our  terrestrial  world.  On  the other  hand,  their  retreat  to  a  safe  shelter  and  the  induced  sleep  had, for  all practical  purposes,  linked  them  in  communion  with  a  world other  than  their  own,  untouched  by  our  phenomenal  causes  and effects  and  undisturbed  by  our  despicable  despots  and  tyrants. This was  a  crowning  reward  from  their  Lord  for  their  unflinching  faith and  splendid  courage.  The Qur’an  alludes  to  this  blessing from  God in  these  words : “That was  (one)  of the  portents  of Allah.  He  whom Allah  guideth,  he  indeed  is  led  aright.”  [Al-Kahf :17]

The  atheists  and  disbelievers  in  the  overloardship  of God direct  their  energies,  knowledge  and  efforts  to  harness  the  forces  of nature in order to  make  their  life  more  pleasant often dissappointing. They  find  themselves  afflicted  with  anxiety  and  bewilderment, confusion  and  misery  despite  the  triumphs  of  their  splendid discoveries  and  abundant  conveniences  of  material  prosperity. Defeated  and  disappointed  by  their  own  achievements,  they  seem to  be sinking  into  the  morass  of nervous  and  psychological  diseases, illness  and  lunacy,  and  trembling  before  the  bewildering  spectacle of the  dreadful  weapons  threatening  their own  existence. The  Qur’an adumbrated  this  truth  in  these  words:

And  he  whom  He  sendeth  astray,  for  him  thou  wilt  not find  a  guiding  friend.”  [Al-Kahf:  17].

Their  Spiritual  Existence  in  the  Cave

The  companions  of the  Cave neither  lacked divine  guidance in  the  cave  nor  they  were  doomed  to  inert  spiritual  existence.  It seems  that  they  had  with  them  certain  inscriptions  (or  some  pages of the  Old and  the  New Testaments) [The  Quran  speaks  of the  cave  as  well  as  of  al-Raqeem,  or  the inscription.  What  is  meant  by  this  word  the  commentators  differ; some  consider  it to  be  the  stone  slab  placed  near  the  mouth  of the cave,  on  which  the  names  of  the  youths  were  inscribed,  others  are of  the  opinion  that  it  was  the  name  of  that  town  or  city.  Manazir Ahsan  Gilani  has  expressed  the  view  that  these  were  the  pages of scripture  taken  by them  into  the  cave with them. a  tradition  related on  the  authority  of  lbn  Abbas  has  been  quoted  in  Ruh-ul-Maani (Vol.  V,  p.  122).  Imam  Bukhari  too  agrees  that the  Raqeem  was  a book].  containing prophetic guidance.

This  again  is  a  sign  for  all  those  who  are  forced  to  migrate  from their  hearts  and  homes  for  the  sake  of their  faith. When  the  youths  had  spent  the  provisions  they  had  brought with  them,  they  were  lulled  to  deep  sleep  by  God.

Then  we  sealed  up their  hearing  in  the  Cave  for  a  number of years.”  [Al-Kahf:11]

Transformation  of the  Roman  Empire

The  establishment  of Christianity  as  the  public  religion  in the  entire  length  and  breadth  of the  Roman  Empire  was  an  event signifying  the greatest  miracle  among  the  wonders  connected  with the  story  of  the  Seven  Sleepers.  During  the  period  of  their  deep slumber,  miraculously  prolonged,  the  Christian  gospel  is  embraced and  diffused  in  the  farflung  provinces  of the  Empire,  stains  of idolatry and  sensual enjoyment are  totally obliterated, and  begin  to  look  down upon  those  who  once  claimed  the  highest  marks  of distinction  for their  devoted  zeal  to  idolatrous cults.  A  new  way  of  life,  having faith [The  emperor  Constantine,  the  Great,  who  ascended  the  throne  in 306,  is  believed  to  have  embraced  Christianity  for  that  appears  to have  been  a  mixture  of personal  and  political  motives.  He  convened the  councils  of  bishops  to  bring  about  uniformity  in  the  creeds and  beliefs  of the  Christians.  He  founded  the  city of constantinople in  324  and  died  in  335.]  in ‘Eesa alayhissalaam [Jesus  Christ],  raised  its  head  from  the  deep  gloom  of  heathen cults  and  frivolous  dissipation,  which  had  settled  upon  the  face  of Roman  society.  Christianity,  so  long  regarded  as  a  despised  lapse from  faith  and  visited  with  the  most  frightful  punishments,  now inspires  the  people  to  esteem and  to  reward  the  merits  of its  votaries. The  Seven  Sleepers  are  thus  permitted  to  awake  after  more  than three  hundred  years  of deep  and  comfortable  sleep.

And  (it  is  said)  they  tarried  in  their  Cave  three  hundred years  and  add  nine.”  [Al-Kahf: 25]

They  ask each  other:  “How long  have  we slept?”  But none of them  being able to  indicate the  exact  duration  of their  sleep,  they give  up  the  barren  controversy  as  it  is  important  neither  for  their religion  nor  for  their  worldly  life.

A  speaker  from  among  them  said: How  long  have  ye tarried?  They said: we  have  tarried  a  day  or  some  part  of a day.  (Others) said:  Your  Lord  best  knoweth  what  ye  have tarried.,,  [Al-Kahf: 19]

After  a  while,  pressed  by  the  calls  of hunger,  they  decided that  one  of them  should  secretly  return  to  the  city to  bring  food  for them.  They hand over the  coins they  have to  one of them to purchase the  best  food. [The  best  food,  as  explained  by  Imam  Razi,  means  a  pure  and wholesome  food.  This  also  denotes  that  the  wholesome  food  is permitted  by  the  Shariah  and  is  not  an  impediment  in  attaining spiritual  merit]

Now  send  one  of you  with  this  your  silver  coin  unto  the city,  and  let him  see  what  food  is  purest there  and  bring  you  a supply  thereof“.  [Al-Kahf:  20]

They think  that  the  situation  has  still  not  changed  and  that they are still  fugitives  hotly  pursued  by the state officials. Therefore, they  ask  their companion to be extra-cautious  as  well as  courteous.

Let him  be  courteous  and  let  no  man know  of you“.

For they,  if they  should  come  to  know  of you,  will  stone you,  or  tum  you  back  to  their  religion;  then  ye  will  never prnsper.”  [Al-Kahf: 20-21]

The  people  of Ephesus  had  still  not  forgotten  the  youths who  had,  in  their  opinion,  sacrificed  their  lives  for  their  religious faith.  They  knew  how  they  had  been  sealed  up  in the  cavern,  never to  come out again.  The nascent  Christian empire  under Theosodius II,  on the  other  hand,  was  inflamed  by the  fervent  spirit  of devotion to  its  new  faith.  It wanted to  consecrate  and glorify the  sacrifices  of its  earlier saints  and  martyrs.  There could,  then,  be no other incident worthy  of a  higher  regard  and  noble  remembrance  than  that  of the Companions  of the  Cave.

Fugitives  Turn  into  Heroes

The  youth  sent  to  buy  provisions  secretly  arrives  in  the city  like  a  runaway  slave.  He  wants  to  return  to  the  cave  as  early  as possible,  but  suddenly  he  finds  himself  and  his  companions  in  the spotlight  of fame  and  honour.

The  old-fashioned  dress,  obsolete  language  and  the  ancient money  which  the  youth  has  with  him,  at once  draw  the  attention  of the  people  to  him.  The  Qur’an  does  not  go  into  all  these  details  as its  purpose  is  not  to  rehearse  the  story  but  to  draw  its  moral.  The news,  however,  spreads  like  wild  fire  and  the  people,  the  bishop, the  governor  and  the  emperor  himself,  hasten to  visit  the  cavern  to have  a  glimpse  of the  sacred  place.  The  Qur’an,  as  usual,  does  not give the  details  of  the  profound  esteem  commanded  by  the  Seven Sleepers,  but  expounds  the  lesson  in  no  uncertain  words :

And  in  like  manner  we  disclosed  them  (to  the  people  of the  city)  that  they  might  know  that  the  promise  of Allah  is true,  and  that,  as  for  the  Hour,  there  is  no  doubt  concerning it.” [Al-Kahf: 22]

The  solemn  revolution  in  the government and  the  populace of  the  Roman  Empire,  and  the  discovery  of the  forsaken  youths  of Ephesus  after  such  a  long  time,  signified  the  way  God  fulfils  his promise  and  ultimately  confounds  the  anti-God  forces.  The  event furnished  a  proof  that  God  is  the  Lord  of the  world,  of time  and space  and  can  change  the  situation  whenever  he  likes.

And  because the hour will  come,  there  is  no  doubt  thereof; and  because  Allah  will  raise  those  who  are  in  the  graves.” [Al-Hajj :  7]

Who  could  have  imagined  that  the  forces  of tyranny  would wither  away  providing  the  most  favourable  circumstances  for  the expansion  of the  harassed  and  persecuted  Christianity?  Nobody could  have  similarly  visualised  that  the  companions  of  the  Cave would  one  day  be  re-discovered,  youthful  and  beaming  with  a  holy radiance,  to  confirm  the  Christian’s  faith  in  the  resurrection  of the dead.  Who  know,  when  they  were  a  hunted  and  persecuted  lot,  that they would  again  be  received  by  their  countrymen  with  the worshipful  respect  paid  to  the  sovereigns? Was  there,  also,  no  moral in  the  story  for  the  over-confident  chiefs  of Makkah,  and  no  sign  of hope  for  the  weak  and  persecuted  followers  of the  Prophet?

The  youths  of  Ephesus  remained  alive  till  they  had  not delivered  the  message  for  which  they  had  been  roused  from  their deep  slumber.  The  message  delivered,  they  again  fell  asleep.  Their followers  would not agree  on  the  type  of memorial  to  be established to  preserve  their  memory.

When  (the  people  of the  city)  disputed  of their  case among themselves,  they  said:  Build  over  them  a  building;  their  Lord knoweth  best  concerning  them.  Those  who  won  their  point said; We  verily  shall  build  a  place  of worship  over  them.” 
[Certain  persons  justify  construction  of  shrines,”  says  Alusi  in  his comentary  on  the  verse.  “but  it is  a  prohibited  and  sacrilegious  act. Bukhari,  Muslim  and  Nisai  have  related  a  tradition  from  Ayesha (radhiyallahu anha), and  there  is  another  one  recorded  by  Muslim  on  the  authority  of Abu  Huraira (radhiyallahu anhu), which  say:  “My God  censure  the  Christians  the Jews who  turned  the  graves  of  their  prophets  into  places  of  worship“. Imam  Ahmad,  Bukhari,  Muslim  and  Nisai  add  that  such  persons would be  the  worst  afflicted  lot  on  the  day  of judgement. The  verse only  tells  us  what  had  then  happened  and  does  not  at  all  justify their  emulation,  particularly,  since  we  do  not  know  if the  persons referred  to  wer  pious  or  not.  It  is  possible  that  the  decision  might have  been  taken  by the  king  or  one  of his  grandees  (Ruh-ul-Maani, Vol.  V.  pp.  21, 32)]

A  basilica  erected  on  the  spot  was  not  the  only  memorial of  these  youths.  The  memory  of  the  youths  was  preserved  with reverence  and  made  the  object  of  several  homilies  and  acta martyrums,  and  their  names  were  honourably  inscribed  in  the Roman,  the  Abyssinian  and  the  Russian  Calendar. [Edward  Gibbon: the  Decline  and  Fall  of the  Roman  Empire, Vol. Ill  (London, 1908),  p.414.]

(Some)  will  say;  they  were  three,  their  dog  the  fourth, and  (some) say:  five,  their  dog  sixth.  guessing  at  random; and (some)  say;  seven,  and  their  dog the  eighth.  Say  (O  Muhammad): My  Lord  is  best aware  of their  number.  None  knoweth  them save  a  few.  So contended  not  concerning  them  except  with  an outward  contending,  and  ask  not  any  of them  to  pronounce concerning  them.”  [Al-Kahf : 23]

Victory  of  Faith  over  Materialism

The  first  marvellous  story,  out  of the  four  recounted  in  the chapter  ‘Al-Kahf,  comes  to  an end  here.  It tells  us  of the  struggle between  faith  and  materialism  or in  other  words,  of the  different consequences  of placing one’s confidence in causes,  on the one  hand, and  in  the  Creator  of  causes,  on  the  other.  It  demonstrates  how faith  overcomes  materialism  and  awakens  a  deep  and  sincere conviction  in  the  Ultimate  Cause of all  causes.

Those  believing  youths  of Ephesus  preferred  faith  over  the materialistic  view  of life,  and  the  promised  retribution  in  the  life to come  over  the  immediate gains  of this  life. They opted  for  poverty coupled  with  faith  rather  than  power  and  pelf  dependent  upon profane  heathenism.  They  did  not  allow  the  gloom  of  idolatrous cults  to tarnish  their spirits  and debase  their sentiments  even though they  had to bid  farewell  to their native land,  friends  and  parents  and deny  themselves  popular  admiration  as  well  as  allurements  of pleasure.  Instead  of yielding  passively  to  the  forces  of tyranny  and sinful  infidelity,  to  the  licentiousness  of desire  and  fickleness  of reason,  they  elected  to  bend  in submission  before  the  worthy demands of their  innermost  self.  Their  choice  was  perfect  and  without  any reservation,  and  the subsequent events  proved  that the decision  taken by  them  was  sagacious,  well-considered  and  correct.  They  also demonstrated  the  truth  that  eventual  success  is  assured  to  those who  fear God,  prefer Him over the apparent trappings  of phenomenal causation  and  are  willing  to  face  every  hardship  to  uphold  their ennobling  faith. The  lesson  was  brought home  by  the  indestructible faith  of the  companions  of the  cave  who  endured  the  persecutions with  indomitable  courage  and  matchless  fortitude  until  the  empire persecuting  them  embraced  the  gospel.  This  is  a story  which  is  repeated  time  and  again  by  the  unending  conflict between  faith  and  the  way  of life  characterised as  “the world”  and its  terminal  stages.  The  story  of  the  Companions  of the  Cave, therefore,  seeks  to  demonstrate  that  the  causes  and  effects  are subservient to the will  of God,  and  that they have  been  fashioned  to ultimately  uphold  faith  and  righteous  action.  The  correct  way  for the  believer,  therefore,  is  to  pin  his  faith  in  the  omnipotence  of God and to  seek  His  blessings  through  unflinching  conviction  and righteous  action.

Before  going  over  to  the  parable  of  the  owner  of  two gardens,  the  Qur’an  bids  the  Prophet  to  hold  fast  the  rope  of divine guidance  and  cling  to  unalterable  faith  in  Him.  This  is  the  way  of God,  shown  by  the  Qur’an  and  illuminated  by the  earnest  faith.  It commands the Prophet to  seek  the companionship of those believers who  mainifest  unfailing  faith  and delight in  the  recollection  of God, even  if they  share  an  insignificant  portion  of the  worldly  riches  and material  possessions.  It  asks  him  to  refrain  from  the  company  of such  ignorant  and  insensible  persons  who,  although  endowed  with position  and  rank,  are  denied  the  blessings  of faith  and  prostration of the  soul.

The  Qur’an  addresses  the  entire  humanity  through  the Prophet of Islam.  Its  message  is  for  every  believer  who  would  ever need  these  solemn  teachings  for  adopting  the  path of righteousness.

Restrain  thyself along  with those who  cry unto  their  Lord at  mom  and  evening,  seeking  His  countenance;  and  let  not thine  eyes  overlook  them,  desiring the pomp  of the  life  of the world;  and  obey  not  him  whose  heart  we  have made  heedless of  our  remembrance,  who  followeth  his  own  lust  and  whose case  hath  been  abandoned. [Al-Kahf:  29]

The true  believers  have  in  every  age,  like the  Companions of  the  Cave,  given  preference  to  their  faith,  righteous  behaviour and  propinquity  to  God over worldly gains  and  material  benefits. Unlike  the  materialists,  they  have  ever  sought  inward and  spiritual satisfaction  even  if it  meant  renouncing  earth  power,  honour  and riches. This  is  the  moral  drawn  by Surat-ul-Kahf as well as  the  lesson taught  by  the  Qur’an.

And  strain  not  thine  eyes  toward  that  which  we  cause some wedded  pairs  among them to enjoy,  the  flower  of the  life of the  world.  that  we  may  try  them  thereby.  The  provision  of thy  Lord  is  better  and  more  lasting.”  [Ta-Ha: 131]

Dajjal and Materialistic 

Materialistic  civilization  is,  in  reality,  the  civilization  of Dajjal  for  it  persistently  opposes  the  spirit  and  the  essence  of the way  of life  demanding  submission  to  the  Creator  and  Master  of the world.  Diametrically  opposed  to  the  way  of faith  and  worship,  it issues  from  the  base  of worldly  gains  and  rests  on  an  unbounded admiration  for  the  riches  and  comfort.  Its  art  and  literature, philosophy  and thought  are all  impregnated  with  an  appaling  craze for  the  earthly  goods  and  benefits,  and  punctuated  with  copious praise  for  those  who  hold  the  reins  of economic and political  power, it  seeks  to  endue  the  objects  of human  desire  with  the  qualities  of eternity  and  omnipotence-the  attributes  of God-and  to  co-erce  man into  a  dishonourable  and  passive  submission  of  his  own  earthly passion.

Extremism  and  Exaggeration

The  leading  lights  of this  civilization,  which  is  prone  to over-emphasise  its  view  and  is  always  ready  to  go to  the  extremes, have  been  elegantly  described  in  this  verse  of the  Surat-ul-kahf

We  have  made  heedless  of  our  remembrance,  who followeth  his  own lust and  whose  case hath  been  abandoned.” [Al-Kahf:  28]

The  dominant  traits  of  this  civilization-reckless exaggeration,  ostentatious  extravagance  and  dire  extremism have made  deep  impression  on  its  outlook  and  affairs  as  well  as  on  the manners and  morals of its  votaries. Wantonly extravagant in pursuits of  pleasure,  sports  and  amusements,  and  extremist  in  social, economic  and  political  views,  these  camp  followers  of Materialism are  always  overconfident  absolutists  no  matter  whether  they  be democrats  or  imperialists,  socialists  or  communists.  They  cannot brook slightest  deviation  from  the  accepted  norms  of their  philosophy or  programme.  They  reject  the  conclusions  which  go  beyond  the limits  of their  cherished  theories  as  diabolical  and  reactionary,  and dub  those  who  claim  freedom  of  interpreting  these  concepts  as despicable  liars,  deviationists  and  non-conformists,  worthy  of ignominious  contempt  and  barbarous  punishment.  One  who  does not  fall  agreeably  in  conformity  with  the  peculiar  concepts  held  by these  extremists  forfiets,  in  their  eyes,  the  right  to  human  dignity and  respect  of life,  and  is  degraded  to  the  level  of wild  beasts  and reptiles  deserving  no  charity  and  compassion. [In  the  United  States  and  in  many  countries  of Europe  a  new counter culture  is  emerging  on  anarchist  principles.  The  distinguishing features  of  this  new  culture  are  moral  irresponsibility,  mutuality  in sex  and  nudity  of  the  younger  generations,  perhaps  best represented  by the  hippies. These  trends, in  fact,  arise  from  hideous excess  of  materialism,  intellectual  unrest,  psychic  discontent  and frustration.  We  find  almost  simiar  conditions  once  prevaning  In Rome  and  Greece.  The  description  of the  democratic  youth  given by  Plato  in  his  ‘Republic’  is  not  dissimilar  to  what  obtains  In  our  own times.  For  details  see  Islam  and  the  World,  pages  113-19].

We,  thus  find  its  every  affair,  public  or  private,  erring through  excess  and  intemperance.  Sobriety,  moderation and restraint are  foreign  to  its  overcharged  temperament.

Bases  of  Revelatory  Guidance

The view  of life arising from  prophetic teachings  has  equity and  moderation  as  its  two  immutable  bases.  Speaking  of the  right guided  persons,  the  Qur’an  says:

And  those  who,  when  they  spend,  are  neither  prodigal nor grudging;  and  there  is  ever a  firm station  between  the  two.” [Al-Furqan: 67]

Again,  the  dominant  characteristic  of the  followers  of the Qur’an  is  stated  to  be  their  remarkable  moderation:

Thus  we have appointed  you  a  middle  nation,  that  ye  may be  a  witness  against  mankind,  and  that  the  messenger  may  be a  witness  against  you.”  [Al-Baqarah:143]

The  Prophet  himself afforded  an  illustrious  example  of complete and  ennobling  moderation [The  biographies  of  the  Prophet  of  Islam  and  compilations  of  his traditions  Iist  a  number  of  Incidents  showing  the  moderation  of his disposition,  the  restraint  displayed  by  him  in  explosive  situations, surcharged  with  emotion  and  the  temperance  of  his  demeanour. “He  always  followed  the  middle  course,”  says ‘Ali (radhiyallahu anhu):  “Never flatering  from  the  right  path,  he  always  chose  the  easier  course whenever he  had  two  alternatives  open to  him.”  ( Shamail  Tirmidhi)]. The distinguishing  feature  of Islam  too,  described  as  “the straigth  path”  and  “a  right  religion“, is  natural  temperance  and  moderation  and  refraining  from  the aberrations  of excess  and  extremism.  Addressing  the  Prophet  of lslam,  says God  Almighty:

Say: Lo!  As  for  me,  my  Lord  hath  guided  me  unto  a straight  path,  a  right  religion,  the community  of Abraham,  the upright,  who  was  no  idolater.”  [Al-Anam: 162].

Again,  God  declares: ”  …………..  That  is  the  right  religion.” [At-Taubah: 36]

The  Qur’an  directs  on  yet  another  occasion:

So  set  thy  purpose  resolutely  for  the  right  religion [Ar-Rum  :  43]

The  Qur’an  also  claims  for  itself the  same characteristic-a clear guidance  free  from  all  crookedness. Surat-ul-Kahf begins  with the  assertion.

Praise  be  to  Allah  Who  hath  revealed  the  Scripture  unto his  slave,  and  hath  not  placed  therein  any  crookedness,

“(But  hath  made  it)  straight,  to  give  warning  of  stem punishment  from  him,  and  to  bring  unto  the  believers  who  do good  works  the  news  that  theirs  will  be  a  fair  reward.” [Al-Kahf:  1-2]

The  same  statement  is  repeated  here:

A messenger from Allah,  reading  purified  pages  containing correct  scriptures.’  [Al-Bayyinah: 2-3]

And,  again,  says  God  about  the  Qur’an:

A  Lecture  in  Arabic,  containing  no  crookedness,  that happily they  may  ward  off (evil)“.  [Al-Zumar: 28]

There  is,  thus,  absolutely  no  doubt  that  the  spirit  of moderation  and  temperateness  or  an  undeviating  golden  mean  runs through  the  right  path  chalked  out  by  Islam  and  pervades  its observances,  teachings,  directives  and  the  cultural  pattern.  It condemns  the extremist  tendency  arising  out of people’s  intolerant, mutually-exclusive  claims  which  unfortunately  forms  the  base  of the  modem  materialistic  civilization  of  the  west  from  its  very inception.  Arising  from  the  seed  of  revolt  against  religion  and morality  in  Europe  during the medieval ages, materialism has  never displayed  equilibrium.  Its  social  philosophies  exhibit  desperate extremism,  its  thought and  wisdom are strangely erratic,  its  manners and  morals  smack of reckless  extravagance and it always  prefers  to adopt  the  most  difficult  and  crooked  course.  It  is  no  wonder,  then, that  this  civilization  resists  all  restraints;  clouds  and  contradicts the  fundamental  truths; abandons  simplicity and  plainness; and  shuns friendship  and  mutual  respect  between  different  peoples.


The  second  story  described  by  the  Qur’an  in  this  Surah relates  to  a  man  who  owned  two  gardens.  Most  of us  would  have occasionally  come  across  the  situation  divulged  by  this  story.  One is  confronted  by  the  bleak  conditions  faced  by  the  Companions  of the  Cave  once in a  century,  but the story  of the  owner of two  gardens is  enacted  often  enough  in  every  place  and  in  all  ages.  It  is  the parable  of  necessary  comfort.  He  had  two  thriving  vineyards surrounded  by  the  groves  of date  palms. In  between  the  groves  he had  also  cultivated  fields.  It  was  all  that  a  man  of  middle  class could  aspire  for;  and,  indeed,  he  had  enough  to  lead  a  happy  and contended  life.  He  might  not  have  rolled  in  riches,  but  the  middle class  and  the  moderate  standard  of  living  have  always  been  the touchstones  of prosperity.

But the  well-being of this  man  did  not  depend  on  his  gardens alone,  for  all  the  causes  and  means  required  to  raise  the  abundant crop  had  also  been  put  into  his  service.

Each  of  the  gardens  gave  its  fruit  and  withheld  naught thereof.  And  we  caused  a  river  to  gush  forth  therein.” [Al-Kahf:  34]

The  owner  of  the  groves  thus  thrived  on  account  of  the invisible  forces  working  for  his  success  and  prosperity.

Short-sightedness  of the  Materialistic  View-point

It  was  at  this  stage  that  the  vision  of the  owner  of  two gardens  was  coloured  by  the  materialistic  belief  which  is  almost always  entertained  by  the  ruling  circles,  feudal  lords,  national leaders,  industrialists,  militarists,  etc.  This  instinctive  but  vigorous materialistic  persuasion  of the  owner of the gardens  was  incapable of being enlightened  by  faith,  Divine gnosis  and  moral  discipline. He ascribed  the  reason  for  his  prosperity  and  well-being  to  his  own knowledge and capabilities,  intelligence and  industry. This  was  also what Qaroon (Korah)  once  thought  of himself.

He said: I  have  been  given  it only  on  account of knowledge I  possess.”  [Al-Qasas: 78]

The owner of the groves was  puffed by his  possessions  and large  following. This  man,  pompously  exultant,  wanted  to  mortify his  friend  when  he  said:

I  am  more  than thee  in  wealth,  and  mightier in  respect  of retinue.” [Al-Kahf:35].

The  owner of the groves  reaped  the  benefits  of his  bountiful crop,  yet he was  blissfully ignorant of his Lord of the imperceptible causes  contributing to  his  prosperity and  the Will of God supervising his  weal.  Not  man  but  the  Lord  and  Sustainer  of the  World,  has  a just  claim  to  the  possession  of whatever  exists  in  the  world.  He, alone,  is  the  connecting  Iink  between  man  and  his  possessions,  nay, between  his  body  and  soul.  Denial  of  Divine  overlordship  and authority  is,  thus,  a  cruel  injustice  to  one’s  own  self,  understanding and  intelligence.  It is in  fact,  this  arrogant denial  of the  indwelling truth  concerning  the  mastership  of God,  which  evokes  and  fosters the  materialistic  outlook  in  man  who  begins  to  claim  undisputed and  eternal  ownership  of  his  possessions,  riches,  gardens  and crops; these  insidious  promptings  make  him  believe  that  nothing  of his  possessions,  estate  and  effects  shall  ever  be  diminished  or destroyed;  nor,  shall  the  Day  of Judgement  ever  arrive  to  call  him to  account.  It  was,  therefore,  not  at  all  surprising  that  the  owner  of the  groves,  foolish  and  unjust  to  his  own  soul  as  he  was,  thought that  his  crop  would  never  wither  away.

And  he  went  into  his  garden,  while  he  (thus)  wronged himself.  He  said: I think  not  that  all  this  will  ever  perish.

“I  think  not  that  the  Hour  will  ever come.”  [Al-Kahf: 36-37]

He  thought  that  he  was  one  of those  selected  few  persons who  were  born  with  a  silver spoon  in  their  mouth,  whom fate  never betrayed,  nor  doom  impounded,  and  who  always  rolled  in  riches. 
He  said: “And. if indeed  I  am  brought  back  unto  my  Lord  I  surely shall  find  better  than  this  as  a  resort.”  [Al-Kahf: 37].

Persons  holding  such  a  view  have  a  very  high  opinion  of their  own  capabilities  and  gracious  fortune.  They  think  that  they need  not  bother  about  faith  and  righteousness,  or  the  moral responsibilities  entailed  thereby  as  their  affluence  is  solely  due  to their  merit  and  not  because  of any  beneficence  on the  part of God.

Religious  Way  of Thinking

The  friend  of this  wayward  man  had  been endowed  with  a sublime  faith  and  was  armed  with  the  intuitive  knowledge  of all-embracing  divine  attributes.  He  knew that God alone  is  the  Master and  Maker of the  universe,  Fashioner  of all  causes  and  effects  and has  power  to  alter  the  situations  and  circumstances  according  to His  will.  He therefore  came out  with  a  reply  which  adumbrated  the fallacy  of  his  friend’s  materialistic  outlook.  The  overlordship  of God  is  a  fundamental  and  incontrovertible  truth  but,  unfortunately, it is  also  a  fact  evaded  by  all  those  conceited  fellows  who  disbelieve in  the  existence  of  that  which  is  beyond  human  perception.  The very  mention  of the  fact  is  distasteful  to  these  persons.

And  his  comrade,  when  he  (thus)  spake  with  him, exclaimed: Disbelievest thou  in  Him  Who created thee of dust, then  of a  drop  (of seed), and  then  fashioned  thee  a  man?” [Al-Kahf: 38]

One  can  imagine  how  unpalatable  and  annoying  was  such a  talk  to  a  purse-proud  self-admirer. His  friend,  however,  was  a confident  believer  without  any  obsession  produced  by  the materialistic outlook. He declared:

But  He  is  Allah,  my  Lord,  and  I  ascribe  unto  My  Lord  no partner.” [Al-Kahf: 39]

The  owner  of the  gardens  was  then  reminded  by  his  friend of  the  living  reality  which  is  the  substance  ofSurat-ul-Kahf.  This  was  a  truth,  absolute  and  profound,  but also  sickening for  the grasping spirit of the  materialist.  He was  told that the  apparent causes  have  no  importance  at all:  all  power  belonged  to  the  Creator and  Master  of all  causes  and  effects. He  was  warned  that the  estate and  effects  on  which  he  prided  rested  on  hollow  foundations;  his affluence  was neither  brought about  by the tangible,  outward causes nor  was  it  due to  his  own  merit,  intelligence  or  indutstry. It was  all, in  truth  and  reality,  owing  to the  beneficence  of the Wise,  Omnipotent Lord, Who  has  fashioned  everything  in  the  best  proportion. His attention  was  thus  invited  by  his  comrade  toward  the  imperative need  of restoring  his  faith  in  the  omnipotence  and  beneficence  of the  Lord.

“If  only,  when  thou  enteredst  thy  garden,  thou hadst  said: That  which  Allah  willeth  (will  come  to  pass) There  is  no strength  save  in  Allah!” [Al-Kahf:  40]

The Essence of the Surat-ul-Kahf

There  is  no  strength  save  in  Allah‘ carries  the  essence  of the  Surat-ul-Kahf. The  Prophet  of lslam (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and every  believer  reciting the  Qur’an has  been  called  upon  to  place  implicit  reliance  in  God  in every affair instead  of relying  on his  own resources.  Every intention and  hope  for the  morrow  has  thus  to  be  made  dependent  on  the  will and  pleasure of God.

And  say not  of anything:  Lo!  I  shall  do  that  tomorrow,

“Except  if Allah  will.  And  remember  thy  Lord  when  thou forgettest,  and  say:  It may  be that  my  Lord guideth  me unto  a nearer  way of truth  than  this.” [Al-Kahf: 24-25].

One  would  verily  not  bow  in  submission  before  the outward material  causes,  nor  rely  on  those  who  appear  to  possess the  means  nor  even  on  his  own  whims,  desires  and  caprices  if he ascribes  every  favour  to the  beneficence of the  Meriful  Lord. Except if Allah  wills  or whatsoever  Allah  may  will might appear to be  two commonplace  traditional  phrases  often  repeated  mechanically  by force  of  habit,  but  these  are  really  very  signifcant,  pithy  and meaningful  expressions  which  cut at  the  very  root  of blind  faith  in one’s  own  capacity  or  material  resources.

Materialstic  Outlook  and  Material  Resources

The  matrialistic outlook  and  the  way of life  arising  out of it  place absolute  reliance  on  the  efficacy  of one’s  own  resources  and contrivances.  The  plans  for  social  and  economic  development, regularly  drawn  up  by  the materialistic governments,  proclaim  from housetops  the  production  targets  that  they  must  achieve  wiithin  a given  period,  irrespective  of the  seasonal  variations  and  the  impact of natural forces. [It does  not  mean  that the  developmental  plans  should  not  be formulated  at all  nor  that  the  efforts  to augument production through our  Increased  knowledge  and  skill  should  be  abandoned.  What  is meant here  is  that  the  increasing  human  knowledge  and  skill  should not  give  rise  to  the  spirit  of  revolt  against  the  omnipotence  of  the lord  who  is  the  Creator  of  all  causes  and  effects.] These governments  determine the exact quantum of production and  the  definite  date  by  which  it  has  to  be  realised; the  time  within  which  the  country  has  to  achieve  self-sufficiency; or  the  period  after  which  they  would  not  have  to  rely  on  external aid;  but,  as  we  often  see,  natural  calamities,  droughts  and  floods foil  these  ambitious  plans.

Faith  in  the  Will  of God

Except  if God wills  is  thus  not  an empty  customary  phrase repeated  in  daily  conversation  for  fixing  up  a  date  or  making  a paltry  promise.  It  is  really  a  repetitive  drill  casting  its  shadow  on the  collective  life  of the  entire  community:  it  inculcates  the habit  to pin  one’s  faith  in  the  ultimate,  all-embracing  will  of God  despite  all the  strenuous  efforts  one  might  make  to  achieve  the  object.  This directive- And say  not  of anything:  Lo!  I  shall  do  that  tomorrow, except  if Allah  wills [Al-Kahf:  23-24.] is  not  meant  for  individuals  alone.  It  is  a directive  to  the  entire  community,  governments,  institutions  and organisations  of the  believers  demanding  an  implicit  convicton  in the  dominant overlordship  of God.  This is,  indeed,  the guiding spirit of  the  Muslim  society  which  draws  inspiration  from  unflinching conviction  in  God  and  the  realities  beyond  the  understanding  of  human perception.  It  also  constitutes  the  line  of  demarcation  between  a way  of life  based  on  true  faith  and  prophetic  guidance,  on  the  one hand,  and  the  one  arising  from  an  outlook  characterised  as  “this worldly,”  on  the  other.

The  believing  comrade  of  the  owner  of  two  gardens admonished  his  friend  that  adversity  and  prosperity,  lucky  break and  ill  fortune  were not  abiding  or  permanent features,  for  the  Lord of the  world  still  holds  the  reins  of human  destiny.  He  can  turn  the evil  stars  of a  man  into  smiles  of fortune  and  reduce  the  millionaire into  a  pauper  in  no  time.  Such  changes  are  not  even  amazing  as they continue  to  happen  every  so  often. 

He said: “Though  thou  seest  me  as  less  than  thee  in  wealth  and children,

“Yet  it  may  be  that  my  Lord  will  give  me  better  than  thy garden,  and  will  send  on  it  (thy  garden)  a  bolt  from  heaven, and  some  morning  it  will  be  a  smooth  hillside,

“Or some  morning the water thereof will  be lost in  the  earth so that  thou  canst not  make  search  for  it.” [Al-Kahf: 40-42]

And  this  did  happen  one  fine  morning.  A  tearing gale,  sent by the  Lord,  screamed over his  groves  and  swept them  away  leaving a  barren  land.

And  his  fruit  was  beset  (with  destruction).  Then  began  he to  wring his  hands  for  all  that  he  had  spent  upon  it,  when (now)  it  was  all  ruined  on  its  trellises,  and  to  say:  Would  that I  had  ascribed  no  partner  to  my  Lord!

“And  he  had  no  troop  of men  to  help  him  as  against  Allah, nor  could  he  save  himself.

“In  this  case  is  protection  only  from  Allah,  the  True.  He  is Best  for  reward,  and  Best  for  consequence.”  [Al-Kahf: 43-45]

Impiety  of  the  Owner  of  the  two  Gardens

The owner of the  two gardens  was  neither  a  heathen  nor  an agnostic  fellow  like  many  other  irreligious  persons.  Nothing  in  the Qur’an  indicates  his  godlessness;  on  the  contrary,  it  appears  form what is  related of him that  he  professed  faith  in God.  He  is  reported to  have  said:

And  if indeed  I  am  brought  back  unto  my  Lord  I  surely shall  find  better than  this  as  a  resort.”  [Al-Kahf:  37]

Then,  what  was  it that  he  regretted  later  on:

Would  that  I  had  ascribed  no  partner to  my  Lord” [Al-Kahf: 43]

Irreligiousness  of the  Modern  Age

This  is  in  fact  the  irreligiousness-associating  partners  with God-which  is  the  bane  of the  modem  materialistic  civilization.  It elevates  natural  resources,  technological  contrivances  and professional  expertise  to  the  Level  of God.  Man  has  today  pinned his  hope  in  material  objects  and  thrown  himself  on  the  mercy  of specialists  and  experts.  For  their  success  and  failure,  prosperity and  adversity,  honour  and  infamy,  life  and  death,  the  nations  have now  committed  themselves  to  the  care  of one  expert  or  the  other, the  arrogant  spirit  of  extreme  phenomenalism,  the  worshipful reverence  for  brute matter  and  physical  forces  and the  overweening confidence  in  the  experts,  scientists  and  technologists  are  the  new forms  of  irreligiousness.  Invested  with  a  halo  which  makes  them partners  of God,  these  sharers  of Divinity,  the  new gods  of modern age  are  the  latest  addition  to  the  pantheon  of  myriad  gods  and goddesses.  It  is  this  paganism,  the  polytheism  of yore  as  well  as  of modern times,  which  has  been  challenged  by the  Surat-ul-Kahaf.

And coin for  them  the  similitude  of the life  of the world as water  which We  send  down  from  the  sky,  and  the  vegetation of the  earth  mingleth with  it and  then  becometh  dry twigs  that the  winds  scatter.  Allah  is  Able to  do  all things.”  [Al-Kahf: 46]

The  life  of  the  world  is  ephemeral.  Its  fleeting  nature  is figured  by  the  Qur’an  elsewhere  too  as  a  fading  dream.

The  similitude  of the  life  of the  world  is  only  as  water which We  send  down  from the sky,  then  the  earth’s  growth of that  which  men  and  cattle  eat  mingleth  with  it  till,  when  th!! earth  hath  taken  on her  ornaments  and  is  embellished,  and  her people  deem  that  they  are  masters  of her,  Our  commandment cometh  by  night  or  by day  and  We  make  it  as  reaped  corns  as if  it  had  not  flourished  yesterday.  Thus  do  We  expound  the revelations  for  people  who  reflect.”  [Yunus: 25]

This  is  the  Qur’anic  view  of the  brief and  uncertain  life  of the  world,  which  is  regarded  as  durable  and  imperishable  by  the materialists,  utilitarians  and  epicureans.  The  Qur’an  repudiates  all those  speculative  and  fictitious  values  which  have  led  the materialists,  worshippers of outer forms  and  objects,  to  regard  ease and  comfort as  the  be-all  and  end-all  of the worldly life.  The  Qur’an attaches  worth  only  to  the  lasting  values  determined  by  the transcendental  truth  embodied  in  the  revelatory  guidance.

Wealth  and  children  are  an  ornament of life  of the  world. But the  good  deeds  which  endure  are  better  in  thy  Lord’s  sight for  reward,  and  better  in  respect  of hope.” [Al-Kahf  47]

Qur’an  and  the  Life  of the  World 
Before we  proceed  further  let us  spell  out  the  Qur’an’s  view of the  life  of this  world.  Since,  however,  widely  divergent views  are advanced  in  this  regard,  it  wouJd  be  advisable  to  take  cognizance of the  Qur’anic  statements  only.

The  Qur’an  vehemently  proclaims  the  transitory  and perishable  nature  of the  worldly  life  as  well  as  its  insignificance  in comparison  to  the  eternal  life  of the  Hereafter.  It says:

The  comfort  of the  life  of  the  world  is  but  little  in  the Hereafter.” [At-Taubah: 38] 

At  another  place  it  declares  :

Know that  the  life  of the  world  is  only  play,  and  idle  talk, and  pageantry,  and boasting among  you,.  and  rivalry in  respect of wealth  and  children;  as  the  likeness  of vegetation  after rain, whereof  the  growth  is  pleasing  to  the  husbandman,  but afterward  it drieth  up  and  thou  seest  it turning  yellow,  then  it becometh straw.  And in  the Hereafter there  is  grievous punishment,  and (also)  forgiveness  from  Allah and His good pleasure, whereas  the  life  of the  world  is  but  matter  of illusion.” [Al-Hadid: 20]

The  life  of the  world  is  but  a  bridge  to  cross  over  to  the Hereafter  of a  means  to  test  a  man’s  qualities.

Lo! We  have  placed  all  that is  in  the  earth  as  an  ornament thereof that We may try them:  which of them  is  best  in  conduct.” [Al Kahf: 7]

Again  it  says:

Who  hath  created  life  and  death  that  He  may  try  you, which  of you  is  best  in  conduct;  and  He  is  the  Mighty,  the Forgiving.”  [Al-Mulk: 2]

It  holds the life  of the Hereafter alone  as  abiding and  eternal.

Naught is  the  life  of the  world  save  a  pastime  and  a  sport. Better  far  is  the  abode  of the  Hereafter  for  those  who  keep their duty  (to  Allah).  Have  ye  then  no  sense?”  [Al-An’am : 32]

The  same view  is  expounded  in Surat-ul-Qasas:

And  whatsoever  ye  have  been  given  is  a  comfort  of the life  of the  world  and an  ornament thereof,  and that which  Allah hath  is  better  and  more  lasting.  Have  ye then  no  sense?” [Al-Qasas: 60]

The  Qur’an  severely  condemns  those  who  prefer  the ephemeral,  mortal and  insignificant  life  of the world  to  the  abiding, eternal  and  marvellous  life  in  the  Hereafter.

Lo! those  who expect  not  the  meeting  with  Us  but desire the  life  of the  world  and  feel  secure therein,  and  those  who  are neglectful  of Our  revelations, Their home  will  be  the  Fire  because  of what  they  used  to earn.”  [Yunus: 8-9]

The  same  warning  is  repeated  elsewhere:

Whoso  desireth  the  life  of  the  world  and  its  pomp,  We shall  repay  them  their  deeds  herein,  and  therein  they  will  not be  wronged.

Those  are  they  for  whom  is  naught  in  the  Here-after save the  Fire.  (All)  that  they  contrive  here  is  vain  and  (all)  that  are wont  to  do  is  fruitless.”  [Hud:  15-16]

In  Surat-al-lbraheem  it  says  : “And  woe  unto  the  disbelievers  from  an  awful  doom; Those who love  the life of the  world more than the  Hereafter, and  debar  (men)  from  the  way  of  Allah  and  would  have  it crooked:  such  are  far  astray.”  [lbraheem  : 2-3]

And,  again:

They  know  only  some appearance of the  life  of the  world, and  are  heedless  of the  Hereafter.” [Ar-Rum:7]

The  Prophet  is  advised  thus  in Surat-un-Najm:

Then  withdraw (O Muhammad) from him who fleeth  from Our  remembrance  and  desireth  but the  life  of the  world.

Such  is  their  sum  of  knowledge. Lo!  thy  Lord  is  Best Aware  of him  who  strayeth,  and  He  is  Best  Aware  of him  who goeth  right.”  [An-Najm: 29-30]

It  reminds  us  of the  short-sightedness  of such  persons.

Lo!  they  love  fleeting  life,  and  put  behind  them  (the remembrance  of)  a  grevious  day.”  [Al-Insan: 27]

Then, as  for  him  who  rebelled And chose the  life  of world,

Lo!  hell  will  be  his  home.” [An-Nazi’at: 37-39]

The  Quran  lauds  such persons  who combine  the  blessings of  this  world  with  those  of the  next,  but  give  preference  to  the Hereafter over  their  earthly  sojourn.

But of mankind  is  he  who  saith  : ‘Our  Lord! Give  unto us in the  world,’  and  he  hath  no  portion  in  the  Hereafter.

“And  of them  (also)  is  he  who  saith: ‘Our Lord Give  unto us  in  the  world  that  which  is  good  and  in  the  Hereafter  that which  is  good,  and  guard  us  from  the  doom  of Fire.”: [Al-Baqarah: 200-201]

It  quotes  the  prayer  offered  by  the  Prophet  Musa (alayhissalaam):

And  ordain for us  in  this  world  that  which  is  good,  and  in the  Hereafter  (that  which  is  good).”  [Al-A’raf: 156]

Praising Ibraheem (alayhissalaam) (Abraham),  the  Qur’an  quotes  God  as  saying: “And  We gave him  good  in  the  world,  and  in  the  Hereafter he  is  among  the  righteous.” [An-Nahl: 122]

Revelatory  and  Materialistic  Views  of Life

The  view  of life  and  the  world  enunciated  by  the  prophetic teachings  or  the  revelatory  guidance  vouchsafed  to  man  is diametrically  opposed to  that put forth  by  the  materialistic  outlook which  assigns  supreme  importance  to  the  terrestrial  life,  and  the constant aim  of whose endeavours  is to achieve worldly power glory, wealth,  position,  comfort,  and  alI  that  can  gratify  man’s  longings and  appetites.

The  sayings  of the  blessed  prophet  clearly expound  the Qur’anic  view  of life.  The  Prophet often  used  to  say:

O  Allah,  life  is  only  that  of the  Hereafter.” [Sahih Bukhari: Kitab-ur-Raqaq]

He  used  to  beseech God: “O  Allah,  provide for  the  progeny  of Muhammad  only  that which  is  essential.”  [Sahih  Muslim: Kitab-uz-Zuhd]

Mustaurad  ibn  Shaddad  relates  that  he  heard  the  Prophet saying : “By  God,  the  life  of the  world  in  comparison  to  Hereafter is  no  more than  the water  left on  a  finger  dipped  in  the  ocean.” [ Sahlh  Muslim]

The  life  of  the  Prophet  was  the  ideal  embodiment  of his teachings  and the  outlook of life arising therefrom.  lbn  Mas’ud (radhiyallahu anhu) relates that  once  he  saw  the  Prophet  lying  on  a  mat,  whose  marks  were visible  on  his  body.  He  said: “If you  permit,  I  may  spread  something  on  it.”

What have I to do  with the  world, replied  the  Prophet, “for me  it  is  like  a  shady  tree  under  which  a  traveller  takes  rest  for a  while  and  then  leaves  on  his  errand [Ahmad,  Tirmidhi  and  lbn  Majah].

In  a  Tradition,  Caliph  ‘Umar  narrates:

“I  once  went  to  the  Prophet  when  he  was  lying  on  a  mat without  a  bedding  or a  bed-sheet.  The  pillow  on  which  he  was leaning was  made of leather  stuffed  with straw,  and  the  crossed pattern  of  the  matting  could  easily  be  seen  imprinted  on  his body.  I saluted  the  Prophet… ….. .. . I  cast a  glance over  the  house. By  God  there  was  nothing  which I saw except three  pieces  of leather.  I  said.  ‘O  Prophet,  Pray  God  to  bless  your  followers with  abundance.  The  Persians  and  the  Romans  have  been favoured  with  all  the  pleasures  of  the  world,  although  they believe  not  in  Allah !’  Started  to  hear  this,  the  Prophet  got  up and  said, ‘lbn  Khattab,  you  too  think like this!  These  are  the fellows  who  have  got  all their  rewards  in  the  comforts  of this world  alone [Sahih  Bukhari  ·  Kitab-un-Nikah].” 

Behaviour  of  the  Prophet’s  Companions

The  care  of  Hereafter  got  enshrined  in  the  heart  of those who  had  the good  fortune  of being  put through the grind of prophetic guidance.  It  became  the cynosure of their  eyes,  their greatest yearning and the  culmination  of their  pious  desires.  They were  never  negligent ofits demands  for  a  moment,  nor were  they willing  to accept anything in  its  place.  ln  order  to  have  a  glimpse  of the  spirit  of the  “other worldliness”,  the  outlook  and  the  bent  of mind  common  to  all  the companions  of the  Prophet of lslam,  it would  suffice  to  have a  look at  the  character  and  demeanour of Caliph ‘Ali. His  life was  a  striking example  of the  piety, simplicity, godliness,  and other sterling  qualities produced  by  the  benevolent  care  of the  Prophet  in  his  followers  and companions.

Abu Saleh  has  given  a  graphic  description  of Caliph  ‘Ali’s (radhiyallahu anhu) character.  He  says  that  once  Caliph  Mu’awiyah (radhiyallahu anhu) asked  Dharar  ibn Dhamurah,  a  companion  of  Caliph ‘Ali ibn  Abi  Talib (radhiyallahu anhu) to  narrate something  about  the  latter.  Dharar  first  asked  to  be  excused  but when  Caliph  Mu’awiyah (radhiyallahu anhu) insisted  on  it,  he  said · “All  right,  then  listen  to  me.  He  (‘Ali)  was  far-sighted  and strong  and  possessed  a  robust  health.  He  always  spoke  what was  true and dispensed  impartial justice. He  was  like  a  fountain of knowledge or a  repository  of wisdom.  Being always scared of the  world  and  its  pleasures,  the  night  and  its  darkness  were pleasing  to  him.  By  God,  his  eyes  were  more  often  brimming with  tears  and  be  always  appeared  to  be  care-worn.  He  liked to  wear  garments  made  of rough  cloth  and  to  partake  coarse food,  lived  like  a  commoner  and  made  no  distinction  between himself and other.  Whenever we  asked  him  anything,  he would reply;  whenever  we  went  to  him,  he  would  salute  first;  and· whenever  we  invited  him,  he  would  come  ungrudgingly;  but despite  his  nearness,  his  awe  never  permitted  us  to  talk  in  his presence  or  join  in  his  conversation.  He  respected  the  pious and  loved  the  poor; the  powerful  could  never  hope  to  achieve any  undeserved  gain  from  him;  nor  the  weak  ever  gave  up hope  of obtaining justice  from  him.  By  God,  I  have  seen  him often  after  the  night-fall· standing  on  his  prayer-mat,  holding his  beard  and  weeping as  if he  were  bitten  by  a  snake.  Often  in the  dead  of night,  he  could  be  heard  asking  the  world  to  leave him  high  and  dry  and  to  give  up  all  hopes  of  enticing  him away  to  its  pleasures.  I  could  still  visualise  him  saying  thus : ‘O  World,  thy  pleasures  are  transitory,  thy  life  short,  thy allurements  unreliable  and  dangerous  while  I  have  to  cover an  arduous,  long  and  extremely  perillous  path.” [lbn-i-Jawzi:  Sifat-us-Safwah,  Hyderabad,  1935  Vol.  I,  p.122 ]

Now,  here  is  another  example  reflecting  the  spirit  of the same philosophy  of life.  It  is  an  extract  from  the  address  delivered by  a  companion  of the  Prophet in  the  then  metropolis  of lslam.

Khalid  ibn  ‘Umair al-‘Udwi  relates  that  ‘Utbah  ibn  Ghazwan, the then  governor of Basrah,  addressed  a  congregation  as  follows:

Verily,  the  world  is  nearing  its  end;  running  out  fast  to  its doom,  it  has  now only  a  few  drops  of nectar  in  its  cup  to  offer you.  You  are  about  to  migrate  to  a  place  where  you  would have to  live forever  ;  therefore,  set out  for  it with  the  provisions of virtue  and  goodness.  We  have  been  told  that  a  stone  would be  thrown  in  the  Hell  but  it  would  not  reach  its  bottom  even  in seventy  years,  and  by  God,  this  spacious  place  of  torment would  ultimately  be filled  with  the  wrong-doers.  Do  you  have any  doubt about  it’?  We have  been  told  that the two  corners  of the  Heaven’s  threshold  would  lie  at  a  distance  of forty  years’ journey,  but  it  would  too  be  overcrowded  one  day.  I  still remember the  days  when  we  had  nothing  to  eat  except  leaves of the  trees  for  weeks  together,  and  and  our  mouths  used  to bleed  because  of it .. Once  I  got  a  bed-sheet  which  l  had  to divide  into  two,  one  for  myself and  other  I  gave to  Sa’eed  ibn Malik.  Now,  every  one  of us  is  a  governor  of one  city or  the other,  but  I  seek  refuge  in  God from  assigning any merit to my own  self while  I am  really  insignificant in  the  eyes  of Lord.”  [Sahih  Muslim;  Vol.II,  Kitab-uz-Zuhd].

Modern  Apologists  of the  Hereafter

All  those  persons  who  are  not  inspired  by  the  prophetic teachings  nor  are  endowed  with  a  sincere  faith,  find  it  difficult  to accept  the  life-after-death,  the  Day  of Judgement  and  Retribution with a  deep  conviction.  On the contrary,  shaken  by  the very concept of  after-life,  their  interest  in  it,  if  any,  is  always  distracted  and desultory;  they  actually lack  the  warmth  of heart  for  the  life  after death  which  is  a  distinguishing  feature  of  the  followers  of  the prophets  and  revealed  guidance.  Such  persons  are,  by  nature, apologists  and  escapists,  who  always  try  to  explain  away  the  life to-come  through  subtle  sophistry.  They  look  upon  the  concept  of Hereafter  as  a  figurative  expression  meant  for  the  bygone  days  of primitive  intelligence  when it was  designed  to  win  over  conviction of the  believers  as  an  expedient  for  righteous action.  But,  it  is  a fact,  striking and  incontrovertible,  that the  Qur’an  and  its  teachings and  the  life  of the  Prophet  of Islam  are permeated  with  the  spirit  of life-after-death.  This  is  the  mind  that the  prophetic  guidance  seeks to  build  in  its  followers.  We,  therefore,  find  this  distinctive inclination,  this  bent of mind  and  predisposition  in  all  truly  Islamic societies  which  are  brought up  in  accordance  with  the  teachings  of Islam and  kept free  from extraneous contaminations.  Showing least concern  for  the  worldly  pleasures  and  possessions,  pleasantly temperate  in  behaviour,  anxious  for  the  Hereafter and  ultimate sequel,  commending  piety  and  virtue,  preferring  that  which  is pormised  in  the  after-life  over  earthly  power  and  pelf,  overflowing with  the  desire  to  court  death  and  meet  their  Lord-such  are  the distinctive  characteristics  of the  true  believers  whose  eagerness  for propinquity  to  God  often  fmds  expression  in  the  solemn  yearning of  Bilal (radhiyallahu anhu):  “Tomorrow  shall  I  meet  my  favourites  and  friends: Muhammad,  on  whom  be  peace  and  blessings  of God,  and  his companions.”  [ Ihya’-ul-Uloom,  on  the  authority  of  lbn Abi-ad-Dunya].

Prophetic  Call  and  Reformatory  Movements

There are also revivalist and reformatory movements  which expound the concept of Hereafter,  its  underlying wisdom,  the  benefits flowing  from  it  and  the  invaluable  contribution  of the  concept  in establishing  a  stable  society  imbued  with  the  sense  of  moral responsibility,  but,  evidently,  the  philosophy  of after-life  is  employed by  them  only  as  a  means  of educating  the  people  and  impressing upon  them the  spiritual-moral  view of life preached  by Islam. There is  no  denying  the  fact  that  their  endeavour  is  praiseworthy,  for  one cannot  have  a  congenial,  orderly  and  ethical  society  without inculcating  the  beief in  the  Hereafter.  At  the  same  time,  however, the  method  adopted  by  these  movements  is  quite  different  form  the way  of thought,  procedure  of  reform  and  the  behaviour  and deportment  of the  prophets  and  their  followers. The  methodology of  reform  evolved  by  the  apostles  of  God  is  inspired  by  an unflinching  faith  and  sincere  conviction,  a  heart-felt  sentience  and fervid  enthusiasm: it  is  a  living  faith  which encompasses  the entire being of the  believer.  The  reformist  movements,  on  the  other  hand, are  simply  an  external,  outward  expression  of these  deep-seated emotions  of faith.  The discourses  of the  former  on  sequel  and  life after-death  are  marked  by  their  instinctive  conviction,  glowing ardour, passionate  eagerness,  impressive  earnestness  and  delicious ecstasy  while  the  latter  promote  the  idea  as  an  expedient  to  social and  moral reform  of their  people  in  order  to  build  up  a  coherent, stable  and  ethical  society.  The difference  between  logical  disputions and the  secret springs  of conviction,  and  the  results  achieved  by  the two, are too  well  known  to  be  discussed here  to  explain  the difference between  tlie  two.

The  Mainspring  of Courage and  Zeal

The  unshakable  belief  of the  Prophet  of  Islam  and  his companions  in  the  life-after-death  and  the  preference  accorded  by them  to  the  after-life  over  the  ea.rthly  pleasures  of  the  world,  did neither  induce  them  to  cut  themselves  adrift  from  the  mainstream of life  nor  to  relinquish  its  leadership.  It  never  occurred  to  them that  they  should  give  up  their  means  of livelihood  or abandon  their struggle  for  faith,  justice,  and  righteousness.  Their  faith  was  not  a product of disheartened  defeatism,  as  we  find today  among certain people.  It  was,  on  the  contrary,  the  fountainhead  of  valour  and courage which inspired them to fight  evil  until  virtue  and goodness were  victorious. It  is,  therefore,  not at all  surprising  that those  who were  the  most  virtuous  had  the  most  intense  conviction  in  God  and in  the after-life,  despised the earthly pleasures  and  intensely  desired closeness  to God in the Hereafter,  and  were also the most courageous, brave  and  valiant  fighters  in  the  way  of God.  Their’s  was,  in  fact, the  greatest  contribution  in  the  lightning  success  of  Islam  in  its early  phases.

Disdainfulness  of earthly  possessions  and  pleasures,  self-restraint  over  one’s  longings  and  passions,  valiant  and  courageous defiance  of the  evil,  and  similar  other  ennobling  qualities  are  the end-product  of  conviction  in  the  eternal  life-after-death.  The conquests achieved by Islam as  also the diffusion of faith  in  the  far-off  lands  by  the  serene  preachers  of faith  owed their success to the firm conviction in the resurrection  and  retribution in  the  life-after-death.

Monasticism  and  the  Belief in  Hereafter

The  belief  in  the  Hereafter,  as  expounded  by  the  Qur’an, has  hardly  anything  to  do  with  the  rightly  despised  monastic  life, celibacy  and  asceticism.  The  latter  has  been  condemned  by  the Qur’an too,  although  it  gained  ground  among  the Muslims  later  on to  a certain extent,  owing  to their negligence  of the Islamic teachings and  the  interaction  of  extraneous  influences  of  Christianity, Buddhism,  Brahmanism  and neo-Platonism.

The  belief in  the  Hereafter commends  deliberate  choice  of the  after-life  without  denying  or  denigrating  the  just  and inescapable  demands  of our  earthly  life.  It  encourages  us  to  engage in  an  unending  contest for  the  victory  of righteousness,  to  sacrifice our  fleeting  desires  for  the  eternal  life-to-come  and  to  lay  down our  lives  in  the  way  of our  Lord  and  Master.  There  is  not  the  least doubt  that  the  Muslims  have  been  rendered  weak  solely  because of the  weakening  of their  conviction  in  the  Hereafter.  The  younger generations  of the  Muslims  today,  who  are  the  unhappy  victims  of their  own  longings  and  desires,  need  the  healing  faith  in  the  afterlife,  more than  anyone else,  to recover  their  lost vitality.  The  Muslims will  not  regain  their  strength  again nor  will  their  faith  be  complete, until  they  endorse  the  Qur’anic  philosophy  of life;  but  this  is  the view  of  life  and  the  world  violently  opposed  by  the  modem materialistic  outlook.  On  the  other hand  all those  persons  who  have been  enchanted  by the  materialistic  view-point,  would  not agree  to anything  short of wordly  ease  and  comfort, fulfilment  of their  base desires,  power,  position  and glory in the transitory  life  of the world.

Surat-ul-Kahf exposes  the  weakness  of  the  materialistic outlook  on  life  and  brings  the  hollowness  of the  view  endorsed  by its  votaries  to  a  constant  and  bitter  reproach it  presents  life  in  its true  perspective: no  matter,  whether  certain  people  like  it  or  not.


Now we  turn the  story of Musa (alayhissalaam) and  Khidhr.  It  is  in  reality the  story  of  our  everyday  life  wherein  we  often  come  across paradoxical  situations  which  draw  our  attention  to  the  fact  that there  are  still  a  number  of inexplicable  things  beyond  the  sphere  of our  knowledge.  These  incidents  tell  us  that  howsoever  learned  a man  may  be,  his  decisions,  estimates  and  opinions  formed  on  the basis  of his  knowledge  and  experiences  sometimes  go  astray. lf the secrets  of life  were,  somehow,  made  known  to  someone,  we  would undoubtedly  find  a  visible  change  in  his  ideas, modes  of  thought and  decisions.  The  episode  in  the  story  of Musa alayhissalaam (Moses)  is  also  meant  to illustrate  the  point  that  one  can  never  be  dead  sure  of the  opinions formed  or  the  impressions  gained  or  else  the  stand  taken  on  the basis  of  ephemeral  knowledge.  It  demonstrates  that  it  is  rather impossible  for  human  knowledge  to  comprehend  and  cover  the totality  of  universal  knowledge  and,  therefore,  one  should  not  be hasty  in  arriving  at  a  conclusion  nor  should  one  insist  on  the acceptance of his  opinions  and  impressions  by others.  Life  is  itself a  parable-secretive,  variable and  uncertain.  The universe  is  too wide and  incomprehensible,  its  secrets and  complexities  stand out clearly from the external  and outer realities.  These present us  with  paradoxes which  cannot  be  solved  by  man  despite  his  constant  quest  for knowledge.  In  fact,  there  are  numerous  mysteries  of nature  which we  might  never  be  able  to  unravel  with  all  the  scientific  inventions and  discoveries  at  our command.  Even in  our  mundane life,  day-today  affairs,  we  are  confronted  with many a  complex situation  created by  our  mistakes,  half-baked  ideas,  hasty  decisions  and  immature and  emotional  behaviours.  Now,  if man were to  be  entrustsed  with the  governance  of this  vast  and  complex  universe,  with  a  free  hand to do whatever he likes,  he  would soon  make it brimming  with  strife and  trouble,  and take it to the  brink  of total  destruction. This  would be  simply  because  of his  limited  knowledge  and  sphere  of action, which  are,  unfortunately,  also  conditioned  by  his  predisposition  to hasty  action.

In order to demonstrate the limitation of human knowledge, which  also  forms  the  basis  for  faith  in  the  unseen  realities,  God selected  one  of the greatesst prophets, Musa alayhissalaam (Moses),  who  had  been  endowed with  knowledge,  virtue  and  piety. Musa (alayhissalaam)  (Moses)  once  stood  preaching  to his  people,  when he  was  asked whether  he  knew of a  man  who  was wiser  than  him.  Musa alayhissalaam (Moses)  answered  in  the  negative.  Not  pleased  by the  reply  of Musa alayhissalaam (Moses),  who  ought to  have  ascribed  his  knowledge  to God  alone,  he was  directed  to meet a  man more knowing than  himself at  a  place  where the  two  seas  met. [Sahih  Bukhari, Vol. Ill; Kitab  ut-Tafsir]

Strange  and  Bewildering  Events

Musa alayhissalaam (Moses) set out on  the journey with  a  companion to  find  out the  man  who had been  endowed with a  special knowledge  not granted to  ordinary  mortals.  We  would  presently  see  that  the  special knowledge  granted to  this  Man of God  did  come  into  conflict  with the human knowledge based on experiences  and apparent situations.

Khidhr  boards  a  boat  whose  owner  does  not  charge  the fare  from  him,  but,  on  reaching  bis  destination,  Khidhr  knocks  out a  few  of her planks. Musa alayhissalaam (Moses),  not understanding the import of Khidhr’s rebukes  and  asks  him  to  explain what he has  done.  Next,  Khidhr kills  an  innocent  youth  who  had  not  put  him  to  any  harm  nor  had his  parents  apparently been  a  source of anxiety to him.  Then,  again, Khidhr  helps  in  the  repair  of  a  dilapidated  wall  although  the inhabitants  of the  place  had  been  inhospitable  to  him.  These  were undoubtedly  strange  and  weird  happenings  which  were  raising  a storm of curiosity  in  the  heart of Musa alayhissalaam (Moses).  These  inexplicable  events, naturally,  prompted him to ask  Khidhr to  explain why  had he scuttled the  boat which bad. taken them to the  shores  safely.  It  ought to  have been protected  and not  broken.  The owner of the boat,  too,  deserved thanks  from  Khidhr  rather than  his  enmity.  The  innocent boy ought to  have  been  received  with  kindness  and  looked  after  instead  of being  put to  death ..  Similarly,  the  inhabitants  of the village who  had been  so  unkind  and  unsocial  were  entitled  to  a  stem  behaviour. Khidhr,  however,  appears  to  be taking decisions  neither commended by wisdom and known facts  nor warranted  by emotions and instincts. Musa (alayhissalaam) Moses,  was,  after  all,  a  prophet of God,  endowed with  faith  and  a kind  heart,  and  therefore  he  could  not  stand  the  flagrant  acts  of injustice  committed  by  his  comrade.  He  forgot  the  promise  made by him,  at the  start of the journey, to  ask no question about anything until  Khidhr  himself explained  it  to  him,  and  exclaimed:

Verily thou  hast  done  a  horrid  thing.”  [Al-Kahf: 74]

Khidhr gives  no reply to the questions  raised by Musa alayhissalaam (Moses)  and goes  on to  complete  the  mission for  which  they  had  undertook  the journey.  At last,  having arrived at their destination,  Khidr  uncovers the  mysteries  which Musa alayhissalaam (Moses)  was  finding  inexplicable  and bewildering. Anyone  who  goes  through  the  Qur’an  would  see  that Khidhr  was  right.  Whatever he  did was not only  correct and  logical in  the  given  circumstances  but  it  also  unfolded  practical  wisdom. He did  not  take  a  wrong  decision  on  any  of the  three  occasions. He took  out a  plank  or  two  from the  boat to  make  it unseaworthy  and thus  saved  it from  seizure.  The fact  was  that  the  unjust king  of that land  seized  on  every  boat  he  could  get  in  a  serviceable  condition. The  owner  of the  boat  had  not  charged  any  fare  from  Khidhr  and the  latter  repaid  the  courtesy  of the  boatman  by  saving  his  boat from  seizure.

The  boy  slain  by  Khidr  was  to  become  a  source  of grief and  danger  to the  faith  of his  parents.  He  would  have  grown  as  an infidel and  led his parents to  renounce their faith out of their excessive fondness  for  him.  Khidr  thought  it preferable  that  the  parents  of the  boy should  better come to grief on  account of the boy’s death in this  life  rather than suffer  eternal  torments  of the Hereafter.  Another son could  be  had  if one expired,  but  nothing  but  eternal  fire  could be  had  after  renouncing  one’s  faith  and  dying  an  infidel’s  death.

And  as for the lad,  his  parents  were believers and we feared lest  he  should  oppress  them  by  rebellion  and disbelief.

‘And  we  intended  that  their  Lord  should  change  him  for them  for  one  better in  purity  and  nearer  to  mercy.” [Al-Kahf  81-82]

The  wall was  in a  ruinous  state.  if it had  fallen,  the treasure concealed  beneath  it  and  owned  by  two  orphan  boys,  would  have been  exposed.  It  would  have then been despoiled by the  selfish  people of the  town  and  the  orphan  boys  wouId  not  have  got  anything  of their  rightful  patrimony.  This  also  illustrates  that  virtuous  action benefits  a  man  after  his  death  as  much  as  during  his  lifetime. Obviously,  if  God  does  not  like  to  ignore  the  progeny  of a righteous  man  after  his  death,  He  would  certainly  not  forsake  one who  is  upright  and  guiltless. 
Allah  loseth  not  the  wages  of the  kindly.”  [Yusuf: 90]

And  their  Lord  hath  heard  them  (and  He saith): Lo!  I  suffer  not  the  work  of any  worker,  male  or female, to be  lost”  [Aal-i-‘Imran:195]

Verily,  Allah  gives  a  fair  return  of whatever  we  do.

And  as  for  the  wall,  it  belonged  to  two  orphan  boys  in  the city,  and  there  was  beneath  it  a  treasure  belonging  to  them, and  their  father  had  been  righteous,  and  thy  Lord  intended that  they  should  come  to  their  full  strength  and  should  bring forth  their  treasure  as  a  mercy  from  their  Lord;  and  l  did  it not  upon  my  own  command.  Such  is  the  interpretation  of that wherewith  thou  couldst  not  bear.”  [Al-Kahf :83]

Limitations  of Human Knowledge

The realities  of things are very  often so  different from  what they  appear to us  according to our imperfect lights.  And,  how much the  interior  of a  thing  differs  from  its  exterior;  the  outer from  the inside  reality;  how incomprehensible and enigmatic are  the  mysteries of  the  Universe;  but  man  is  hot headed  enough  to  claim  that  his knowledge compasses all,  the secrets of man as  well  as of universe, down  to  their  core and  inner-most  realities.

At  first  sight  Khidhr  appeared  to  be  away  from  apparent realities  and  his  actions  wore  the  look  of meaningless  moves.  But, to  the end  of the  chapter,  we  find  him  more  realistic  and  acting more  wisely.  The  story  illustrates  that  life  is  ever  on  the  move, presenting  us  with  situations  and  new  realities  in  every  age  from  its inexhaustible  store  of  secrets  and  mysteries.  The  episode  also elucidates  that  knowledge  is  limitless,  beyond  the  scope  of  human comprehension.

 ……………. and  over  every  word  of  knowledge  there  is one  more  knowing.”  [Yusuf: 76]

A Challenge to Materialistic  Outlook

The  story  narrated  here  is  a  challenge  to  the  materialistic way  of  thought.  Materialism  claims  that  life  is  not  an  iota  more than  what  it  explains;  it  possesses  the  secrets  of  the  nature  and universe;  only  that  is  to  be  believed  which  is  tangible  and  capable of  being  comprehended  by  human  perception;  that  which  is perceptible  is  real  and the  rest  is  non-existent,  visionary and  baseless; and, finally, that man  is  the  rightful  owner and  master of  this  world. Materialism  elevates  man  to  the  position  of  lawgiver,  claims perfection  for  human  knowledge  and  assumes  that  nothing  in  this vast  and  complex  universe  is  beyond  human  comprehension.

These  have  always  been  the  fundamental  pastulates  of materialistic thought,  and  so  it  is  today  also. The  Surat-ul-Kahf in general,  and  the  episode  of Musa alayhissalaam (Moses)  in  particular,  strikes  at  the  root of materialistic  categories  of thought.  The story concludes  with  these words  of Khidhr:

Such  is  the  interpretation  of that  wherewith thou  couldst not  bear.”  [Al-Kahf: 83]

lnterpretation  signifies,  in  the  phraseology  of  the  Qur’an, the  explanation  of a  reality. [Vide  Commentary  of  Sarah  lkhlas  by  lbn Taymiyah]  Man  is  always  predisposed  to  commit mistakes  take  hasty  decisions  and  rashly  deny  the  existence  of a reality;  but  when  he  is  confronted  with  truth  and  stubborn  facts,  he has  ultimately  to  accept  the  realities  of the  situation.

The  fourth  and  the  last  story  narrated  in  the Surat-ul-Kahf; relates  to  a  man  who  had  not  only  been  favoured  with  a  solemn faith  but  had  also  at  his  conunand  power  and  glory,  stupendous assets  and  natural  resources. This  man  directed  his  energies  to humble  the  cruel  tyrants  of  his  day  for  the  benefit  of  suffering humanity  and  to  establish  a  just,  humane  and  civilized  order  of society.


Identification  of Zul-Qarnain

The  commentators  of the  Qur’an  hold  divergent  opinions about Zul-Qarnain.  A  large  number of them  suppose the  person  to be  Alexander the  Great.  Imam  Razi  is  of the  same view  along  with the  majority  of commentators,  but actually  there  is  no  valid  reason to  accept  this  opinion.  Alexander  the  Great  lacked  most  of those characteristics  and  achievements of Zul-Qarnain which  have  been expressly  mentioned  in  the  Qur’an, as, e.g.  faith  in  the  One  and Only  God,  piety,  just  treatment  to  the  conquered  people  and  the erection of an  iron  rampart.  Perhaps the identification of Zul-Qarnain with  Alexander  the  Great  was  due  to  imperfect  details  of  his character  and  exploits  being  available  to  the  earlier  commentators of the  Qur’an.

There are,  however,  other doctors  of faith  who  identify Zul-Qarnain  with  the  Iranian  Emperor  Cyrus  who  was  known  to  the Jews  as  the  Redeemer  of lsrael,  and  to  the  Arabs  by  the  name  of Kai  Khusroe. [This  is  the  view put forth  in  some  detail  by Maulana  Abul Kalam Azad in  Volume II  of the  Tarjumanul  Qur’an,  wherein  he  has adduced numerous references  from  historical  treatises  and  Jewish  religious records  in  support  of  his  thesis.  A  summary  of it  is  given  here.

A  remarkable  personality  came  to  the  fore  in  a  dramatic manner in  559  B.C.  and  soon  attracted  the  attention  of the whole world.  Persia  was  then  divided  into  two  kingdoms  :  the  southern part was  known  as  Persia  and the north western  portion  was called Media  (Arabs  called  it  Mahat).  Cyrus  welded  the  Persian  tribes into  a  single  nation  by defeating  Astyages  of Media  at Pasargadce. Thereafter  began the  conquests  of Cyrus, which  were  marked  not by  sanguine  battles  and  cruelties  but  by  humanity  and  mildness  to the  vanquished  inhabitants  and honour to  the  defeated  monarchs. Within  12  years  all  the  lands  from  Black  Sea  to  Bactria  had  been reduced  to  the  position  of  Persian  dependencies.

In  the  spring  of  546  B.C .  Croesus  of  Lydia  attacked  Persia, Cyrus  flung  himself  upon  him,  beat  him  at  Pteria  in  Cappadocia and  pursued  him  to  Lydia,  the  North-Western  part  of  Asia  Minor, which  was  then  the  centre  of  Hellenistic  civilzation  in  Asia.

A second  victory  followed  on  the  banks  of Pactolus:  by  the autumn  of  546.  Sardis  had  already  fallen,  and  the  Persian  forces advanced  at  the  bound of Mediterranean.  During  the  next  few  years the  Greek  littoral  towns  were  reduced.  In  539  B.C.  Nabonidus was  defeated  and  Babylon  occupied,  which  with  the  Chaldean empire,  Syria  and  Palestine  also  became  Persian.

When  Cyrus  would  have  advanced  beyond  Sardis  he  must have  turned  back  from  the  coast  of  Agean  Sea,  near  Smyrna. Here  he  would  have  seen  the  sea  taking  the  shape  of  a  lake  and the  sun  setting  in  the  murky  water :  “he  found  it setting  in  a  muddy spring,” as  the  Qur’an  puts  it  (xviii: 87).

In  his  eastward  expedition,  Cyrus  conquered  the  lands  upto Makran and  Balkh. In  this  region  he subdued  the  uncivilized nomadic tribes,  which  have  also  been  refered  to  in  the  Qur’an:  “he  found  it (sun)  raising  on  a  people  for  whom  We  had  appointed  no  shelter therefrom  (xviii :91)”  After  reducing  Babylon,  Cyrus  rescued  the Jews  from  the  tyranny  of  Nabonidus,  as  predicted  In  the  Jewish Scriptures.  He  permitted the Jews in  Babylon, to  return  and  rebuild Jerusalem.

The  last  campaign  of Cyrus  was  in  the  direction  of the  lands despoiled  by the  people  called  Gog  and  Magog.  Cyrus  advanced towards Caucasus,  leaving  Caspian  Sea  to  his  right, where he  came across  a  mountain  pass  between  two  steep  hills  rising  like  walls. Here  he  constructed  the  iron  rampart  to  check  the  ingress  of Gog and  Magog.

Cyrus  met his end in 529  B.C. A  marble  statue  with two  horns on  his  head,  signfiying  the  unified  kingdoms  of Persia  and  Media, was recovered  from  the ruins  of Pasargadae in  1938. The  unification of  these  two  kingdoms  gave  Cyrus  the  title  of  Zul-Qarnain.  Cyrus has  been  rightly  praised  by  most  of  the  modern  historians  for  his conquests as well  as for his just and  mild treatment  of the  conquered people  (For  further  details  see  Universal  History  of the  World,  Vol. II,  by  J .  A.  Hammerton)].

But  the  view  expressed  by  Sayyid  Qutub  in  Fi Zalal il Qur’an,  which  is  being  reproduced  here,  appears  to  us  more  logical than  the  explanations  given  by  other  commentators.

The  Qur’an  does  not  specify  the  identity  or  the  time  and place  Zul-Qamain.  This  is  a  style of narration  peculiar  to  the stories  mentioned in the  Qur’an,  for  its  aim  is  not  to  historicise the  events  but  to  draw  out  the  moral  and  lesson  of the  story. The  purpose  can  very  often  be  achieved  without  determining the  location  and  chronology  of  the  events  mentioned  in  the Qur’an.

“Our recorded  history does mention  an emperor by the  name of  Alexander  Zul-Qurnain but  it  is  certain  that  he  was  not the  the  personality  meant  by  the  Qur’an.  Alexander  the  great was  a  polytheist  and  an  idol  worshipper  while  the  sovereign mentioned  in  the  Qur’an  was  a  man  of God,  a  unitarian, having faith  in  the  Day  of Judgement,  Resurrection,  etc.

“In  his  book  entitled Al-Athar-al-Baqiyah  an-al-Quroon il-Khaliyah  Abu  Raihan al-Biruni  writes  that  Zul-Qarnain spoken  of in  the  Qur’an  belonged  to  Hymar [An  ancient  South  Arabian  people],  as  the  name  itself indicates.  The  kings  of Hymar had Zu  as  an  essential  part  of their  names  as,  e.g.,  Zu-Nuwas,  Zu-Yazan.  The  proper  name of Zul-Qarnain  was  Abu  Bakr  ibn  Afriqash.  He  subdued  all the  lands  on  the  coast of Mediterranean  Sea,  including  Tunis and  Morocco,  and  founded  a  city  called  Afriqiah  which  gave its  name  to  the  entire  continent.  He  was  called  by  the  name  of Zul-Qarnain  as  he  was  believed  to  have  reached  the  lands  of rising  and  setting  sun.

“This  view  might be  correct  but we  have  no means  to  verify it.  the  extant  records  of history  hardly  contain  anything  about him,  and  the  description  of his  character  and  conquests  given in  the  Qur’an  is  too  general  like  that  of the  peoples  of  Nooh, Hud,  Salih,  etc.  Actually  the  records  preserved  by  our  history constitute  only  a  fraction  of our  life-story  on  this  earth.  We have  no  record  of  the  events  that  took  place  before  history began  to  list  them.  Its  verdict  is  thus  not  at  all  reliable.

“If only  the  Old Testament  could  have  been  preserved  in  its pristine  purity  without  interpolations  and  additions,  it  could have served  as  a  valuable  source of history.  But,  unfortunately, numerous  legends  have  been  introduced  and  interwoven  with the  revelation  contained  in  this  Scripture  with  the  result  that the  historical  events  mentioned  in  it  cannot  be  relied  upon.

“The  Qur’an  being  free  from  all  additions,  alterations  and mutilations  can,  undoubtedly,  be  a  trustworthy  source  of the events  narrated  by  it,  but  its  version  cannot,  obviously,  be verified  from  the  historical  records. This  so  because  of two reasons;  first,  the  history  does  not  account  for  innumerable happenings and,  secondly,  the  Qur’an  unfolds  some  of those events  of the  olden  times  which  have  not  been  recorded  at  all.

“There  is  another  reason  too.  Recorded  history,  even  if  it contains  the  details  of any  particular  happening,  is,  after  all a  human  endeavour  always  likely  to  commit  mistakes  or misrepresent  the  event  in  question.  With  all  that facilities  of communications,  means  of  transmitting  news  and  lhc techniques  of  their  verification  in  the  modcm  times.  we sometimes  come across  different  versions  of one  and  the  same story.  The  same  event  is  not  unoften  interpreted  differently viewed  from  different  angles  and  widely  differing  conclusions are drawn  therefrom.  This  is, in  truth,  the  basic  material  which serves  as  the  source  of  history: it  is.  however.  entirely different  matter  that  we  devise  elaborate  norms  for  post-scrutiny  and  verification  of the  authenticity  of the  material  so collected.

“Thercfore,  it  is  against  the  accepted  principles  of literary criticism  as  well  as  Qur’anic exegesis  to  seek  historical evidence for  the verification  of events  related  by  the Qur’an.  Moreover, this  procedure  is  also  not  in  accord  with  the conviction which claims  to  profess  thc  Qur’an  as  eternal, unchangable  Word  of God.  Absolute  reliance  cannot,  obviously,  be  placed  on  the date  thus  collected  by  history  either  by  one  having  faith  in  the revelatory  nature  of the  Qur’an  or by an  impartial  literary  critic. Historical  data  is,  at  best,  no  more  than  a  collection  of  our impressions,  estimates  and  ideas  about  the  past  happenings.

”The  Prophet  had  been  asked  about  Zul-Qarnain. Thereupon  God  revealed  certain  salient  characteristics  of the monarch  known  by that name.  now,  the  Qur’an  being the  only source  of knowledge  about  him,  the  verification  of its  historicity or  otherwise  is  beyond  our  means.  the  commentaries  on  the Qur’an  present  differing  views  in  the  matter  and,  therefore, reliance  cannot  be  placed  on  them.  If any  particular  view  is cautious  for  numerous  traditions  of yore  and  Israelite  legends have  found  their way  into  some  of the  old  commentaries”  [Fi  Zalal il Qur’an,  Volume  VI  (V  Edition}  pp.  8-10].

It  hardly  makes  any  difference  to  a  student  of the  Qur’an whether  he  is  able  to  identify  Zul-Qarnain  with  any  sovereign  in  the light  of  available  historical  records  or  not.  It  should  be  sufficient for  him  that  the  Qur’an  has  indicated  the  dominant  characteristics of Zul-Qarnain.  We  know  that  he  was  endowed  with  political  and military  power,  manifold  resources,  courage,  large  heartedness  and nobility  of character.

Verily  We! We  established  him  in  the  earth,  and  vouchsafed unto  him  of everything  a  way  (to  attain  anything  he  desired). “Then  he  followed  a  way.”  [Al-Kahf: 84-85]

Conquests  of Zul-Qarnain

The  conquests  of Zul-Qamain  were  quite  extensive.  His campaigns  were  directed  to  far-off lands  in  the  eastern  and  western directions  which  have  been  alluded  to  in  the  Qur’an  as  the  rising place  and  the  setting  place  of the  sun.  He  conducted  his  wars  with great  humanity,  administered  his  subjects  mildly,  looked  after  the weak  and  poor  with  loving  care  and  dealt  with  the  insolent  and  the bully  in  a  stringent  manner.  The  organisation  of his  empire  was planned  throughout  on  the  lines  indicated  by  the  Qur’an.

He  said:  As  for  him  who  doeth  wrong.  we  shall  punish him.  and  then  he  wiII  be  brought  back  unto  his  Lord,  Who wilI punish  him  with  awful  punishment!

“But  as  for  him  who  believeth  and  doeth  right  good  will  be his  reward and  We  shall  speak  unto  him  a  mild  command.” [Al-Kahf:  88-89]

Mark  the  distinctive  features  of the  state  policy  indicated by  Zul-Qarnain: it  speaks  volumes  of his judiciousness,  moderation and  sagacity  as  well  as  nobility  of character.

During  his  campaigns  Zul-Qarnain  found  a  people settled between  two  hills  who  were  continuosly  harassed  and  attacked  by the  nomadic  tribes  from  across  the  hills.  The  Qur’an  as  well  as other  scriptures  name  these  tribes  as  Yajuj  and  Majuj (Gog  and Magog). [We  entirely  agree  with  the  view,  reproduced  here,  expressed by  Saiyid  Qutub.

We  cannot  definitely  indicate  the  location  of  the  two  hills between  which  Zul-Qarnain  had  passed  through,  nor  do  we  know anyhting  else  about  this  place.  It  appears  from  the  Qur’an  that  it was  a  valley  between  two  mountains  where  had  settled  a  backward and  weak  people  who  could  not  understand  the  language  spoken by  Zul-Qamain  (Fi  zalal  il-Qur’an,  Vol.  XIII,  p.  23)

So  far  as  the  matters  relating  to  the  identification  of  Gog and Magog,  the  destruction  of  the  rampart  holding  them  in  check  and their  pouring  forth  from  their  land  to  plunder  and  ruin  the  earth  are concerned,  one  can  find  lengthy  details  in  the  commentaries  of the  Qur’an  and  the  Tradition, particularly  those  relating  to  the  advent of  the  Doomsday.  All  this  material,  although  by no  means  extendive needs  careful  study  and  re-interpretation  by  some  one  sincerely intersted  in  the  task].

The  turbulent  tribes  continuously  raided  and plundered  the land  of the  other  nation.

And  on  that  day  We  shall  let some  of them  surge  against others.”  [Al-Kahf: 100]

Construction  of the  Iron  Rampart

For  the  weak  but  peace-loving  nation  the  arrival  of Zul-Qarnain was a God-sent opportunity. They requested the mighty emperor  to  protect  them  from  the  depredation  of  the  wild  and turbulent tribes  by erecting a  barrier between  them  and their enemies. They  even  expressed  their  willingness  to  purchase  immunity  by contributing  their  mite  towards  construction  of the  barrier.

Zul-Qarnain  accepted  their  request  to  get  the  barrier constructed  but  unlike  most  of the  greedy  rulers  he  did  not  do  so  to augment his  treasure  but to protect his  subjects. He  did  not.  therefore, impose  too  heavy  a  taxation  to  meet  the  cost  of  proposed construction,  but  simply  required  them  to  provide  available  labour and  material.

He  said: That  wherein  my  Lord  hath  esablished  me  is better  (than  your  tribute).  Do  but  help  me  with  strength  (of men),  I  will  set  between  you  and  them  a  bank. Give  me  pieces of iron ….. ”  [Al-Kahf: 96-97].

Zul-Qarnain  provided  the  motive  force  and  the  organising skill  while  the  local  population  helped  with  men  and  material  for the  construction  of the  barrier.

………… till,  when  he  had  levelled  up  (the gap)  between  the cliffs,  he  said: Blow! till, when he  had  made  it a  fire,  he said: Bring  me  molten  copper to  pour thereon.”  [Al-Kahf: 97]

At  last the  barrier was  completed which afforded protection to  that  nation  against  the  incursions  of the  nomads.

And  (Gog  and  Magog)  were  not  able  to  surmount,  nor could  they  pierce (it).”  [Al-Kahf: 98]

Wisdom  Vouchsafed  to  the  Believers

Zul-Qarnain was a  mighty emperor and the victor of nations, but  his  conquests  never  filled  him  with  conceit. He  never  said  : I have  been given  it  only on account  of knowledge I possess; on  the contrary,  he  ascribed  his  achievements  to  God.  He  did  not  even brag  of the  impregnability  of the  barrier  constructed  by  him.  Like a  true  believer  in  God  and  the  Hereafter  he  laid  more  stress  on the help  and  grace  of God.

He  said:  This  is  a  mercy  from  my  Lord;  but  when  the promise of my  Lord  cometh  to  pass.  He  will  lay  it  low,  for  the promise  of my  Lord  is  true.” [Al-Kahf: 99]

And  this  is  the  attitude  of a true  believer  and  a  man  of God. He  never  forgets  his Lord-not  even  when  he  is  crowned  with  the most  brilliant  victories  nor  when  he  gains  control  over  gigantic resources  and  the  sinews  of earthly  power.  He  turns  his  attention  to God  in  the  hour  of triumphant  success  and  remembers  the  ultimate end,  when  he  would  crumble  into  dust  and  be  raised  again:  he fearfully  trembles  with  the  awe  of  God;  acknowledges  his  own weakness;  offers  solace  and  mercy  to  the  suffering  humanity: preserves  truth  and  justice;  and,  directs  his  incessant  endeavour  to serve  his  fellow-beings,  creates  a  just  and  virtuous  social  order, brings  out  the  ignorant from  the dark  alley  of godlessness  nad  crass materialism  to  the  sunshine  of divine  light  and  natural  religion. This  was  the  noble  and  virtuous  path  trodden  by  Sulayman alayhissalaam (Solomon)  and Zul Qarnain,  by  the  right-guided  Caliphs  and  impeccable  leaders  of Islam  during  their  own  times  in  different  parts  of the  world.


Revolt  against  the  Lord  and  Creator

It  has  been, indeed,  one  of the  greatest  misfortunes  of the world  as  well  as  of the  humanity  that  the  modern  western  cultural impulses  and  ideas  took  shape  at  a  time  when  the  revolt  against religion.  in  generaI,  and  against  the  realities  beyond  the  ken  of human perception, in  particular,  had  already  captured  the  minds  and  hearts of  the  Christian  nations.  The  Western  civilization  was  born  and brought  up  amongst  the  nations  which  had  entrenched  themselves against  a  priestly  order  exploiting  religion  for  the  sake  of  its  base desires  and  selfish  ends.  Uncompromising opposition  to  the  worldly knowledge  by  the  Christian  Church  which  had  set  face  against  the improvent  of  the  condition  of  the  earthly  life,  coupled  with  the immorality, fanaticism  and  ignorance  of the  Church  fathers  forced the  people  in the  West  to  take  a  materialistic  bias  to  the  endeavours concerning  intellectual  and  cultural  development,  industrial  progress and  social  growth  of these  nations.  As  this  lop-sided  development increased,  it  decreased,  in  balance,  the  spiritual  relationship  between man  and  his  Creator.  All  these  consequences  were,  it  would  be seen, the  product  of  inborn  tendencies.  temperaments,  peculiar circumstances  and  the  social  and  religious  order  of  the  European peoples.  This  new  civilization  was  thus  born  and  brought  up  in  an atmosphere  surcharged  with  atheistic  and  amoral  tendencies. Phenomenal  progress  in  the  fields  of  physical  sciences, industry ond  technology of the  other  hand, enabled  man  to  conquer  the  space and set his  foot  on  the moon.

The ever-increasing  material  progress control over the forces  of nature  and  the  dynamic  expansion  of human  potentialities promising  ultimate  mastership  over the  universe  has,  in  consequence, given  rise  to  an  anti-God  materialism,  which  has  become  the champion  of anti-religious  thought  and  action.  It  has  become  the distinctive  mark  and  the  dominant  characteristic  of  the  modern materialistic  cvilization.  We  do  not  know  of any  other  civilization so  ruthlessly  materialistic  and  at the  same  time  so  thoroughly  God-opposing,  hostile  to  everything  divine  in  origin  or  religious  in principle  and  method,  craving  for  material  power and  pleasure,  and claiming  an  unquestioning  submission  to  its  own  impulsions  and ideas.

Culmination  of the  Materialistic  Civilization

We  have just stated  that the Western  civilization  has  amassed immense  material power and  resources  but  it is also  God-opposing, traditionally  as  well  as  in  its  make-up.  Those who  hold  its  reins  are mainly  motivated  by  the  consideration  of their  own  and  industrial progress,  and  are  thus  totally  oblivious  of everything  except  their own  selfish  ends.  The  intellectual  centres  of  this  civilization America,  Europe  and  Russia-are overtly,  but somtimes  insidiously, at  war with  spirituality,  unseen  realities,  religious  ethics  and Divine overlordship.  The logical  climax of this  civilization  with  its attendant materialism  and  industrial  progress  does  not  appear to  be  far  away its  greatest  champion  and  defender,  named  as  Dajjal in  the  prophetic language,  shall  make  his  debut.  [The  Traditions  predicting  the  appearance  of  Dajjal  clearly indicate  his  distinguishing  features  and  characterstics.  Being  too numerous  and  handed  down  through  different  sourrces,  these Traditions  specify  that  Dajjal  would  make  his  debut  at  a  time  fixed aforehand  (although  the  time  has  not  been  made  known  to  us) from  amongst  the  Jews.  The  detailed  references  to  the  person and  characteristics  of  Dajjal  hardly  allow  its  denial  or  interpretation of  the  prophecies  as  alluding  to  a  seductive  agency  and  not  to  a definite  person.  These  Traditions  also  specify that Dajjal will  appear in  Palestine  where  he  would  wield  immense  power  and  glory.  It seems  that  Palestine  would  be  the  last  stage  where  this  uncanny drama  of struggle  between  faith  and  materialism  will  reach  its  final culmination.  The  markings  of this  sinister  contest  can  even  now  be seen  at  work  in  this  holy  land.  Facing  the  Jews,  there  is  a  nation whose  greatest  claim  to  power  lies  in  its  being  custodian  to  the Divine  Call  to  righteousness  and  the  overlordship  of  the  One  and Only  God,  while,  on  the  other,  there  are  the  people  believing  in  the superiority  of  race  and  blood.  These  adversaries  of  the  faith  in God  and  equality  of  mankind  are  bent  upon  employing  the  entire human  and  material  resources  of  the  world  for  establishing  the undisputed  superiority  of  their  own  race.  And,  they  also  hold  the key  to  the  technological  progress  and  the  resources  laid  at  their door by  the  latest  discoveries  of  physical  sciences.  The  sign  of this final  encounter,  crucial  for  the  humanity  at  large,  and  the  Islamic East  in  particular,  have  already  begun  to  hang  out,  awaiting, perhaps,  for  the  appointed  time.  when  the  impending  drama  would unfold  itself with  the  leading  character  as  already  mentioned  in  the prophecies]. He  would  necessarily  be  a  God opposing  tyrant  commanding  all  the  resources  of  material  and industrial  progress,  championing  the  cause of atheistic  materialism, and  seeking  divine  worship  for  the  means  of material  prosperity  as well  as  for  those  who  possess  these  means.  This  would  be  the culminating  point  of this  godless  civilization  which  is  being  brewed in  the  crucible  of  Europe  for the  past  few  centuries.

Atheism,  Dissension  and  Destruction

ln  the  foregoing  paragraph  the  essential  features  of  the present  day  materialistic-cum-industrial  civilization,  which  is  soon likely  to  reach  its  climax,  have  been  sketched.  Whenever  that happens,  its  philosopher  and guide  shall be  no one else  except  Dajjal. But,  merely  the  leadership  of a  materialistic  civilization by someone does  not  offer  sufficient  ground  to  identify  him  with  Dajjal,  the anti-God  adversary  of  the  last  time  who  has  been  so  bitterly condemned by the  Prophet of lslam,  and  from  whose appalling evils and  calamities  the  believers  have  been  asked  to  seek  the  refuge  of God.  These  directives  by  the  Prophet,  to  be  sure,  point  out  the acuteness  of the  impending  danger.

Sulayman alayhissalaam (Solomon)  once  reigned  supreme  and  so  did  Zul-Qumain. The  Qur’an  speaks  of  the  immense  material  and  political  power owned  by  them  as  well  as  the  amazing  speed  and  resources commanded  by  them.  We  have, therefore,  to  discern  clearly  the dividing  line  between  them  and  Dajjal  for  this  would  from  the barrier between  a  tyrannical  despot  and  a  virtuous  ruler  described  thus  by the  Qur’an: 

How  excellent  a  slave!  Lo!  he  was  ever  turning  in repentance_(toward  Allah).”  [Sad: 30]

Now, this  dominant  characteristic  of  the  virtuous  rulers, indicated  in  the  Qur’anic  verse  constitutes  the  line  of demarcation between  such  a  suzerain  and  a  tyrant  autocrat.  Solomon  and  Zul-Qarnain  as  well  as  most  of  the  righteous  and  right-guided  rulers presiding  over  the  Islamic reigned  during  the  first  few  centuries  of its inception  manifested  this  essential  trait  which  always  fostered inspiration  in  them  to  direct  their  administrative  skill,  political sagacity,  brilliant capabilities,  sense  of justice and  love  of humanity towards  propagating the true  faith. God  has  described  their qualities thus:  
Those,  who,  if We  give  them  power  in  the  land,  establish worship  and  pay  the  poor-due  and  enjoin  kindness  and  forbid iniquity.  And  Allah’s  is  the  sequel  of events.”  [Al-Hajj: 41]

At  another  place,  says  God:

As  for  the  Abode  of the  Hereafter We  assign  it  unto  those who  seek  not  oppression  in  the  earth,  nor  yet  corruption.  The sequel  is  for  those  who  ward  off (evil).” [Al-Qasas: 83]

On  the  contrary,  the  most  visible  characteristic  of  Dajjal, his  identifying  mark  indicated  by  the  Prophet of lslam  is  atheism  in its  widest  connotation. He  said:

KUFR  (atheism)  would  be  inscribed  between  his  eyes. Every  believer  whether lettered  or  unlettered  would  be  able  to read  that.”  [Sahih  bukhari]

The  Traditions  of the  Prophet  clearly  specify  that  Dajjal would  be  an  enthusiastic  and  crafty  preacher  of atheism  and  that his  efforts  would  be  directed  to  burden  the  believers  with  disbelief and  scepticism.  In  another  tradition  it  gas  been  stated  that

By  God, a  man  would  come  to  him  taking  him  to  be  a believer  and  would  become  his  follower.  Then  he  would  fall into  scepticism  prompted  by  the  latter.”  [Abu Dawud]

The  fascinating  but  hideous  enchantment  of Dajjal  would then  spread  out  and  envelop  every  family  and  home;  neither women  nor  children wouId  be  immune  from  his  hypnotizing  spell: nobody would  be  able to  exercise  the needful  restraint  over  his dependents,  wife  and  children; everyone would  be a  law  unto  himself and  would  also  be  proud  of it.  A  Tradition  of the  Prophet  relates:

Dajjal  would  sojourn  in  the  barren  lands  of  Marraqanat where women wouId  flock  together to him,  till  the  people would put  their  mothers,  daughters,  sisters  and  aunts  into  fetters  lest they should  also  go  over  to  him.”  [Tabrani  on  the  authority  of  ibn  ‘Umar radhiyallahu anhu)]

The  society  would  become  so  ethically barren  and  dissolute that:

Only  sinners  and  black sheep  would  at last  remain  who would  be  weightless  like  birds  and  empty-headed  like  beasts and  they  would  be  unable  to  distinguish  between  virtue  and wickedness.” [ Sahih  Muslim, on  the  authority  of  ‘Abdullah  ibn  ‘Umar and lbn  al-‘Aas radhiyallahu anhum)]

This  picturesque  description  of  the  modern  materialistic and  atheistic  civilization  depicts  in  the  prophetic  phraseology, the climax  of this  sophisticated  and  luxurious  yet  disintegrating culture. It  also  brings  into  relief  the  distinguishing  features  and  the conspicuous  traits  of the  present-day  society. This  is, in  truth  and reality,  one  of those  unfathomable  miracles  of the Prophet’s  teachings which  shall  ever  continue  to  be  a  source  of  enlightenment  and guidance  to  humanity.  Who  can  deny  the  fact  that  the  modern materialistic  culture  lacks  depth  and  weight?  It  has  not  only unburdened  itself of the  weight of gravest cares  and  responsibilities, but  also  learnt  to  fly  in  the  sky  like  birds.  Man  has  conquered  both, the  speed  as  well  as  the  space,  but  failed  to  live  like  human  beings; he  can  destroy  blooming  gardens  and  plentiful crops,  massacre  the entire  nations  with  insufferable  cruelty  and  blot  into  extinction  the whole  countries  without  the  least  hesitation.  History  is  unable  to cite  any  other  civilization  combining  similar  cruelty,  barbarity  and inhumanity  along  with  the  abundance  of goods  and  comforts.  The Prophet  of Islam  alluded  to  the  overflowing  luxuries  of the  modern age  in  these  words:

They  would  then  have  their  provisions  showering  on  them and  shall  have  plentiful  means  of comfort.” [Sahih  Muslim on  the  authority  of  ‘Abdullah  ibn  ‘Umar radhiyallahu anhu)] 

Fanciful  Self-Satisfaction

We  have  explained  how  the  concept  of nature  and  society emanating  from  “this-worldly”  attitude  denies  all  other  realities except  the  brief  span  of  worldly  life.  It  devotes  its  attention exclusively  towards  making  this  life  more  comfortable,  prosperous, enchanting  and  delightful  with  complete  disregard  to  social  evils, moral  morass  and  undescribable  cruelty  generated  in  its  process. Divine  revelation,  therefore,  comes  up  to  show  the  cloven  hoof  of the  standard-bearers  of materialism  in  the  concluding  verses  of the Surat-ul-Kahf.  The  deeds  and  the  personal  bearings  of these agents of death  and  destruction  have  been  vividly  delineated  by  the  Qur’an to  spotlight  their  arful  duplicity.

And  when  it  is  said  unto  them : Make  not mischief  in  the  earth,  they  say: We  are  peace-makers  only.”  [Al-Baqarah:11]

This  is  a  pointed  allusion  to  the  Jews  who  have  completely forgotten  the  resurrection  and  hereafter  despite  long-drawn chastisement  they  have  had  to  undergo  for  their  duplicity  and treacherous  behaviour.  No  doubt they  have  played a  leading  role  in the  development of  physical  sciences,  industry  and  technology,  but their  contribution  towards  fomenting  revolt  and  strife,  instability and  anarchy  has  also  been  without  a  parallel.  On  the  whole,  their endeavours,  talents  and  intellectual acumen  have  been  directed  more towards  negative  ends,  plunging  the  world  into  a  moral  and  social confusion  with  the  sole  objective  of asserting  the  superiority  of their own  “chosen  race”  over all  other  nations  of the  world.

Say: Shall  We  inform you  who  will  be  the  greatest  losers by  their  works?

“Those  whose  effort  goeth  astray  in  the  life  of the  world, and  yet  they  reckon  that  they  do  good  work.

“Those  are  they  who  disbelieve  in  the  revelations  of their Lord  and  in  the  meeting  with  Him.  Therefore  their  words  are  vain, and  on  the  Day  of Resurrection  We  assign  no  weight  to  them.” [Al-Kahf: 104-6]

Limitation  of  Human  Knowledge

The  Qur’an  protests  against  the  materialistic  view  of epistemology  which  regards  human  intellect as  infallible and capable of encompassing  all  sectors  or  phases  of reality.  This  concept  of knowledge  asserts  its  capacity  to discern  the  secrets  of nature  as well  as  mysteries  of the  vast  heavenly  bodies  and  planetary  system, lands  and  oceans,  beings  and creatures and the designs and  workings of supernatural  forces.  It tries  top  plumb  directly  the  secrets  of the creation  of  life  and  unlock  the  mysteries  of past  and  future.  The votaries  of this  view  of human  knowledge  are  arrogantly  proud  of it  although  the  sum  total  of their  knowledge  is  no  more  than  a  speck of  dust.  The  tragedy,  however,  is  that  this  very  undue  arrogance, over-confidence and excessive reliance on  human  knowledge coupled with  the  contemptuous  defiance  and  outright  denial  of  unseen realities  has  been  the  root-cause  of  man’s  vanity  and  self-conceit, narrow-mindedness and  fanatcism. lt  is,  indeed,  this  concept of human  knowledge  which  is  responsible  for  belief in  the  primacy of matter,  its  indestructibility  and  creativeness. 
It  is,  again,  this  view  of human  knowledge,  having  its  roots in  the  aberration  of human  nature,  which  has  always  induced  man to  claim  the  mastership  over  his  fellow  beings  and  to  oppress  those who  do  not  agree  to  this  concept. All  of  its  salient  features  have been  brought  out  by  the  parables  told  in  the Surat-ul-Kahf,  as,  for instance,  its  spiteful  enmity  with  those  who  are  blessed  with  a  true faith  and  the  gnosis  of God,  like  the  Companions  of thc  Cave:  its love for  earthly  possessions  and  disrespect  for  the  poor  and  lowly  as exhibited  by  the  owner  of two  gardens:  its  denial  of everything  not adequately  comprehended  by  the  limited  human  intellect  as illustrated  by  the  story  of  Khidhr  and  Musa (alayhissalaam).  It  is  not  unoften  that the  erring knowledge  of man  produces  an  entireIy false impression. Zul-Qarnain  thought  that  the  sun  was  setting  in  the  spring  of murky water.

Till  when  he  reached  the  setting-place of the  sun.  he  found it  setting  in  a  muddy  spring.”  [Al-Kahf: 87]

Another  example  of a  similar  delusion  is  furnished  in  the story  of Sulayman alayhissalaam and  the  Queen  of Sheba. [The  details  of the  story  of  Solomon  and  the  Queen  of  Sheba can  be  seen  in  the  chapter An-Naml  of  Qur’an].  The  latter mistook  the smooth  polished  floor  of Sulayman’s  (alayhissalaam) palace and  tucked  up  her trousers to  pass  through  it.

It  was  said  unto  her: Enter  the  hall.  And  when  she saw  it she  deemed  it  a  pool  and  bared  her  legs. (Sulayman alayhissalaam) said:  Lo! it  is  a  hall,  made  smooth,  of glass.”  [An-Naml: 44]

The Surat-al-Kahf ends  with  the  same  note  with  which  it begins.  It  has  been  emphasised  in  the  concluding  verses  that  the Divine  knowledge  is  immensely  wider and  deeper  in  comparison  to that  of man,  the  Universe  is  much  wider  and  greater  than man  can ever  think  of and  the  words [Aalusi  has  explained  in Ruh  ul-Ma’ni that  the  “words”  mean the  power,  glory  and  wisdom  of  the  Lord.  Whenever  God  wants  to express  His  mysteries  and  wonders, He simply  gives  the  command Be  and  the  thing  comes  into  being]  of  the  Lord-the  words  denoting  His excellence,  His  attributes  and  His  perfection-can  never  be  fully  set out  in  human  language,  however  developed  it  might  bc.Signs  and commandments  of God  are  infinite  and  these  cannot  be  expressed even  if all  the  trees  were  made  into  pens  and  oceans  [The  astronmical  observations  of the  expanding  universe  give an  idea  of  the  immense  space,  the  distance  between  the  earth  and the  planets  as  well  as  between  different  planets,  their  numbers, the  speed  of light  of heavenly  bodies,  their  volumes  and  densities, the  laws  of  gravity  and  the  intricate  interaction  of  physical  laws sustaining  the  cosmos.  Modern  scientific  discoveries  also demonstrate  how  the  rotation  of  earth,  atmosphere  of  life-supporting  gasses,  the  delicate  proportion  of life-giving  elements and  similar  other  phenomenal  causes  go  to  make  this  earth habitable  and  life-sustaining.  Numerous  other  branches  of science like  biology,  chemistry,  zoology:,  botany  and  other  physical  sciences have  revealed,  thanks  to  well  equipped  laboratories  and  the  toil  of innumerable  scientists,  what  could  have  never  been  conceived  a few  centuries  ago.  But  all  this  knowledge  is  infinitesimally small  as compared  to  the  knowledge  still  beyond  our  reach]  turned  into ink. 
Say: Though the  sea  became  ink  for  the  Words  of  My Lord,  verily  the  sea would  be  used  up  before the  Words  of my Lord  were  exhausted,  even  though  We  brought the  like  thereof to  help.”  [Al-Kahf: 110]

Again, the Surat-al-Luqman says:

And  if all  the  trees  in  the  earth  were  pens  and  the  sea. with  seven  more  seas  to  help it (were  ink),  the  Words  of Allah could  not  be  exhausted. “Lo!  Allah  is  Mighty, Wise.”  [Luqman : 27].

Prophethood : Its  Nature  and  Necessity

A  question  arises  here,  If  the  tremendous  space  and innumerable  creations  contained  therein  are  beyond  human imagination,  if all  the  trees  and  seven  seas  are  inadequate  to expound the  wisdom  and  glory  of  God  and  if  the  infinite  signs  and commandments  of  the  Lord  are  beyond  the  ken  of  human understanding,  then  how  can  man  attain  the  knowledge  of  His excellence  and  His  attributes,  how  can  the mystery  of life  be solved and  how  is  man  to  seek  the  path  of  Divine  guidance  and righteousness?  The  prophets  too  are  no  more  than  mere  mortals. We  know  that  the  knowledge  of man  is  extremely  limited  and  liable to  commit  mistakes.  Then,  how  arc  we  to  place  reliance  on  the teachings  and  wisdom  of a  prophet?  The Surah  reveals  the  answer to  all  these  questions  on  behalf of the  last  Prophet  of God.

Say: I  am  only  a mortal  like  you.  My  Lord  inspireth  in me  that  your  God  is  only  One  God.”  [Al-Kahf: 111]

This  verse  tells  us  that  the  only  reliable  source  of God’s gnosis,  the  means  to  fathom  the  mystery  of mysteries,  as  also  the mark  of  honour  and  excellence  of  the  prophets  is  the  revelation vouchsafed  to them.  Man  can never aspire to attain enduring success without  placing  reliance  in  the  prophetic  inspiration.  This  was  the quintessence  and  central  truth  of  prophethood  expounded  by  the Prophet  of lslam  when  he  said:  “I  am  only  a  mortal  like  you.  My Lord  inspireth  in  me  that  your  God  is  only  one  God.”

The Last Word:

The  Surah  concludes  by  drawing  our  attention  again towards  the  Hereafter and  its  paramount importance for  our worldly life.  It  calls  upon  us  to  always  keep  this  fundamental  truth  in  view and  draw  inspiration  from  it  in  all  our  actions  and  demeanour.  The Surah thus  concludes  with  the  message  it  expounded  in  the  opening verses.

And  whoever  hopeth  for  the  meeting  with  his  Lord,  let him  do  righteous  work,  and  make  none  sharer  of the  worship  due unto  his  Lord.”  [Al-Kahf: 111]