“O Allah, grant him understanding of the religion and teach him interpretation [of the Quran].” –SalAllahu alayhi wa Salaam for Ibn Abbas
Before appraising Surat AlKahf and it’s beautiful meaning hidden in its tafseer, knowing the importance of tafseer itself is essential. Tafseer means to clarify or reveal the meaning of a verse in the Quran, with the Quran. Teaching and clarifying was the duty of the Prophets, which is why the Khulafa were among the best and most knowledgeable of the companions. An example upon us is that of Abdullah ibn Masood who directly learned 70 surahs from the Prophet (pbuh), subhanAllah. Tafseer is broken down into types defined by that which is known to the Arabs, known to all, known to the scholars, and that which is known only to Allah. The methods of tafseer are that of the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet, the Companions, scholars, and using one’s intellect.
Surah Al-Kahf (according to the majority) was a Makki surah, revealed in Makkah before the Hijra, between the fifth and sixth year after revelation. In dealing with the theme of difficult trials accompanying the message of tawheed, the importance of this surah is it’s protection from Dajjal and safety from other trials, especially by memorizing the introduction and the conclusion (the first and last ten verses). “Whoever memorizes the first ten verses of Surah Al-Kahf will be saved from the trials of the Dajjal.” (Muslim)
The surah begins with alhamd meaning praise and ends with a dua, as in the beginning of Surah Al-Fatiha and the last words of Surah Al-Isra. In Surah Al-Kahf, as it begins, Allah assures that the greatest blessing we have is of the Quran and confirms this book as righteous and gives glad tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds fulfilled in accordance to the Quran and solely for the sincere sake of Allah. The benefit of these verses is of the tarabiyah, pleasing/praising Allah for ourselves, da’wah, passing the knowledge onto others, and fruit, or iba’dah, worship for the greatest blessing of guidance. As the surah progresses, the use of opposites in the verses increase, for a better clear understanding such as beauty/bare and dry in Verse 7 & 8 and remembrance/neglect in Verse 24.
What do the words to Surah Al-Kahf mean? Kahf in Arabic means a cave. One may wonder about the significance of a cave and the meaning of Surah Al-Kahf- it’s actually quite simple. It is believed that individuals who believed and accepted Allah saw refuge in the cave and secluded themselves from the gatherings, whether it was in times of ease or difficulty. The stories mentioned in Surah Al-Kahf are among the best because Allah is the most knowledgeable, they are eloquent, true, and lessons from these stories are many.
The first major trial mentioned in Surah Al-Kahf deals with oppression and injustice, acknowledging the power of dua’a as a weapon of the believer and when one seeks the help of Allah (swt). He guides and provides opportunities and if one does not take them, it may lead them to go astray. It teaches one to do all in their will and Allah (swt) will take care of the rest. Also, one should always be humble when seeking knowledge and make one’s deeds for the sake of Allah (swt) alone and be firm in holding onto the revelation of the Quran and the Sunnah.
The second major trial dealt with love of the rich and powerful, explaining the outcomes of tyrants and believers, while the third major trial covers the topic of wealth and the children. It expands upon the immense blessings of Allah and the deception of worldly adornments. Verse 49 indicated the justice of Allah in having no favoritism; everyone stands in one row with no distinction. He does no injustice to anyone.
The fourth major trial is on the arrogance of lineage, covering Taqwa, leadership of guidance and misguidance, and the evil and corruption of arrogance and pride. Verse 50 states that the only true help you’re going to receive is from Allah. Iblees is the leader of Shaytaan, transgressing the bounds of Allah when they shouldn’t. Being among the most knowledgeable led to his arrogance, and then destruction. Allah orders all this followers to be humble. Allah is the Protector in this life and in the hereafter (Verse 52). Verse 55 brings up the question of why people still disbelieve even after having been provided with examples. It’s shown to be because of their forefathers and following blindly, using lineage to go astray. The heart is also the source of understanding, and it’s best for one to repent and forgive- all else is in Allah’s will.
The fifth major trial is of knowledge; the etiquettes of attaining knowledge, the role of companions in a journey of seeking knowledge, and the etiqoettes of a teacher and a student. All knowledge has to be attributed to Allah and if a leadership opportunity is bestowed upon you, take it and benefit from the good of leadership increasing your reward inshaAllah. This leads to the tafseer of the sixth and last major trial that is of leadership with the necessary steps required, its blessing, and importance. As for the one who believed and does righteous deeds, Allah will give to them the best reward in the hereafter (Verse 88). Do not reject the mercy and blessings of Allah by reminding the people that Allah is where the praise is due. “Lack of the remembrance of Allah makes the heart coarse” (Verse 100). The ones with the greatest losses are surely those whose efforts have been wasted in this life and those deeds that were not sincere. Everything begins and ends with the virtue of Allah (swt) as does the beginning and end to Surah Al-Kahf.
(The context behind this article is wholly based on the seminar Tafseer Surah Al-Kahf: Echoes of a Cave taught by Shaykh AbdulBary Yahya, and any fault may be present on a misunderstanding on my behalf. May Allah protect us from all forms of Al-asabiyyah, forgive us for our mistakes, and guide us towards Sirat-Al-Mustaqim [Ameen])