Sūra al-Kahf is 18th sura of the Qur’an. It is a Makki sura and located in juz's 15 and 16. The word “kahf” means “cave”. This sura is named “kahf” because it speaks about the story of the Companions of the Cave. Sura al-Kahf invites people to believe in the truth and do righteous deeds and emphasizes that God has no child. Several stories are mentioned in this sura, three of which are more comprehensive than others: the story of the Companions of the Cave, the story of Moses (a) and one of God's servants (Khidr) and the story of Dhu l-Qarnayn. It is said that sura al-Kahf was revealed when some people from Quraysh were supposed to learn from Jews some issues and test the Prophet (a) with them. Those issues were questions from the three mentioned stories and also the time of the Judgement Day.
One of the famous verses of sura al-Kahf is verse 50 which refers to the story of angels prostrating to Adam (a) and Satan's disobedience. There are many narrations about the merits of recitation of sura al-Kahf, including a hadith narrated from the Prophet (a) that upon the revelation of sura al-Kahf, 70 thousand angels followed it and its glory filled the skies and the earth; whoever recites it on Friday, God will forgive his sins until the next Friday and will give him a light which shines up to the sky and he will be safe from the trial of Dajjal.
The word “kahf” means “the cave in the mountain” and this sura is named “kahf” because it speaks about the story of the Companions of the Cave. Another name of this sura is “Ha'ila”, because it is a veil between its reciters and those who act upon it and the hellfire.
Order and Place of Revelation
Sura al-Kahf is a Makki sura. It was 69th sura revealed to the Prophet (a), but now it is 18th sura in the Qur’an, located exactly in the middle of the Qur’an in juz's 15 and 16.
Number of Verses and other Characteristics
Sura al-Kahf has 110 verses, 1589 words and 6550 letters. Regarding volume, it is among Mi'un suras (with about 100 verses) and middle size taking about half of one juz’.
About the content and the goal of sura al-Kahf, it is said that through threats and good news, it invites people toward the truth and righteous deeds. In this sura, it is also emphasized that God has no child; as, in some verses, those who have considered children for God are threatened. Thus, this sura addresses those who believed that angels, djinns and righteous people are children of God and Christians who believe that Jesus (a) is son of God. It is also said that it is possible that this sura was revealed to narrate the three extraordinary stories of the Companions of the Cave, Moses (a) and one of God's servants and the story of Dhu l-Qarnayn. These stories are mentioned all in one place, contrary to most other stories in the Qur'an which are divided in different suras.
- First point: Excessive love of the world, as the reason why disbelievers do not accept Islam
a) First issue: the Qur’an, warning world-loving polytheists b) Comforting the Prophet (a) about disbelief of world-lovers
- Story of the Companions of the Cave, the sign of the world's decay and the truth of the hereafter
a) Strangeness of the story of the Companions of the Cave b) Uprising of the Companions of the Cave against polytheism c) Taking refuge in the cave d) Sleeping of the Companions of the Cave in an especial way e) Waking of the Companions of the Cave and going to the city f) People's argument about setting up a building upon the grave of the Companions of the Cave g) Different opinions about the number of the Companions of the Cave h) Different opinions about how long the Companions of the Cave were asleep
- The Prophet's (a) duty against world-loving disbelievers
a) Reciting the Book of God b) Accompanying believers and keeping away from ignorant ones c) Explaining the destiny of disbelief and having faith d) Reminding the evil destiny of world lovers e) Reminding the decay of the world f) Warning about Satan's enmity with man g) Reminding the destiny of ignoring the warnings of the Qur'an
- Story of Moses (a) and Khidr (a), the sign of the inner nature of the world
a) Mosess (a) search for Khidr (a) b) Mosess (a) request from Khidr (a) to teach him divine teachings c) Khidr's (a) condition for teaching Moses (a) d) Three seemingly strange actions of Khidr (a) e) Wisdom and the heart of Khidr's (a) actions
- Story of Dhu l-Qarnayn, a sign of the failure of world-loving disbelievers
a) God-given knowledge and power of Dhu l-Qarnayn b) Dhu l-Qarnayn's journey to the West c) Dhu l-Qarnayn's journey to the East d) Dhu l-Qarnayn's journey to mountains
- Instead of seeking the world, seek the mercy of God!
a) World-lovers' deprivation of God's mercy b) Immeasurability of God's mercy c) Faith and righteous deeds, as the condition for benefiting from God's mercy
Historical Stories and Narrations
In sura al-Kahf, there are some stories, three of which are more comprehensive:
- Story of the Companions of the Cave (verses 8 – 26): Guidance of these people by God, their struggle with disbelievers, seeking refuge in the cave, the miracle of their survival by the help of God, their waking up and people's reaction toward them, clarification of the truth and explaining the argument disbelievers had with the Prophet (a) about this story.
- Story of Moses (a) and Khidr (a) (verses 60 – 82): Company of Moses (a) and the teenager to Majma' al-Bahrayn, forgetting the fish, returning to find the fish, meeting one of God's servants (Khidr (a)), Moses' (a) request to accompany him, Khidr's (a) warning about Moses' (a) impatience, making a hole in the boat, Killing the boy, repairing the wall in the city whose people rejected them and the three complaints of Moses (a), separation of Moses (a) from Khidr (a), mentioning the interpretation of Khidr’s (a) actions.
- Story of Dhu l-Qarnayn (verses 83 – 98): asking the Prophet (a) about Dhu l-Qarnayn, gifting the kingdom to Dhu l-Qarnayn, his treatment toward the two groups in the west and the east, arriving between the two barriers, complaints of people about Gog and Magog, building a bulwark to prevent the attack of Gog and Magog.
Delay in Revelation and the Verse of Mashiyyat
About the context of the revelation of sura al-Kahf, it is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that Quraysh sent three people to Najran tribe to learn some issues there and use them to test the Prophet (a). The three people went to Najran and met Jewish scholars. Jews told them to ask the Prophet (a) three things, and “if he (a) answers the way we know, he (a) is true to his claim; otherwise, he (a) is lying; then, you ask him one more thing. If he (a) says that he (a) knows the answer, he (a) is a liar.” The three issues they decided to ask the Prophet (a) were the story of the Companions of the Cave, the story of Moses (a) with Khidr (a) and the destiny of the person (Dhu l-Qarnayn) who traveled between the east and the west and reached the barrier of Gog and Magog. Jews gave the three people from Quraysh the answers to the questions. The fourth issue was about the time of the Judgement Day.
Those from Quraysh returned to Mecca and went to Abu Talib and posed their questions to the Prophet (a). The Prophet (a) told them that, “I will give the answers tomorrow.” But, he (a) did not say “In sha'Allah” [“If God wills”]. Thus, he (a) did not receive revelation for forty days, so that he (a) became sad and his companions who had believed in him, became doubtful while Quraysh were happy and began mocking and harassing the Prophet (a). Abu Talib became very upset. After forty days, sura al-Kahf was revealed to the Prophet (a). The Prophet (a) asked angel Gabriel the cause of delay and he said that, “we are not able to come on our own, but with God's permission.” Imam al-Sadiq (a) then mentioned the story of the Companions of the Cave. 'Allama Tabataba'i mentioned this narration and then said that there are many narrations reporting the story of the Companions of the Cave, but they have conflicts. Among them, the mentioned narration is the clearest, the text of which is free from conflicts and incoherence; however, it still has some problems.
According to commentaries, this verse refers to a story mentioned in sura al-Baqara which gives the report of the creation of Adam (a) and prostration of angels to him. Two of the points mentioned by exegetes about this verse are that although Satan was one of the djinns, but he achieved a position among angels due to his obedience and position before God, and another point is that it can be learned from the prostration of angels that prostration for other than God has no problem if it is for the sake of reverence. The story of prostration of angels and disobedience of Satan is mentioned in several places in the Qur'an including verse 73 of sura Sad, verse 30 of sura al-Hijr and verse 34 of sura al-Baqara.
It is mentioned in commentaries that this verse refers to three principles of Unity of God, the Prophethood and the hereafter and rejects polytheistic thoughts and the claim of divinity about the Prophet (a). It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that “whoever recites the last verse of sura al-Kahf before sleeping, he can wake up anytime he wishes.”
Merits and Benefits
There are many narrations from the Prophet (a) and Imams (a) about the merits of recitation of sura al-Kahf which mention the importance of the content of this sura such as the following:
- It is narrated from the Prophet (a) that upon the revelation of sura al-Kahf, 70 thousand angels followed it and its glory filled the skies and the earth. Whoever recites it on Friday, God will forgive his sins until the next Friday and (according to another narration, it keeps him away from sins) and gives him a light which shines up to the sky and he will be safe from the trial of Dajjal.
- It is narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (a) that whoever recites sura al-Kahf on the eve of Fridays, he will die a martyr and will be resurrected with martyrs and will be among them on the Judgement Day.
Also, some benefits are mentioned for recitation of sura al-Kahf including the hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a) saying that, “whoever recites the last verse of sura al-Kahf before sleeping, he can wake up anytime he wishes.”
- The material for this article is mainly taken from سوره کهف in Farsi WikiShia.