Story of Youth of the Cave - Story of Youth of the Cave -3/3-

Since 2014-04-08

After Hundreds of Years.. Sleepers Woke Up.

Story of Youth of the Cave -3/3-

By Sayyid Qutb

Suddenly things change totally:

{Such being their state, We awakened them; and they began to question one another.

One of them asked: ‘How long have you remained thus?’ 

They answered: ‘We have remained thus a day, or part of a day.’

They said ‘Your Lord knows best how long you have remained thus. Let, then, one of you go with these silver coins to the town, and let him find out what food is purest there, and bring you some of it. But let him behave with great care and by no means make anyone aware of you. For, indeed, if they should come to know of you, they might stone you to death or force you back to their faith, in which case you would never attain to any good!} [Al-Kahf:19-20].

The element of surprise is always used in Qur'anic stories in order to enhance the effect. Here the scene portrays the youths as they wake up after their long slumber. They do not realize how long they have been asleep. They rub their eyes and begin to ask one another about what have happened.

One turns to the others asking how long they have been asleep for, just like anyone rising after having slept for many hours. He must have felt that this time his sleep has been unduly long. The answer he has received from his friends is indefinite: {We have remained thus a day, or part of a day} [Al-Kahf 18:19].

But then they realize that to determine the length of their sleep is of no consequence. They leave that point aside, just like a believer should do in any matter of no specific importance. They turn to something more practical. They are hungry and have some money. Their discussion takes a different turn:

{They said: ‘Your Lord knows best how long you have remained thus. Let, then, one of you go with these silver coins to the town, and let him find out what food is purest there, and bring you some of it’} [Al-Kahf:19].

The most natural reaction in the circumstances! One is to go to the city to bring back the best food available for them.

They are however in an unusual position, and they have to be extra careful. They must not allow their people to find them out or discover their hiding place. For that would bring certain disaster. The people in authority in the city would stone them to death for their apostasy.

These young men worship God alone, associating no partners with Him, while their people are pagans. Hence they are sure to kill them or at least to torture them until they renounce their belief in God and turn back to the faith of their community. These are the only options their people would consider. Hence the young believers re-emphasize their advice to their friend who was going to the city to bring the food:

{But let him behave with great care and by no means make anyone aware of you. For, indeed, if they should come to know of you, they might stone you to death or force you back to their faith, in which case you would never attain to any good!} [Al-Kahf: 19-20].

Indeed no one who turns back to unbelief in God and associates partners with Him could ever attain any good result. How could it be possible when he has incurred the greatest loss through disbelieving in God’s oneness?

We are given here a panoramic view of the whole scene. The youths are apprehensive, unaware of how much time have lapsed or how many years they have remained in their cave. Indeed generations have passed by, and the city from which they have departed have gone through great changes. The tyrants they fear have been removed from power.

Yet the story of the young people who had fled in order to maintain their faith had been reported from one generation to another, with people differing as to their faith and what they believed in, as well as the exact timing of their escape. The awaking sleepers were totally unaware of all these events.

The surah however allows the curtain to fall over this scene only to raise it again showing a totally different picture, with a time lapse between the two. We understand that the present population of the city believe in God. They are so thrilled to discover the young believers through the one who is sent to fetch food.

The people in the city somehow ascertain that he is one of the young men who have fled from the tyranny of the unbelievers a long time ago.

We need to stretch our imaginations somewhat to realize the magnitude of the young men’s surprise as they hear from their friend what have happened during their sleep. He assures them that the city has experienced a great change since their departure. There is now nothing in the new society that they could not accept.

Indeed all that they have once known in that city is now totally different. They themselves have belonged to a generation that have long since gone. To the present people in the city, they are a marvel. Hence they would not be treated like ordinary human beings. They are totally unrelated to the present generation. Their relatives, friends, ties, concerns, feelings, habits and traditions have either been severed or undergone radical change. They are no more than a living memory, not real people. Therefore, God has spared them all that could result from their joining this new generation and thus caused them to die.

All this is left to our imagination. The surah portrays the final scene, when they are allowed to die. The people are standing outside the cave, disputing among themselves about their faith, and how to preserve their memory for future generations. It moves directly to outline the moral of this remarkable story:

{In this way have We drawn people’s attention to their case, so that they might know that God’s promise is true and that there can be no doubt as to the Last Hour. The people disputed among themselves as to what happened to them. Some of them said: ‘Erect a building (in their memory.) God knows their case best.’ Those whose opinion prevailed in the end said: ‘Indeed, we must surely raise a house of worship (in their memory.)’} [Al-Kahf: 21].

The lesson here is clear. The end those young people has met shows a real, tangible example of how resurrection takes place. The people in the city have felt the full impact of resurrection and realized, as they could never have done otherwise, that God’s promise in respect of resurrection after death will come true and that the Last Hour is certain to come. This is all seen in the awakening of those sleepers from their long sojourn in the cave.

Some people suggest that they should commemorate them: {Erect a building (in their memory.)} [Al-Kahf: 21]. The building thus erected would not determine their faith, as the people who have discovered them do not know what faith exactly the sleepers have followed: {God knows their case best.} [Al-Kahf:21] It is He alone who knows their faith.

But the people who enjoy authority in the city decide differently. {Those whose opinion prevailed in the end said: ‘Indeed, we must surely raise a house of worship (in their memory.)’} [Al-Kahf: 21] That is the way followed by Jews and Christians who used to erect temples over the graves of their saints and divines. Some Muslims today imitate their action in clear defiance of the Prophet’s teachings. In condemning this practice, the Prophet once said: «May God curse the Jews and the Christians for they erected temples at the graves of their prophets and saints.» (Related by Ibn Kathir in his commentary on the Qur'an and by Al-Bukhari).

 

Source: http://www.onislam.net/english/shariah/quran/this-verse/470747-cave-sleepers-quran-youth-story-islam.html

Sayyid Qutb

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