July 14, 2023•1,882 words
I once had a teacher who asked the class: "Did you ever wonder why Surah Kahf of all the surahs is the one encouraged to be read on Fridays, thus, at least once a week?" And we all shook our heads and began to ponder the question. Although of course, Allah knows best why He, subhaanahu wa ta'ala, commands us to do something - one can ponder the wisdom behind it and ask Allah for beneficial knowledge and true understanding. The teacher did not answer the question but told us that being encouraged to read this once a week is a reminder of something we are to reflect on at least once a week.
Even if you read less than halfway through the surah, you would come across the story of the sleepers of the cave. There are many lessons one can take from it but generally, the main one is that these youths earnestly sought guidance to the point that they left their people and their families due to the level of corruption and misguidance around them. They united for the sake of Allah and looked for a way out of misguidance which led to Allah, exalted is He, bestowing a mercy upon them of sleeping for years upon years.
We are reminded that people disputed the details of the story such as how many they were in number including the dog, and today some people waste time debating what region they may have came in and yet there is no evidence regarding this matter. This reminds me of a similar lesson in The Little Prince in which the little prince said about adults:
"Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: ‘What does his voice sound like?’ ‘What games does he like best?’ ‘Does he collect butterflies?’
They ask: ‘How old is he?’ ‘How many brothers does he have?’ ‘How much does he weigh?’ ‘How much money does he have?’ Only then do they think they know him.
If you tell grown-ups, ‘I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves at the roof…,’ they won’t be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, ‘I saw a house worth a thousand francs.’ Then they exclaim, ‘What a pretty house!”
While I appreciate the beauty of history, math, and science, I see them simply as tools that we use to be further amazed by the knowledge, power, and beauty of Allah and how it manifests in the world around us. Yet some people focus too much on these sciences as being the goal themselves - and so they fall into the accumulation of knowledge which is not actually beneficial though it could have been. May Allah protect us all and grant us beneficial knowledge. Ameen.
And so we are reminded that it did not matter how many years the youths slept but nevertheless, from the mercy of Allah is that He knows his creation best and thus, He informed us of the years. The revealing of the information itself is for a purpose which is to show us a few things (1) Allah has all the answers (2) He knows and you know not, and He can leave you without knowledge if He so willed and grants it to you if He wills (3) to have a tangible amount to be amazed by His power to control time.
The youths slept for 309 years. That can be hard to imagine but let us take for example that number of 9 years. This is something we may find easier to imagine such as 9 years ago. If I look back myself, I remember that 9 years ago my worry was about which college I would go to and what to do with my life. And then from that point until now, I have completed my college education and then have formally taught in a classroom, in-person, for two school years. That amount of time feels like a phase of life for me, and so in that case I am getting closer to three phases of my life. Therefore, if I multiply my own lifetime around 30 times, I would have passed all the time that the sleepers slept. And so, perhaps this helps a person imagine how much happened in the world whilst these youths were asleep and did not age and did not feel the effects of time. They were essentially, time travelers.
When I was in second grade, I struggled to read but my family members would kindly help me by reading things aloud to me. I chose to read a book about black holes because the cover of the book captivated me. Although some things were hard to follow, the pictures next to it amazed me showing things like the "spaghetti effect" in which scientists believed that if something went through a blackhole, it would come apart like spaghetti. There was a funny picture of a cartoon person who looked like a piece of paper put through a shredder. The book talked about how time would be very different in a blackhole and then it also discussed time travel and so on. This was many years ago as the world of scientists became increasingly more interested in finding ways to travel as quickly as possible so that they could travel light years in hopes of exploring further out into the universe.
The time that it takes us to travel one light-year is (unsurprisingly) considerably longer than a year. In fact, it takes between six months and a year just to reach Mars, which is only 12.5 light-minutes away. [...] Even if we hopped aboard the space shuttle discovery, which can travel 5 miles a second, it would take us about 37,200 years to go one light-year.
And yet, we see that NASA is given the funds to push their theories and experimentation to be able to find ways to be able to explore more of space. Meanwhile, Space X received a lot of support from investors: And SpaceX’s latest round of fundraising saw the company receive $6 billion in offers from investors over the course of just three days, a source familiar told CNBC, with the company accepting $850 million from those offers." [Cnbc.com]
These investors would argue that what they are investing in is not the unseen but rather they have proof and data of something that exists. But in reality, they do not know for sure how possible it is that a human being even if hundreds of humans came together could make this happen. They are so dedicated to this cause in hopes they find another Earth that is suitable for life, how attached they are to living. Though, we Muslims often copy their ways sadly.
And so, is it really farfetched to believe that these people slept for that long when there are examples of things that survived being "asleep" for a while. For example: "In late 2002 and early 2003, a team led by vitrification pioneer Gregory Fahy used a cocktail of antifreezes and chemicals to cryopreserve a whole rabbit kidney. The organ appeared to function normally after it was thawed and transplanted back into its donor."
And then there is the example of a man who was frozen for around 12 hours and had no signs of life, he even was covered with a white sheet and yet some medical professionals managed to "bring him back to life". If these efforts are done by humans to be able to preserve life, by the permission of Allah, then what about Allah, exalted is He, the one who created life, time, and everything in existence?
The sleepers of the cave is a sign of Allah's mercy and power. It is a comfort for those who feel they were "born in the wrong time period" as they say. But of course, it is not the wrong time to be born as Allah destined for even the sleepers of the cave to be born at the time they were and to live for a portion of time there in which they did. Allah took them out of a situation that was not meant for them by transcending the limits of time we feel that time has but Allah is not limited by time in the way we are.
Therefore, it is easy for Allah, exalted is He, to remove us from a bad neighborhood, from a bad relationship, or from any bad situation. But how many of us sincerely ask for a way out? Rather, we desperately rely on our own efforts or on other humans who cannot do anything for us unless Allah made it possible for our own or their help to benefit us. And if you called upon Allah and it seems He did not answer, then it could be He is delaying the answer for another time or even until the next life. There is good in it.
As for myself, I have recently found a deep sense of determination to do things which I have never thought I would be capable of doing and thus, never tried to pursue them. And by Allah's permission, I am gradually striving for that which I thought was not possible for me. For I have seen that when it seemed I could not do something, Allah enabled me to do it when I did it for His sake. Now, I try to stop thinking in terms of my human limitations and rather call upon the one who is limitless to bless me in my efforts and help me overcome the limits and odds.
The same way Allah made the sleepers of the cave wake up at a better time for them then, how can I not trust that Allah, master of time, has decided the course of my life to go as is best for me? I should trust that He is delaying matters for me at a time which is better for me so that I may learn to strive and work diligently for my goals. Because perhaps, there are coming difficult times in which we all will desperately need patience and determination to get through the trials to come. And should this life no longer be good for me and there is harm in it for me, I trust that Allah will take me away from this life at the right time and that is not a matter for us to determine either.
"And We strengthened their hearts when they stood up and declared, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We will never call upon any god besides Him, or we would truly be uttering an outrageous lie.”
[Surah Kahf, Ayah 14]
Trust that Allah will make a way out for you and remove you from that which is harmful for you and show Him the true belief and trust you have in Him to be able to transcend the limitations of time and health just as He did for the sleepers of the cave. And so, stand up and declare your belief in front of Allah and take action.