6 Lessons from Chapter Al-Kahf

How well do you know the Quran? Why was the Quran revealed? What is the Quran like? Why did some people disbelieve in it and not others?

Dr Islahi, in his book Tadabbur-e-Quran, comes up with many pearls of wisdom that attest to the benefit of reflecting on the Quran. Let’s look at the first eight verses of chapter Al-Kahf based on some of the things he said about them.

1. The Quran Should Evoke Our Gratitude

The chapter starts with praising Allah, the One who sent down the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We must show gratitude to Allah for sending it to us – it’s the Quran’s right on us. Why? Because it has a unique quality that no other book in the world possesses – it is perfect, flawless.

Suppose your friend gave you a really good book. How do you show him gratitude for that gift? By keeping it on top of your shelf? What will he feel when he sees it there, untouched, covered in dust? Will he feel that you liked his gift, or that you thought it useless?

The Quran should evoke our gratitude. And we show this gratitude by reading and understanding it and following its injunctions.

2. The Quran is ‘Straight’ in Expression, Meaning and Guidance

The Quran is perfect – it doesn’t have any crookedness in its language, expression, meaning or clarity. And the path it guides towards doesn’t have any crookedness either, leading straight to Paradise.

Any person who uses his intellect can’t help but understand the Quran. So if someone reads the Quran and is still misguided, it means they aren’t using their intellect in the right way.

Approach the Quran unbiased, spend time with it, reflect on it, and you can’t help but be directed towards Paradise. It will never mislead you, if you don’t mislead yourself.

3. An Example of the Quran’s Profundity

[All] praise is [due] to Allah, who has sent down upon His servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance, straight, to warn of severe punishment from Him… (18:1-2)

This example will illustrate just one aspect of the Quran’s miraculous powers of expression.

Look at the verb ‘warn’ in the verse quoted above. What is the subject of this verb? There could be two different interpretations. It could be either Allah who is doing the warning, or the ‘servant’ i.e. the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Each of these two interpretations necessitates a different subject for the subsequent phrase ‘from Him’. What is from Him?

  1. If the subject is ‘Allah’: The Book is from Him. The Book is especially from Him and sent under His direct supervision and care.
  2. If the subject is ‘His servant’: The punishment is from Him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) is warning on behalf of God of a punishment that is going to come down especially from Him. As this punishment is attributed directly to God, it’s going to be extremely severe.

The Quran is an ocean – the more you plunge into its depths, the more pearls of wisdom you will gather. But again, you need to spend time with it and use your intellect unbiased to understand its depths.

4. “No More Need For God”

Suppose you need something from a powerful king. You mean to coax the king in your favor, but he seems too formidable an entity. So you approach the crown prince and charm him into liking you. You ask him to mediate for you to the king. The king loves his boy and will do anything he wants. So you don’t even need the king anymore to get what you want from him. The crown prince is all you need, and so he gets all your devotion.

Why do you need God if His son or daughter is in your pocket? You can commit any amount of sins and get away with it as long as the son of God is on your side, can’t you? You don’t need to be afraid of God’s punishment any more because His daughters will save you.

Attributing a son to God is such an atrocity that the heavens and earth almost destroy themselves every time someone says it. (Quran, 19:90) It is a disgusting crime against the perfect, self-sufficient God. No wonder that the warning of a severe punishment mentioned earlier is especially given for those who do this particular crime.

5. Over-commitment Leads to Anxiety

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had a huge responsibility on his shoulders, greater than any man, even a prophet, had ever had before him – the guidance of all people since his time till the Day of Judgment. No wonder he grew so anxious about people’s obstinate disbelief that he was almost destroying himself.

Allah in 18:6 gave him a loving rebuke for doing so, assuring him that it was not his fault that they were so obstinate. Their disbelief was not because they were finding it hard to understand the Quran, or because the Prophet was coming short in his dawah. The reason was something completely different. (Read on for more on this.)

An over-exaggerated sense of responsibility makes us anxious. When this happens, remember that it happened to Prophet Muhammad too. And do what he did – just put your best effort and leave the consequences to Allah. Tawakkul (trust in Allah) is the best remedy for anxiety.

6. The Real Reason For Disbelief

Allah has painted on this world’s face beauty and the dazzle of luxury, wealth, children, crops, gardens, mansions, and many other exotic things. Allah has made these things so powerfully attractive that they can easily draw people away from more important things in life. They stop using their intellects and can no longer differentiate between what’s good for them and what isn’t.

Allah tests us with these material things, to sift out the true seekers of the Hereafter. The real reason why people disbelieve in Allah, His prophets and His Books is because they have stopped using their intellect and become seekers of material things.

The latter are so deluded that they even forget that one day, these things will all be crumbled to dust. The only things that will matter on that day will be their deeds, good and bad.