Your Road Is Rough? Stay Calm and Be Like People of Cave!

Whenever I read the story of the People of Cave (Ashaabul Khaf), my eyes always get filled with tears for many wondrous signs that Allah the Almighty wants to show us through this story, perhaps our hearts will succumb and yield to the light of faith.

It was certainly a story of full dedication and unshakable belief in Allah, the Almighty, in line with the message and wisdom behind many other stories in the Glorious Quran.

No doubt, the story has been narrated and recounted again and again by many writers and researchers, but still its beauty and magnificence keep beaming rays of delight whenever one opens the Book of Allah to read the chapter of Al-khaf (The Cave, Chap 18).

These are some number of young men who lived in a city where idolatry and paganism were rampant, and in resisting against this, as well as against pressure from their people, they made it clear that they would not worship anything besides the mighty God.

And in fleeing the persecution, they resorted to a cave where they hid and were made to sleep by the divine power of God for many years.

So what these monotheistic youths went through were perfectly revealed in the Quran as they rebelled against the disbelief of the people of their city and their practices which ran in counter to what they saw as the Straight Path.

The moment they declared their position and firmness against bowing down to any other deities except the only One God, it was clear that nothing could be done to make them change their mind, for they had already chosen that one path: completely surrendering to their Lord, and with a very strong belief in His power they cried out: {Oh Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy, and bless our affairs with Your Guidance} (Al-Kahf 18:11)

This is the first message one should learn from this story. It’s a step for a new Muslim to declare shahada (proclamation the oneness of God), or a born Muslim to renew his intention to purify his faith, it’s quite another important step for that intention to get stronger and well-established at heart.

So for the People of Cave, known in the Bible as the Seven Sleepers, the threat of being destroyed and completely annihilated by the king of their land did neither shake their confidence nor alter or weaken their belief. But instead of giving in to this, they chose instead to remain steadfast:

{And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression.} (Al-Kahf 18:14)

This is another important message to draw from this story: Once you have made up your mind about a certain act of good deeds, or a certain cause in your life, especially when related to strengthening bond with your Creator, never look back.

Of course, you will certainly be tempted and swayed around by dozens of temptations and world allurements, just to prevent you from meeting up with your goals, but do not give in.

The temptation might also be life-threatening, just as it happened to the youths in this story, and definitely just as it happened to Bilal ibn Rabah, and other Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) at the peak of their struggle against the Makkan’s polytheists. Always, try to be firm and do not succumb to weakness.

And your only resort for survival, or a tiny rope for you to cling on for safety, may lie in a cave. Yes, your own cave, with less certainty or guarantee that you would make it, but a glimmer of hope may put you through, and provide you with a key to enter the gate of salvation, i.e., the abode of Allah’s mercy and blessing galore.

Your only resort for survival, or a tiny rope for you to cling on for safety, may lie in a cave. Yes, your own cave, with less certainty or guarantee that you would make it, but a glimmer of hope may put you through, and provide you with a key to enter the gate of salvation, i.e., the abode of Allah’s mercy and blessing galore.

Look at how this transpired miraculously for these young lads:

{(The youths said to one another), “And when you have withdrawn from them and that which they worship other than Allah, retreat to the cave. Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and will prepare for you from your affair facility”} (Al-Kahf 18:16)

This conversation might sound strange to any ordinary person, and one might truly wonder: how can people, fleeing persecution, resort to a cave, with all its darkness and dreadful atmosphere, without any preplanned strategy or plan of survival, adding to that the treachery and wickedness of the persecuting king who had resolved to bring them down, no matter how!

But look at the wondrous power of God. When they entered the cave they fell asleep, with the might of their Creator, and so was also their dog, which accompanied them to the cave and was made to act as if it was their guardian, no doubt this would terrify anyone passing by the cave. And truly Allah said:

{Had you looked at them, you would certainly have turned back from them in flight, and would certainly have been filled with awe of them.} (Al-Kahf 18:18)

Wonderful! What is it that would make one get terrified by the sight of people lying in a cave?

It appears, according to the Qur’anic narration, that this is not just only a simple resting posture. But Allah the Almighty did make it look terrifying with a goal of protecting the youths, and the fact that He made the dog taking a guard position at the gate is also an important symbolic gesture, i.e. the people inside the cave are not “just ordinary people lying down for rest’. In fact, they had already gone, falling into a dead sleep, subhanallah!

And for us to grasp this message clear, the Qur’an also explains how their physical shape was perfectly designed to meet up with the goal of blanketing them with a divine protection and security. Yes, they went into a very unusual long period sleep, but at the same time, this period, more than three centuries, did not result in producing any biological changes or metamorphosis on the youths, as would happen to any ordinary body, even in a very short time frame. They rose up from their long sleep with the same shape of the body they entered the cave with.

To me, all this, in addition to other wondrous signs, reflect the fact that everything that happened to these youths was moving towards the direction of Allah’s fulfilling of their hope expressed in the above-mentioned verse, {Your Lord will spread out for you of His mercy and will prepare for you from your affair facility}, which also applies to whoever believes in Him, He comes to his aide, and, as He delivered these youths from the torture and persecution that drove them out of the city, He always stays beside any person who puts his trust in Him.

So what are you waiting for, my friend? Put your trust in your Lord today, and salvation will be yours for the rest of your life.

Thus in any story the Qur’an narrates to us, it does not serve us any good to pay attention only to side issues, rather than trying to draw wisdom and get the point Allah wants us to get. For example, in this story of the Youths of the Cave, It doesn’t matter much to know about their identity, nor even their number, that is not the main point Allah wants us to grasp from the story. That is why He said:

{They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”} (Al-Kahf 18:22)

There are many other aspects of wisdom in this story, but the one that stands glaring and appealing to my mind is the power of belief which God wants to show us that a way to salvation for Muslim is to keep his feet firm on the straight path. But that journey will not be complete until one has opened up his heart to allow belief to sink in.

This is the key for your heart to gain power and strengthen the soul, making you well-equipped for the great tasks lying ahead. Definitely this will not be easy, my friend, and may your road be rough. But there is only one thing that will help you sail through successfully, i.e. steadfastness (which reflects courage, strong belief and trust in Allah).