Surat al-Kahf

Tafsir Surat al-Kahf Verses 1-8 Part 1

 Tafsir of Surat al-Kahf_Part 1

Verses 1-8


Quick facts:

  • Chapter 18 of the Qur’an.
  • 110 verses.
  • Meccan sura.
  • Contains four key narratives: 1] people of the cave; 2] the two gardens; 3] Prophet Musa and Khidr and 4] Dhu ’l-Qarnayn.
  • The word ‘kahf’ means ‘cave’ and occurs in verse 9 from which the chapter takes its name.

[1] The excellence (fada’il) of the Sura:

The excellence of this sura numbers many but only a few are mentioned below: The Prophet (saw) said:

1] “Whoever memorises the first 10 verses of surat al-Kahf, he will be protected from the Dajjal.”[1]

مَنْ حَفِظَ عَشْرَ آيَاتٍ مِنْ أَوَّلِ سُورَةِ الْكَهْف عُصِمَ مِنْ الدَّجَّالِ

2] “Whoever reads surat al-Kahf on the night of Jumu`a, will have a light that will stretch between him and the Ancient House.”[2]

من قرأ سورة الكهف ليلة الجمعة أضاء له من النور فيما بينه وبين البيت العتيق

3] “Whoever reads surat al-Kahf on the day of Jumu`a, will have a light that will shine from him from one Friday to the next.”[3]

من قرأ سورة الكهف في يوم الجمعة أضاء له من النور ما بين الجمعتين

4] From `Umar (ra): The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Whoever reads surat al-Kahf  on the day of Jumu`a, a light will shine for him from beneath his feet to the clouds of the sky, which will shine for him on the Day of Resurrection and he will be forgiven [his sins] between the two Fridays.”[4]

من قرأ سورة الكهف في يوم الجمعة سطع له نور من تحت قدمه إلى عنان السماء يضيء له يوم القيامة ، وغفر له ما بين   الجمعتين

Thus, the sura:

  • Protects from the sedition of the Dajjal.
  • Contains immense reward.
  • Engulfs the reciter with the light of protection and mercy.
  • Is a means for sins being forgiven.

[2] Occasion of the Revelation (sabab al-nuzul):

  • Imam Ibn Kathir gives one account of the reason for the revelation of this Chapter:

وقد ذكر محمد بن إسحاق سبب نزول هذه السورة الكريمة، فقال: حدثني شيخ من أهل مصر قدم علينا منذ بضع وأربعين سنة عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس قال: بعثت قريش النضر بن الحارث وعقبة بن أبي معيط إلى أحبار يهود بالمدينة، فقالوا لهم: سلوهم عن محمد، وصفوا لهم صفته، وأخبروهم بقوله، فإنهم أهل الكتاب الأول، وعندهم ما ليس عندنا من علم الأنبياء، فخرجا حتى أتيا المدينة، فسألوا أحبار يهود عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ووصفوا لهم أمره وبعض قوله، وقالا: إنكم أهل التوراة، وقد جئناكم لتخبرونا عن صاحبنا هذا، قال: فقالوا لهم: سلوه عن ثلاث نأمركم بهن، فإن أخبركم بهن، فهو نبي مرسل، وإلا، فرجل متقول، فتروا فيه رأيكم: سلوه عن فتية ذهبوا في الدهر الأول ما كان من أمرهم؟ فإنهم قد كان لهم حديث عجيب، وسلوه عن رجل طواف بلغ مشارق الأرض ومغاربها ما كان نَبؤه؟ وسلوه عن الروح ما هو؟ فإن أخبركم بذلك، فهو نبي، فاتبعوه، وإن لم يخبركم فإنه رجل متقول، فاصنعوا في أمره ما بدا لكم،

فأقبل النضر وعقبة حتى قدما على قريش، فقالا: يا معشر قريش قد جئناكم بفصل ما بينكم وبين محمد، قد أمرنا أحبار يهود أن نسأله عن أمور، فأخبروهم بها، فجاؤوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالوا: يا محمد أخبرنا، فسألوه عما أمروهم به، فقال لهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلمأخبركم غداً عما سألتم عنه ” ولم يستثن، فانصرفوا عنه، ومكث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم خمس عشرة ليلة لا يحدث الله له في ذلك وحياً، ولا يأتيه جبرائيل عليه السلام، حتى أرجف أهل مكة وقالوا: وعدنا محمد غداً، واليوم خمس عشرة قد أصبحنا فيها، لا يخبرنا بشيء عما سألناه عنه، وحتى أحزن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مكث الوحي عنه، وشق عليه ما يتكلم به أهل مكة، ثم جاءه جبرائيل عليه السلام من الله عز وجل بسورة أصحاب الكهف، فيها معاتبته إياه على حزنه عليهم، وخبر ما سألوه عنه من أمر الفتية والرجل الطواف وقول الله عز وجل  وَيَسْـأَلُونَكَ عَنِ ٱلرُّوحِ قُلِ ٱلرُّوحُ 

Muhammad bin Ishaq mentioned the reason why this sura was revealed. He said that an old man from among the people of Egypt who came to them some forty-odd years ago told him, from `Ikrima that Ibn `Abbas said: ‘The Quraysh sent al-Nadr b. al-Harith and `Uqba b. Abi Mu`it to the Jewish rabbis in Medina, and told them: ‘Ask them (the rabbis) about Muhammad, and describe him to them, and tell them what he is saying. They are the people of the first Book, and they have more knowledge of the Prophets than we do.’ So they set out and when they reached Medina, they asked the Jewish rabbis about the Messenger of Allah. They described him to them and told them some of what he had said. They said, ‘You are the people of the Tawrah and we have come to you so that you can tell us about this companion of ours.’ They (the rabbis) said, ‘Ask him about three things which we will tell you to ask, and if he answers them then he is a Prophet who has been sent (by Allah); if he does not, then he is saying things that are not true, in which case how you will deal with him will be up to you. Ask him about some young men in ancient times, what was their story For theirs is a strange and wondrous tale. Ask him about a man who travelled a great deal and reached the east and the west of the earth. What was his story. And ask him about the ruh (soul or spirit) — what is it. If he tells you about these things, then he is a Prophet, so follow him, but if he does not tell you, then he is a man who is making things up, so deal with him as you see fit.’

So al-Nadr and `Uqba left and came back to the Quraysh, and said: ‘O people of Quraysh, we have come to you with a decisive solution which will put an end to the problem between you and Muhammad. The Jewish rabbis told us to ask him about some matters,’ and they told the Quraysh what they were. Then they came to the Messenger of Allah and said, ‘O Muhammad, tell us,’ and they asked him about the things they had been told to ask. The Messenger of Allah said: “I will tell you tomorrow about what you have asked me,” but he did not say ‘If Allah wills.’ So they went away, and the Messenger of Allah stayed for fifteen days without any revelation from Allah concerning that, and Jibril, peace be upon him, did not come to him either. The people of Mecca started to doubt him, and said, ‘Muhammad promised to tell us the next day, and now fifteen days have gone by and he has not told us anything in response to the questions we asked.’ The Messenger of Allah felt sad because of the delay in revelation, and was grieved by what the people of Mecca were saying about him. Then Jibril came to him from Allah with the sura about the companions of al-Kahf, which also contained a rebuke for feeling sad about the idolaters. The sura also told him about the things they had asked him about, the young men and the traveller. The question about the ruh was answered in the verse: {And they ask you concerning the ruh (the spirit); say: ‘The Ruh is’…}.[5]

Meaning of the Chapter: Verses 1-6

1. All the praises and thanks belong to Allah, Who has sent down to His servant The Book and has not placed therein any deviation. 2. [He has made it] Straight to give warning of a severe punishment from Him and to give glad tidings to the believers, who work righteous deeds, that they shall have a fair reward. 3. They shall abide therein forever. 4. And to warn those who say, ‘Allah has begotten a son’. 5. No knowledge have they of such a thing, nor had their fathers. Mighty is the word that comes out of their mouths. They utter nothing but a lie. 6. Perhaps, you, would kill yourself in grief, over their footsteps because they believe not in this narration.


{Praise}: hamd: praise, eulogy, extolling the greatness of Allah.

{His servant}: `abdihi: His devotee, His true servant, His slave in utter submission to His Lord; referring here to our Prophet (saw). The idafa (annexation) with the attached pronoun ‘-hu’ (‘his’, i.e. Allah), is that of honour and ennoblement (tashrif) thus raising the status of the Prophet.

{The Book}: al-kitab; the Qur’an; or this the revelation sent from Allah; or all the verses revealed to the Prophet before this sura.

“And the meaning of ‘His servant’ here refers to Muhammad (saw) and by ‘The Book’ is meant the Qur’an. It is praised for it being revealed because specifically it is a blessing upon the Messenger and generally so for the people…”[6]

والمراد بعبده هاهنا: محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم، وبالكتاب: القرآن، تمدَّح بانزاله، لأنه إِنعام على الرسول خاصة، وعلى الناس عامَّة

{deviation}: `iwaj; crookedness, error, confusion, contradictions; there are no contradictions in the Qur’an and it stands as miraculous because it is something that cannot be matched in anyway. All standards of regulation, laws, systems or ideologies that attempt to provide solutions to human problems will inevitably fail because they are the product of the human mind, which is limited, finite, bias and prejudiced. Whereas the Qur’an is from Allah Who is Omniscient and Omnipotent, aware of all that is required for humans to satisfy and regulate their instincts and organic needs so as to live harmoniously as a created species. This perfect and glorious Book with the laws that it contains is a reason therefore to praise Allah and to be thankful to Him for it.


{straight}: qayyiman; straight, straightforward, just, balanced (`adlan) because it is from Allah the true source of justice and guidance. Grammatically in the exaggerative (mubalagha) form that describes an essential property of the Qur’an namely that it always and unfailingly guides and brings people to good, improvement and betterment.

{punishment}: ba’san: torment, something awful, evil and bad; here refers to the punishment from Allah which can either be in this temporal world or the Hereafter (i.e. in Hellfire).

{fair reward}: ajran hasnan: immense reward, great reward, suitable recompense, beautiful due; here referring to Paradise in which its deserving inhabitants will dwell forever for having correct belief and doing good actions.


{therein}: fihi: ‘in it’, ‘within it’. The use of the preposition في (‘in’) denotes permanence, continuity and being entirely engulfed or encompassed suggesting the complete and never-ending bliss and delight experienced in Paradise: “All their delights and pleasures are likened with a preposition that grounds the state or condition with permanence and so indicates that the fair reward encompasses them without separating from them for even a moment…”[7]

 شُبه ما لهم من اللذات والملائمات بالظرف الذي يستقر فيه حالُّهُ للدلالة على أن الأجر الحسن كالمحيط بهم لا يفارقهم طرفة عين


{grave}: kaburat: serious, grave, huge, monstrous, heinous.

The Qur’an came with two warnings mentioned here: 1] a warning for non-believers regarding the reality of an afterlife punishment and 2] a warning of the stern consequences for the Jews (who believed Uzayr was the son of God), Christians (who believed Christ was the son of God) and Arab pagans (who believed Allah had daughters in the form of Angels). Allah mentions a warning of a general matter regarding all nonbelievers and then mentions a specific case of a grave doctrinal error (attributing a son to Allah) in order to single out and highlight the abhorrence of that belief:[8]

فذكر سبحانه أوّلاً قضية كلية، وهي إنذار عموم الكفار، ثم عطف عليها قضية خاصة هي بعض جزئيات تلك الكلية، تنبيهاً على كونها أعظم جزئيات تلك الكلية. فأفاد ذلك أن نسبة الولد إلى الله سبحانه أقبح أنواع الكفر

Thus, this Book – the Noble Qur’an – was also revealed to dispel all erroneous beliefs and conceptions of Allah and to warn and correct against false information about Allah.


{and perhaps you would kill yourself in grief…}: The Prophet was prevented by Allah from being relentless in his drive to make his people believe in case that led him to harm or “his own ruin due to feelings of regret, hurt, pain, sadness and anger”[9] as a result of their obstinacy and rejection:

وهذه الآية يشير بها إِلى نهي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم عن كثرة الحرص على إيمان قومه لئلا يؤدّي ذلك إِلى هلاك نفسه بالأسف

Allah ordered him to continue and not be emotionally involved in a destructive way with people who deliberately reject the truth: “…do not feel sorry for them; instead, continue to convey the Message of Allah; whoever is guided, he has benefitted himself and whoever strays, strays at his own loss; so do not destroy yourself in sorrow for them…”[10]

أي: لا تأسف عليهم، بل أبلغهم رسالة الله، فمن اهتدى فلنفسه، ومن ضل فإنما يضل عليها، ولا تذهب نفسك عليهم حسرات

Lesson for the dawah carrier: The prophet was so sincere, so concerned for the revelation and the Truth he would be trailing the non-believing Quraysh. He (saw) was not concerned about his reputation, his personal ego, pride or personal benefit and gain. The love for the Truth and the concern for the salvation of his people would excessively worry the Prophet but Allah counselled him and told him to curb this over exertion. The Dawah carrier should be as concerned for the Truth and the people he is giving dawah to like his Prophet and engage in that dawah with sincerity and commitment and not some personal gain or ill-intention or to humiliate the people.

Meaning of the Chapter, Verses 7-8

7. Indeed! We have made that which is on earth as an adornment for it, in order that We may test them as to which of them are best in deeds. 8. And indeed, We shall make all that is on it [the earth] a bare dry soil.

{narration}: hadith: ‘speech’, ‘words’, ‘narration’ but here refers to the Qur’an which is a narration and information from Allah to His Messenger.


{adornment}: zina: adornment, beauty, decoration; here can refer to: 1] men; 2] scholars = because pious people and scholars worship Allah and indicate or establish the existence of Allah and in a way adorn or decorate the earth; 3] all things on the earth and 4] plants and trees = because the diversity in creation with all its intricacies and detail point to the existence of the creator and His handiwork: “…there are four opinions regarding this: the first is it refers to men…the second is it refers to the scholars…the third is whatever is on the earth…and the fourth is that it refers to the plants and the trees…”[11]

قوله تعالى: { إِنا جعلنا ما على الأرض زينة لها } فيه أربعة أقوال . أحدها: أنهم الرجال. رواه سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس. والثاني: العلماء، رواه مجاهد عن ابن عباس فعلى هذين القولين تكون «ما» في موضع «مَنْ» لأنها في موضع إِبهام، قاله ابن الانباري . والثالث: أنَّه ما عليها من شيء، قاله مجاهد. والرابع: النبات والشجر، قاله مقاتل. وقول مجاهد أعمُّ، يدخل فيه النبات، والماء، والمعادن، وغير ذلك.

{in order that We may test them as to which of them are best in deeds}: meaning to see: 1] who is not beguiled and bedazzled by this world; 2] to test who is more austere (azhad) in this world and most denouncing of it; 3] to examine who is more assiduous in following the commands and prohibitions of Allah; 4] to see who follows the Prophet’s sunna in a more authentic way and 5] to see who is more thankful of Allah for His bounties and favours. Thus, the world is not a destination in itself but a crucible in which one forges the correct attitude for living a life of complete worship of Allah. The world is a place of trials, tests and tribulations, which is way of ascertaining who is sincere, truthful and committed to his claims of worshipping Allah and following His commands.[12]


{صَعِيداً جُرُزاً}: sa`idan: a road that has no plants, dry earth, the face of the earth, bare, flat land; juruzan: rough land on which nothing grows, dry land, infertile land, barren land, dead land, lifeless land, destroying land that does not let anything grow.

            At one moment, the world is beautiful and tempting with all its splendour whereas in another moment it is barren and dead. Both outcomes indicate Allah’s Power and Ability to change any reality to its opposite. In fact, these opening verses (vv.1-8) have a number of contrasts or opposites: 1. Warning to the non-believers/good news to the believers; 2] hellfire/paradise; 3] punishment/reward; 4] glitter of the world/destruction of the world. Moreover, the destruction of the world in an instance not only indicates how temporary, fleeting and worthless it is, but how those superpowers, governments and rulers who harm, oppress, subvert and kill innocent people thinking they are invincible and protected will be flattened into non-existence in a mere flicker.


Peace and blessing be upon our Master Muhammad,

His family, companions and all who follow them.


S.Z. Chowdhury,



[1] Muslim, Sahih (#809).

[2] al-Darimi, al-Sunan (#3407).

[3] al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 2:399 and al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, 6:198.

[4] al-Mundhiri, al-Targhib wa ’l-Tarhib, 1:298. For more narrations, refer to Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 5:132-134.

[5] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 5:135. Translation taken from with minor changes.

[6] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir,

[7] Ibn `Ashur, al-Tahrir wa ’l-Tanwir, 16:250.

[8] al-Shawkani, Fath al-Qadir, 1:849.

[9] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 3:65.

[10] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 5:137.

[11] Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 3:64.

[12] Ibid., 3:64-65. On the dangers of the dunya, see


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