Photo by Jacopo Tarantini on Unsplash

Shaykh Walead Mosaad gives an overview of Surah Kahf, its virtues, significance and the background context for the reasons it was revealed.

Abu Darda’ reported that Allah’s Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “If anyone learns the first ten verses of the Sura al Kahf by heart, they will be protected from the Dajjal.” (Muslim)

Abu Sa’id al Khudri reports that the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, said: “Whoever recites Surat al Kahf on Jumu‘a a ray of light will shine for them from one Jumu‘a to the next.” (Nasa’i, Bayhaqi, Hakim)

Sura al Kahf is the eighteenth of 114 suras in the Qur’an. But as many of you are aware, generally, the order of the chapters is by length. Sura al Baqara, for instance, is the longest. It’s not the first but the second after al Fatiha. Most of the long chapters of the Qur’an are Medinan in terms of their Revelation. So there’s two broad types of Qur’an at least from the aspect of when and where it was revealed. The Qur’an revealed in Mecca and the Qur’an that was revealed in Medina.

The longer chapters – there are exceptions — generally are revealed in Medina, because you have a much more sort of elucidation of mu‘amalat, of relationships and how to deal with one another, especially with the People of the Book. Whereas in Mecca the chapters are much shorter. Virtually all of the chapters in the last few juz are Meccan in origin.

Sura al Kahf comes exactly in the middle. There are fifteen juz before and about fifteen juz after it. Imam Tahir ibn Ashur he says that the actual middle word or middle letter of the whole Qur’an is found in Sura al Kahf. He said one opinion is that it’s in the verse:

وَلْيَتَلَطَّفْ وَلَا يُشْعِرَنَّ بِكُمْ أَحَدًا

And let him behave with care and courtesy, and let him not inform any one about you. (Sura al Kahf 18:19)

The Middle Point of the Qur’an

The first ta’ in talattaf is the middle letter of the whole Qur’an, such that all the words or letters before it are equal to all the words and letters after it.

Much like the beginning of the Qur’an which begins with the words in Sura al Fatiha 1:1:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

the second half of the Qur’an begins with the words in Sura al Kahf 18:1:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ

So both halves begin with al hamd. That I think is the quintessential type of dhikr. It
encompasses all of the other types of dhikr because when you say Alhamdulillah, I think inherent in the meaning is Allahu akbar, and subhan Allah, and la hawla wa la quwatta illa bi Allah. Because when you say all praise – all that is good in life and in the next life, all that we have that makes us who we are – is due to Allah Most High, that has the meaning of tanzih.

It has the meaning of ultimate transcendence, because we’re saying the praise is for no one but Allah. When we when we are making a transcendent statement about Allah Most High we mean that there is nothing comparable unto Him. Nothing could be like Allah Most High. Essential in understanding praise is that we shouldn’t praise anything except that we know its ultimate source is Allah.

Sabab al Nuzul

The mufassirun say that for many of the verses there are certain hadith that give us an idea, an inkling, about this thing called sabab al nuzul, which means the reason for revelation. What we mean by reason for revelation isn’t that the verse came as an answer to a particular question at the time, or that it was only valid for that particular question. All of the mufassirun, all of the commentators, agree that the meaning or the lesson is in the overall meaning of the verse, not the specific particularity of how and when and why it was revealed.

We know that much of the Qur’an, not all of it, but much of it was revealed in response to something that was going on at the time. Sometimes the response in the verses will not be so explicit but rather implicit. One of those implicit instances is here and in the beginning of Sura al Kahf, when it says

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Praise be to Allah Who hath revealed the Scripture unto His slave, and hath not placed therein any crookedness.

Perhaps you might recall from hadith that our Lady Hawa, or Eve, was created from the crooked rib of the Prophet Adam, peace be upon him. Crooked doesn’t mean vile or wicked. It means bent when speaking of physical things. So if you have a stick that’s crooked it means there is some kind of curvature to it. That it is bent in shape. When we talk about things that are not physical however then it can mean something that is off, something that is not on the right path, something that would be the opposite of mustaqim.

No Crookedness in It

Why did Allah Most High say in this particular verse: “and hath not placed therein any crookedness”? That seems like a given. Why would even that have to be emphasized? Why would Allah have say that specifically? This gives us an inkling into the sabab al nuzul, the reason or circumstances behind the revelation of this verse.

It is said there were two from among Quraysh at Mecca at the time – one of them being Al Nadhr ibn al Harith, another one being Uqba ibn al Mu‘it – who were from the kuffar, from the disbelievers, and among the staunchest opponents of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. They learned that there were People of the Book, specifically the Jewish tribes, in Medina, and they had an inkling that what the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said and what was being revealed to him seemed to coincide with some of what the Jews knew.

So they went to Medina – this is before the Hijra – to get advice about to deal with him, Allah bless him and give him peace. The Jews instructed them to ask the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, about three things. “Ask him about the Ruh (the spirit). Ask him about the People of the Cave. And ask him about Dhul Qarnayn. See what he says about these things.”

Only if ALlah Wills

They go back to Mecca and sit with the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and they ask him these three things. Imam Ibn Ashur says the one specifically about the Ruh is directly addressed in Sura al Afasy 17:85:

وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الرُّوحِ ۖ قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُم مِّنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

They are asking thee concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but little.

Which means that no one has a definitive answer as to what it is. It is one of the secrets of creation. But the other two are in Sura al Kahf. It said that the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said: “I will tell you tomorrow,” anticipating revelation in that regard. However he, Allah bless him and give him peace, did not say insha Allah. Hence, in the later verses of Sura al Kahf (18:23-24) we read:

وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَٰلِكَ غَدًا
إِلَّا أَن يَشَاءَ اللَّـهُ ۚ

And say not of anything: Lo! I shall do that tomorrow,
Except if Allah will.

So there was a period of fifteen days where there was no revelation about it. The Quraysh thought they finally got something over on the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. For fifteen days he was silent about the things that he was asked about, Allah bless him and give him peace. Only then was Sura al Kahf revealed beginning with this verse:

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ الْكِتَابَ وَلَمْ يَجْعَل لَّهُ عِوَجًا

Saying that this was revealed and that there’s no crookedness in it.

So contrary to what the Quraysh were thinking, or what they wanted to promote about the Qur’an, and about the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, there’s nothing in it that’s crooked. And this sura, then, is going to show how exactly that is so.

Photo by Jacopo Tarantini on Unsplash


This lesson by Shaykh Walead Mosaad is part of the On Demand Course: Giving Life to Sura Al Kahf, in which Shaykh Walead explains the key lessons of Sura al Kahf: the four great stories in it and the four great tests they represent. Namely the tests of faith, wealth, knowledge, and power. Download the entire lesson-set here.

View other SeekersHub On Demand Courses here.


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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)