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Al- KAHF, The cave (Sura 18)

Al KAHF is the Sura that focuses on three stories which contains three question and answers. They are 1, Who were the sleepers of the cave? 2, what is the real story of Khidr? 3, what do you know about Zul Qarnain? (Assigned reading, 4). In this paper, I will focus on what I think the tape and assigned reading seemed to emphasize.

1, Who were the sleepters of the cave?

Sura 18:8-26 discusses the story of the sleepers of the cave. The groups of people went to cave to hide and they end up sleeping about 300 or 309 hundred years with the will of God.

"And thus did We rouse them that they might question each other. A speaker among them said: how long have you tarried? They said: We have tarried for a day of a part of a day. Others said: Your Load knows best how long you have tarried. Now send one of you with this silver coin of yours to the city, they let him see which of them has purest food, so let him bring you provision from it, and let his behave with gentleness, and be no means make your case known to anyone" (Sura 18:19)


I found that Shaykh was focusing on this story and telling us that the love of Allah. Since people were sleeping 300 or 309 hundred years, Allah turned their body so that they can get sunlight both side of body. In addition, there are dogs. Although they were also sleeping, Allah made them look like not sleeping but ready to fight so that no one will attack them. The way he was explained this story made me think that Shaykh was focusing on love of God and his protection to who believe in Allah.

On the other hand, assigned reading seems to focus on different aspect of story. "Muslims have been taught that even if a believers is persecuted by a cruel society, he should not bow down before falsehood but emigrate from the place all alone if need be, with trust in God" (Assigned reading, 5). In addition, the story of the sleepers of cave was used to clear proof of the freed of the Hereafter that God has power to resurrect anyone (Divine, Ak-Akhira)(Richard, 43)

2, What is the real story of Khidr ?

Sura 18:65-82 discusses story of Khidr. It seems to me that there are three stories that should be addressed in order for us to understand Khidr.

Moses and Khidr were walking together and Moses questions about Khidrís behavior regarding the boat story, the boy story and the wall story. However, each time Moses asked the reason why Khidr killed a boy, made a whole in the ship and built a wall, Khidr told Moses not to ask him. Eventually Khidr explains the reason behind his actions and Quran says:

"As for the boat, it belongs to some poor men who worked on the river and I wished that I should damaged it, and there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force" (Sura 18:79)

"And as for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should make disobedience and ingratitude to come upon them: So we desired that their Load might give them in his place one better than him in purity and nearer to having compassion" (Sura 18:780-81)

"And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father was a righteous man; so your Load desired that they should attain their maturity and take out their treasure, a mercy from your load, and I did not do it of my own afford, This is the significance of that with which you could not have patience" (Sura 18:82)

Since Khidr had knowledge from God, he helped those people with Godís Will. I found that this illustrates that God protect who follow him.

3, What do you know about Zul Qarnain?

"Until when he reached a place betwewn the two mountaions, he found on that side of them a people who could hardly understand a word. They said: o Zulqarnain! Surely Gog and Magog make mischief in the land. Shall we then pay you a tribute on condition that you should raise a barrier between us and them. He said: That in which my Load has established me in better, therefore you only help me with workers, I will make a fortified barrier between you and them. Bring me blocks of iron; until when he had filled up the space between the two mountains side, he said: Blow; until when he had made it as fire, he said: Bring me molten brass, which I may pour over it. So they were not able to scale it nor could they make a hole in it. He said: This is a mercy from my Load, but when the promise of my Load m=comes to pass

He will make it level with the ground, and the promise of my Load is ever true" (Sura18: 93-98)

I found that these verses show us the personality of Zul Qarnain who helped people who were attacking by Gog and Magog with iron barrier wall.

"Therefore be not in haste against them, We only number out to them a number. The day on which We will gather those who guard against evil to the Beneficent God to receive honors. And We will drive the guilty to hell thirsty. They shall not control intercession, save he who has made a covenant with the Beneficent God" (Sura 18:84-87)

I think that these verses refer to the notion that if you behave badly, God will punish you, and if you behave well, God will reward you.


The difference between assigned reading and the tape

After I read the assigned reading, I listened the tape by Shaykh. I found that it is very hard for me to tell differences only based on assigned reading and the tape. I listened to Shaykh and try to understand what kind of aspects of Islam and Quran he focuses on. Shaykh Muhamma Hisham Kabbani started reading Sura 18:12. It seems to me that he was explaining different stories with his interpretation of what he thinks there should be highlighted.

I found is that while the assigned reading seem to explain verses as if it is really happened and telling us as if the writer was the person who lived that point of period. I found that the interpretation of verse was literally translated. For example, regarding Sura 15, Assigned reading explains the meaning as:

"Allah had so arranged their refuge that none dared go inside the Cave and know about them for it was pitch dark in the Cave and the dog was keeping watch at the entrance. Is someone ever peeked into the Cave and saw the Sleepers, he took them for some robbers and at once tuned on his heels. This was the reason why their refuge remained a secret to the outer world for such a long period"(Assigned reading, 15)

I found that there is emphasizing point of Godís protection yet nothing about love of God like Shaykh emphasizes in the tape.

In the tape, Shaykh was focusing on the love of Allah with using stories in Al- KAHF. For example, he used the story of sleepers of the cave and he was encouragteing people to leave Dnyah ( life : wealth, house, temptation and so on), for the sake of spiritual of communication of Allah. By focusing on Allah 100%, if you leave Dnyah, Allah will protect you as he protected sleeping of the cave about300/309 hundred years.

At last, I added brief information on Fundamentalism-Islamic Revivalism and Sufi. This is because I believe that in order for us to be able to identify the differences between them, we need knowledge for both such as who they are and what they is their central concept in Islam. After we study both, we will be able to tell the difference between them so that we can compare two sectors in Islam. In terms of the definition of fundamentalism, I found it is very hard to define; therefore, I used the word Islamic revivalists.


Fundamentalism-Islamic Revivalism

Since I found it is easier for me to follow, I decided to examine

Fundamentalism- Islamic Revivalism in point form focusing on the informant aspects.

1 Regard their scripture as the actual World of God that should be interpreted literally and be second to no other authority for all of life (John, 473).

2 Islamists(Islamiyyun), Mujahidun, Fundamentalists(usuliyyun) are those people who have striven for the revival of Islam( Richard, 20)


"Islam is the Solution! "

"Strivers in the path of God"

3 Fundamentalists (usuliyyun) is those people who have based their interpretation of religious law on a strict reading of the usul "root" rather than on rational argument (Richard, 20)

4 "Fundamentalists are opposed to the secularist ideology that has

banished religion from public life; in being antimodernist they are

being inescapably modern" (Carl, 212)

There are belief summarizations of the key concepts of Fundamentalism-Islamic Revivalism in Islam. However, there are more to addressed such as the topic of the difference between Passive fundamentalism and Active fundamentalism and so on which are discussed by Hrair Dekmejian



1 Islamic mystics fathered in a community around a spiritual master

or Shaykh( Richard, 17) Each Sufi order (tariqa) has its own disciplines and rituals( Neal,81).

2 The word Sufi came from Arabic word suf that means wool referring to the coarse woolen garments that Muslim mendicant took to wearing as a distinctive marker of their spiritual questing (John, 146).

3 Sufism stress "Godís immanence and his love for his creatures" (Neal, 80).

4 Intend to bring believers into a more intimate relationship with God in this life (Al-Dunya, this word) and in preparation for the next (Al-Akhira, Hereafter) (Richard, 43; John, 146).

5 Sufi leadership and social organization differed somewhat from

the orthodox communities of Sunnis and Shia(Richard, 89)

6 Desired goad is to achieve nearness or union (Tawhid) with God.

God is the only reality (Richard, 91)


Andrew made interesting point regarding Sura 18. He notes in his book that:

"As for Muhammad, his whole experience of revelation and his preparation towards receiving it are seen as models for the ascetic life and its product. This is also true of other Quranic figures,

most especially Moses and al-Khidr whose stories, as told in sura 18, have been elaborated info account of the mystic quest" (Andrew, 119).

This quote made me wonder how the story of Moses and al- Khidr. Although I know the story of Sura 18, I did not understand the exactly what Andrew means. Perhaps, because the story of Moses and al- Khidr is important to Sufism, we listen the tape. This is the question that I have to ask.

Carl discusses the relationship and difference between fundamentalism and Sufism. She notes that:

"The relevance of fundamentalism for Sufism comes at the root of their belief system. The selective interpretation of scripture that underlies the central authority of fundamentalism cannot afford to tolerate alternate interpretations. Since fundamentalists typically portray their interpretations as literal and hence unchallengeable true, any kind of psychological or mystical interpretation of the sacred text is a basic threat to the monopoly that they with to claim over tradition"(Carl.212).

I agree with Carl. I also found that the main difference between them is the central belief system. While fundamentalism does not allow various interpretation of Quran, Sufism allows mystical interpretation of Quran.

Hrair discusses revolution in Islam focusing on fundamentalism in the Arab world. One of chapter, he examines the dialectical perspective on contemporary Islamic society and compares Sufi Islam and Fundamentalist Militancy. He notes that:

" In its stress on spiritual salvation through contemplation and mysticism, Sufi Islam is regarded by the fundamentalists as their polar opposite. The inner-directed spiritualism of the Sufis usually emphasizes a personal quest for union with God in the context of a liberal interpretation of Islamic precepts. In sharp contrast, fundamentalism insists on the strict observance of Islam coupled with political activism as a means to reshape society and gain salvation"(Hrair, 22).


Hrair helped me to understand the difference between Sufism and fundamentalist better. I think that while Sufis seem to stresses the direct contact with God personally with experience of the love of God, Fundamentalists seem to focuses on the aspect of submission to God.


Al- KAHF, Assigned reading

Andrew Rippin, Muslim, London, 1990

Carl W. Ernst, Sufism. Boston, 1997

E. H. Palmer, The Quran, Delhi, 1965

John Corrigan, Frederick M.Denny, Carlos M.N. Eire and Martin S. Jaffee. "Jews Christians and Muslims". New Jersey, 1998

N. J. Dawood- translation, The Koran. Penguin Classics, 1974

Neal Robinson, Islam, A concise introduction. Washington D.C. 1999

R. Hrait Dekmejian, Islam in Revolution. New York, 1985

Rafiq Zakaria, Muhammad and the Quran. London, 1991

Rashad Khalifa- translateion. Quran, The final testament, 1989

Richard C. Marrtin, Islamic Studies. New Jersey, 1996

Shakir M.H, The Quran . New York, 1993