The People of Kahf
Or, do you think that the Fellows of the Cave and the Inscription were of Our wonderful signs?
When the youths sought refuge in the cave, they said: Our Lord! grant us mercy from Thee, and provide for us a right course in our affair.
So We prevented them from hearing in the cave for a number of years.
We relate to you their story with the truth; surely they were youths who believed in their Lord and We increased them in guidance.
And We strengthened their hearts with patience, when they stood up and said: Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth; we will by no means call upon any god besides Him, for then indeed we should have said an extravagant thing.
(Surah al-Kahf, 9-14)
In the territory of Rome a just king ruled over the people to whom he was very kind. He ruled for quite a long time and his subjects lived in peace and prosperity.

When this king died, there arose differences among his subjects which became the cause of their misfortune. The king of the neighbouring country, Daquis invaded their country and annexed it to his kingdom.

Daquis made a magnificent palace for himself and decorated it with all possible embellishments. He selected six wise and able men from amongst the people of that conquered land and made them his ministers. He then forced the people to worship him as their lord. The ignorant and foolish people accepted him as their lord and started worshipping him by lying down in prostration before him.

Some time passed like this and in the meantime a day of their great festival arrived. In this festival the king as well as his courtiers and the general public participated with great fervour. At the time when all of them were revelling in the celebrations of this festival, an emissary came and handed over a message to the king. As soon the king read the message, his face changed colour because of an impending calamity that was to befall him and his kingdom. It was written in the message that armies of the Emperor of Persia had already entered the border of Rome and they were marching forward towards the capital.

After seeing the anger and agony on the king's face, one of the six ministers of the king detected a strange effect on the face of the king and he glanced at his five colleagues with a meaningful enquiry, and they also responded to it with their meaningful glances. By that way alone they deciphered something that was going to happen as a great historical event.

After the celebration came to an end everybody left for his home and the ministers too departed to their homes where they used to convene meetings. When all of them sat together they talked about the same thing that was exchanged through the glances only.

One of them said, "Have you not seen the miserable face of the king? He claims himself to be the lord of the people whom he treats as his servants. Had he really been the lord of the people, he would not have become so terribly worried after receiving the unexpectedly unpleasant news. This condition of his helplessness has given us enough food for thought, and we have now become sceptical about his being the lord of the worlds. O my colleagues! I am seriously pondering over an important matter. By whom this wonderful firmament was built and by whom the glittering stars were studded in it and by whom the sun and the moon are moving round their orbits? Why should I go farther and talk about the sun and the moon? Why should I not think about my own self? Why should I not ponder as to who brought me into existence in the womb of my mother, and who brought me out and provided me the means of subsistence as well as physical strength? I am now positively convinced that all this has been performed by the Almighty Allah Who is the Lord of the worlds and that Great Lord cannot be Daquis. He is far above the intellect of this insignificant creature to comprehend Him. O Friends! Our life has been the life of disgrace by being the slave of Daquis and this thing cannot be a permanent thing. Let us absolve ourselves from all worldly things and fleeting pleasures and luxuries and devote ourselves to the worship of Allah and seek His forgiveness of our sins".

The wise man said these things in such a forceful manner that all his colleagues were greatly impressed and all the six of them decided to flee away from this idolatrous country and lead a secluded life in a barren and deserted place by devoting themselves to the worship of Allah.

On the following day the six friends secretly departed from their home and proceeded towards the deserted place. When they reached a distance of a few miles from their homes, they saw a shepherd who was tending the sheep. They asked him for water to drink. The shepherd said, "I can detect from your faces an air of nobility and piety. Who are you and where are you going to? They replied, "We, six of us, are the ministers to the king, but we have renounced our position of authority. We are going to a secluded place where we will dedicate ourselves to the worship of Allah, the Lord of the worlds because the worship of Daquis has indeed finished us spiritually and we were experiencing the bad effect on our souls".

The shepherd said, "I too am of the same opinion, and I wish to accompany you on your journey and join you in the worship of Allah". They agreed to the shepherd's proposal. He then returned his flock of sheep to the owner and accompanied them on their journey. There was a dog of the shepherd that also followed him. They objected to the dog being taken with them, as they feared his barking might give a trace to their whereabouts. They said, "We should better abandon this dog and then proceed on to our journey". Accordingly they tried hard to leave the dog behind, but the dog persisted to follow its master. There was no alternative for them but to allow the dog to accompany them.

The Shepherd then took his six companions to a hillock, on the other side of which was a valley full of green fields and fruit-laden trees. There were streams flowing through it. A pleasant breeze was sweeping across the valley. They ate the fruits, drank water, and then entered the mountain cave called Kahf.

A gleam of sun light was passing through an opening of the cave. They relaxed for a while and then got themselves busied in the worship of Allah.

Long Slumber

And thus did We rouse them that they might question each other. A speaker among them said: How long have you stayed? They said: We have stayed for a day or a part of a day. (Others) said: Allah knows best how long you have stayed. Now send one of you with this silver (coin) of yours to the city, then let him see which of them has purest food, so let him bring you provision from it, and let him behave with gentleness, and by no means make your case known to any one:
For surely if they prevail against you they would stone you to death or force you back to their religion, and then you will never succeed.
(Surah al-Kahf, 19-20)
Soon after that these devout people went to sleep together and their dog too slept on the mouth of the cave resting its head on its foreleg. The sweet and pleasant breeze was sweeping over them gently and the sun rays too were shining on them through the opening of the cave but they were quite unaware of all about their environment as they had receded into a long slumber. These companions of the cave slept for some 300 and odd years and during their long slumber they did not rise from their sleep. But after the set period of time they got awakened by the will of Allah and started staring around themselves. They started talking about themselves. Some said, "We slept for one day"; Some said, "For about half a day". But the thing that astonished them most was that the entire vegetation had disappeared and they themselves were feeling very hungry. They were just pondering as to how the green vegetation and the streams of water were all finished in one day only. After all they decided to send for some food from the town as they could not bear the hunger anymore but this work was to be done very quietly so that nobody could find a trace of their whereabouts, otherwise people would kill them or would force them back to idolatry.

Thus one of the experienced men put on the shepherd's clothes and proceeded to the town to fetch some bread against the money they had with them.

When he reached the outskirts of the town, he found it in a completely changed condition and inside the town he saw everything very strange. The lanes and the rows of houses were all completely different. The people's dresses too were totally changed. He became wonderstruck to see such a drastic change in the whole set-up of things in the township. He thought to himself whether or not he was in his true senses or he was experiencing a dream. Had he entered a wrong city by losing a track of his own town? Why was he unable to recognise anyone of the people.

At last he happened to come to a baker's shop. He bought a few breads from there against the money he had with him. After seeing the coins the shopkeeper asked him, "O young man! Have you discovered a treasure-trove?" The cave man replied, "No, these are the coins which I got after selling my dates the day before yesterday. Thereafter I had gone out of the town".

The baker did not seem to be satisfied with the statement and instead he took the man to the king and said, "This man has found a treasure-trove. Its proof is the coins he has in his possession". The king said to the man, "O young man! Don't be afraid of me. Tell me the truth. We will not harm you. Our Prophet 'Isa son of Maryam commanded us to demand Khums (religious tax) from anyone who happens to discover a treasure-trove".

The man implored the king to listen to his petition. He said, "I am the resident of this town. Two days ago my companions and I had gone into a cave in the mountain to devote ourselves to the worship of the Almighty Allah. At the time of our departure there was a king, Daquis by name, who ruled over this town and who forced the people to worship him by prostrating themselves before him. Since we did not believe him as our lord, we migrated from the town and took shelter in a cave in a deserted place. My companions are already awaiting my arrival there".

The king said, "We would go with you to find out the things by ourselves and to see whether you are speaking the truth, because the thing that you are talking about is very strange. It is over 300 years now that Daquis ruled over here".

The king then along with his courtiers proceeded to the cave and the people who had also come to know of this incident also followed the king to the cave.

When they reached the mountain-pass, the cave man said to the king, "You better stay here. If you reach there suddenly, my companions will get scared of you. Maybe this surprising thing proves to be very costly to them. Let me first inform them of the situation before-hand".

The man went alone inside the cave and said to his companions, "My dear comrades! Your sleep as you thought was not of the duration of a day, or half a day, but it was stretched over centuries. I have been to the town and there I saw everything completely in a changed condition. The tyrant Daquis has been dead for over 300 years, and there is not a single trace of him or of his kingdom. In the meantime as the Almighty Allah willed, a Prophet of Allah by the name of 'Isa son of Maryam was sent to the land as Prophet and Messenger of Allah, and the people there are his followers. I had to face a great trouble in the town. The coins that I showed the people were strange to them. They thought I had discovered a treasure-trove. They took me to the king. Gradually it came to my mind that we had been, according to the will of Allah, sleeping for over 300 years. The king and his courtiers are waiting outside. They have come to verify my statement. If you allow me, I can bring them over here. The companions did not believe their comrade. They thought he wanted to get them arrested by the king. They then decided to invoke Allah so that He might return them to their original condition. They raised their arms and prayed, "O Our Lord! Save us from this trouble and send us back to our original condition".

Their prayer was granted and the Almighty Allah again made them sleep in a long slumber. The king and his courtiers waited outside for long but that man never returned. They entered the cave but according to the will of Allah the people of the cave were hidden from their sight.

By the order of the king, a masjid was built there for the worship of Allah. This incident was one of the signs of Allah which were shown to the people so that they might learn a lesson about the Greatness of the Almighty Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

(Source: Stories from Quran - Islamic Seminary Publications)