by Massab Qayyum
Questions are one of the basic ways, if not the only, to acquire knowledge. Imagine us being not able to ask questions. How would we be? What if Newton never asked himself why the apple fell down? However, does this mean we have to ask all the nitty-gritty questions that pop up in our mind?
One of the stories described in Surah al-Kahf is about a group of young people sleeping in a cave for more than 300 years. The Quranic narration of the story is quite brief and precise in its style. Excluding the countless lessons from the rest of the story itself, the discussion at the end of it contains a special message. It compels our brains to consider what is important and what is not. What is the point of asking any question?
The verse I want to focus on is the 22nd Ayah of al-Kahf:
“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.” (18:22)
The Ayah talks about a discussion between people on the exact number of the people in the cave. By describing such discussions as ‘Rajmam-bil-Ghaib’ which is an Arabic expression for ‘throwing stones in the darkness’, the Quran degrades such talk. Allah describes taking such wild guesses and estimates as someone who blindly throws stones in the darkness. This literally can be harmful to both the person and his surroundings. We can call this in our own language as ‘Hawai firing’.
The interesting part is that after mentioning the details about this useless discussion, Allah could have specified the exact number of the youth in the cave. But we see that He deliberately chose not to. This thought-provoking point carries a hidden message for us; we have been told what we ‘needed’ to be told in the Quran. In other words, what was important has already been communicated to us in the story and there is no need for further information. This directly relates to and makes us aware of the Wisdom of the Almighty which one cannot question (obviously if one believes in all the Attributes of the Almighty). Therefore, the take-home lesson is to look at the point of every discussion/story/narration/conversation we come across in life. If, after hearing the whole fascinating story of how the youth retreated to the cave, how they were put to sleep, and then wake up, the only questions one asks is ‘how many were there?’ then the person has missed/disregarded the whole point of the story.
Moreover, Allah teaches us to respond to such questions/claims by declaring that Allah knows their number. He commands us not to argue with such people but with what is obvious/clear. In other words, we should not argue without solid knowledge. However, it is not just limited to this issue but about other arguments in general. Through this, Allah is teaching us the basic etiquettes of debating.
There is a Hadith of the Holy Prophet ??? ???? ???? ???? ??? ???? conveying a similar message:
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent.”
Sahih al-Bukhari 6136
I want to relate this to a small aspect of life in LUMS. Including myself, I have seen many people who ask questions or speak at length just for a few ‘CP’ points. Are we being honest to ourselves?
This is one of the four stories in Surah Kahf and I am only scratching the surface of what lessons we can get from this story alone. Imagine what the whole Surah Kahf and then the whole Quran would contain. I hope that I have, first of all, motivated myself, and then all those who read this, to explore more gemstones like this in the Quran!