Surah Al Kahf contains four main stories: Musa (AS) and Al Khidr; the The People of the Cave; the Companion of the Two Gardens, and Dhul-Qarnain. Each story is rich in meaning, and we are encouraged to recite Surah Al Kahf every Friday to remind ourselves of its message.
The Two Companions
In the Companion of the Two Gardens, there were two friends (and some accounts suggest that they were brothers), one of whom was rich and the other was poor. It is said that the poorer friend lived in the path of Allah, and contributed most of his assets towards charity, thus living a very simple and frugal existence.
The rich companion owned two lush gardens of grapes, date palms and cultivated crops, and the gardens consistently bore abundant varieties of healthy produce. Allah also caused rivers and streams to flow in between the two gardens, providing ample fresh water to irrigate the farmland. The two fertile gardens continuously yielded magnificent harvests without fail and thus became a reliable source of great income for its owner.
As with most human beings who are bestowed wealth and ease, the abundance of wealth made the richer companion arrogant and diverted him from the path of Allah. He took great pride in his abundant crops, financial and social strength and the respect that he commanded from his peers. He used to spend many hours in the two gardens, marvelling at his accomplishments, being boastful and arrogant: attitudes which are displeasing to Allah.
He frequently boasted of his wealth to his companion, rubbing into his companion’s face that the latter was not as successful as he was. In asserting his superiority, he used to remind his companion: “I am more than you in wealth and stronger in respect of men.” (Al Qur’an 18:34)
His boastful attitude also extended to his children, who outnumbered his companion’s. His conceit, in calculating his material accomplishments, made him look down on the poor.
Eventually, he became so dazzled by his wealth, that arrogance, pride and disbelief blinded his heart. He felt secure and invincible with his vast possessions and the status they brought him. He began to formulate the view that his garden was indestructible, and would never perish. He felt so secure in his materialistic cocoon that he even began to deny the coming of the Day of Judgment or the concept of resurrection before his Lord. He rationalised that even if the Day of Judgment existed, he would be granted an even better garden. He was deceived into thinking that the worldly favours bestowed on him by his Lord was because of his superiority over others, and that it would extend to the Hereafter.
His way of thinking demonstrated no true belief in the Hereafter, his meeting with his Lord or any accountability to his Lord and the people around him. He continued enjoying his riches without ever attributing his life of ease and abundance to his Creator.
His poorer companion tried to counsel him to be more grounded and humble. He reminded his rich friend of his lowly origin that applied to all human beings:
“Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you out of dust (i.e. your father Adam), then out of Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge), then fashioned you into a man? But as for my part, (I believe) that He is Allah, my Lord, and none shall I associate as partner with my Lord.” (Al Qur’an 18:37 – 18:38)
This was also a reminder that the Lord is the Creator of all things, and that if he was capable of creating them the first time around, He could equally re-create them on the Day of Judgment.
In relation to the arrogant way the rich man strutted proudly in his garden, gloating over his riches, the poor companion recommended a better approach:
“It was better for you to say, when you entered your garden: ‘That which Allah wills (will come to pass)! There is no power but with Allah! ‘” (Al Qur’an 18:39), meaning that the richer companion should acknowledge and be aware that all these riches came from Allah, and not through his personal talents or abilities.
The poorer companion was never aggrieved that he was not as rich or bestowed with as many children as his rich friend. He accepted this as the qadr of Allah, realising there existed higher wisdom in it in this world and in the hereafter in what Allah granted or withheld from him. He was also acutely aware of the temporary and fleeting nature of any material accomplishments, and that Allah can bestow or deny in the blink of an eye. Therefore, he continued reminding his friend not to place too much emphasis on his material accumulations, for these were all subject to his Lord’s determination:
“If you see me less than you in wealth, and children, it may be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and will send on it Husban (torment, bolt) from the sky, then it will be a slippery earth. Or the water thereof (of the gardens) becomes deepsunken (underground) so that you will never be able to seek it.” (Al Qur’an 18:40)
These words of wisdom and warning were ignored by the richer companion, and he refused to submit himself to Allah nor reduce his arrogance.