(How long have you stayed (here)) meaning, `how long have you slept'
(They said: "We have stayed a day or part of a day.'') because they entered the cave at the beginning of the day, and they woke up at the end of the day, which is why they then said,
("...or a part of a day.'' They said: "Your Lord knows best how long you have stayed...'') meaning, `Allah knows best about your situation.' It seems that they were not sure about how long they had slept, and Allah knows best. Then they turned their attention to more pressing matters, like their need for food and drink, so they said:
(So send one of you with this silver coin of yours) They had brought with them some Dirhams (silver coins) from their homes, to buy whatever they might need, and they had given some in charity and kept some, so they said:
(So send one of you with this silver coin of yours to the town,) meaning to their city, which they had left. The definite article indicates that they were referring to a known city.
(and let him find out which is the Azka food.) Azka means "purest'', as Allah says elsewhere,
(And had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy on you, not one of you would ever have been pure (Zaka) from sins) )24:21) and
(Indeed whosoever purifies himself (Tazakka) shall achieve success.) (87:14) From the same root also comes the word Zakah, which makes one's wealth good and purifies it.
(And let him be careful) meaning when he goes out buying food and coming back. They were telling him to conceal himself as much as he could,
(and let no man know of you. For, if they come to know of you, they will stone you) means, `if they find out where you are,'
(they will stone you or turn you back to their religion;) They were referring to the followers of Decianus, who they were afraid might find out where they were, and punish them with all kinds of torture until they made them go back to their former religion, or until they died, for if they agreed to go back to their (old) religion, they would never attain success in this world or the Hereafter. So they said:
(and in that case you will never be successful.)
(21. And thus We made their case known, that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour. (Remember) when they (the people) disputed among themselves about their case, they said: "Construct a building over them; their Lord knows best about them,'' (then) those who won their point said: "We verily, shall build a place of worship over them.'')
(And thus We made their case known,) means, `We caused the people to find them.'
(that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour.) Several scholars of the Salaf mentioned that the people of that time were skeptical about the Resurrection. `Ikrimah said: "There was a group of them who said that the souls would be resurrected but not the bodies, so Allah resurrected the people of the Cave as a sign and proof of resurrection.'' They mentioned that when they wanted to send one of their members out to the city to buy them something to eat, he disguised himself and set out walking by a different route, until he reached the city, which they said was called Daqsus. He thought that it was not long since he left it, but in fact century after century, generation after generation, nation after nation had passed, and the country and its people had changed. He saw no local landmarks that he recognized, and he did not recognize any of the people, elite or commoners. He began to feel confused and said to himself, "Maybe I am crazy or deluded, maybe I am dreaming.'' Then he said, "By Allah, I am nothing of the sort, what I know I saw last night was different from this.'' Then he said, "I had better get out of here.'' Then he went to one of the men selling food, gave him the money he had and asked him to sell him some food. When the man saw the money he did not recognize it or its imprint, so he passed it to his neighbor and they all began to pass it around, saying, "Maybe this man found some treasure.'' They asked him who he was and where he got this money. Had he found a treasure. Who was he, He said, "I am from this land, I was living here yesterday and Decianus was the ruler.'' They accused him of being crazy and took him to the governor who questioned him about his circumstances, and he told him. He was confused about his situation. When he told them about it, they -- the king and the people of the city -- went with him to the cave, where he told them, "Let me go in first and let my companions know.'' It was said that the people did not know how he entered it, and that the people did not know about their story. It was also said that they did enter the cave and see them, and the king greeted them and embraced them. Apparently he was a Muslim, and his name was Tedosis. They rejoiced at meeting him and spoke with him, then they bid farewell to him and went back to sleep, then Allah caused them to die. And Allah knows best. A
(And thus We made their case known,) meaning, `just as We caused them to sleep then woke them up physically intact, We made their story known to the people of that time.'
(that they might know that the promise of Allah is true, and that there can be no doubt about the Hour. (Remember) when they (the people) disputed among themselves about their case, ) meaning, about Resurrection. Some believed in it and some denied it, so Allah made their discovery of the people of the cave evidence either in their favor or against them.
(they said: "Construct a building over them; their Lord knows best about them,'') meaning, seal the door of their cave over them, and leave them as they are.
(those who won their point said: "We verily, shall build a place of worship over them.'') Those who said this were the people of power and influence, but were they good people or not There is some debate on this point, because the Prophet said:
(Allah has cursed the Jews and the Christians who took the graves of their Prophets and righteous people as places of worship) Warning against what they did. We have reported about the Commander of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab that when he found the grave of Danyal (Daniel) in Iraq during his period of rule, he gave orders that news of this grave should be withheld from the people, and that the inscription containing mention of battles etc., that they found there should be buried.
(22. They say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; and they say they were five, the dog being the sixth, guessing at the unseen; and they say they were seven, and the dog being the eighth. Say: "My Lord knows best their number; none knows them but a few.'' So debate not except with the clear proof. And consult not any of them (about the people of the Cave).)
Allah tells us that people disputed over the number of the people of the Cave. The Ayah mentions three views, proving that there was no fourth suggestion. Allah indicates that the first two opinions are invalid, by saying,
(guessing at the unseen), meaning that they spoke without knowledge, like a person who aims at an unknown target -- he is hardly likely to hit it, and if he does, it was not on purpose. Then Allah mentions the third opinion, and does not comment on it, or He affirms it by saying,
(and the dog being the eighth.) indicating that this is correct and this is what happened.
(Say: "My Lord knows best their number...'') indicating that the best thing to do in matters like this is to refer knowledge to Allah, because there is no need to indulge in discussing such matters without knowledge. If we are given knowledge of a matter, then we may talk about it, otherwise we should refrain.
(none knows them but a few.) of mankind. Qatadah said that Ibn `Abbas said: "I am one of the few mentioned in this Ayah; they were seven. '' Ibn Jurayj also narrated that `Ata' Al-Khurasani narrated from him, "I am one of those referred to in this Ayah,'' and he would say: "Their number was seven.'' Ibn Jarir recorded that Ibn `Abbas said:
(none knows them but a few.) "I am one of the few, and they were seven.'' The chains of these reports narrated from Ibn `Abbas, which say that they were seven, are Sahih, and this is in accordance with what we have stated above.
(So debate not except with the clear proof.) meaning, gently and politely, for there is not a great deal to be gained from knowing about that.
(And consult not any of them (about the people of the Cave).) meaning, `They do not have any knowledge about it except what they make up, guessing at the unseen; they have no evidence from an infallible source. But Allah has sent you, O Muhammad, with the truth in which there is no doubt or confusion, which is to be given priority over all previous books and sayings.'
(23. And never say of anything, "I shall do such and such thing tomorrow.'') (24. Except (with the saying), "If Allah wills!" And remember your Lord when you forget and say: "It may be that my Lord guides me to a nearer way of truth than this.'')
Here Allah, may He be glorified, shows His Messenger the correct etiquette when determining to do something in the future; this should always be referred to the will of Allah, the Knower of the Unseen, Who knows what was and what is yet to be and what is not to be, and how it will be if it is to be. It was recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said:
(Sulayman bin Dawud (peace be upon them both) said: "Tonight I will go around to seventy women (according to some reports, it was ninety or one hundred women) so that each one of them will give birth to a son who will fight for the sake of Allah.'' It was said to him, )according to one report, the angel said to him( "Say: `If Allah wills'", but he did not say it. He went around to the women but none of them gave birth except for one who gave birth to a half-formed child.) The Messenger of Allah said, (By the One in Whose hand is my soul, had he said, "If Allah wills,'' he would not have broken his oath, and that would have helped him to attain what he wanted. ) According to another report, (They would all have fought as horsemen in the cause of Allah.) At the beginning of this Surah we discussed the reason why this Ayah was revealed: when the Prophet was asked about the story of the people of the Cave, he said, "I will tell you tomorrow.'' Then the revelation was delayed for fifteen days. Since we discussed this at length at the beginning of the Surah, there is no need to repeat it here.
(And remember your Lord when you forget) It was said that this means, if you forget to say "If Allah wills", then say it when you remember. This was the view of Abu Al-`Aliyah and Al-Hasan Al-Basri. Hushaym reported from Al-A`mash from Mujahid that concerning a man who swears an oath, Ibn `Abbas said "He may say `If Allah wills' even if it is a year later.'' Ibn `Abbas used to interpret this Ayah:
(And remember your Lord when you forget) in this way. Al-A`mash was asked, "Did you hear this from Mujahid" He said, "Layth bin Abi Salim told it to me.'' The meaning of Ibn `Abbas' view, that a person may say "If Allah wills'', even if it is a year later, is that if he forgets to say it when he makes the oath or when he speaks, and he remembers it later, even a year later, the Sunnah is that he should say it, so that he will still be following the Sunnah of saying "If Allah wills'', even if that is after breaking his oath. This was also the view of Ibn Jarir, but he stated that this does not make up for breaking the oath or mean that one is no longer obliged to offer expiation. What Ibn Jarir said is correct, and it is more appropriate to understand the words of Ibn Abbas in this way. And Allah knows best.
(And never say of anything, "I shall do such and such thing tomorrow.'' Except (with the saying), "If Allah wills!" And remember your Lord when you forget) At-Tabarani recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that this meant saying, "If Allah wills.''
(and say: "It may be that my Lord guides me to a nearer way of truth than this.'') meaning, `if you (O Prophet) are asked about something you know nothing about, ask Allah about it, and turn to Him so that He may guide you to what is right.' And Allah knows best.
(25. And they stayed in their cave three hundred years, adding nine.) (26. Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed. With Him is the unseen of the heavens and the earth.'' How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)! They have no protector other than Him, and He makes none to share in His decision and His rule.)
Here Allah tells His Messenger the length of time the people of the Cave spent in their cave, from the time when He caused them to sleep until the time when He resurrected them and caused the people of that era to find them. The length of time was three hundred plus nine years in lunar years, which is three hundred years in solar years. The difference between one hundred lunar years and one hundred solar years is three years, which is why after mentioning three hundred, Allah says, `adding nine.'
(Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed...'') `If you are asked about how long they stayed, and you have no knowledge of that and no revelation from Allah about it, then do not say anything. Rather say something like this:
(Allah knows best how long they stayed. With Him is (the knowledge of) the Unseen of the heavens and the earth.)'' meaning, no one knows about that except Him, and whoever among His creatures He chooses to tell. What we have said here is the view of more than one of the scholars of Tafsir, such as Mujahid and others among the earlier and later generations.
(And they stayed in their cave three hundred years,) Qatadah said, this was the view of the People of the Book, and Allah refuted it by saying:
(Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed...'') meaning, that Allah knows better than what the people say. This was also the view of Mutarraf bin `Abdullah. However, this view is open to debate, because when the People of the Book said that they stayed in the cave for three hundred years, without the extra nine, they were referring to solar years, and if Allah was merely narrating what they had said, He would not have said,
(adding nine.) The apparent meaning of the Ayah is that Allah is stating the facts, not narrating what was said. This is the view of Ibn Jarir (may Allah have mercy on him). And Allah knows best.
(How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)!) He sees them and hears them. Ibn Jarir said, "The language used is an eloquent expression of praise.'' The phrase may be understood to mean, how much Allah sees of everything that exists and how much He hears of everything that is to be heard, for nothing is hidden from Him! It was narrated that Qatadah commented on this Ayah:
(How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)!) "No one hears or sees more than Allah.''
(They have no protector other than Him, and He makes none to share in His decision and His rule.) meaning, He, may He be glorified, is the One Who has the power to create and to command, the One Whose ruling cannot be overturned; He has no adviser, supporter or partner, may He be exalted and hallowed.
(27. And recite what has been revealed to you (O Muhammad) of your Lord's Book. None can change His Words, and none will you find as refuge other than Him.) (28. And keep yourself (O Muhammad) patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face; and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, and who follows his own lusts, and whose affair has been lost.)