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.)
Commanding His Messenger to recite His Holy Book and convey it to mankind, Allah says,
(None can change His Words,) meaning, no one can alter them, distort them or misinterpret them.
(and none will you find as a refuge other than Him.) It was reported that Mujahid said, "A shelter,'' and that Qatadah said, "A helper or supporter.'' Ibn Jarir said: "Allah is saying, `if you O Muhammad, do not recite what is revealed to you of the Book of your Lord, then you will have no refuge from Allah.''' As Allah says:
(O Messenger! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord. And if you do not, then you have not conveyed His Message. Allah will protect you from mankind.) (5:67)
(Verily, He Who has given you the Qur'an, will surely bring you back to the place of return.) )28:85( meaning, `He will call you to account for the duty of conveying the Message which He entrusted you with. '
(And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face;) meaning, sit with those who remember Allah, who say "La Ilaha Illallah'', who praise Him, glorify Him, declare His greatness and call on Him, morning and evening, all the servants of Allah, whether rich or poor, strong or weak. It was said that this was revealed about the nobles of Quraysh when they asked the Prophet to sit with them on his own, and not to bring his weak Companions with him, such as Bilal, `Ammar, Suhayb, Khabbab and Ibn Mas`ud. They wanted him to sit with them on his own, but Allah forbade him from doing that, and said,
(And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon.) Allah commanded him to patiently content himself with sitting with those people (the weak believers), and said:
(And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon...) Imam Muslim recorded in his Sahih that Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas who said: "There was a group of six of us with the Prophet. The idolaters said, `Tell these people to leave so they will not offend us.' There was myself, Ibn Mas`ud, a man from Hudayl, Bilal and two other men whose names I have forgotten. Allah's Messenger thought to himself about whatever Allah willed he should think about, then Allah revealed:
(And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon.) Only Muslim reported this; excluding Al-Bukhari.
(and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter of the life of the world;) Ibn `Abbas said, `(this means) do not favor others over them, meaning do not seek the people of nobility and wealth instead of them.'
(and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance) means, those who are distracted by this world from being committed to the religion and from worshipping their Lord.
(and whose affair (deeds) has been lost.) means, his actions and deeds are a foolish waste of time. Do not obey him or admire his way or envy what he has. As Allah says elsewhere:
(And strain not your eyes in longing for the things We have given for enjoyment to various groups of them, the splendor of the life of this world, that We may test them thereby. But the provision of your Lord is better and more lasting.) (20:131)
(29. And say: "The truth is from your Lord.'' Then whosoever wills, let him believe; and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve. Verily, We have prepared for the wrongdoers, a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them. And if they ask for drink, they will be granted water like Al-Muhl, that will scald their faces. Terrible is the drink, and an evil Murtafaq!)
Allah says to His Messenger Muhammad: "Say to the people, `What I have brought to you from your Lord is the truth, in which there is no confusion or doubt.'''
(Then whosoever wills, let him believe; and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve.) This is a type of threat and stern warning, after which Allah says,
(Verily, We have prepared), meaning made ready,
(for the wrongdoers,) meaning those who disbelieve in Allah, His Messenger and His Book,
(a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them.) Ibn Jurayj said that Ibn `Abbas said,
(a Fire whose walls will be surrounding them.) "A wall of fire.''
(And if they ask for drink, they will be granted water like Al-Muhl, that will scald their faces.) Ibn `Abbas said; "Al-Muhl is thick water which is similar to the sediment in oil.'' Mujahid said, "It is like blood and pus.'' `Ikrimah said, "It is the thing that is heated to the ultimate temperature.'' Others said: "It is everything that is melted.'' Qatadah said, "Ibn Mas`ud melted some gold in a grove, and when it became liquid and foam rose to the top, he said, this is the thing that is most like Al-Muhl.'' Ad-Dahhak said: "The water of Hell is black, and it itself is black and its people are black.'' There is nothing contradictory in these comments, for Al-Muhl includes all of these unpleasant characteristics, it is black, evil-smelling, thick and hot, as Allah said,
((it) will scald their faces.) meaning because of its heat. When the disbeliever wants to drink it and brings it close to his face, it will scald it so that the skin of his face falls off into it. Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "When the people of Hell get hungry, they will ask for relief from it, and they will be given the tree of Zaqqum from which they will eat. The tree will tear off the skin of their faces, and if anyone who knew them were to pass by, he would recognize the skin of their faces in the tree. Then they will feel thirsty, so they will ask for drink, and they will be granted water like Al-Muhl, that is what has been heated to the ultimate temperature. When it is brought near their mouths, the flesh of their faces from which the skin has been torn off will be baked.'' After describing this drink in these horrifying qualities, Allah says:
(Terrible is the drink,) meaning, how awful this drink is. Similarly, He says in another Ayah:
(and be given to drink boiling water so that it cuts up their bowels.) (47:15)
(They will be given to drink from a boiling spring.) (88:5)
(They will go between it (Hell) and the fierce boiling water.) (55:44)
(and an evil Murtafaq!) means, how evil a place is the Fire to dwell and rest and gather. As Allah says elsewhere:
(Evil indeed it (Hell) is as an abode and as a place to rest in.) (25:66)
(30. Verily, as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, certainly We shall not make the reward of anyone to be lost who does his (righteous) deeds in the most perfect manner.) (31. These! For them will be Jannatu `Adn; wherein rivers flow beneath them; therein they will be adorned with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of Sundus and Istabraq. They will be Muttaki'in therein on Ara'ik. How good is the reward, and what an excellent Murtafaq!)
When Allah mentions the state of those who are doomed, He follows that by mentioning the blessed who believed in Allah and believed what His Messengers brought, those who did the righteous deeds that they commanded them to do. They will have Jannatu `Adn. `Adn means lasting.
(wherein rivers flow beneath them,) means, from beneath its rooms and dwellings. Fir`awn said:
(and these rivers flowing beneath me...) (43:51)
(they will be adorned) means, with jewelry.
(with bracelets of gold,) Allah says elsewhere:
(and pearls and their garments therein will be of silk) (22:23). This is explained in more detail here, where Allah says:
(and they will wear green garments of Sundus and Istabraq.) Sundus refers to a fine garment, like a shirt and the like, and Istabraq is thick and shiny velvet.
(They will be Muttaki'in therein on Ara'ik.) The word Muttaki'in implies lying down, or it was said that it means sitting with one's legs crossed, which is closer to the meaning here. In a Sahih Hadith, the Prophet said:
(As for me, I do not eat sitting with legs crossed (Muttaki'an)). Ara'ik is the plural of Arikah, which is a bed under a canopy. And Allah knows best.
(How good is the reward, and what an excellent place of rest (Murtafaq)!) means, how blessed is Paradise as a reward for their good deeds. And what an excellent Murtafaq means, and how good a place to dwell and rest and stay. Previously, Allah had said of Hell,
(Terrible is the drink, and an evil place of rest (Murtafaq)!) (18:29). In a similar way, He contrasts the two (Paradise and Hell) in Surat Al-Furqan, where He says:
(Evil indeed it (Hell) is as an abode, and as a place to rest in.) (25:66). Then He mentions the qualities of the believers, then says:
(Those will be rewarded with the highest place because of their patience. Therein they shall be met with greetings and the word of peace and respect. Abiding therein excellent it is as an abode, and as a place to rest in.) (25:75-76)
(32. And put forward to them the example of two men: unto one of them We had given two gardens of grapes, and We had surrounded both with date palms; and had put between them green crops (cultivated fields).) (33. Each of those two gardens brought forth its produce, and failed not in the least therein, and We caused a river to gush forth in the midst of both.) (34. And he had Thamar, and he said to his companion in the course of discussion: "I am greater than you in wealth and have a mightier entourage.'') (35. And he went into his garden while having been unjust to himself. He said: "I do not think that this will ever perish.'') (36. "And I do not think the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, I surely, shall find better than this when I return to Him.'')