The Qur’an details this story accurately in Surah al-Kahf. The first 10 ayaat of the surah, however, are unrelated to the people of the cave…
“[All] praise is [due] to Allah, who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance.” (18:1)
Allah (SWT) refers to Muhammad (SAW) as His Slave to differentiate the Muslims from the Christians, who elevated the status of their Prophet, Isa (AS) to a god. Allah (SWT) tells us there is no deviation in this Book, unlike the Bible which came down as the Book of Allah, but inaccuracies and deviations were introduced to it by man.
“[He has made it] straight, to warn of severe punishment from Him and to give good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a good reward” (18:2)
The Book is timeless and stands up to any test. It, in itself, is a test from Allah (SWT) to see who will be the best in action. The youth of society are the most malleable and open and easy to change. The youth are the most susceptible to temptation, and this is why the story of the people of the cave is so important for us to take lessons from.
“Or have you thought that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among Our signs, a wonder?” (18:9)
By this point, the Prophet (SAW) had heard only bits of the story of the people of the cave, not the proper account as Allah (SWT) was about to reveal. Allah (SWT) says the miracle of the people of the cave is not that big a deal in comparison to what He can do and what will happen to the world at the end of time…
“[Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, “Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance.”” (18:10)
The Qur’an does not make mention as to the number of youth that were in the cave, but the popular Christian belief is that there were seven. The Qur’an agrees with the Christian narrative of the youth being on the run as they ‘retreated to the cave’. The word ‘fitya’ in Arabic alludes to the people being young men, and as mentioned, it is the youth that are most susceptible to changing standards. They ask Allah (SWT) to guide them and make easy their affairs.
“So We cast [a cover of sleep] over their ears within the cave for a number of years.” (18:11)
The Arabic here implies that Allah (SWT) relaxed the youth to sleep like a mother does to a baby and made the cave comfortable for them. Again, the Qur’an does not make mention of how many years the people remained in the cave.
“Then We awakened them that We might show which of the two factions was most precise in calculating what [extent] they had remained in time.” (18:12)
Then Allah (SWT) raised them from this sleep, or death of sorts. ‘Amada’ in Arabic implies a new life, a new beginning, a new start, a new opportunity… This is a lesson we must take in life, that every day is a new life a new chance, so don’t wake up angry or depressed from the day before, this is a new start, alhamdulillah.
“It is We who relate to you, [O Muhammad], their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.” (18:13)
Allah (SWT) tells us these youth had imaan, and were therefore, true followers of Isa (AS) and did not believe in the trinity.
“And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression.” (18:14)
Guidance is critical for the youth, in order that they may hold on to their imaan. Allah (SWT) will increase you in imaan, facilitate and ease for you your affairs, and guide you to the straight path. 60-70% of the Ummah are from the youth, so they are vital. Allah (SWT) tells us He firmed up their hearts, at the point where they were having to explain themselves to the king, as to why they refused to acknowledge the gods from the Greek. They negate the trinity and believe this to be ‘shatata’, outrageous, an excessive transgression.
“”These, our people, have taken besides Him deities. Why do they not bring for [worship of] them a clear authority? And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah a lie?”” (18:15)
The youth do not reject their own people, despite the fact they have committed the greatest of sins, shirk. They did, however, turn their own trial around into a trial of their king and the community. It is at this point the Christian traditions record them as being arrested, and then escape to a cave, all to worship Allah (SWT) alone…
To be continued, inshaAllah!