The Cave Dwellers Is A Story About Time Travel

Chapter 18 relates the story of the Cave Dwellers which recounts a Time Travel Experience. It is presented as an actual event surrounding some youths fleeing persecution and finding refuge in a Cave. While the story itself is a historic telling the Cave (in addition to being an actual place) may be an allegory for a state of suspended animation, since there is mention of their senses being isolated and some outside agent turning them while they 'sleep' beyond an Earthly count of time.

It is assumed that these Companions who fled seeking refuge in a Cave were early Christian youths that had broken away from their community since it had fallen to joining other gods to God for woship. And since the Premable to the narrative about the Cave Dwellers mentions their community had invented that 'God had a Son' it is reasonable to think these youths were Fundamental Christians; believing in One God without any share to His Sovereignty; this is reinforced in Chapter 18 and the theme of His Absolute Dominion echoes throughout the Chapter.

There is a passing reference made to 'The Inscription' or 'The Numbered/Enumerated' as an additional Symbol and it would appear there is no widely accepted basis as to what this entails. Some say it is an Inscription left at the location where the Cave Dwellers were thought to have slept commemorating the event, but the jury is out on that one**. So as far as we know, it is a mystery as to what the 'Inscription' is unless it is referring to the Cave Dwellers having received their designations by way of numeric stigmata from their Lord. This last assumption is in line with one of the 99 Names or Attributes mentioned in the Quran about God, that being 'Al-Muhsi'; the 'One Who Counts' or 'Numbers All' and by extention He is 'Al-Hasib'--'The Accounter,' as we are accountable to Him and He can Render Accounts.

Chapter 18 Al-Kahf (The Cave)
أَمْ حَسِبْتَ أَنَّ أَصْحَابَ الْكَهْفِ وَالرَّقِيمِ كَانُوا مِنْ آيَاتِنَا عَجَبًا 18:9
18:9 Has the account of the Companions of the Cave and the Inscription (the Numbered) (reached you); they are among Our Remarkable Signs

إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِن لَّدُنكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا 18:10,
18:10 When the youths took to the Cave and prayed, ‘Our Lord, Grant us from Your Mercy and Prepare for us a Righteous Will (Outcome, Commandment).'

They prayed and God Responded, His Attribute 'Al Mujib'--'The Responsive' is brought to the fore in this telling of the story.

فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَى آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا 18:11
18:11 So We secluded/sheltered/isolated/covered their ears in the Cave for a number of years

18:12 ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِنَعْلَمَ أَيُّ الْحِزْبَيْنِ أَحْصَى لِمَا لَبِثُوا أَمَدًا
18:12 then We sent them (made them a Symbol) to know which of the bipartisans counted the term (accurately), nevertheless

نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُم بِالْحَقِّ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى 18:13
18:13 We relate their News to you in Truth; for they were youths who came to Believe in their Lord and He Granted them Increased Guidance.

Here are another two of the 99 Attributes of God, 'Al-Hadi' meaning 'The Guide'; increasing guidance is the path to Repentance so He is known as 'At-Tawwib'--'The Guide To Repentance.' And the fact that the tale is related in Truth calls to mind another of His 99 Names, 'Al-Haqq' meaning 'The Truth.'

وَرَبَطْنَا عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ إِذْ قَامُوا فَقَالُوا رَبُّنَا رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَن نَّدْعُوَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَهًا لَقَدْ قُلْنَا إِذًا شَطَطًا 18:14
18:14 And We Secured their hearts when they arose saying/praying, 'Our Lord, Sustainer of the Heavens and the Earth, we do not call on any other god; it would be Implausible/Prohibitive/Not Possible (for us to do so).'

Giving 'Security to their hearts', the Cave Dwellers felt no fear for He had established in them a feeling of safety for what they were about to experience, for He is 'Al-Mu'min', 'The One Who Grants Security.' They prayed to 'The Sustainer' of Heaven and Earth, for He is 'Al-Razzaq.'

هَؤُلَاء قَوْمُنَا اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً لَّوْلَا يَأْتُونَ عَلَيْهِم بِسُلْطَانٍ بَيِّنٍ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا 18:15
18:15 "These, our People, have taken gods other than God without having any Authoritative Clear Signs given to them and out of their ignorance they have invented Lies about God."

There was no doubt in these youths' minds that He is 'Al-Ahad', 'The One' and He is 'Al-Wahid'--'The Unique,' not two or three or a committee.

وَإِذِ اعْتَزَلْتُمُوهُمْ وَمَا يَعْبُدُونَ إِلَّا اللَّهَ فَأْوُوا إِلَى الْكَهْفِ يَنشُرْ لَكُمْ رَبُّكُم مِّن رَّحمته ويُهَيِّئْ لَكُم مِّنْ أَمْرِكُم مِّرْفَقًا 18:16
18:16 And when they took leave (of their community) and they worshipped none but God, He gave them Sanctuary in the Cave; Your Lord informs you of His Mercy and He Wills Facility for you.

Of the 99 Names 18:16 refers to 'Ar-Rahman' and 'Ar-Rahim,' respectively, 'The Beneficent', 'The Mericful.'

وَتَرَى الشَّمْسَ إِذَا طَلَعَت تَّزَاوَرُ عَن كَهْفِهِمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ
وَإِذَا غَرَبَت تَّقْرِضُهُمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ وَهُمْ فِي فَجْوَةٍ مِّنْهُ
ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ مَن يَهْدِ اللَّهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي وَمَن يُضْلِلْ
فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ وَلِيًّا مُّرْشِدًا 18:17
18:17 and you see the Sun as it rises visiting their Cave on the right and when setting (West) advancing to the North and them inside (facing); these are God’s Signs; whomever God Grants (Guidance) (finds himself guided) they are the Proselytes (newly faithful) and whoever goes astray there is no Benefactor (to guide them aright) /supporter to/ righteousness

Many people reflect on 18:17 to try and determine the actual spot where the Cave is since it indicates the relative position of the Sun** as it rises and sets in the vicinity of the Cave; should one be inside the Cave and facing the Sunlight they would see it rising on their right and setting North-West. 'Al-Hadi' is mentioned for 'The Guide' and 'Ar-Rashid' for 'The Teacher of Righteousness' and He is 'The Benefactor' or 'The Protecting Friend'--'Al-Wali.'

وَتَحْسَبُهُمْ أَيْقَاظًا وَهُمْ رُقُودٌ وَنُقَلِّبُهُمْ ذَاتَ الْيَمِينِ وَذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ
وَكَلْبُهُم بَاسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالْوَصِيدِ لَوِ اطَّلَعْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ
لَوَلَّيْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِرَارًا وَلَمُلِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ رُعْبًا 18:18
18:18 and you would think them awake the while they are asleep and We turn them to the right and to the left (North) and their dog extending its arms guarding them; if you came upon them you would be apprehensive of them escaping (from them) and filled with horror.

Apparently their dog had fallen 'asleep' too, probably near the entrance 'at the guard position,' and coming upon people in such a state of suspended animation is strange enough to strike terror in many. As they slept their bodies were oriented such that North was to their left. And as they slept He watched over them, for He is 'Al-Raqib'--'The Watchful;' with their dog also asleep their guardianship was solely left up to Him for He is 'Al-Mahaymin'--'The Guardian.'

وَكَذَلِكَ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِيَتَسَاءلُوا بَيْنَهُمْ قَالَ قَائِلٌ مِّنْهُمْ
كَمْ لَبِثْتُمْ قَالُوا لَبِثْنَا يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالُوا رَبُّكُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثْتُمْ
فَابْعَثُوا أَحَدَكُم بِوَرِقِكُمْ هَذِهِ إِلَى الْمَدِينَةِ فَلْيَنظُرْ أَيُّهَا أَزْكَى طَعَامًا
فَلْيَأْتِكُم بِرِزْقٍ مِّنْهُ وَلْيَتَلَطَّفْ وَلَا يُشْعِرَنَّ بِكُمْ أَحَدًا 18:19
18:19 And as well We uncovered them to ask each other (wonder amongst themselves), one of them said, “How long were we in this state?”, they said, “ We tarried in this state a Day or part of a day.” He (one of them) said, “Your Lord Knows how long you have tarried, so send one of you with your papers (money?) here to the city to procure the purest food…and do not let anyone sense (become suspicious) of you.”

Having awakened the Cave Dwellers were aware that they did not know the exact passage of time; and not wanting to invite attention to themselves, they cautiously sent someone out to procure food knowing that if the Times had changed their 'papers/money' might give them away; and they apparently were still apprehensive about going back out into the midst of what they believed to be a community still hostile towards them and that could seek to harm them or, worse yet, convert them to joining partners to God for worship. Removing the 'covering' or 'awakening' the sleepers in the Cave calls to mind another one of the 99 Most Beautiful Names, 'Al-Ba'ith' or 'The Awakener,' or 'The Resurrector'; we can assume the sleepers returned as they were when they first had fallen asleep for He is 'Al-Mu'id'--'The Restorer,' since they still recognized each other by the way they picked up where they left off. They were certain only God Knows how long they slept because He is 'Al-'alim' --'The All Knowing,' and 'Al-Khabir' --'The All-Aware,' and they felt He was still around after whatever length of time they had slept because He is 'Al-Quyyum'--'The Self-Existing.'

إِنَّهُمْ إِن يَظْهَرُوا عَلَيْكُمْ يَرْجُمُوكُمْ أَوْ يُعِيدُوكُمْ فِي مِلَّتِهِمْ وَلَن تُفْلِحُوا إِذًا أَبَدًا 18:20
18:20 "If they discover you they will stone you or revert you to their religion and thereby you will not flourish ever."

وَكَذَلِكَ أَعْثَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ
وَأَنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا إِذْ يَتَنَازَعُونَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَمْرَهُمْ
فَقَالُوا ابْنُوا عَلَيْهِم بُنْيَانًا رَّبُّهُمْ أَعْلَمُ بِهِمْ
قَالَ الَّذِينَ غَلَبُوا عَلَى أَمْرِهِمْ لَنَتَّخِذَنَّ عَلَيْهِم مَّسْجِدًا 18:21
18:21 And in this manner We found to teach them God’s Promise is True and there is no Doubting the Hour; as they (those who learned of the Cave Dwellers) quarreled amongst themselves what they should do; one said, ‘Erect over them (in remembrance of them) a building, their Lord Knows of them,” those who overwhelmed (their plans) said, “We shall commemorate them with a temple/place of prayer.”

Sign 18:21 conveys that while Sequestering the youths was a means of Preserving and Protecting them it was also meant to be a Demonstrable Act for them to learn first hand what is meant by God's Promise; that they would be preserved as Witnesses to the Hour (Judgment/Last Day/Resurrection). It is worthwhile to mention some of the other 99 Most Beautiful Attributes connected to God's Actions in Chapter 18, for God is 'Al- Hafiz' meaning 'The Preserver,' since the youths were kept in such a state those many years and by extention 'Al- Waliyy' or 'The Protector' since He Protected them; and having Shielded them from any harm His Attribute as 'Al-Mani','-- 'The Preventer of Harm,' is also inferred in this narrative. This was meant to be not only a Sign for People but a Lesson to the Sleepers, again Him being 'The Teacher of Righteousness'--'Ar-Rashid.'

سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ
رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ
قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاء ظَاهِرًا
وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا 18:22
18:22 So they say, “Three and their dog is their fourth,” and they say, “Five and their dog the sixth (one of them),” casting (guesses) of the Unknown, and they say, “Seven and their dog the eighth…” Say, “My Lord Knows their number; no one knows (the Truth) but few, so do not argue about them except in an obvious (manner); and not one of them (the others) is certain about them (the Cave Dwellers).”

Sign 18:22 refers to the confusion by those who came to learn of the Cave Dwellers about the actual passage of time and even the exact number of how many individuals were involved. Having so many generations pass away while they slept, those who came to know of them could only guess at the facts since no one else had the continuity to accurately assess the span of years that had gone by from the time the youths slept to the time they awakened. So, yet two more of the 99 Names is called to mind since only God has the requisite continuity enabling Him to know the exact length of time, He is 'Al-Hayy" which means 'The Ever-Living,' and He is 'Al-Baqi'--'The Everlasting.'

وَلَا تَقُولَنَّ لِشَيْءٍ إِنِّي فَاعِلٌ ذَلِكَ غَدًا 18:23
18:22 So do not say about anything “I will do it tomorrow.”

إِلَّا أَن يَشَاء اللَّهُ وَاذْكُر رَّبَّكَ إِذَا نَسِيتَ وَقُلْ عَسَى أَن يَهْدِيَنِ رَبِّي لِأَقْرَبَ مِنْ هَذَا رَشَدًا 18:24
18:24 Except (by tempering it with), “God Willing,” and remember Your Lord if you forget and say, “May my Lord Guide me ever closer to Righteousness.”

18:23-18:24 may seem like non sequiturs that have nothing to do with the story's development, but the point made is that none of us can be sure what 'tomorrow' really means; it could be 24 hours from now or a century away; it is only with Guidance that we can be aware enough to know, and that is why it is important to acknowledge the Very Being Who Establishes Time itself. In addition to the Names 'The Ever-Living' and 'The Everlasting,' the Names of God specific to His Command Over Time are 'Al-Maqqaddim' ('The Expediter, Advancer') and 'Al-Muakhkhir' ('The Delayer') since He is able to move Time itself; and His Eternal Quality is further reflected in His Names 'Al-Awwal,'--'The First' and 'Al-Akhkhir'--'The Last.'

وَلَبِثُوا فِي كَهْفِهِمْ ثَلَاثَ مِائَةٍ سِنِينَ وَازْدَادُوا تِسْعًا 18:25
18:25 And they stayed in their Cave 300 years, and increased by 9.

Sign 18:25 is the reason why I decided to forego all of the accepted interpretations and attempt to decode the passage for myself. While the others lead us to believe that this follows from the guessing in 18:22; it reads more like an actual statement as to how long they actually 'slept.' The only part that is vague is whether the 9 that were added were years or individuals that joined the original set of companions. It would appear they were kept in suspended animation for 300 years, give or take, and it would naturally follow that since the number is a multiple of 10 that it is by our perceived time (Base-10) and not the actual number of years (Base-12); if 'a year' is taken for its primary meaning that it is 12 months; but a secondary meaning for 'years' is periods or eons, and that would relegate us back to still just guessing. So the best we can do for our part is an educated guess and it remains that only God Knows the actual span of time they were kept in that state.

قُلِ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا لَبِثُوا لَهُ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَبْصِرْ بِهِ وَأَسْمِعْ مَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا يُشْرِكُ فِي حُكْمِهِ أَحَدًا 18:26
18:26 Say, “God Knows how long they tarried (in that state); His are the Secrets of the Heavens and the Earth; He Sees and Hears all about them (everything concerning Heaven and Earth); there is no Benefactor other than Him; and He does not associate anyone (take partners) in His Dominion.”

Of the 99 Beautiful Names, 'As-Sami'--' 'The All Hearing' and 'Al-Basir'--'The All Seeing,' are mentioned in 18:26; and since He has no need of partners or associates, the Perfect Attribute 'As-Summad'--'The Absolutely Self-Sufficient/Eternally Besought' is described in the story--for having full command of His Dominion without anyone else's assistance; and it follows that everything and everyone else relies on Him and seeks His assistance. Understanding the Secrets of the Unseen that lay hidden and are not otherwise Witnesssed, He is 'Al-Wasi''--'The All-Comprehending,' or 'All-Encompassing.'

وَاتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِن كِتَابِ رَبِّكَ لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَلَن تَجِدَ مِن دُونِهِ مُلْتَحَدًا 18:27
18:27 And Recite what is Inspired in you of Your Lord’s Book; there is no changing His Words and you will find No Refuge but in Him.

With none other to provide us Refuge, He is 'Al-Wakil,' 'The One To Trust,' and personally I found no other Refuge but for Him which makes Him my de facto Friend, 'Ar-Rafiq;' and that's why I took the liberty here of calling Him Names, especially since my Friend has an interesting sense of humor (like dropping me behind enemy lines with a tot at my hem and a babe at my breast and nothing more than a diaper bag for field equipment). But in the final analysis, I can't account for my being here in any other way and that's why He means Everything to me and why I call Him by The Greatest Name--Allah.

اللّه إِلَى ستر
اللّه إِلَى سطر ﺳﻂﺮ
Allah illi satr
God Shielded/veiled ('Wrote'/inscribed/lined this/Ordained this for) me

**Appended 19/12/2009, Consider the position of the Sun with respect to the Cave and the 'Sleeping' Cave Dwellers in light of a recent hypothesis regarding the significance of the pre-historic Cave Paintings at Lascaux, France, 'The Lascaux Cave; A Pre-Historic Sky Map' http://issuu.com/lightmediation/docs/the_lascaux_cave___a_prehistoric_sky-map_3390.

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