The Peoples of the Cave, Ras and Sabt
THE PEOPLE OF THE CAVE
In their attempts to discredit the Holy Prophet (S), the Quraish of Mecca sent three men to the Jewish scholars in Najran. They were sent to learn some difficult problems from the ancient scriptures of the Jews and bring them back to test the Holy Prophet (S). The Jews gave the Quraish some questions about the Seven Sleepers of the Cave, whose account was known to only a few special scholars. The men returned to Mecca and posed these questions to the Holy Prophet (S) and the whole story was revealed to him in Surae Kahf. The Holy Qur'an says:
Do you not think that the people of the Cave and of the Inscription (Raqeem) were of Our wonderful signs? When the youths sought refuge in the cave they prayed, "Lord grant us mercy and help us to get out of this trouble in a righteous way." We sealed their ears for a number of years. Then We roused them to see which of the party had the correct account of the duration of their sleep. We tell you this story for a genuine purpose. They were young people who believed in their Lord and We gave them further guidance. We strengthened their hearts when they stood up (against the idol-worshippers) and said, "Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We shall never worship anyone other than Him, lest we commit blasphemy.
Surae Kahf, 18 : 9 - 14
Afsoos was a famous city that once flourished on the West Coast of Asia Minor. It was part of the Roman Empire and the king was a kind and just ruler. During his reign, there was peace and prosperity. When he died, there was a division amongst the people as to who should rule. While they had no leader, Dacius, a neighbouring king, invaded their land and annexed it to his kingdom. He ruled them from 249 A.D. to 251 A.D. Dacius was a heathen and a violent persecutor of the faithful Christians who lived at the time.
Six (or seven) young men stood up for their beliefs and had to leave the town to escape the cruel king. On their way, they met a shepherd who gave them some water to drink.
When they told him about their intention of finding a secluded place to worship Allah in peace, he joined them with his dog, Qitmir.
The shepherd led them to a fertile valley, through which they came upon a mountain and entered a cave called Kahf. Meanwhile, Dacius followed the fugitives, determined to make an example of them. When they heard the sounds of pursuit get closer, the men prayed to Allah to rescue them from the merciless king.
Soon afterwards the young men were overcome with a deep sleep and the dog sat outside the cave. The king reached the spot and sent in his minister to bring the men out. The minister was a faithful believer in Prophet Isa (A). When he when he saw the young men sleeping, he came out and reported that they had all died of fright. This news pleased the king, who ordered that the cave be shut. A stone tablet, with the name of the men and the date of the event inscribed on it, was put at the entrance of the cave.
This is why these people have been referred to as those of the Cave and the Inscription in the Holy Qur'an, which says:
They will say, "They were three, the fourth of them was their dog", and (others) say, "Five, the sixth of them was their dog", guessing about the unknown; and (others) say, "Seven and the eighth of them was their dog." Say (O Muhammad), "My Lord knows best their number...
Surae Kahf, 18 : 22(Part)
Allah caused the young men to sleep for about 180 years before they woke up. When they consulted one another it seemed to them that they had slept for a day or even less. They were all starving so they decided that one of them would go into town and secretly purchase some food and bring it back. They prayed to Allah to first open the entrance to the cave. This prayer was granted and they emerged from the cave. The sight that greeted them amazed them. The entire landscape had changed. Little did they know that Dacius was long dead and this was the time of the reign of the kind Christian king Theodosius I, who ruled from 408 A.D. to 450 A.D.
The man who went to the town to get food saw that everything was different. The houses did not look right and people were dressed in strange clothes. He looked about in amazement, wondering if he was dreaming. At length, he approached a baker and asked for some bread. The baker was surprised to see the oddly dressed young man who spoke an ancient dialect and was offering him outdated money.
He asked him whether he had discovered the coins in some treasure. The young man replied, "No, this is the money I made after selling my dates the day before yesterday."
The baker did not believe this tale and took the man to the king. When the young man told his story, the king informed him that Dacius was long dead and he then asked to be shown the cave and its inhabitants. Just before they reached the mountain, the young men told the king and his courtiers, "Let me inform my comrades of the situation so that they are not alarmed by your presence."
When he entered the cave and told the rest about his experiences, they were worried that it might be a trick and that they would be arrested. Therefore, they prayed to Allah to restore them to their original condition. Their prayer was granted and they were again overcome with a deep sleep.
After a while the king approached the cave and found the men and their dog asleep. The sight made him believe their story and he decided to build a mosque at the spot in respect of the miracle that had occurred at this place. The Holy Qur'an says:
And they stayed in the Cave three hundred years and add nine (more).
Surae Kahf, 18 : 25
THE PEOPLE OF RAS
The people of Ras lived between Azarbaijan and Armenia on the bank of the river Ras during the time just after Prophet Sulayman (A). They lived in twelve towns situated along the river. The largest of these towns was Isfandar where the king, Tarqooz, lived. Tarqooz was a descendant of the cruel king Namrud who had ruled at the time of Prophet Ibrahim (A).
The people of Ras worshipped the "Sanobar". This was a huge pine tree that had been originally planted at Isfandar by Yafas, son of Prophet Nuh (A), after the great flood. There was a spring at the foot of the pine tree and nobody was allowed to drink from it because it was considered to be the life blood of the god.
The people of Ras cultivated the lands around the river and Allah blessed them with a pleasant climate and a life of comfort. In spite of this, they were unmindful of His favours and thoughtlessly turned to the pine tree for their needs. Twigs from the great tree would be taken to homes and also worshipped. During the days of festival, animal flesh would be burnt and offered to the tree as sacrifices.
To educate and guide these ignorant people, Allah sent to them His Prophet. Although the name of the Prophet is not mentioned in history, we do know that he was from the descendants of Yahuda, son of Prophet Ya'qub (A).
The Prophet tried to bring the people to their senses by pointing out the error of their ways. He taught them about the blessings and bounties of Allah and warned them not to worship anything besides Him. However, in spite of his continuous efforts, the people turned a deaf ear to the Prophet's words and carried on worshipping their pine tree.
On the day of their festival the Prophet sadly watched the people prepare for the ceremonies. As he observed the dedication and enthusiasm with which they were preparing to glorify their tree, he invoked Allah to dry up the tree so that the people may realise the absurdity of their worship.
The prayer was granted by Allah and the shocked people watched their pine tree wither and begin to die before their eyes. However, instead of learning a lesson, they decided that their god was annoyed at the interference of the Prophet and resolved to sacrifice him to appease their god.
The people of Ras seized the Prophet and threw him into a large pit. Thereafter, they covered the pit and thus buried him alive. For some time the cries of the Prophet were heard but then there was quiet as his soul departed this world. The people turned to their tree to see if it had recovered. Instead, they noticed the signs of Divine Punishment.
Suddenly, the Wrath of Allah broke over the whole tribe. A red blast of wind swept through them and destroyed the entire population.
All that was left at the end was a black cloud which hung over the entire region, plunging it into darkness. Thus, the people of Ras faded into obscurity, providing posterity with a valuable lesson.
The Holy Qur'an mentions them in the following verses:
And the (tribes of) Aad and Thamud and the inhabitants of Ras, and generations between them in a great number. And to each of them We gave examples (lessons, warnings) and We destroyed every one (of them) with an utter extermination.
Surae Furqan, 25 : 38,39
...The people of Nuh and the dwellers of Ras, Thamud, Aad, Fir'aun and the brethren of Lut and the dwellers of the Forest and the people of Thubba' had all rejected the Prophets. Thus My promise (of their doom) was proved true.
Surae Qaaf, 50 : 12 - 14
THE PEOPLE OF SABT
Prophet Musa (A) had taught the Bani Israa'il (Jews) to designate one particular day for the worship of Allah . On that day they were to abandon all their business or leisure activities. Originally, the day of Friday was specified, but at the request of the Bani Israa'il, it was changed to Saturday. This day, the Sabbath, became a holiday for the Jews and on Saturdays Prophet Musa (A) used to address a special congregation and preach to the people. For many years after Prophet Musa (A), the Sabbath was faithfully observed as a religious day. However, in the time of Prophet Dawood (A), one group of the Bani Israa'il, who lived at the seaport of Ela, broke the Divine rule. The people of Ela were mainly fishermen and fished the seas everyday except Saturday. Allah tested their faith by making the fish become very easy to catch on Saturdays. The Holy Qur'an says:
And (O Muhammad) ask them about the (people of the) town which was beside the sea; when they exceeded (the limits) in the Sabbath when their fish came to them on the day of their Sabbath, appearing on the surface of the water; and on the day they did not observe the Sabbath, they (the fish) did not come unto them. Thus did We try them, for they were transgressing. And when a part of them said, "Why do you preach to those whom Allah would destroy or punish by a severe torment?" They replied, "To be free from blame before your Lord, so that perhaps they may become pious." - Surae A'raf, 7 : 163,164
The fishermen were tempted by the easy catches to be made on Saturday and they thought of a plan to get around the Divine restriction. They decided to dig trenches and canals to divert the fish. On Saturdays, the canals were opened and the fish would swim into them in large numbers. At night, before the fish could return back to the sea, the canals were dammed. Then on Sundays the fishermen would easily catch all the trapped fish.
The wise and pious people of the tribe advised these greedy fishermen not to violate the command of Allah . They considered it their duty to guide those who were in error, because otherwise they would also be to blame for the consequences. However, the fishermen continued disobeying the Divine commandment and even boasted about their cleverness.
Finally, the punishment of Allah came down and their faces were transformed into those of animals. After three days and nights all the sinners were destroyed. The Holy Qur'an says:
[And indeed you know of those amongst you who transgressed on the Sabbath, so We said unto them, "Become apes, despised and spurned!" And We made it a lesson for (those of) their own times and those (of their posterity) who came after them and a guidance for those who guard against evil.
Surae Baqarah, 2 : 65,66]