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And, their dog lay outstretching its two forelegs on the threshold... (Al-Kahf 18:18)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’l-Kahf (The Cave)

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وَكَلْبُهُم بَاسِطٌ ذِرَاعَيْهِ بِالْوَصِيدِ ۚ لَوِ اطَّلَعْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ لَوَلَّيْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِرَارًا وَلَمُلِئْتَ مِنْهُمْ رُعْبًا
And, their dog lay outstretching its two forelegs on the threshold. Had you come upon them unprepared, you would certainly have turned away from them in flight, and would certainly have been filled with awe of them. (Al-Kahf 18:18)

Ashābu’l-Kahf, as mentioned above, were the Companions of the Cave who set their hearts on and risked their lives for the communication of their Religion. By describing their experience in a style unique to itself, the Qur’ān presents various messages to the heroes of a heavenly ideal who will continue to come until the end of time. Indeed, those who are determined to convey the message of Islam to others for their guidance have to be first charged like the Companions of the Cave and gain metaphysical alertness and intensity. This spiritual intensity can be attained through remaining in a cave, or staying in seclusion, for some time as well as following the way of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad, may God be pleased with them all. The House of Ibn Arqam (Dāru’l Arqam)[1] sufficed for the Companions to attain the necessary metaphysical intensity. Certainly, it is not necessary to do exactly the same as those preceding us did. Even though it is necessary to be charged with energy to strive against heresies and injustices and attain metaphysical intensity, the way to this state can change according to time and conditions. Once the goal is determined, there may be different, religiously acceptable ways to reach it. The energy and spiritual or metaphysical intensity can be attained sometimes through individual retreat in a cave or coming together in a house or in some other way. Representing and conveying the message follow being charged with the necessary energy and the attainment of the necessary spiritual intensity.

As for the verse above, the dog of the Companions of the Cave was both a deterrent and a guard at the entrance of the cave. It was not one of the Companions. The Qur’ān indicates this with Its characteristic style: “Still others will say: ‘They were seven, their dog being the eighth’.” (Al-Kahf 18:22). That is, while mentioning their number, the Qur’ān cites the dog separately. Besides, while describing the position or duty of the dog, it draws the attention to its intimidating posture. This intimidation was supported and strengthened by the positions of the Companions lying in the Cave. The Qur’ān describes this as follows: “Had you come upon them unprepared, you would certainly have turned away from them in flight.”

Now, let us have a birdeye view of some of the points in the verse related to our time:

1. There will always be heroic people like the Companions of the Cave, and they will be followed by others who like to be together with them even though they do not share exactly the same views, beliefs, and ways of action.

2. Those who retreat to a cave or are forced to remain in a cave for some time should not neglect having guards or sentries. For not only themselves but their houses or institutions may be the target of different attacks. Therefore, they should take the necessary precautions and even have dogs in front of their houses.

3. These dogs should not be ordinary ones. They should be able to resist any kind of outside attacks. Also, they should be so deterrent and intimidating in their physical appearance that they can instill terror in the hearts of illintentioned people.

4. A person is human to the extent that they can adopt and protect human values. Once people lose human values, they become like cattle, maybe lower than cattle, as is stated in the Qur’ān, as well: “They are like cattle; rather, even more astray (from the right way and in need of being led)” (Al-‘Arāf 7:179). Another verse stresses this in a clearer way: “…but he clung to the earth and followed his desires. So (in his being surrendered to greed), his likeness is that of a dog: if you move to drive it away, it pants with its tongue lolling out (still hoping to be fed more), or if you leave it, it pants with its tongue lolling out” (Al-‘Arāf 7:176).

What I can derive from these realities is that God Almighty, Who protected the Ashābu’l-Kahf with a dog of frightening appearance, protects those who act like the Ashābu’l-Kahf in every period by means of those who have not yet been able to get rid of savagery and attain human perfection. God confirms and strengthens His Religion and those who represent and convey it to others even with certain wicked people. We can see many examples of this reality in history. Even at the times when some European tyrants, Asian hypocrites, and many other wild enemies of the Religion assaulted devoted Muslims condemning them with “fundamentalism, reactionary behavior, and bigotry,” a great number of people who did not share their beliefs and positions exactly emerged to protect them, representing God’s help and preservation.

5. It is pretty common that the communities where the heroes of Islamic life and communication live as well as the political systems of these communities have sheltered them. Of course, this depends on the foresight of the conveyer to a certain extent. While the cruel enemies of Muslims take full advantage of certain possibilities and sow seeds of sedition and corruption in the body of society on behalf of their corrupt feelings, ideas and beliefs, Muslims, too, should serve their mission using the same opportunities—even if not equally. That is, any social or political structure can become a shield or armor for the servants of God. In other words, those who want to attack them from outside will get stuck in the obstacle before their “cave.” Actually, not everyone believes to the same degree, but it should not be ignored that everybody will put forth their humanity to the extent that they believe.

[1] Ibn Arqam, one of the Prophet’s young Companions, offered his house in Makkah to be used for religious gatherings of the Prophet where he taught his small band of Companions, recited them the Revelations, and led the Prayers in congregation for several years during which believers were being closely watched and harassed by the polytheist Makkans to stop the conveyance of the Divine Message. (Tr.)