Sixty-One Lesson From the Story of the Owner of the Two Gardens. The aim of this article is two-fold:
1. To provide an example of how research and contemplation (in this case, by our scholars) can lead to obtaining a lot of knowledge and guidance from just a small number of Qur’anic verses.
2. To display tafsir in a format, suitable for possibly easier reading and understanding.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
Make an example for them of two men. To one of them We gave two gardens of grapevines and surrounded them with date-palms, putting between them some cultivated land. [Al-Kahf (18):32]
1. Though this example was put forward to the proud Quraish who were arrogant towards the weak and the poor, believers should put it forward in similar situations and utilize the story’s lessons in their call to Allah.
2. This is a story of a caller to Allah in a disbelieving society that enjoys wealth and authority, and allows freedom of creed and opinion as well as freedom to call to Allah. Muslims living in such societies can make the best use of the story’s lessons when calling to Allah.
Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them. And he had fruit, so he said to his companion, debating with him:
“I have more wealth than you and more people under me.” [18:33-34]
3. Here we see what matters to the disbeliever. Qatadah said, “This, by Allah, is the wish of the immoral: to have a lot of wealth and a large entourage.”
4. Disbelieving society evaluates matters in terms of wealth and power.
5. Disbelievers fail to apply materialistic norms to the issue of faith so they reject both the faith and its caller.
6. Disbelievers’ religious choices are affected by the material wealth and power of those who call them to a particular faith.
7. The “superiority” of wealth caused the disbeliever to become not only arrogant towards the believer but also proud and heedless towards Allah.
He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying:
“I do not think that this will ever perish.” [18:35]
8. One who sins is wronging and abusing himself first and foremost.
9. Thinking that the garden will never perish shows the disbeliever’s lack of understanding. On the Day of Judgment their lack of intelligence will become apparent to them. The Qur’an says,
“And they will say: ‘Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the blazing Fire!’” [67:10]
10. Some believe that their property is the fruit of their own effort and intellect. They resemble Qarun, the arrogant tyrant whom Allah destroyed and who said,
“This has been given to me only because of knowledge I possess.” [28:78]
How many are those who are heedless of Allah’s Lordship and who believe that their possessions and successes in matters of life are due to their own efforts and abilities.
11. One should trust what is in Allah’s Hand more than what is in one’s own. One should not more place trust on one’s wealth, knowledge and “connections” than on Allah `azza wa jall.
I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I surely shall find better than this when I return to Him. [18:36]
12. The disbeliever rejected the Hour specifically, for rejecting it is a rejection of accountability.
13. One should not be deluded by Allah’s gifts in this world by believing that He was given those gifts in this world because he is dear to Allah. Allah gives the good of this world to both believers and disbelievers, while the good of the Akhirah is reserved for believers only.
14. Well-to-do and influential disbelievers often suffer from high-handedness, arrogance and reliance on materialistic norms and reasoning, and don’t stop short of making ignorant remarks about Allah.
15. This verse describes people who believe that they will enter Paradise without observing the boundaries established by Allah or obeying His commands. There are many who are similarly deluded. They don’t fail to strive for this world while they think that they will obtain the next one for free, even though it is incomparably worthier.
His companion, with whom he was debating, said to him:
“Do you not, then, believe in Him Who created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm (nutfah), and then formed you as a man? [18:37]
16. The believer used a suitable form of logical reasoning to render useless the material norms used by the disbeliever as a foundation to discuss the issue. For not only is nutfah something material, but the materialistic logic could not be applied to that stage of life when no one had any wealth or authority.
17. The material issue of creation from nutfah that the believer uses in his call can be explained through faith in Allah and His ability to create, seeking to draw the disbeliever away from the purely material.
18. The disbeliever denies the Hour, yet if he realized that Allah fashioned our hearing, sight, understanding and organs from dust and then nutfah, he would not deny Allah’s ability to resurrect us.
19. One should remember that we were nothing, and that we were created from something we deem lowly (dust and nutfah), and that we came out twice from a private part; all of which should result in humbleness and not arrogance.
20. One who understands that his existence is not due to himself or any other creature should also recognize that one’s blessings and wealth are also from Allah.
21. The caller to Allah living in a materialistic society should choose the method appropriate to the capabilities and culture of such society, as the psychology of its people is closely attached to material issues.
22. One should comprehend the deficiencies in the disbelievers’ intellectual system and should try to mend them through a suitable and sound approach.
23. The proper way to warn those who have forgotten their helplessness before Allah and have become arrogant is to remind them of their helplessness.
24. The believing garden owner realized his neighbor’s weak faith and perceived the need to provide support. Believers should similarly be sympathetic towards misguided people and proactive in calling them to Allah.
25. To explain Allah’s signs in nature is one of the best ways to strengthen another person’s faith.
26. The speech of the arrogant garden owner evokes the style of a disbeliever, so the believer begins his question with “Do you not, then, believe in Him?” The other person might not be openly proclaiming his disbelief, but his words clearly show that he does not believe with certainty. Although he may profess belief with his words, he does not actually abide by Allah’s law. One often meets such self-contradicting people. Most people say they believe in Allah, but they disobey Him and do not lead a life that pleases Him. Despite their words and deeds, which amount to denial, they consider themselves righteous and destined for Paradise. But they are only deceiving themselves, for Allah says that:
“As for those who denied Our Signs and the encounter of the Hereafter, their actions will come to nothing. Will they be repaid except for what they did?” [7:147]
“But as for my part (I believe) that He is Allah, my Lord, and I will not associate anyone with my Lord.” [18:38]
27. A believer should not be weak and should be proud of his faith.
28. The believer reiterated his faith in Allah, making an indirect call to the disbeliever not to pose at the issue of the creation of man but to move from it to reconsider the issue of faith which is the principal aim of this dialogue.
29. The believer says that He will not associate anyone with his Lord, knowing that Allah will never forgive that particular sin [4:116] and that shirk causes good deeds to be erased, which leads to ultimate loss. The Qur’an reveals this:
“It has been revealed to you and those before you: ‘If you associate others with Allah, your actions will come to nothing, and you will be among the losers.’” [39:65]
Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say:
“It is as Allah wills. There is no strength but in Allah (maa shaa’ Allah la quwwata illa billah).” Though you see me with less wealth and children than you possess. “It may well be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden, and send down upon it a fireball from the sky so that morning finds it a shifting heap of dust, or morning finds its water drained into the ground so that you cannot get at it.” [18:39-41]
30. Here we see the importance of saying “maa shaa’ Allah” (It is as Allah wills). Believers use it to express their respect when regarding the superior art and power of Allah’s creation. Using this expression in a heartfelt manner reminds others that Allah owns all things, that everything happens according to destiny, and that only He can will anything to happen. Such reminders are beneficial, as people easily forget their own helplessness.
31. If one considers one’s self, intellect, or effort to be the cause of one’s wealth this could turn into ascribing partners to Allah.
32. The families of the rich should not put all their hopes on that person so that they forget that Allah is the Lord of all wealth. Nor should people consider their employers as an independent power capable of many things and seek to please them seeking provision while disobeying Allah. The Qur’an reveals the truth of such matters,
“Instead of Allah, you worship only idols. You are inventing a lie. Those you worship besides Allah have no power to provide for you. So seek your provision from Allah, and worship Him and give thanks to Him. It is to Him you will be returned.” [29:17]
33. One of the greatest mistakes of those whose property and wealth make them vain is to forget that those, like all the beauty on Earth, are only temporary. Beauty and youth eventually give way to old age, just as health makes way for illness, incapacity, and weakness.
34. Those who are deceived by their wealth and children are short-sighted, as on the Day of Judgment neither wealth nor property will be of any use, for:
“As for those who disbelieve, neither their wealth nor their children will ever save them from Allah in any way.” [3:10]
35. The disbeliever was certain that the river watering his gardens would remain there forever, that no pest would ever attack his produce, and that he would not face drought or similar disasters. He felt that his wealth, intelligence, and effort would be enough to protect his property.
36. The intelligent realize not only that Allah can withhold his blessings but if He were to do so, no one else would be able to bring them back. Who, other than Allah, could bring the river back or make this man’s field productive once again?
37. Since everyone experiences only what Allah has ordained, they should submit to and trust in Allah, remembering their helplessness and poverty:
“Mankind! You are the poor in need of Allah, whereas Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. If He wills, He can dispense with you and bring about a new creation. That is not difficult for Allah.” [35:15-17]
38. It is a great gift of Allah that soothing underground water rises to the surface. Had this not been so, people would be in great difficulty.
39. The conceit of the disbeliever was the reason for the disorder in his way of thinking so the believer sought to mend the disorder by stressing the following: a) feeling the will of Allah that controls all provision, b) belief that all power is for Allah and that He is the source of any of our limited abilities, c) reminding that wealth might disappear and move from one person to another by the will and decree of Allah.
40. The believer should raise the dialogue to a level higher than the materialistic one, seeking to draw the disbeliever away from a purely material discussion towards one of faith.
The fruits of his labor were completely destroyed, and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, in sorrow over everything that he had spent on it. It was a ruin with all of its trellises fallen in. He exclaimed:
“Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!” [18:42]
41. The disbeliever who is blinded and weighs things in a materialistic manner suffers a greater shock due to his material loss than due to the sermons of believers.
42. A material loss causes a greater suffering to a disbeliever than to a believer who does not look at matters in a materialistic way.
43. The mentality of the people of disbelief is that they increase in high handedness and arrogance due to abundance of wealth and authority, and they break down and weaken when that wealth and authority disappear.
44. The disbelievers feel lost and lonely, especially in moments of trouble. They feel hopeless, confused, and deserted by their false deities in the face of this world’s endless chaos and troubles. The Qur’an says,
“Do not set up any other deity together with Allah lest you become disgraced and forsaken.” [17:22]
45. Disbelievers’ seeing is blurred by the material wealth and when that wealth vanishes as though they regain their sight and are able to see.
46. Callers to Allah should make use of the opportunity created by situations in which the disbelievers’ vision is less blurred by the material wealth and power. Calling to Allah in such states of weakness, in which all barriers that deprive minds from comprehending the truth fall, could lead to numerous people of perversion to be guided.
47. Those who consider themselves the owners of any power in the land can be made to realize their helplessness instantly by the will of Allah.
48. Allah provides and heals, and brings about both laughter and tears. Every other being is endlessly helpless, poor, and dependent. They have no power and no ability in their own right, and do not have even the power to help themselves. No one other than Allah can be trusted, expected to help, and asked to provide for us.
“If Allah touches you with harm, none can remove it but Him. If He touches you with good, He has power over all things.” [6:17]
49. The nature of a disbelieving human is such that he changes greatly depending on whether he is in a state of bliss or difficulty. The Qur’an says,
“Verily, man (disbeliever) was created very impatient. Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him and niggardly when good touches him.” [70:21]
50. Children and wealth are only a trial for those who disbelieve.
“Do they think that We enlarge them in wealth and children? We hasten unto them with good things (in this worldly life so that they will have no share of good things in the Hereafter)? Nay, but they perceive not.” [23:56]
51. Regretting is vain once the Divine Decree comes to pass.
52. One should wholeheartedly accept the advice of one’s compassionate brother and appreciate one’s advising companions. As `Umar said,
“May Allah have mercy on one who discloses to us our mistakes”.
There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, nor was he able to defend himself. There (on the Day of Resurrection), Al-Walâyah (the protection, power, authority and kingdom) will be for Allah (Alone), the True God. He gives the best reward and the best outcome. [18:43-44]
53. Only Allah can protect one from harm.
54. On the Day of Resurrection, everyone will know that all authority and sovereignty is for Allah alone. The intelligent are those who act according to that knowledge in this life as well.
55. Allah is the Best for reward and the Best for the final end: trading with Allah is better than anything else as He gives the best of all rewards.
56. The fundamental issues around which the dialogue was centered were belief in Allah, resurrection, accountability and reward or punishment on the Day of Judgment. These, in fact, should be the issues on which every caller to Allah should concentrate.
57. The theme of the creation of man is an appropriate theme for dialogue with disbelieving wealthy people, for creation is the issue that is acceptable to intellectual reasoning. It is at the same time an issue of faith.
Make a metaphor for them of the life of this world. It is like water that We send down from the sky, and the plants of Earth combine with it, and it becomes fresh and green. But (later) it becomes dry chaff scattered by the winds. Allah has absolute power over everything. Wealth and children are the adornment of the life of this world. But, in your Lord’s sight, right actions that are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope. [18:45-46]
58. People should do right actions to win His good pleasure and grace, as well as Paradise, for these actions reveal the Muslims’ patience and devotion. They are a better basis for hope in the Hereafter than wealth and children and show that such are serious about their faith.
59. Believers should contemplate the cycle of life remembering that the life here is not everlasting.
60. Callers to Allah should have a strong immunity when confronting all attractions of this worldly life and its adornments represented in wealth and children through understanding the reality of this life and the keenness to gain what is in store with Allah.
61. A caller’s clarity of understanding the reality of life should be reflected in his behavior so that he might be a good example in a disbelieving society.
Adapted and summarized from different sources by islaam.com
a. Dr. Mohammad al-Khodary: Callers to Allah in the Light of the Cave
b. Harun Yahya: Signs of the End Times in Surat al Kahf
c. Ibn Kathir: Tafsir Ibn Kathir
d. Ibn Kathir: Stories of the Qur’an