Reason for revelation of Surah Kahf

Bismillah Hirahman Niraheem

Imam ibn Jarb al-Tabari has reported from Sayyidna Abdullah ibn Abbas(RA) that the Quraysh of  Makkah (disturbed by the rising influence of the Holy Prophet(SWS) as a prophet) sent two of their men, Nadr ibn Harith and ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt, to the Jewish scholars of Madinah. Their mission was to find out what they said about him as they were learned in past scriptures of the Torah and Injil. The Jewish scholars told them, “put three questions before him. If he answers these correctly, you should know that he is a prophet and messenger of Allah, and if he fails to do that, you should know that he is a pretender and not a messenger. Firstly, ask him about the young men who had left their city in the distant past and what had happened to them, for this is a unique event. Secondly, ask him about the person who had traveled through the East and West of the Earth and what had happened to him. Thirdly, ask him about the Ruh (soul, spirit) as to what it was?”

The two Quraysh emissaries returned to Makkah al-Mukarramah, informed their tribesmen that they had come back with a decisive plan of action and told them all about their encounter with the Jewish scholars of Madinah. Then, these people took these questions to the Holy Prophet(SWS). He heard the questions and said that he will answer them tomorrow.

But, he forgot to say ‘insha’Allah’ at that time. These people went back and the Holy Prophet kept waiting for the Divine revelation in the hope that he will be told about answers to these questions through wahy(revelation). But, no wahy came until the next day as promised. In fact,  fifteen days went by and things stood as they were, neither did Sayyidna Jibrail come nor did the revelation. The Quraysh of Makkah started throwing taunts which caused real pain to the Holy Prophet(SWS).

After fifteen days, came angel Jibrail with Surah al-Kahf (wherein the delay caused has also been explained by saying that one should say ‘insha’Allah’ when promising to do something in the future. Since, this was not done in the event concerned, therefore, revelation was delayed as a measure of reminder. In this Surah, verses relating to this matter were also revealed). Also related in this Surah there was the event about the young men known as Ashaab-al- Kahf or the People of the Cave, and the event concerning the travel of Dhul-Qarnain from the East to the West. Also included therein was the answer to the question asked about ‘Ruh’. But, answering the question about Ruh (soul, spirit) briefly was as dictated by wisdom. This was taken up separately at the end of Surah Bani Israel(1 7:85) and this is the reason why Surah al-Kahf has been placed after Surah Bani Israel  [al-Isra] – as mentioned by Al-Suyuti.

Source: Maariful Quran, Volume 5