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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

18. The Cave (1 – 21)

A Meccan sura which gets its name from the Sleepers of the Cave, whose story takes a prominent place in the sura (verses 9–26). This sura also deals with two other stories: Moses’ meeting with an unidentified figure (verses 60–82), and the story of Dhu ‘l-Qarnayn (verses 83–99). A parable is put forward for the people of Mecca: the parable of the luscious gardens belonging to an arrogant and ungrateful man, which God reduces to dust. The sura opens and closes with references to the Qurʾan itself.

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1Praise be to God, who sent down the Scripture to His servant and made it unerringly straight, 2warning of severe punishment from Him, and [giving] glad news to the believers who do good deeds—an excellent reward 3that they will always enjoy. 4It warns those people who assert, ‘God has offspring.’a Walad in classical Arabic applies to masculine and feminine, singular and plural. As this sura is Meccan, it most probably refers to Meccan claims that the angels are daughters of God. 5They have no knowledge about this, nor did their forefathers—it is a monstrous assertion that comes out of their mouths: what they say is nothing but lies. 6But [Prophet] are you going to worry yourself to death over them if they do not believe in this message?

7We have adorned the earth with attractive things so that We may test people to find out which of them do best, 8but We shall reduce all this to barren dust.9[Prophet], do you find the Companions in the Cave and al-Raqimb Al-Raqim is variously interpreted as being the name of the mountain in which the cave was situated, the name of their dog, or an inscription bearing their names. so wondrous, among all Our other signs? 10When the young men sought refuge in the cave and said, ‘Our Lord, grant us Your mercy, and find us a good way out of our ordeal,’ 11We sealed their ears [with sleep] in the cave for years. 12Then We woke them so that We could make clear which of the two partiesc See verse 19. was etter able to work out how long they had been there.

13[Prophet], We shall tell you their story as it really was. They were young men who believed in their Lord, and We gave them more and more guidance. 14We gave strength to their hearts when they stood up and said, ‘Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and earth. We shall never call upon any god other than Him, for that would be an outrageous thing to do. 15These people of ours have taken gods other than Him. Why do they not produce clear evidence about them? Who could be more unjust than someone who makes up lies about God? 16Now that you have left such people, and what they worshipped instead of God, take refuge in the cave. God will shower His mercy on you and make you an easy way out of your ordeal.’

17You could have seen the [light of the] sun as it rose, moving away to the right of their cave, and when it set, moving away to the left of them, while they lay in the wide space inside the cave. (This is one of God's signs: those people God guides are rightly guided, but you will find no protector to lead to the right path those He leaves to stray.) 18You would have thought they were awake, though they lay asleep. We turned them over, to the right and the left, with their dog stretching out its forelegs at the entrance. If you had seen them, you would have turned and run away, filled with fear of them.

19In time We woke them, and they began to question one another. One of them asked, ‘How long have you been here?’ and [some] answered, ‘A day or part of a day,’ but then [others] said, ‘Your Lord knows best how long you have been here. One of you go to the city with your silver coins, find out where the best food is there, and bring some back. But be careful not to let anyone know about you: 20if they found you out, they would stone you or force you to return to their religion, where you would never come to any good.’ 21In this way We brought them to people's attention so that they might know that God's promise [of resurrection] is true and that there is no doubt about the Last Hour, [though] people argue among themselves.

Notes:

a Walad in classical Arabic applies to masculine and feminine, singular and plural. As this sura is Meccan, it most probably refers to Meccan claims that the angels are daughters of God.

b Al-Raqim is variously interpreted as being the name of the mountain in which the cave was situated, the name of their dog, or an inscription bearing their names.

c See verse 19.

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