Are the people mentioned in the Quran as Ashab ar-Raqim three young people?

The Details of the Question

The seven sleepers called Ashab al-Kahf are mentioned in the chapter of al-Kahf along with Ashab ar-Raqim. Who are the people mentioned as Ashab ar-Raqim there? It is said that they are three young people mentioned in a hadith. Is it true?   
Who are those three young people?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The verse in question is as follows:

“Or dost thou reflect that the Companions of the Cave and of the Inscription (Raqim) were wonders among Our Sign?”

Almighty Allah narrates an exemplary incident, the story of “Ashab al-Kahf (Companions of the Cave)”, between verses 9 and 26 of the chapter of al-Kahf in order to make people understand better that Doomsday will strike and that the dead will be resurrected in the hereafter.   

Kahf means a "big and large cave in a mountain" and Ashab al-Kahf means "friends of the cave"; it is used for the people who had been awakened after sleeping in the cave for years".

There are different views in the resources about raqim mentioned together with Ashab al-Kahf in the Quran.

There are scholars who say raqim is the name of the valley or mountain where Ashab al-Kahf were, or the name of their country or even the name of their dog, or an inscription on which their names or adventures are written, or a copper or lead plate.  

Imam Bukhari says raqim is an inscription. (see Bukhari, Anbiya, 52)

According to some historians and a narration in Musnad (4/274), Ashab ar-Raqim are some people other than Ashab al-Kahf.

According to what is narrated, they were three people who had to take refuge in a cave on a rainy day. When a rock rolled down from the mountain and closed the entrance to the cave, each of them mentioned a very good deed they did and prayed to Allah to save them from that trouble. Allah accepted their prayer and saved them.  

According to Arab geographers, raqim is the name of a place.

Thus, there are different views about who or what “Ashab ar-Raqim” mentioned in the verse are. One of the views is that Ashab ar-Raqim are three young people narrated in a hadith.   

It is possible that all of those views and some other views and interpretations are meant by the phrase Ashab ar-Raqim.

The hadith narration about the three young people are as follows:

“Three men from among those who were before you set out together until they reached a cave at night and entered it. A big rock rolled down the mountain and closed the mouth of the cave. Thereupon, they said to each other:

“Nothing could save you from this rock but to invoke Allah by giving reference to the righteous deed you have done.”

One of them narrated the following:

“O Allah! I had old parents and I never provided my family with milk before them in the evening. One day, I went to collect wood to a distant place and could not return before my parents had slept. I milked the sheep for them and took the milk to them, but I found them sleeping. I disliked to awaken them and to provide my family with the milk before them. I waited for them and the bowl of milk was in my hand and I kept on waiting for them to get up till the day dawned.  My children were whining because of hunger. Then, my parents woke up and drank the milk. O Allah! If I did that for Your Sake only, please save us from the trouble caused by this rock.”

Thereupon, the rock moved a bit but the gap was not big enough to go out.

The second one narrated the following:

“O Allah! I had a cousin who was the dearest of all people to me (according to another narration, like the deepest love a man may have for a woman) and I wanted to have a sexual relationship with her but she refused. Later she had a hard time in a famine year and she came to me and I gave her one hundred and twenty gold coins on the condition that she would not resist my desire, and she agreed. When I was about to fulfill my desire (according to another narration, about to start sexual intercourse), she said, ‘Fear Allah; do not outrage my chastity unjustly. So, I feared Allah and left. I also gave the gold coins to her. O Allah! If I did that for Your sake only, please save us from this trouble.

The rock moved a bit more but the gap was still not wide enough.

The third one narrated the following:

“O Allah! I employed few laborers and I paid them their wages with the exception of one man who did not take his wages and went away. I invested his wages and I got much property thereby. Then, after some time, he came and said to me, “O Allah's slave! Pay me my wages” I said to him, “All the camels, cows, sheep and slaves you see, are yours.” He said, “O Allah's slave! Do not mock at me.” I said, “I am not mocking at you.” Thereupon, he took all the herd and drove them away and left nothing. “O Allah! If I did that for Your Sake only, please save us from this trouble.”

Thereupon, the rock at the entrance of the cave moved away and they left the cave. (see Bukhari, Adab 5, Anbiya 53, Buyu’ 98, Ijara 12, Harth 13; Muslim, Dhikr, 100; Ahmad, 4/274)

We should do righteous deeds like those young people so that we can take refuge in them in the face of the problems, misfortunes and tests that we encounter and so that we will be able to ask help from God Almighty through them.

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