Did Ashab al-Kahf (the people of the Cave) / Seven Sleepers and our Prophet live at the same time period? Did they know about each other?

Details of the Question
Did Ashab al-Kahf (the people of the Cave) / Seven Sleepers and our Prophet live at the same time period? Did they know about each other?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The eighteenth chapter of the Quran, in which the story of Ashab al-Kahf is narrated, is called "Kahf (Cave)".

According to what is stated in verses 9-26 of the chapter, a few young people who believed in the existence and oneness of Allah in an idolatrous nation declared their faith openly and opposed idolatry; they took refuge in a cave because they feared that they would be stoned to death or that they would be forced to change their religion. The young people who fell asleep there with their dog woke up 309 years later. This period is stated as follows: in the Quran: "So they stayed in their Cave three hundred years, and (some) add nine (more)."The addition of 9 to 300 years is regarded as the expression of the solar year and the lunar year. 

The young people who thought to have slept about "a day or part of a day"in the cave sent one of them to the city to buy some food with a silver coin. Thus, those who found out about their situation understood that Allah's promise was true and that the Doomsday would definitely strike; then, they decided to build a mosque in the place where the cave was located.   

The information about the issue in the question is different in tafsirs. (see the interpretation of the relevant verse in Tabari, Baghawi, Hazin, Ibn Kathir, Tabarsi, Zamakhshari)

According to some scholars, the incident of the People of the Cave took place Before Christ about Jews. The fact that the chapter of al-Kahf was sent down in Makkah supports this view. For, when Makkans went to Madinah, they asked the Jews to ask the Prophet three questions about "the Spirit, Dhu al-Qarnayn and Ashab al-Kahf". Therefore, the issue has nothing to do with Christians. (see Ibn Kathir, al-Maraghi, the interpretation of the chapter of al-Kahf)

Similarly, according to some scholars, the king Dakianus, who was an enemy of Christians and who was an idolater, reigned only for one year, circa the year 237 A.D.The young Christians who escaped due to fearing Dakianus took refuge in the cave and slept for 300 years; then, they woke up during the period of the king Kaysar as-Saghir (Savuzuzyos). (see Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the chapter of al-Kahf)

However, according to some scholars, Dakianus reigned between 284 and 305 A.D. (see at-Tafsiru'l-Hadith, the interpretation of the chapter of al-Kahf)

Even if we accept that this last narration, which is one of the several different narrations, is true, it will be seen that the incident did not take place during the period of the Prophet. For, it is highly probable that this incident occurred during the first year/years of the King Dakianus because this cruel king started to oppress the religious people as soon as he became the king. From this point of view, it is highly probable that this incident took place between 284 and 290 A.D.Accordingly, the People of the Cave woke up circa 590 A.D. (290+300=590).

We should also state that if this incident had taken place during the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) (612), neither such a question would have been asked nor there would have been much disagreement about their number.

Besides, as Fakhruddin ar-Razi puts it, it is not possible to know it clearly since there is no verse or hadith regarding the place and time the people of the Cave lived. In addition, as a necessity of the method the Quran uses, detailed information that will push the main message to be given into the background and that will overshadow the main purpose of the story is not given in the stories and incidents like this one.  Instead of unimportant information in terms of the lesson to be taken like the number of the people in the cave, when and where they lived and how long they slept, the issues that need to be taken lessons from are given prominence. 

To sum up:

- Rather than unimportant information in terms of the lesson to be taken like the number of the people in the cave, when and where they lived and how long they slept, the issues that need to be taken lessons from are given prominence.

- The messages aimed to be given to believers through the story of the People of the Cave, which exists in Judaism and Christianity and which is repeated in the Quran briefly, are as follows:  

The struggle between belief and unbelief has always existed.

Believers have always been oppressed but the wrong has never been dominant over the truth.

Allah absolutely makes those who believe sincerely and act in accordance with their belief successful.

Allah, who creates everything out of nothing, has the power to resurrect people again.

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