Some people say that the event of Ashab Al-Kahf, which is told in the Qur’an, did not happen in history. Can you give some information about it?

The Details of the Question
Some people say that the event of Ashab Al-Kahf, which is told in the Qur’an, did not happen in history. Can you give some information about it?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Firstly, we should not forget that it is very easy it is to prove the existence of something; it is similarly hard to prove its non-existence. For instance, it is enough to present certain pieces of evidence to prove the reality of the event of “Seven Sleepers”. However, to prove that such an event did not take place, one has to travel to all the past times, study all the history books, rebut hundreds of proofs showing that the Qur’an is Allah’s word, disprove the hundreds of miracles which are the documents of Muhammad’s prophethood, peace and blessings upon him, and which are handed down to us from sound sources. Only by this way can one assert such a claim. As it is impossible to realize those conditions, it is not possible to disprove the event of “Seven Sleepers”, either.

Those criteria that we have mentioned are each scientific and logical necessities. Now, just because of the words of a couple of ignorant people, are we going to discard the words of the Qur’an, which has challenged people for about 15 centuries announcing that it is not possible to bring about a similar book, which stands upright with the principles of rhetoric, with disclosing certain news of the unknown, with its astounding and wondrous style?

Certain specific events and subjects that the Qur’an points out are samples indicating the happening of other events. For instance, while mentioning the Barrier of Dhul-Qarnayn, attention is drawn to the barriers, reservoirs, and fortresses like artificial mountains, which humans made in history for protection. Similarly, while information is given about saving the Pharaoh’s body from water and its not being food to fish, and not decaying in the water, attention is drawn to the habits and cults of the old Egypt, to the Egyptian pharaohs who believed traditionally in reincarnation and had themselves mummified thinking that they would be resurrected in another body.

The event of Seven Sleepers can also be evaluated from the same perspective. Through this specific event, emphasis is put on the sufferings that believers were put through by unbelievers, on the patience they showed in the face of any suffering for the sake of their belief and the hardships they underwent, abandoning their homeland and taking refuge in caves.
Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) and other believers were given solace especially because of the sufferings they were put to by the unbelievers during the period of Makkah and they were reminded that during the times of the former prophets, too, believers encountered similar sufferings and still showed patience.

Similarly, the aim of the Qur’an is to give lessons of belief with reference to historical events, rather than instructing history. Therefore, this anecdote especially sets an example for the resurrection after death.

The information found in the sources that this event has different versions in different places shows that there are similar events to this one. For more information about this event, refer to Tabari, Razi; Ibn Kathir, Ibn Atiya, Alusi, Ibn Ashur, the explanation of the 9th and 10th verses of Surah Al-Kahf.

It is quite meaningful that the details of this event are not provided in the Qur’an, that names and places are not specified, and that it is associated with similar events.

It should not be forgotten that we do not learn the fact that the Qur’an is Allah’s word from the event of Seven Sleepers; rather, we learn the accuracy of this event from the Qur’an because there are many proofs that the Qur’an is Allah’s Word and every word of God is true without any doubt.

As in the sources of the Qur’anic explanations, according to the historical records, too, the people of Quraysh, prompted by the Jews, asked the Prophet about this event, and thereupon certain verses were revealed about the subject. (see Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya-Shamila-2/125) According to Ibn Khaldun, the place where this event took place is Afsus. (see Tarikh Ibn Haldun (History, Ibn Haldun), 2/147)

In his History, Tabari, too, explained at length that certain young people who accepted Christianity with the encouragement of Prophet Jesus’ disciples escaped, fearing the king of the time and took refuge in a cave. (see Tarikh Tabari, 1/355-374)
Dhahabi, too, dealt with this subject in his History. (see Dahabi, Tarikhu’l-Islam-Shamila-, 1/55; 1725 (Extensive History of Islam)

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