سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا “
They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.” [18:22]
“No, but…” she said hand on hip, pointing a finger at us all.
Her face lit up. “What if he saw the Angel of death before he crashed into the tree? Because if he did, then I think maybe the fright he got when he saw the Angel caused him to swerve and then crash! I think that happened.” She said nodding her head agreeing with her own predictions.
I recently heard a sister say something close to this at my college regarding a famous celebrity who passed away in a car accident. The sister, to make things sound interesting I suppose, was speculating about when this man actually saw the Angel of death… was it before the car swerved or as it hit the tree?
This was something that shocked me. This is just one example, but there are so many other instances when things like this happen. When people begin to question and guess at the unseen when knowing the answer to their question has no benefit whatsoever either in this world or the next. People do this for amusement, debate, argument etc.
There is a type of questioning which will lead to beneficial answers and will increase one in knowledge, but on the other hand there is also another type of questioning, questioning of matters the knowledge of which only lies with Allah and will not bring us any benefit. With such things, the best thing to do is stay quiet, because as human beings, we’ve got to accept that we won’t always know everything.
“They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen…”
In this verse in Surah Kahf, Allah talks about a group of people, similar to the group we discussed earlier, who sit in gatherings, debating and guessing, in this situation, of the number of the companions of the cave. Yet, what does Allah command the Prophet (Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam) to tell them?
He says: “Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala could have easily revealed to us the answer to this question. But He chose not to. In doing so he teaches us a lesson. In matters like these we should accept what we are told, not speculate about what we don’t know and leave it to Allah. Allah clearly informs them to not argue without evidence, for such things lead to speculation. We waste so much time arguing over matters we have no control over, that are unseen to us, that we forget the more important questions that will benefit us in this world and the next. Questions such as, How can I attain Khushu’ in my Salaah? How can I strengthen my relationship with Allah? Rather than other non-beneficial, guess-game type questions.
Or in this instance, rather than worrying about how many people there were in the cave perhaps we should concern ourselves with their characteristics, what did they do to deserve the honour of their story being preserved for eternity? How can we follow their footsteps towards pleasing Allah and attaining righteousness? What can we learn from them?
Excessive questioning was one of the traits of the Bani Israel. When Allah swt commanded them to slaughter a cow, they questioned Allah over and over again, to the point that in the end, they could almost not find the cow, because of their constant questioning of its description.
They said, “Call upon your Lord for us that He may make plain to us what it is!” He said, “He says, ‘Verily, it is a cow neither too old nor too young, but (it is) between the two conditions’, so do what you are commanded.” [ 2:68]
However, a point to remember, Islam is simple, realistic and easy. Even though there may be some questions that we shouldn’t ask, there are those that we should ask, and those are the questions that will bring benefit in this life and the next, inshaAllah.
The point here is not that questions are bad but rather that asking a question should be done with a purpose. Islam is the only religion which emphasizes and encourages thinking and questioning and reflecting as part of the learning process. How many times in the Qur’an does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ask us: “Do you not ponder?”, “Do you not reflect?”, “Do you not think?” May Allah swt guide us to ask the right questions, ameen.