Lessons From Surah Kahf- Etiquettes of saying In Sha Allah - Yasir Qadhi

Etiquette of Saying

In verses 22–24:18, the surah addresses speaking without knowledge
or evidence and also etiquette:

'Some will say concerning them: ‘They were three and
their dog, the fourth’; and some will say: ‘They were
five, and their dog, the sixth’—all this being merely
guesswork; and still others will say: ‘They were seven,
and their dog, the eighth.’ Say: ‘My Lord knows their
number best. Only a few know their correct number.
So, do not dispute concerning their number, but stick
to what is evident, and do not question anyone about
them.’ (al-Kahf 18: 22)

And never say about anything: ‘I shall certainly do
this tomorrow’ (al-Kahf 18: 23)

unless Allah should will it. And should you forget
(and make such a statement), remember your Lord
and say: ‘I expect my Lord to guide me to what is
nearer to rectitude than this.’ (al-Kahf 18: 24)

Verse 22 of the surah begins with a comment on the debate around how many sleepers there were. Allah observes that some say there were three and their dog was the fourth and others say there were five and their dog was the sixth, but all of this is estimation without knowledge. Allah then observes that some say they were seven and the dog was the eighth, and say my Lord is aware of their number.

The fact that Allah negates the suggestions of three and five but remains silent on seven has meant the bulk of Muslim scholars have agreed that they were seven in number. We have seen previously the accounts of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Our history books mention that Christian groups debated with regards their number, but Allah’s S silence on seven here affirms that they were seven in number.

Speaking without Knowledge

Allah then says to the Prophet that He knows their true number and to not argue with the disbelievers except for an argument with evidence (zahir). There are two main opinions as to what zahir means: the first that the Prophet should not argue with them without solid knowledge. So to argue or debate, you must have knowledge or else remain silent. This is one of the constant themes of Surah al-Kahf; Allah warns us that we must speak with knowledge or don’t speak at all. He criticises those who speak without knowledge and chastises those who say about Allah that which is not true. This is a very important point for us, especially those of us living in lands with majority non-Muslim populations. Not everybody is qualified to give da'wah verbally. We can all give da'wah by our actions and we can preach at a basic level what we know, but not everyone is qualified to respond to argumentation. Hence Allah says here to not debate unless you have knowledge of what you are debating. This is one valid interpretation for this. A second interpretation is zahir meaning ‘outer’ (as opposed to batin, or ‘inner’). This is a beautiful point in which the Prophet is being advised to not make his point emotional so that it seeps into his heart and affects him psychologically by depressing him. As we know, when we argue in a manner that enters our heart, it affects our life and is constantly on our mind, making life difficult.

The Prophet is being told to debate an outer debate, as this matter of the Sleepers of the Cave and their details of how many they were is a frivolous issue. This also shows us that the one giving da'wah knows that not every issue has the same priority. Furthermore, the Prophet is advised to not dispute this matter because he has certain knowledge from Allah whereas they do not. Here again, the issue of knowledge and certainty arises. Allah tells us in the Qur’an to ask people of knowledge if we don’t know. In Surah al-Kahf, Allah says to not ask these people with regards the Sleepers because they do not know. From
this we learn that when we face a dilemma and don’t know the answer to something Islamic, we must go to the people of knowledge. Our Prophet is told here wala tastafti, literally, do not get a fatwa from them because they have no knowledge and Allah has told you that which is certain.

The Etiquette of Saying Insha’allah

In verses 23 and 24, Allah then states:

And never say about anything: ‘I shall certainly do
this tomorrow’ (al-Kahf 18: 23)

unless Allah should will it. And should you forget
(and make such a statement), remember your Lord
and say: ‘I expect my Lord to guide me to what is
nearer to rectitude than this.’ (al-Kahf 18: 24)

This is a very profound verse and its reason for revelation is tied to the story of why Surah al-Kahf was sent down. If we recall from earlier chapters, the Quraysh had come to the Prophet asking about the people of the cave, and the Prophet
had confidently responded that he would give the answer the following day. He had assumed our Lord would send the revelation and so did not say insha’Allah. For this reason, the revelation was delayed by two weeks, and when it finally came down, our Lord lightly chastised the Prophet.

The message is that wahi, or divine revelation, does not come down on demand and it is not the prerogative of the Prophet to state when it will come. Rather, it is Allah who will send it down when He wants to send it down. SubhanAllah, if this is what is our Prophetis told, then what about us? Allah is teaching us adab, the manners we should have before Him. It teaches us who is the Lord and who is the one the Lord is controlling, who is the Rabb and who is the marbub.

Our Prophet assumed that the question has been asked so the answer will come the following day, an assumption that he should not have made. So Allah says here, do not say something will happen without saying insha’Allah. This is common etiquette that we are all aware of now; we never speak about something we want to do in the future except that we add on insha’Allah. For example, we say ‘insha’Allah, I will go for Hajj next year’ or ‘insha’Allah, I will begin a degree
next year’. Whether next year or next month, or tomorrow, we must add on insha’Allah. This is proper etiquette with Allah.

Note that we only add insha’Allah with regards to an act we are going to do in the future with certainty. If it is something we are not certain about, then there is no need to add insha’Allah. For example, if we say, ‘I don’t know if I am going to do it or not’, then there is no need to say insha’Allah. Or if we mention a plan without the actual action, such as ‘I plan to go for umrah in general terms without specifics then there is no need to add insha’Allah. If somebody asks, ‘are you going to go for umrah next year?’ and we respond, ‘I plan to go’, there is
no need to add on insha’Allah because you are referencing the plan in your heart, which is current and now. However, if we say, ‘I will go next year’, then we must say insha’Allah. There is a difference between narrating the current circumstance and stating something you will do in the future with certainty.

At this point, it is also worth commenting that often many brothers and sisters mistake their use of insha’Allah and use it in the wrong context. There is no need to say insha’Allah when you give a response to something current, and right here and right now. If someone asks, ‘What’s your name?’ we don’t say ‘Fatimah, insha’Allah’! We don’t need to say it for something current; insha’Allah is for things that have to do with the future, and this is what Allah is telling us here.

Another point of fiqh here is that if we ever make a qasam, or oath, in the name of Allah, then it is advised to say insha’Allah. Whatever the reason you may have made the oath, such as saying ‘wa Allahi I will fast for a month’, add on
insha’Allah because if you say insha’Allah and are not able to fulfil the oath then you will not be required to pay the penalty for breaking an oath. Therefore, any time you take an oath, it is always encouraged to say insha’Allah at the same time. It will not work if you say insha’Allah later, it has to be at the time of the oath. In the case of a statement of certainty, such as ‘Tomorrow I am going to come to your house’, if one forgets to say ‘insha’Allah’ and only remembers later, it is encouraged to verbalize the ‘insha'Allah’ when you remember.

As verse 24 of Surah al-Kahf says, ‘And should you forget (and make such a statement), remember your Lord’; Allah is saying never be forgetful of Me, whenever you forget about Me remember Me again, and make dua’. This is similar to when we are eating and forget to say bismillah but remember later and say it as soon as we remember. But this does not work for qasam or oath; insha’Allah must be said at the time of the oath for the ‘insha'Allah’ to be valid.

Verse 24 then concludes: ‘and say: “I expect my Lord to guide me to what is nearer to rectitude than this.”’ The reference here is when the Quraysh came to ask about the Ashab al-Kahf and they wanted two or three facts, Allah revealed two pages

Excerpt is from Lessons from Surah al-Kahf by Yasir Qadhi