Of Knowledge and Power

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The fourth parable that Allah Almighty mentions in Surah Al-Kahf is the story of a great king during the sixth century BC named Dhul-Qarnayn who travelled all across the world to help the people who were in need and spread good wherever he went.

Vast Empire

Allah SWT gave him a very vast kingdom and he ruled his kingdom very well. People loved and obeyed him.

Dhul-Qarnayn hated injustice. He was a just ruler and treated everyone fairly. In his journey to the west, he found some people. Allah gave him the option to treat them badly or be kind. The king responded “Whoever does wrong will be punished by us, then will be returned to their Lord, Who will punish them with horrible torment. As for those who believe and do good, they will have the finest rewards (in Jannah), and we will assign them easy commands.”

In his journey to the east, he found the sun rising on people who had no shelter from it. They either had no clothes or homes to protect them from the sun. Even after conquering a major part of the then inhabited world, Dhul-Qarnayn had lost none of his humility. He gave the entire credit of his feats to the blessings of Allah.

A great ruler or leader is careful of the safety of his subjects. He did not take this ‘amanah’ from Allah for granted and he travelled around to know what is happening to his people in his kingdom.

The Iron Wall

On his third course, Dhul-Qarnayn reached a pass between two mountains. He found a tribe of people who could not understand his language – what it probably means here is that they were cut off from civilisation so they had their own way of communicating with each other. They pleaded to the king to build a wall to block off the people of Gog and Magog who were spreading corruption throughout the land. The tribe wanted to pay the king to help them erect a barrier. Being a pious ruler, Dhul-Qarnayn responded “what my lord has provided for me is far better”. So he did not ask for anything in exchange for his help, instead, he asked the tribe to supply their own people for the task. Blocks of iron and molten copper were used to erect the iron wall which the enemies could neither scale nor tunnel through it. The iron wall closed the gap between the mountains and Gog and Magog did not trouble the mountain people again. After building the iron wall, Dhul-Qarnayn said: “This is a mercy from my lord. But when the promise of my lord comes to pass, he will level it to the ground. And my lord’s promise is ever true.”

In this parable, we learn that true believers always remain humble even after performing a great feat. The lesson to be learnt from this story is that power is also a gift from Allah and to those whom He gives power; He tests them by doing so.

Some people may get drunk on power and become disrespectful of others, like for example the most ruthless ruler Firaun. When people have the power to abuse or opress, they can lose control of their senses much like someone who is intoxicated.

Dhul-Qarnayn clearly overcame the fitnah of power by deferring to the code of justice established by Allah, the AL-‘ADL or The Just.

So the way to deal with the fitnah of power is to have sincerity in your deeds to Allah, as it was mentioned in verse 103-104:

Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Shall we inform you of who will lose the most deeds? ˹They are˺ those whose efforts are in vain in this worldly life, while they think they are doing good!

Surah Al-Kahf (18:103-104)

There is also a du’a in Surah Al-Imran that you can recite praising Allah’s infinite power:

“Say, O Lord, King of Kings. You give rulership to whom you will and take it away from whom you please. You raise up who you will and cast down whoever you will. All that is good lies in your hands. You have the power to will anything.”

Surah Al-Imran (3:26)

Power creates ego and self-pride in a man. Abu Huraira r.a. reported, The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The strong are not those who defeat people. Rather, the strong are those who defeat their ego.”

A believer couldn’t be an egoistic person. This story is a lesson to all powerful people whose power couldn’t even reach to what Allah has given to Dhul-Qarnayn and yet he was a humble soul and submissive to Allah for what he had.

Personally, I can’t really relate because I’m not a person of power. But the first person I think of is Donald Trump and how he is everything Dhul-Qarnayn is not. Trump seems drunk on power and he thinks what he is doing is the best for America, but I don’t think anyone here agrees.

I guess on the other end of the stick, as regular people with not much or no power, we should choose to be on the side of just and kind leaders so that we will not transgress into corruption or sin of unscrupulous leaders.

Killing our ego is also another point that we can learn from. We can learn to use criticism constructively to kill our ego. Every time we make a mistake and repent and make amends, we are diminishing our ego. Especially for us ladies, every time we scold ourselves, for falling into gossip or vain talk about other people, we are throwing aside our ego.

May Allah SWT bless us with the strength and humility to use the abilities He has bestowed upon us to help those in need, much like the great King Dhul-Qarnayn. InshaaAllah.

The Man with Two Gardens

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The Man with Two Gardens is the second parable in Surah Al-Kahf (18:32-44) in which lies the lesson of the trials of wealth.

It tells the story of a rich man whom Allah blessed with two beautiful and luxurious gardens. It is believed that the rich man’s lush gardens consisted of grape vines, surrounded by date palms. The gardens also yielded maximum output and the rich man did not have to lift a finger for irrigation as Allah SWT provided a river in the gardens. Apart from the gardens, the rich man’s wealth included gold, silver, horses and carriages.

One day, the rich man and his companion had a conversation, where the rich man boasted about his wealth and children. On a side note, wealth and children are mentioned together in the Quran as they signify worldly status. However, the Quran warns that the blessings are not necessarily the signs of Divine Favor and cannot protect one against Divine Punishment (as of the following verses: 9:55, 9:85, 23:55-56).

Despite receiving the blessings and rizq from Allah SWT, the rich man became arrogant and boastful. He opined that all of his blessings were the results of his own hard work. The rich man became ungrateful and did not attribute his wealth to Allah.

The rich man assumed that the wealth he had at that point were everlasting. He was engrossed with the paradise of the world that he did not care about the real paradise i.e. Jannah. The rich man was also doubtful of the Hereafter or resurrection as he was enjoying the paradise in this world. Despite his doubt of the Hereafter or resurrection, the rich man was confident that if he were to be resurrected, he would find something better than his abundant gardens. The rich man also believed that his wealth and good fortune belonged to him on the basis of his own personal merit and assumed that the merit transcends death. Therefore he expected to enjoy wealth and children in the Hereafter as well.

While the rich man spoke so highly of himself, inadvertently insulting his companion, the companion remained silent. However, the companion could not accept the man’s insult of Allah SWT. The companion advised the rich man against being ungrateful to his Lord and reminded the rich man of his origins as of all human beings.

The companion also declared that he would not associate any partners with His lord. This was in relation to the rich man attributing the success of his lush gardens to himself thus, making himself an idol besides Allah.

The companion also reminded the rich man to be less arrogant and have more humility when he entered his garden. The companion suggested that the rich man should be grateful to Allah SWT and ascribed to the blessings.

MasyaAllah La Quwwata Illa Billah

What Allah willed [has occured]; there is no power except in Allah

Surah Al-Kahf [18:39]

Despite having been insulted by the rich man, the companion accepted his qadr and believed that Allah SWT will grant him something better.

As the companion warned the rich man of Allah’s punishments due to the rich man’s arrogance, the rich man’s gardens were destroyed. Consequently, the rich man felt remorseful and regret.

From this parable, we learn that wealth is also a test from Allah as He is testing the recipient of wealth on their gratitude. Secondly, we also learn that things of this world are temporary and transient. All the pleasures and riches of the world are short-lived. Therefore, when they are available, one must thank Allah and spend on the ones who don’t have the worldly pleasures available to them.

May Allah keep us all away from arrogance and plant seeds of gratitude in our hearts. InsyaAllah.