فَضَرَبْنَا عَلَىٰ آذَانِهِمْ فِي الْكَهْفِ سِنِينَ عَدَدًا
فَضَرَبْنَا- so we cast, daraba is from dawd-ra-ba, and it literally means to strike or hit. So “We struck”, عَلَىٰ آذَانِهِمْ - upon their ears. When something is hit, there are two objects needed: the object that is hit and the object that is used to hit. So Ashaabul Kahf had their ears struck with a hijaab (a covering) of sleep, this is implied in the verse. A covering of sleep was put on their ears, a deep sleep. They had no idea what was going on around them and were not awoken at all.
Therefore We cast up their hearing in the Cave for a number of years. (Quran al Kahf 18:11)
سِنِينَ عَدَدً- for a number of years. It was the mercy of Allah that He protected them from the shirk of their people, this was the answer to their duaa in ayah 10. In ayah 25 we learn that they slept for 309 years in the cave, without any disturbance. This is a marvel that Allah did this! Remember in ayah 9 Allah asked, do you think their story is amazing? This is a wonder, and if Allah can do this, He can do much more and much greater.
ثُمَّ بَعَثْنَاهُمْ لِنَعْلَمَ أَيُّ الْحِزْبَيْنِ أَحْصَىٰ لِمَا لَبِثُوا أَمَدًا
Thumma- meaning after a while, بَعَثْنَاهُمْ - “We awakened them”. Ba’ath is from ba-ayn-thaa, and it literally means movement. When someone is sleeping, how do you wake them up? First you call them, then if they don’t respond you shake them. Ba’ath is used in both ways: for resurrection, to wake up after death and secondly to wake up after sleep.
Then We awakened them, that We might test which of the two groups was best at calculating the time period that they had remained. (Quran al Kahf 18:12)
Why were they woken up? لِنَعْلَمَ - “so that We know”. Allah knows everything, so what does this mean? It means to make it known, Allah will make it happen and known to people. He would make known ;أَيُّ ;الْحِزْبَيْنِ أَحْصَىٰ - ‘which of the two groups was most precise in calculating’. أَحْصَىٰ - is from ha-saad-ya, hasiy, and it means count, enumerate and number. Ahsaa means, who knows better, who is more precise in calculating.
Calculating what? لِمَا لَبِثُوا- the time they remained. lima gives the meaning of: for which time, how long. أَمَدًا- in time, from hamza-meem-daal and it means a span or stretch of time. So ashaabul kahf were awoken to make known which group knew the correct time of how long they were in the cave. There are many opinions as to who the hizbayn, the two groups, are:
Allah ta’ala is showing through this ayah that He can resurrect the people through body and soul in this world, so be certain that we will be resurrected with body and soul in the hereafter.
- Firstly, it is said that the two groups are the ashaabul kahf and the people of the city which they went too after waking up.
- Secondly, it is said the dispute is amongst the people of the city itself, one believing group and one disbelieving group.
- Lastly, it is said there were two groups amongst ashaabul kahf, between themselves, as to how long they remained.