THIS SURAH - revealed immediately before An-Nahl ("The Bee"), i.e., in the last year of the Mecca" period - is almost entirely devoted to a series of parables or allegories built around the theme of \faith in God versus an undue attachment to the life of this world; and the key-phrase of the whole surah is the statement in verse 7, "We have willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which we put men to a test" - an idea that is most clearly formulated in the parable of the rich man and the poor man (verses 32-44). The story of the Men of the Cave - from which the surah takes its title - illustrates (in verses 13-20) the principle of world-abandonment for the sake of faith, and is deepened into an allegory of death, resurrection and spiritual awakening. In the story of Moses and the unnamed sage (verses 60-82) the theme of spiritual awakening undergoes a significant variation: it is shifted to the plane of man's intellectual life and his search after ultimate truths. Appearance and reality are shown to be intrinsically different - so different that only mystic insight can reveal to us what is apparent and what is real. And, finally, the allegory of Dhu'l-Qarnayn, "the Two-Horned One", tells us that world-renunciation is not, in itself, a necessary complement of one's faith in God: in other words, that worldly life and power need not conflict with spiritual righteousness so long as we remain conscious of the ephemeral nature of all works of man and of our ultimate responsibility to Him who is above all limitations of time and appearance. And so the surah ends with the words: "Hence, whoever looks forward to meeting his Sustainer, let him do righteous deeds, and let him not ascribe unto anyone or anything a share in the worship due to his Sustainer."
ALL PRAISE is due to God, who has bestowed. this divine writ from on high upon His servant, and has not allowed any deviousness to obscure its meaning:1