Cave of Ashabe-Kahf (exterior)
This is regarded as the cave in which a group of pious youths (equated with the Christian legend of the ‘Sleepers of Ephesus’) sought refuge from a tyrannical pagan king and in which Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) caused them to sleep for 300 years. Their story is mentioned in the Holy Quran in Surah Kahf. The cave is located in the suburb of Abu Alanda in Amman.
- In around 250 CE there ruled a Roman king called Daqyanoos (Decius) who would annually hold a gathering dedicated to the worshipping of idols. Many people would attend, dressed in their best clothing. However, one youth believed in the oneness of Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He), the teachings of Isa (upon him be peace) and shunned pagan worship. He rebelled against the practices that were happening in the society. He attracted another youth and then another to form a small group.
- When the king heard of their rebellion he became very angry and issued a command for them to be killed. In order to save their iman (faith) they fled and went into hiding. On their escape route they met a young farmer who owned a dog; they gave him da’wah, he accepted and decided to also join them. Eventually they came to a cave in which they made dua to Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) for ease. They decided to take rest there for a while, leaving the dog (named Qitmir) near the entrance as a guard. Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) caused them and the dog to sleep for 300 years.
- Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) describes their sleeping in the Holy Quran in Surah Kahf:“And thou wouldst have deemed them waking though they were asleep, and we caused them to turn over to the right and the left, and their dog stretching out his paws on the threshold. If thou hadst observed them closely thou hadst assuredly turned away from them in flight, and hadst been filled with awe of them.” [18:18]
- The Quran further states that the period of time these sleepers spent in the cave was 300 years during which the calendar of their people was changed from solar to lunar and, as a result, the period of their sleep was 309 years. When they woke up, they had no idea they slept for centuries and thought they had only slept a few hours. When they sent one of them to buy food, the shopkeeper was amazed to see such old coins and the reality of the time they had spent in the cave gradually came to light. The present ruling king, whom some scholars have identified as Tandoosees, was a believer who came on foot to see them and seek their blessings. When these young men died they were buried in the cave along with their dog. The bones of these youth and the dog are visible to see inside.
- Apart from Amman in Jordan, the location of the cave is also claimed to be in Turkey. And Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) knows best.
- To the left of the entrance is an ancient olive tree. At one time a small church was built on top of the cave; this was converted to a mosque with the mihrab still being visible above the entrance.
References: Stories of the Prophets – Ibn Kathir, Wikipedia, The Rough Guide to Jordan.