Quran Journaling for Surah Kahf

Welcome to this series! I hope you will join me. Just a quick note on illustrations. I’m adding my illustrations as a means to help me remember meanings or tafsir of the ayat I am studying. If you wish to only write without illustrations, that a good option if you feel uncomfortable with the idea of drawing. I use this medium as a way to connect, remember and understand. I hope you will find success on your Quran journey.

While I’m mainly using my blank notebook for Quran journaling, I’ve provided a resource list with other notebooks that may suit your needs better. I’m especially liking the Quran notebook, but I’m finding there isn’t enough blank notebook space to write my notes and reflections, so I’m going to add paper inserts as I have seen others do.

I’ve made my own notebook in addition to the ones used as references. I trimmed drawing paper to 8.5×11 inches and took it to an office supply store to bind. I added a front and back cover with high quality construction paper.


Day 1: Ayat 1 | The Opening

To begin this Quran Journaling series, I simply dove in. I didn’t have a specific format for the pages and I can see that it will be refined as I progress. When writing the Ayat in Arabic, I wrote big and left room for the word-for-word translation…just not enough room to add the translation. That’s the first change I’ll make moving forward. I like the way the illustrations turned for the most part as they were simply motifs I could easily draw. I wanted to focus on the fact that the Quran is clear without crookedness. I drew a straight path to symbolize that meaning. What I would have wanted to include is more reflections and explanation of the first word of this ayat: Al-Humd, Praise. Which in this ayat means praise and thanks to Allah who granted a blessing upon all humankind by revealing the Book (the Quran). The praise and thanks also means that we are praising and thanking Allah as we greet him in this Ayat as in thanking Him for blessings we know and don’t know. I would have liked to add this reflection in the first page, but ended up adding it later in the series.

Day 2: Surah Kahf | The Four Themes

For Day 2, instead of reflection on ayat 1, I focused on the four themes/stories of surah Kahf. The four themes or stories for surah Kahf is the fitna (trial) of religion with the story of the youth who sought shelter in the cave. The story of the two gardens which is the fitna (or trial) of money/wealth. The third story is that of Khidr and Prophet Musa (Moses) (as), and the fitna/trial of knowledge, and the last story is that of Dhul Qarnayn and the fitna of power. The four themes would have been a better choice for day 1 and could have taken up a full page, but I like the way it turned out…in the end. If you watched the video, you’ll see how the version pictured here is not the original. I had considered removing the page and starting completely over, but I found a age old solution instead.

Day 3: Ayat 2 | Quran is a Guide and Warning

Having learned from my previous 2 days’ work, I decided to leave amp room for the translation, the ayat in Arabic, the word-for-word and my thoughts and reflection. What I didn’t leave room for was the illustration. So I wrote over all the pencil writing with fountain pen and layered the illustrations directly over. I liked the way it turned out, though my perspective drawing needs help! I added the “gardens of Jannah” illustration on the right, trying to include the writing that talked about Jannah (paradise), and the “hellfire” on the left upper side. I reminder that these illustrations are memory tools for me. It’s a way to process, learn and remember.

Day 4 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf | Ayat 3 | Jannah

I love this ayat for its reassurance and hope. In the previous ayat Allah speaks of the severe punishment and the just reward, but you don’t know what the reward is until this ayat where it is made clear what you will receive by Allah’s mercy for doing righteous deeds. And the reward is everlasting, not just forever, lasting in bliss forever, everlasting reward. I remember a time when I was much younger where the concept of heaven seemed stressful, how could something last forever…and be enjoyable. Our worldly bodies and minds can understand the concept of eternity, but we cannot fully understand or contemplating it. Our minds are limited so understanding an unlimited concept with our limited minds means we keep using worldly concepts and experiences to understand it. Have you ever enjoyed a spectacular meal? Is the last bite as good as the first? Probably not. When we think of Jannah getting boring or we wish it would come to an end, we are using human experiences to understand heaven. When we listen to Allah describe Jannah in the Quran and reflect on happiness that’s everlasting, it’s like having that first bite of an amazing meal be the best bite until the last one. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I like food analogies, but if food isn’t your thing, replace it with the best feeling you’ve ever experienced, now multiple by a million and that’s the bliss you’ll feel for ever more. I have done a poor job explaining a deep and wonderful topic, so if it hasn’t brought you closer to desiring good and good deeds, it is because of my shortcomings and I apologize.

Day 5 Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf | Ayat 4-5 | Allah is One

One subject in our homeschool we spend a lot of time covering is ancient civilizations. I spend a lot of time studying the people, culture and belief of the past. I do this because you will see a theme emerge, that of people worshiping God, plus…It appears humans have a weakness for associating partners or offspring to God, even though our Fitra (our human nature and disposition) is to worship one God. Alas, the Quraysh during the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) time also strayed to worshiping many gods. They were considered pagan for they had strayed from the worship of Allah many many generations earlier. They had associated so many partners to God, they had lost nearly all their Hanif traditions. When asked where these ideas that God had daughters came from, the Quraysh claimed it was from their forefathers. What they claim, that Allah has daughters is a Kabeer (Big, Mighty) lie. They lie and they claim it came from their forefathers. But Allah calls them out. It is a lie.

Day 6 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf | Ayat 6 | Grief

This ayat needs to be read in Arabic especially and the tafsir examined so that the meaning is clear. Allah is with the Prophet (saw) when the people of Quraysh turned their back on him (saw) and rejected the message. The Prophet (saw) was distressed to the point of it doing harm to his well being. Allah is saying, ‘do not destroy yourself with regret.’ Qatādah said: “killing yourself with anger and grief over them.” Mujāhid said: “with anxiety.” So the basic meaning is Do not feel sorry for them. Just convey the message of Allah to them. Do not destroy yourself in sorrow over them. The Prophet (saw) was so distressed at their (the Quraysh) rejection of the message, he (saw) was overtaken with grief and anxiety. Allah comforted him saying not to let the grief and distress get to the point of causing harm to oneself. The only thing in your power and the only thing to do is call to the people and give them the message. What they do with the message is on them alone.

Day 7 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 7 | The World is an Adornment

Today’s Ayat is (for me) at first seems deceptively easy to understand. This world is an adornment so that people may be tested. Our tests and challenges and trials in this life will be varied, as the surah will later show in the four stories of the fitna of religion, wealth, knowledge and power. But this world is our home, albeit a transient home on the way to our permanent abode. But Allah prepared this earth for us, made it beautiful and made is habitable. Those gifts are tremendous and may be overlooked when we lose gratitude. But also this world is a test. We will be tested with our wealth, our relationships, ourselves and more. Some people will be given riches beyond measure but they commit horrendous deeds, and some will live with barely anything, and yet will be grateful and do righteous deeds. All this is part of Allah’s test and Allah’s Mercy. The illustration I chose for this entry is one of nature with motifs you will see repeated as they are easy, beautiful and informative: trees, rivers, gardens and mountains.

Day 8 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 8 | The Earth Will be Barren

In preparing for this day’s lesson, I chose to write only 1 ayat and reserve the remainder of page for the next two ayat about the people of the cave. I had originally wanted to add this ayat to the previous day’s work because ayat 7 and 8 go together thematically (in my opinion). But having no room before, I added the ayat and the brief reflection and drawing to the top of this page leaving ample room for ayat 9-10 at the bottom. That will round out the first 10 ayat of this surah and the memorization that I am completing for this Ramadan 2024. The reflections I have for this ayat conjure up images of post-apocalyptic landscapes I’ve seen in movies. A bleak and barren landscape, dead vegetation, ash in the air, no sunlight, just a twilight darkness that permeates, no hope, no beauty, no safety. For me, the one thing missing from the imagery in post-apocalyptic movies are the mountains turning to dust. Wrapping my head around that one is mind-blowing. We live in an area surrounded on one side with a mountain range (foothills rather, but mountainous nonetheless) and imagining that one day those vibrant, sturdy, strong, reliable mountains would turn to dust is both frightening and humbling. The mountains, streams, rocks, soil, and all animate and inanimate creations obey Allah. Every particle of existence does tasbih to Allah. So one day in the future, Allah has said that this world will become barren, flat and void of vegetation and trees, etc. which means the mountains and all that is on this beautiful earth will obey Allah and turn barren and flat. There will be no escape from this inevitability, no safety except what Allah provides.

Day 9 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 9 | The Signs of Allah

Once again, I’ve changed the format for Quran journaling and have decided to write the Arabic and word for word in a separate notebook or use some other format for memorizing the word for word Arabic to English. Instead, I’m making more room for reflection on each page as I’m finding I have more thoughts than can fit on the page. Often my notes in the Quran Notebook, here on this blog and in my journal all differ just a bit as there are many reflections I have and information from different Tafsir resources that I want to include. Originally, I had intended to include ayat 9 and 10 for this page (in addition to ayat 8 at the top), but opted to write only the meaning and reflections for verse 9. Some of you have asked about drawing tips or how I learned to draw. While I enjoy the process deeply, I haven’t taken classes and often copy work or make simple elementary drawings of simple motifs like sun, moon, trees, mountains, etc. One tip I’d like to offer is that I believe most people can draw even if they don’t have experience or natural talent. I think most people can copy artwork with basic success. To achieve this my tip is to copy artwork in the medium you are using. For this illustration, I search online for ‘cave opening drawing’ and drew a combo of the first two images provided. I added details and the sky, but the perspective and shadowing would have been hard for me to do otherwise.

This ayat speaks of the signs of Allah. The Quraysh traveled to Yathrib to speak to the Jews and ask about Prophet (saw), since the Jews were familiar with prophets of the book. The Jews told them to ask about three things, one of which was the youths of the cave with inscription. Surah Kahf was revealed in answer. In ayat 9, Allah says (translation of meaning of the Quran), “Do you think that the people of the cave and the inscription were a wonder among Our Signs?’ Meaning, that the people of the cave does not compare to the bigger more astonishing Signs of Allah. These signs are the creation of the Heavens and the earth, the alternation of the night and day, and the subjugation of the sun, moon and heavenly bodies. The sign of His (swt) Messenger (saw) and his (saw) character and conduct, and of course the Qur’an. These are greater signs.

Day 10 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 10-11 | Trust in Allah

Instead of another illustration of mountains or a cave, I decided to illustrate the hadith of the camel in which a bedouin came to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and asked, ‘Do I tie my camel and trust in Allah or do I leave her untied and trust in Allah?’ The Prophet (saw) replied, “Tie your camel and trust in Allah.”

When the youths fled the persecution of the King who threatened to kill them if they didn’t renounce their faith in Allah, they escaped to a cave where they sought refuge. Once in the cave, they prayed to Allah to bestow His mercy upon them and to facilitate for them their affairs. The wisdom here is to take action (dunya) and pray to Allah (akhira). You both do something in this world and you pray and have trust in Allah. The act of dua and prayer is rewarded as Allah will always answers your dua either in this life with what you asked for or better or in the hereafter with something better.

Allah then covered the young men’s ears so they would sleep. They slept for over 300 years while their dog stood guard at the opening of the cave.

Day 11 | Quran Journaling |Surah Kahf Ayat 12 | Resurrection

For ayat 12, I chose to examine three words: the word for resurrection (ba’athnahum), the word for someone who can calculate (Ahsaaw) and the word for two parties (hizbaynee). I’ve done my best to write the transliteration, my apologies if there are mistakes in my attempt. The word for resurrection is used instead of a smaller word for being awakened. As the youths slept for over 300 years, it was as if they were being brought back to life. The slept for what seemed like a short time, maybe an hour, maybe the afternoon. When they awoke, they argued about how long they slept. It must have come to a deep shock and someone unsettling to realize slept for 300 plus years. When they awoke, they chose from among them one who could navigate the delicate circumstance they were in, believing they had only slept for part of a day and were thus hungry and anxious for food. They sent one of their own with money to see what he could find in a town where they hoped the king and his men would be find them.

Day 12 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 13 | Increased in Guidance

The Quran is about one third stories and while it is not a storybook, Quran is a book of guidance and warning, Allah does use stories to teach and remind us. Surah Kahf contains four stories and in the first, we learn of a group of youth, young men, who lived in a time and place where adherence to the religion of the state was mandatory. Allah begins this ayat with ‘We narrate’ and includes ‘in Truth’ providing us insight that the previous stories told of the people of the cave contradict one another and have variations within them. Allah reveals the final definitive truth about the young men and the events leading to and after their time in the cave. The story is of great interest but more so, the narrator, Allah, is of greater interest. We learn that the youth were already rightly guided when they rejected gods other than Allah, but then Allah increased them in guidance. This indicates that Iman may be increased and Tafsir Ibn Kathir sites several ayats in the Quran showing how Iman may go up and down.

Day 13 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 14 | The Youth Stood Up

The religious beliefs at the time this story takes place were idolatrous/polytheist. According the the tafsir Ibn Kathir, the whole town was out at a festival celebrating and making offerings to the gods. A few young men of the town, who had belief in Allah, separated themselves from the crowd and found themselves together away from the others. When caught and taken to the king, Allah had increased them in guidance (ayat 13) and strengthened their hearts (ayat 14). Their hearts were made firm and were also calm and settled as they addresses the king. They said they believed in the God of the heavens and earth and that IF they should say otherwise it would be a great disbelief. These young men were clever in their wording and firm in their hearts. Their actions were paramount to treason as we gather their insubordination resulted in their lives being threatened. But, these youths were clear in their belief. The use of the word ‘lan’ in this ayat doesn’t just mean they will ‘never call upon a deity other than Allah’, its depth in meaning means absolute and eternal, as in they will never ever call upon a deity other than Allah. That absolute negation was a challenge to the king and the religious beliefs of the state. Curiously, the king is never mentioned, but later we will see that Allah mentions their dog.

Day 14 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 15 | Great Accusation

This ayat talks about the youths, who are now addressing and accusing the king and the people to bring forth evidence of the claim they make for taking partners with Allah or worshipping other than Allah. Allah increased them in guidance, then made their hearts firm. They are now empowered to accuse their own people who have take other than Allah, to bring forth clear proof. They cannot of course. And therefore the king has threatened them with their life if they do not revert back to the religion of the state. There is a time between the trial and their escape to and refuge in the cave. In the Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Christian history is used to fill in the space between the two events. These histories are neither correct or incorrect, we may take them or leave them as history as they bare no weight in Islam. The sources say they young men were jailed for a period of time where their clothing was confiscated so that they no longer bore the clothing that indicated their station in society or class. They may have been dressed in prison garb, but the information about their clothing is speculative. They then escaped as Allah provided them a means to escape either from the trial or after.

Day 15 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 16-18 | The Sleepers of the Cave

This session, I cover 3 ayat from the time the young men decided to seek refuge in a cave to their time asleep and all the Allah does for them (and likely more that isn’t mentioned or fully understood) during their sleep to keep them healthy and protected. The thing that stands out for me in these three ayat are three things: One that Allah mentions that the sleepers of the Cave is a proof and a sign meaning this is a miracle of Allah and would not have been possible any other way (personal reflection, cryogenically freezing your body in hopes of awaking in the future is not possible). The second point is the idea that those who turn away and go astray, they will have no Wali (guiding friend). Personally, this is terrifying as we are utterly lost without Allah’s guidance both to thrive in this life and to have the best life in the hereafter. The final point is that of people running from the sleepers in terror if they should happen upon them. While I didn’t read or listen to any tafsir that mentions my personal reflections, I thought I would mention them here. Allah first mentions what He (swt) does for the young men: turning them from side to side, appearing awake, the position of the cave and the sun’s path across the sky and their dog standing guard. Certainly Allah is All-Knowing and these are the things He (swt) mentioned. There could be many other things Allah did to protect the men. My personal reflections come in this way. The idea that someone would ‘flee in terror’ upon seeing the young men reminds me of the time when Abu Jahl tried to kill the Prophet (saw) while he prayed in front of the Kaaba early on in the message. Abu Jahl fled in terror upon approaching the Prophet (saw) as a huge chasm appeared between him and the Rasul (saw) and within that trench were terrifying winged creatures.

Day 16 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 19-20 | The Sleepers Awaken

When the sleepers awaken, they are not just waking up, they are resurrected, they were in essence not alive for over 300 years and yet they looked alive and well and as if they were just sleeping, tossing and turning in the cave. However, when they woke up and noticed that some time had passed, they asked one another how long had they slept. “A day or part of a day,” was the answer, but they must have discussed it enough that they agreed that Allah know and for them the duration of their sleep was not the issue at hand, it was their bellies. They were hungry and one of them told the others to take some silver coins and go to town to get good provisions. And take care not to draw attention or get caught because surely they would be tortured to death if they did not revert to their silent ways and not call out the king and the people for the polytheists ways. When Allah resurrected them, they were brought back to life for a reason and later we will see how clear that reason becomes. For now, the men have a purpose, they are purposefully planning who is best at blending in, choosing the right kind of food and who will need the least amount of instruction.

Day 17 Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 21-22 | The Town Discovers the Sleepers

One of of the youth is chosen and as he travels into town, nothing looks familiar. He doesn’t recognize any of the landmark, nor does he recognize any of the people, commoner or otherwise. It must have been disconcerting, but he presses on and finds a shop to buy provisions. Once he’s chosen what he needs, he proceeds to pay with his now old silver coins. The shop keeper doesn’t recognize it and asks around thinking this young man has come upon a treasure. The shop keepers eventually go to the King who is familiar with the story of the missing youth from hundreds of years ago, just as everyone else as it is legendary at this point. The King and the men assure the young man that he is safe and the people no longer practice that religion and/or prosecute people who don’t follow the state’s religion. They accompany the youth to the cave where they meet the rest of the youth who then find out they’ve been asleep for centuries. Once their story and who they are become known, they fall asleep again and die. Once they die, the argument that had been raging at the time of whether the soul is resurrected or the body and soul is determined. It’s both the soul and body as evidence from these youths. Upon their death the people then argue over how to best honor them and a tablet or masjid is build at the opening of the cave.

Day 18 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 23-26 | Say InshaAllah

We learn the etiquette, adhab, for when we speak about the future. We are instructed to say “InshaAllah”, but if we forget, we say it when we remember. No need to call or text that friend to say you forgot to say InshaAllah when you both made plans to meet at Harazi Coffee House on Thursday at 6PM. Just say InshaAllah to Allah when you remember. When the youths awoke in the cave, they didn’t know how long they slept. We then learn they slept for 300 years plus 9. When the Christians narrate this story, they say the men slept for 100-289 years, but those are solar years as the Christians keep time for months and years with the sun. In Ayat 25, Allah corrects how we keep time. It is not through solar years or months, it is through lunar months and years. While the Jews keep monthly time based on the moon, they keep years based on the sun. Lastly, in Ayat 26, Allah reminds us that we take no Wali, Protector, Disposer of Affairs other than Allah. The Christians made the people of the Cave into saints who were prayed to for protection. Allah is reminding us that there is no other than Allah. We do not have saints in Islam, we do not glorify graves, we do not pray to others for intercession. There is and has only ever been Allah.

Day 19 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 27-28 | Recite the Quran

In Ayat 27, Allah says to recite the Quran. Recite is a word that mean more than read. When we read, we may read to ourselves, or silently, but recitation implies there is an audience. But recitation is not a performance, it is a call to action. Allah is to be obeyed, and we learn how we do that through the Quran. The Quran is meant to be recited so that people may follow. In Ayat 28, Allah says to be concerned with company who keeps the Quran as a priority and to keep Quran as a priority saying those who worship Allah in the morning and at night (afternoon). Remember that our hearts will not remain empty. If we are not seeking the pleasure of Allah, we will fill our hearts with other desires and Allah warns us of following our own lusts and the glamour of this dunya. I kept the illustrations simple for this one, and while I like the books and the shining yellow around it, I regret choosing light green for the border. So I added blue on top of it and I liked it even less. I would have preferred a blue border.

Day 20 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 29 | Hellfire

Ayat 29 is the most horrifying ayat for me so far in Surah Kahf. The description of hellfire is terrifying. It makes you want to run as far away from such torment. The words evoke gruesome imagery of what’s in store for those who choose to disbelieve in Allah. The ayat begins with “The truth if from you Lord”. And follows with a clear explanation of what the consequences are if you choose not to believe. The torment is heavy and harsh and powerful, but you as a person spreading the message of Islam are not to be harsh, you are meant to speak with kindness and invitation. The Quran speaks for itself, you do not diminish or enhance the words of the Quran. We are gifted the opportunity to choose and make our own decisions. The plant, animal and mineral kingdom have no choice but to obey Allah in everything. And Allah will not diminish your risq because you choose not to believe in Allah. He will not diminish the good you do in this life that’s for this life, but those deeds will evaporate before you die. They will not save on in the hereafter.

As a reminder, the illustrations are memory tools for me. They are part of my note-taking process for this project. Also, there is a major typo in this entry that was correctly after the video and post were made. The Ayat reads, “Then whosoever wills, let him believe and whosoever wills let him disbelieve.” I miss-wrote and forgot to add d-i-s- for disbelieve.

Day 21 | Quran Journaling | Surah Kahf Ayat 30-31 | Jannah

In the final Ayats of this first section, Ayat 30-31 speak about the splendid beauty of Jannah. It is in sharp contrast to the Hellfire that was previous mentioned. In hellfire, water relief comes in the form of boiling oil or blood and pus, whereas in Jannahtu-Adn, the everlasting paradise, lush gardens have flowing rivers. In Hellfire, their bodies are blackened from being burned and their faces melt off from the scalding heat. In Jannah, people are adorned with jewelry and robes of fine silk and brocade. The colors are starkly different. In Jannah, green is mentioned, and rivers are light, blue or clear in this life so assumed so in the next. Lush gardens evoke a scene of beauty and serenity and relaxation. It seems cool not cold, bright not glaring, and adorned with every beauty this world has known plus all we have yet to know. The beauty of this world is a test, yet the beauty of the hereafter is an enjoyment and a relaxation.

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