[ Abdullah Yusuf Ali ]
Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave: they said, "Our Lord! bestow on us Mercy from Thyself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way!"
[ Saheeh International ]
[Mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, "Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance."
2337 The bare Christian story (without the spiritual lessons taught in the Qur'an) is told in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (end of chapter 33). In the reign of a Roman Emperor who persecuted the Christians, seven Christian youths of Ephesus left the town and hid themselves in a cave in a mountain near by. They fell asleep, and remained asleep for some generations or centuries. When the wall which sealed up the caves was being demolished, the youths awoke. They still thought of the world in which they had previously lived. They had no idea of the duration of time. But when one of them went to the town to purchase provisions, he found that the whole world had changed. The Christian religion, instead of being persecuted was fashionable: in fact it was now the State religion. His dress and speech, and the money which he brought, seemed to belong to another world. This attracted attention. The great ones of the land visited the Cave, and verified the tale by questioning the man's Companions. When the story became very popular and circulated throughout the Roman Empire, we may wll suppose that an Inscription was put up at the mouth of the Cave. See verse 9 and n. 2336. inscription was probably to be seen for many years afterwards, as Ephesus was a famous city on the west coast of Asia Minor, about fory to fifty miles south Smyrna. Later on, the Caliph al Wathiq (842-846 A.C.) sent an expedition to examine and identify the locality, as he did about Dhu al Qarnayn barrier in Central Asi (Appendix VI at the end of this Surah). A popular story circulating from mouth to mouth would necessarily be vague as to dates and vary very much in details. Somewhere about the 6th century A.C. a Syriac writer reduced it to writing. He suggested that the youths were seven in number; that they went to sleep in the reign of the Emperor Decius (who reigned from 249-251 A.C., and who was a violent persecutor of Christians); and that they awoke in the reign Theodosius II, who reigned from 408 to 450 A.C. In our literature Decious is known as Daqyanus (from the adjectival Latin from Dacianus), and the name stands as a symbol of injustice and oppression, and also of things old fashioned and out-of-date, as res decianae must have been two to three centuries after Decius.
2338 The youths hid in the cave, but they trusted in Allah, and made over their whole case to Him in prayer. Then they apparently fell asleep and knew nothing of what was happening in the world outside.