Reflection No. 209 on Q 18:10 – Mercy and Guidance from Allah alone

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا
Rabbanā ātinā min landunka raHmatan wa-hayyi’ lanā amrinā rashadā
Our Lord! Grant us mercy from You and provide for us a right course in our affairs.
(Sūratul Kahf, No. 18, Āyat 10)

This invocation is from the People of the Cave (ashābul Kahf) when they sought refuge in the cave and prayed to Allah to help them. Their meaningful Du‘ā reveals the level of faith and trust they had in God. Fear of being killed for not worshiping idols led them to seek refuge in the cave. They feared what the idol-worshipping authorities would do to them, but they never wavered in their expectations of help from Allah.

The People of Cave asked for two things from God:

1) Mercy – note that they say min ladunka rahmatan, i.e.  mercy from You. They knew that they were weak and helpless. The King and his people were after them and they had no support from their own people. But they had strong faith in the King of kings. They cut off hope from everyone else and hoped only for mercy from Allah alone. This is also a request for the type of mercy that only God can grant, blessings that are not in the control of anyone else.

2) Guidance – the men had no escape except to seek refuge in the cave. They did not know what would happen after that, and how this would help them out of their predicament. They could very easily be found and forcibly taken back. How long could they hide in the cave? These were the questions that probably occurred in their minds but they knew that the only solution would come from Almighty Allah. So they ask for rashada –a right course of events; a guidance that would lead them to the desired goal of monotheistic worship.

According to Tafsīr al Mīzān, it is possible that these requests are actually one request; a guidance that is mercy from God.

Human beings turn to God with their needs because not only is He Merciful, but He is also the most Powerful. In God, power and mercy merge together. Dr. Mohammed Ali Shomali in his articles on Mercy of Allah says:

The Quran mentions that along with God’s mercy, He has the power to carry out  all that He wants. Some people are merciful as long as they do not have power; yet when they have power they are no longer merciful. . . . God is both merciful and powerful. His power does not change Him and He is not merciful because of weakness. In thirteen verses of the Quran, God describes Himself as being both All-mighty (al-‘Azīz) and All-merciful (al-Rahīm). For example, we read: And truly your Lord is the All-mighty, the All merciful (Q 26:9, 68, 104, 122, 140, 159, 175 & 191) . . . When He wants to give you mercy, no one can stop Him. He is able to give you mercy in all circumstances, whether people like it or not.
(Message of Thaqalayn, ‘Understanding God’s Mercy’, Part II)

Recite this verse when you don’t know what the result of a particular venture will be and are hoping for a good outcome. Remember the People of the Cave and the confusion they felt. Be inspired by their trust in Allah and ask from God what they asked for, mercy and guidance.

Sources: ‘Allāmah S. M . H. Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; M Mohammed Ali Shomali,