taken gods beside Him, unless they bring clear authority for them: who then is more unjust than he who hath devised a lie against God? And when ye have withdrawn from them and from what they worship beside God, then betake yourselves to the cave: thus your Lord will unfold unto you of His mercy and will prepare for you advantage out of your matter.’ And thou seest the sun when it riseth recede from their cave towards the right hand, and when it setteth turn 1 aside from them towards the left hand, and they were in an interstice of it 2: that is one of God's signs. Whomsoever then God guideth, he is guided, and for him whom He misguideth thou shalt never find a patron, a guide. And thou wouldst reckon them awake, though they are asleep; and We turn them over towards the right hand and towards the left hand. And their dog stretcheth out his forepaws on the threshold; and if thou hadst come upon them thou wouldst indeed have turned from them in flight, and thou wouldst have been filled with dread of them. And therefore did We arouse them that they might inquire of one another. A speaker from among them said, ‘How long have ye remained?’ They said, ‘We have remained a day, or portion of a day.’ They said, ‘Your Lord knoweth well how long ye have remained. Send therefore one of you with this your coin into the city, then let him see which man of it has the

1 So as not to touch them.
2 That is, of the cave.

purest food, and let him bring you provision from him, and let him be kind, and let him not inform anyone concerning you. Verily, if they discover you, they will stone you or bring you back into their community, and then for ever ye shall never prosper.’ And thus we made it known concerning them, that men might know that God's promise is true, and that as to the Hour 1 there is no doubt about it. When they argued among themselves about their matter, then they said, ‘Build a building over them: their Lord knoweth well about them.’ Those who prevailed in their matter said, ‘We shall surely erect a mosque over them.’ They will say, ‘They were three: the fourth of them was their dog:’ and they will say, ‘There were five; the sixth of them was their dog:’ a conjecture concerning the mystery: and they will say, ‘They were seven; the eighth of them was their dog.’ Say thou 2, ‘My Lord is well aware of their number: none but a few know about them.’ ... And they remained in their cave three hundred years, and they added nine. Say thou , ‘God is well aware how long they remained: to Him belongeth the mystery of the heavens and of the earth.’"

To understand this rather hesitating account we must remember that, as the commentators inform us, some of the heathen Arabs of Mecca had chal-

1 i.e. the Judgement Day.
2 Muhammad.
3 Others say Jews, but this is less likely.