— The tale as given in the Qur'an is quoted in full below.1 It is one of Greek origin to be found in a

1 Surah xviii. 8-26. Dost thou consider that the Companions of the Cave, and al Rakim, were one of our signs and a great miracle? When the young men took refuge in the Cave, they said, O Lord, grant us mercy from before Thee, and dispose our business for us to a right issue. Wherefore we struck their ears so that they slept in the Cave for a great number of years: then we awakened them ....We will relate unto thee their history with truth. They were young men who had believed in their Lord; and we had abundantly directed them; and we fortified their hearts with constancy when they stood before the judge; and they said Our Lord is the Lord of heaven and earth; we will by no means call on any god besides him; for then we should surely utter an extravagance ....And they said to one another, When ye shall separate yourselves from them, and from that which they worship besides God, then fly into the Cave: your Lord will pour his mercy upon you abundantly and dispose your business to advantage. And thou mightest have seen the sun, when it had risen to decline from their Cave to the right hand, and when it went down, to leave them on the left hand: and they were in the spacious part of the Cave. This was one of the signs of God ....And thou wouldest have judged them to have been awake, while they were sleeping; and we caused them to turn themselves to the right hand and to the left. And their dog stretched forth his fore-legs in the mouth of the Cave; if thou hadst come suddenly upon them, verily thou wouldst have turners thy back and fled from them, and thou wouldst have been filled with fear at the sight of them. And so we awaked them out of their sleep, that they might ask questions of one another. One of them said, How long have ye tarried here? They answered, We have tarried a day, or part of a day. Others said: Your Lord best knoweth the time ye have tarried. And now send one of you with this your money into the City, and let him see which of its people hath the best and cheapest food, and let him bring you provision from him; and let him behave circumspectly, and not discover you to anyone. Verily, if they come up against you, they will stone you, or force you to return to their religion; and then shall you not prosper for ever. And so we made their people acquainted with what had happened to them ....And they said, Erect a Chapel over them; their Lord best knoweth their condition .... Some say the Sleepers were three, and their dog was the fourth; others say they were five, and their dog the sixth, guessing at a secret matter; and others say they were Seven, and their dog the eighth. Say, My Lord best knoweth their numbers; none shall know them except a few. Wherefore dispute not concerning them, unless with a clear disputation, and ask not any (of the Christians) concerning them ....And they remained in their Cave 300 years and 9 years over.


Latin work of Gregory of Tours,1 and may be described in brief as referring to the age of the Emperor Decius (249-251 A.D.), when Christians were terribly persecuted, and every endeavour made to destroy the Faith. To escape with their lives, seven men of Ephesus took refuge in a Cave near their city, and fell asleep for two hundred years, till the reign of Theodorus II. (447 A.D.). On awaking, one of them ventured into the City to see what in the interval had happened, and was overcome with amazement to find the Christian faith triumphant over all other religions. The Cross, once the sign of shame and disgrace, now the crown of the Emperor, and the mark of Empire; and nearly the whole people of the land turned Christians. All this is of course a mere story, composed no doubt to illustrate the rapidity with which, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and shedding of Martyrs' blood, the Faith had gained ascendency at the last. No Christian ever dreamt that the tale was true; but such as the nurse tells her children of "the cat and the mouse," etc. But the Prophet has entered it with all gravity in the Qur'an for the instruction of his followers. Is it needful for us to add that such a tale could never have been placed by the Most High upon the heavenly Table, and from thence sent down to the Prophet; but was learned by him from some of the ignorant Christians around him?

1 " Story of Martyrs," i. 95.