What if you slept for 300 years?

What if you slept for 300 years?

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Do you think that the companions of the cave and the inscription were unusual out of our signs?” [1]

Recently, we have been covering the story of the companions of the cave as part of our Qurānic exegesis lessons (Tafsīr). One of the fascinating aspects of this story is how God placed a group of sincere yet courageous youngsters in a state of slumber for around 300 years. That’s right, 300 years. Imagine to then wake up to a whole new world.

Exactly. It is really difficult to imagine. So we decided to look back from today and see how things have changed to gain an insight into the significance of this event. Can much really change in that time? You’d be surprised.

Had one of Columbus’ sailors fallen into a similar slumber and woken up to the ringtone of a twenty-first century iPhone, he would have found himself in a world strange beyond comprehension. Yet, the last few centuries have witnessed a phenomenal and unprecedented growth in human power. In the year 1500, there were about 500 million humans in the entire world. Today, there are 7 billion.[2] The total value of goods and services produced by humankind in the year 1500 is estimated at $250 billion, in today’s dollars. [3] Nowadays the value of a year of human production is close to $60 trillion.[4] In 1500, humanity consumed about 13 trillion calories of energy per day. Today, we consume 1,500 trillion calories per day.[5] (Take a second to look at those figures – human population increased fourteen fold, production 240 –fold, and energy consumption 115-fold).

Suppose a single modern battleship got transported back to Columbus’ time. In a matter of seconds it could make driftwood out of Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria without a scratch. Five modern freighters could have taken onboard all the cargo borne by the whole world’s merchant fleets.[6] A modern computer could easily store every word and number in all the codex books and scrolls in every single medieval library with room to spare. Any large bank today holds more money than all the worlds premodern kingdoms put together.[7]

In 1500, humans were confined to the earth’s surface. On 20 July 1969 humans landed on the moon. For most of history, humans knew nothing about 99.9 per cent of the organisms of the planet – namely microorganisms. Yet it was only in 1674 that a human eye first saw a microorganism, when Anton van Leeuwenhoek took a peek through his home made microscope.

There are many more examples I could give. But I think you get my point. Perhaps now we can now begin to appreciate the slumber of the sleepers of the cave.

And only God knows best.

Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sīdāt

You been sleeping for 300 hundred years

[1] Qur’ān 18:9

[2] David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History

[3] Maddison, The World Economy

[4] ‘Gross Domestic Product 2009’, The World Bank, Data and Statistics

[5] Christian, Maps of Time

[6] Maddison, The World Economy

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