Temporary Autonomous Zone to Permanent Autonomous Zone and Surah al-Kahf

an imaginal portrait of the companions of the cave

 According to contemporary Islamic Scholar and expert in Islamic Eschatology Sheikh Imran Hosein, Surah al-Kahf, the 18th Chapter of the Quran is the quintessential Chapter to access the sacred knowledge of the later days or last age. This subject is known as 'Ilmu Akhir al-Zaman.

While reflecting on the 18th Chapter of the Final Testament, the Qur'an called al-Kahf or the Cave, it becomes clear that there both the Temporary Autonomous Zone and Permanent Autonomous Zone are to be discovered in that brilliant and mystical chapter of the Qur'an.


The term Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z), and the concept was first used in his book by writer and philosopher Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson). It is a concept of temporary spaces that elude formal and wordly structures of control which eventually has become synonymous with corruption, delusion, oppressive power and hagemony than anything else. It is to create a non-hierarchical system (in exact opposite to how the worldly power is obsessed with) and to concentrate on the present and on releasing one's own mind from the controlling mechanisms that have been imposed on it.

While this is the classic concept of T.A.Z but in Islamic point of view Temporary Autonomous Zone is something much more Deenic (religious & spiritual way of life) oriented as well as practically implemented. An archetypal example of such Temporary Autonomous Zone is to be found in the Chapter of the Cave of the Last Testament.

The City State of Medina - that very early community of Muslims fleeing persecution was a successful Temporary Autonomous Zone to begin with, and the best example already established on earth by the Last Prophet himself as its founder, administrator, chief executive, law-giver and spiritual and religious guide at the same time. Thousand of salutation and divine blessings be upon him.

Surah Kahf speaks of two kind of Autonomous Zone, here Autonomous with capital A represent Autonomy of the Most High, the Divine Authority, not any fake authority.


Surah al-Kahf is identified perhaps as the most important Surah to understand the emerging phenomena of the later age. The surah itself was revealed to the Last Prophet when the pagan Arabs asked the Jews living in Medina about signs that could enable them to recognize his claim to be a Prophet of God. Since the Children of Israel or the Israelites always had a Prophet among them for very long time, they knew the exact signs, the hidden knowledge that a Prophet must possess in order to prove his claim. So the Surah contains subject matter which none could know except a Prophet of God who had direct revelational link with the Unseen world. The Jews of Medina very carefully asked questions which themselves were wrapped in multiple layer of meanings so that their true intention was camouflaged. Never the less revelation came down and those questions were answered. For detail of this background please read Sheikh Imran's book Surah al-Kahf and the Modern Age

The subject matter of the Surah covers story of the companions of the cave (18:9), the travel of a myterious historical figure who is known as Dhul Qarnain (18:83) or one who has impact in two ages and Khidr or the mysterious companion of Moses who is the archetype of a being who is guided by inner vision (18:65), not simply external observation. The Surah also hints what strategy to take when society become utterly corrupt in every sense. The story of the companions of the cave also carry encoded hints for multi-dimensionality of time dimension and the reality of a ten dimensional universe in which we live in.

The Surah provide hints what it will mean to associate with God and remind that Authority (18:44) and Legislation belongs to God (18:26), not with man. When man follow his base desires and limited understanding, he is bound to go astray when governing himself and society through man made law devoid of Guidance from the Highest Authority.

The Surah also speaks of a comparison between two person, one who was given much wealth which caused him to forget true reality and eventually he became among those who have gone astray. His ungrateful attitude was, "I do not think that this (wealth, material possessions) will perish - ever. And I do not think the Hour will occur. And even if I should be brought back to my Lord, I will surely find better than this as a return." (18:35-36) This is the reality of the materialists of today and every age. They become permanently obsessed with impermanent world and its material glitters. For them a parable is present of the present life with the easily understood parable of rain, earth's vegetation and its becoming dry and scattered by wind (18:45). Even theology is distorted to the degree that it makes people falsely believe that they can do anything in life, violate and abuse every Law and will not be help accountable by the Most Accountable God. Western Christian theology has removed itself infinitely far from teachings of Christ and the original Church (18:4).

While revealing about Dhul Qarnain, the Surah also reveals about Gog and Magog who are the greatest corrupter and mischief maker on the face of the earth before the end of history. Gog and Magog are signs of the last age as well.

One of the primary agency of disbelief in the Later age will not be worship of idols like past, but taking others as allies and lords - in terms of law, governance, politics and so forth (18:102).


The prophetic tradition mentions a number of merits and links it with the later age.

“Narrated by Abū Sa’īd: The Prophet said: If anyone recites Sūrah al-Kahf on Yoūm al-Jum’ah (i.e., ‘Friday’ of the pagan world), a light will shine brightly for him till the next Jum’ah.”

“Abu Sa’īd al-Khudri reports that the Prophet said: Whoever recites Sūrah al-Kahf on Jumu’ah will have illumination from the light (of the Sūrah) from one Jum’ah to the next.”

“Ibn ‘Umar reports that the Prophet said: Whoever recites Sūrah al-Kahf on Jumu’ah will be blessed with a light that will rise from underneath his feet to the peak of the sky. This will be a light for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will be forgiven for what is between the Jumu’ah, i.e., or the day of the congregational prayers [and the next] Jumu’ah. “

Abū Darda reported that Allah’s Messenger said, “If anyone memorizes the first ten verses of Sūrah al-Kahf, he would be protected from Anti-Christ (Dajjāl).”

Anti-Christ or Dajjal is one of the biggest sign of the later age, and the Prophet's mentioning that this Surah works as a protection against the Dajjal is quite significant because those who can receive light from the Lord Most High will be able to read between the lines and formulate and be guided to certain strategy so that they will be protected from the illusions, charm, magic and falsehood of Dajjal in these massively trying period in human history.


So in this Surah we find there are two autonomous zone, one made autonomous by the Highest Authority in the Highest Place and the other need to be created by his deputy on earth, by His help indeed.

Permanent Autonomous Zone

This is described in this particular Surah as the following:

...give good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a good reward in which they will remain forever. 18:2-3

Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds - indeed, We will not allow to be lost the reward of any who did well in deeds. Those will have gardens of perpetual residence; beneath them rivers will flow. They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and will wear green garments of fine silk and brocade, reclining therein on adorned couches. Excellent is the reward, and good is the resting abode. 18:30-31

Temporary Autonomous Zone

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!" 18:10

Then We draw (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave. 18:11

And they remained in their cave for three hundred years and exceeded by nine. 18:25

The cave of Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, modern day Turkey / credit

In the light of the Quran, specially surah Kahf in this age of deception and corruption, the best strategy for individual and community is to create one's own Temporary Autonomous Zone just as the companions of the cave flee or took refuge to one such. And at the same time knowing that there is a greater Hijrah (migration) waiting for us, that Hijrah or travel or migration is, by Allah's permission and enabling, to move from any Temporary Autonomous Zone to the Permanent Autonomous Zone, Our Original Homeland, the Beautiful Garden.

And finally, metaphysically speaking, when we taken into account the true reality of things, then we must also never forget the higher truth that both in Zahir and Batin, both in apparent and unseen reality, its equally true that:

walan tajida min doonihi mul'tahada

And never will you find a refuge except Him.  18:27

May we all find our refuge in the Truth and with the Real. Ameen.

# Further:
* Surah al-Kahf and Modern Age
* Ilmu Akhir al-Zaman ~ Teachings and Discourses of Sheikh Imran Hosein
* T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone
* Seven Sleepers



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Technology of the Heart: Temporary Autonomous Zone to Permanent Autonomous Zone and Surah al-Kahf
Temporary Autonomous Zone to Permanent Autonomous Zone and Surah al-Kahf
While reflecting on the 18th Chapter of the Final Testament, the Qur'an called al-Kahf or the Cave, it becomes clear that there both the Temporary Autonomous Zone and Permanent Autonomous Zone are to be discovered in that brilliant and mystical chapter of the Qur'an.
Technology of the Heart
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