In the middle of the Quran are two sisters, Kahf and Isra. These surahs have well documented similarities and complement each other amazingly.
Surah Isra is mainly directed at Bani Israel, the Jews. It begins by recalling part of their story, closes by doing the same, and is even known as Surah Bani Israel by some.
Sarah Kahf, on the other hand, is directed at the Christians. It begins by rejecting the idea that God has a son and continues by correcting the distorted Christian narrative of the people of the cave, filling it in with more accurate detail and making it relevant to those seeking guidance.
We find nuances in the ayahs of these surahs, which demonstrate how perfectly each is catered to its intended audience.
An example of this targeted nuance can be found near the middle of both surahs where Allah talks about the creation of Adam. In Surah Isra, directed at the Jews, we find the ayah:
“And remember when We said to the angles, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblis. He said, “Should I prostrate to one You created from clay?’”
And in Surah Kahf, which is directed towards the Christians, we find the ayah:
“And remember when We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam,” and they prostrated, except for Iblis. He was of the jinn and transgressed from the command of his Lord. Will you you take him and his descendants as friends and protectors other than Me while they are enemies to you? Wretched it is for the wrongdoers as an exchange.”
Both of these ayahs mention the same story, but the manner in which they do so is contextually correlated to their audiences.
In Surah Isra, Allah underscores Iblis’s arrogance, his feeling of superiority towards Adam, and his refusal to obey the command of Allah because of this.
The Jews at the time of Muhammad SAWS had clear signs in their scripture of a coming prophet, and Muhammad SAWS aligned with them perfectly, yet they refused to accept him:
“Those whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know.”
Their refusal to accept Muhammad SAWS as a prophet lied in their arrogance. They were unwilling to accept that the prophet they had been awaiting was a gentile, an Arab. They felt that their race made them superior and that belief fueled their arrogance in a parallel manner to how Adam being made of clay instead of fire, fueled Iblis’s. This ayah uses Adam’s story to call out the Jews for adopting the arrogant mentality of Iblis.
However, when the same story is mentioned in Surah Kahf, Allah frames it differently, with respect to the Christian audience. The Christians were not notorious for arrogance. In fact the Quran reveres them for their humility in Surah Maidah. Instead, their downfall came from their ignorance, their willingness to alter the religion of God to allow for innovation, and to naively follow the suggestions of the Devil.
Accordingly, the ayah in Surah Kahf takes explicit care to clear up a common misconception of the Christians and criticize their ignorance. It clearly states that Iblis was a jinn, and not a fallen angel, as the Christians claim. Further, the ayah scolds the Christians for being naive and ignorant enough to take Iblis and his descendants, or allies, as friends. It chastises them for taking such a clear enemy to them as a protector, and highlights their lack of knowledge and intelligence with a tone of bafflement and anger, given that they have the truth right in front of them.
The ayah in Surah Isra rebukes the Jews for following the example of Iblis, while the ayah in Surah Kahf rebukes the Christians for taking him as an ally out of ignorance. By criticizing these errors, the Quran also reminds Muslims to avoid them as well.
Despite these ayahs mentioning the same story, they aren’t at all redundant. In fact, in both cases, certain details of the story are highlighted in order to extract relevant moral lessons for each intended audience. This perfect contextual placement adds to the amazing precision of the Quran.