A running theme in Surah Kahf is the false belief that material good is the ultimate good. We know, however, that the immediate perception of what is good is quite different from the ultimate good.
This theme is evident with the story of the garden found between Ayahs 32 and 44 where a man flaunts his superiority over his companion and claims God has favored him because of his wealth:
وَكَانَ لَهُ ثَمَرٌ فَقَالَ لِصَاحِبِهِ وَهُوَ يُحَاوِرُهُ أَنَا أَكْثَرُ مِنْكَ مَالًا وَأَعَزُّ نَفَرًا
“He had abundant produce, he said to his companion while conversing with him: “I am richer than you and and stronger in respect of men.””
It’s also explicitly discussed in the Ayahs that follow this story, where Allah describes how lasting good is better than chasing the material world:
الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلًا
“Wealth and children are an adornment of this world’s life: but lasting good, the fruit whereof endures forever, is far better in your Lord’s sight, and a far better source of hope.”
This theme is also apparent when Dhul Khidr demonstrates to Musa that the ultimate good, which is sometimes imperceivable, is better than the good of the material world, whereas Dhul Khidr sinks a ship for the ultimate purpose of protecting its owners and so on.
Towards the end of the Surah, Dhul Qarnain builds a massive barrier between Yajooj/Majooj and an oppressed people who consider this wall as an absolute marvel. Dhul Qarnain brushes off the praise and says that the amazing feat is simply from the mercy of his Lord and will be destroyed when the time comes, demonstrating his understanding of the relative insignificance of material good.
It’s clear that Surah Kahf’s message is that the ever lasting world is superior to the short term material world which we will question about on the Day of Judgment. Here’s what’s really interesting.
According to Hadith, the Day of Judgement is on a Friday, which interestingly happens to be the day we’re encouraged to recite this Surah. Further, the Surah in the Quran that explicitly commands toward the Friday prayer does so using the same message of leaving the pursuit of this world in order to prepare for the next.
ا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِيَ لِلصَّلَاةِ مِنْ يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
As Allah commands us to gather on Yawm al Jumu’ah, the day of gathering, he will gather us on Yawm al Qiyama, the day of Judgment. Interestingly enough, Judgement Day is referred to as Yawm al Jama’, the Day of Gathering, in Surah Shura.
Surah Kahf, which we read every Friday, is actually a reminder of the ultimate Friday, the ultimate congregation, the Day of Judgment. It’s a reminder of our duty to prepare for this last day, by setting aside our focus on material good, and seeking ultimate good through the remembrance of Allah.