Kahf means a cave in a mountain but as for the meaning of the word "Raqeem" about it the Mufassireen have a difference of opinion. But about something there is a strong opinion viz., that it is a name of a town which used to be the capital for the people of Banu Nabit bin Ismail whose era was from 700 B.C. to 106 B.C. It is said it lies north of the gulf of Aqaba (Eelah) where two parallel ranges of mountains meet. This tribe used to live on one of those mountainous regions and used to be called al-Raqeem (modem day Aerah or Batra).Present day excavation in and around the area are talcing place to discover its ancient origins Among the discoveries brought to light by these excavations is that a strange cave was found in the mountains. This cave is quite wide and situated at such a spot that the rays of the sun and its heat does not reach it. Another cave was discovered around the mouth of which were found some ruins of some ancient buildings of which many ruins of pillars were still present. It seems as if these were the ruins of an ancient temple or place of worship.
So actually we may say that the many discoveries made in this region through excavations, are a confirmation word by word of the words of the Qur'an. Similarly it becomes easy to say that the companions of the cave which is mentioned in Surah Kahf is a story of one of the caves of the city of al-Raqeem or Perah.
(Maulana Hifzur Rahman after a long discussion on the issue clarified that the companions of the cave and the companions of al-Raqeem were one and the same people. He also pointed out that the story mentioned in Bukhari Shareef about some companions and a cave refers to some people from Banu Israel. Maulana also pointed out that the story of the Ashaabil Kahf is one which deals with the early days of Christianity.)
The Qur'an and the As-Haabil Kahf
As has been mentioned in the story of Zul Qamain, the Jewish scholars had asked three questions to Rasulullah (SM) through the delegation of Quraish. One of those questions was: Who were the companions of the cave and what happened to them? Rasulullah (SM) awaited the coming of revelation and after its arrival he recited Surah Kahf to them to clarify the matter: