The story of Moses and Al-Khidr is mentioned in Surah Al-Kahf (verses 60-82) and in Sahih Bukhari, Book 6, Volume 60, Hadith 249. This story teaches us very important lessons. Some of these are:
- Human knowledge can never comprehend Allah’s ways or the reasons for various happenings which Allah allows to happen
- Human beings are always impatient and seek immediate answers to all the occurrences that defy comprehension
- Faith in Allah should make us accept His rulings without any questioning.
Prophet Moses and Bani Israel (children of Israel)
Once when Prophet Moses was addressing Banu Israel (children of Israel), he was asked: “Who is the most learned man among the people?”
“I am the most learned.”
Allah admonished Moses as he did not attribute absolute knowledge to Him (Allah SWT). So Allah instructed him to go to the junction of the two seas where he would meet one who was more learned than Moses.
The Quran states:
And (remember) when Moosa (Moses) said to his boy-servant: “I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I spend years and years in travelling.” (Quran, Surah Al-Kahf:60)
That learned man at the junction of the two seas was Al-Khidr. When Moses met him and introduced himself, Al-Khidr asked:
“The Moses of Banu Israel?”
Moses replied in the affirmative. The Quran then explains further:
Moosa (Moses) said to him (Khidr) “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah)?” (Quran, Surah Kahf:66)
“Verily! You will not be able to remain patient with me, O Moses! I have some of the knowledge of Allah which He has taught me and which you do not know, while you have some knowledge which Allah has taught you which I do not know.”
The Quran states:
(67) He (Khidr) said: “Verily! You will not be able to have patience with me!
(68) “And how can you have patience about a thing which you know not?” (Quran, Surah Kahf:67,68)
Moses assured him that he would be patient and not disobey him in any matter. Both of them set out walking along the seashore. Soon a boat passed by and they requested the crew to take them on board. The crew recognized Al-Khidr and took them on board without fare.
Then a sparrow came and stood on the edge of the boat and dipped its beak once or twice in the sea. Al-Khidr said:
“O Moses! My knowledge and your knowledge have not decreased Allah’s knowledge except as much as this sparrow has decreased the water of the sea with its beak.”
Al-Khidr then removed one of the planks of the boat. Moses said:
“These people gave us a free lift but you have broken their boat and scuttled it so as to drown its people.”
“Didn’t I tell you that you will not be able to remain patient with me?”
Moses said (as stated in the Quran):
(Moosa (Moses)) said: “Call me not to account for what I forgot, and be not hard upon me for my affair (with you).” (Quran, Surah Al-Kahf:73)
They proceeded further and found a boy playing with other boys. Al-Khidr killed him. The Quran describes that in this verse:
Then they both proceeded, till they met a boy, he (Khidr) killed him. (Prophet Moosa) said: “Have you killed an innocent person who had killed none? Verily, you have committed a thing “Nukra” (a great Munkar – prohibited, evil, dreadful thing)!” (Quran, Surah Al-Kahf:74)
“Did I not tell you that you cannot remain patient with me?”
They went farther till they came to a town. They asked the people for food, but they refused. In this town they found a wall which was on the point of collapsing. Al-Khidr repaired it with his own hands. Moses said:
“If you had wished, surely you could have taken wages for it.”
The Quran states this as:
“Then they both proceeded, till, when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them. Then they found therein a wall about to collapse and he (Khidr) set it up straight. (Moosa (Moses)) said: If you had wished, surely, you could have taken wages for it!” (Quran, Surah Kahf:77)
Al-Khidr then replied:
“This is the parting between you and me.”
Al-Khidr then explained all his actions which had astonished Moses and made him question them. He said that the ship which he had damaged, belonged to a few poor people working in the sea. A king was behind them seizing every ship by force. So by making it defective, he had saved it for its owners. As for the boy, his parents were believers, and there was a fear that the boy would oppress them by his rebellion and disbelief. So Allah planned to take him away and give them another child instead who would be more righteous and kind. As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town. A treasure was hidden under it which also belonged to them; their father had been a righteous man, and Allah intended to safeguard their treasure. Building the wall ensured that the treasure would be protected till they reached maturity. Al-Khidr concluded that he had not done anything of his own accord but had followed Allah’s instructions.
The above incident is explained in Surah Al-Kahf, verses, 60-82.
In spite of repeated reminders from Khidr, and assurances from Moses that he would be patient and not question any of Khidr’s actions, Moses forgot his promise and demanded immediate explanations for actions that seemed to him unjust and inexplicable at the moment.
We can learn from this incident about the weakness of human mind and limitations of human understanding. The example should make us remember and resolve never to have any misgivings, surprise or regrets about occurrences in our life that might temporarily inconvenience us or thwart our desires. After all, it is Allah Who Knows what’s best for us and He, The Most Merciful, plans everything for our benefit which is not immediately visible to us.
Who was Khidr?
A number of people have wondered whether khidr was an angel, a Messenger, a Prophet or a wali (“saint”). Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid (islamqa.info) describes it as follows: “From the general meaning of the Quranic verses it appears that he was a prophet.”
Shaykh al-Shanqeeti (may Allah have mercy on him) said in his commentary on the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“Then they found one of Our slaves, on whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:65)
“But it may be understood from some verses that the mercy mentioned here was the mercy of prophet hood, and that this knowledge which came from Allah was the knowledge of revelation (wahy). One of the indications that the mercy and knowledge with which Allah blessed His slave al-Khidr came by way of prophet hood and revelation is the verse:
“And I did them not of my own accord” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:82)
i.e., rather I did them by the command of Allah, and the command of Allah is only conveyed via wahy (revelation), because there is no way for the commands and prohibitions of Allah to be known except through revelation from Allah, especially when it comes to he earlier described acts. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Say (O Muhammad): “I warn you only by the Revelation” (Surah Al-Anbiya’ 21:45)
The interpretation of the meaning clearly indicate that he was a prophet. Al-Fakhr al-Raazi, in his tafseer, attributed the view that he was a prophet to many scholars. Another factor that may indicate that he was a prophet is the fact that Moosa (peace be upon him) humbled himself before him and said (interpretation of the meaning):
“May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah)?” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:66)
“If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey you in aught” (Al-Kahf 18:69)
even though al-Khidr said to him (interpretation of the meaning):
“And how can you have patience about a thing which you know not?” (Surah Al-Kahf 18:68), (Adwaa’ al-Bayaan, 3/326).