The first story of Surah al Kahf (the people of the cave) showed how many ask irrelevant, poor questions. The third story of Surah al Kahf (when Musa(AS) met Khidr) shows us key principles for how to be a student with key lessons including:
- Stay hungry – don’t stop in seeking knowledge like Musa(AS) or invest your life (huqb) in it
- Thank Allah for the Knowledge you Have
- Recognize the Importance of Seeking Companions in Knowledge
- Know that Satan will Try to Block Knowledge
- Be patient and obedient if you want to benefit
- Don’t ask poor questions which you wont benefit from the answer on. As the right question.
- Respecting the people of knowledge: Good manners and humility with your teachers
- Reliance on Allah(SWT) for understanding and being able to take knowledge
- Break your bad habits to turn towards Allah(SWT)
- Reflect on your lessons in life to learn for the future
- Don’t seek knowledge in order to speak of it. Seek it to act upon it
- Studying is an act of worship but it’s not the goal in and of itself. The goal is to attain guidance.
Remember, Allah(SWT) has a plan for everything and everything will be accounted for. Most agnostics tend to complain about personal problems or problems in the world. Allah(SWT) tells us about what is going to last and Allahs Perfect Justice in the Hereafter. Absolute fairness wont exist in this world by our hands, rather its a Mercy of Allah(SWT) that everything will be straightened on the Day of Judgement – ultimate justice.
But that is the unseen – we dont see the behind the scenes source code. In this story, Allah(SWT) lifts the curtain on some of this to show us the bigger picture.
The story veins soon after the defeat of Egypt and the destruction of the Egyptians, Allah (Exalted is He) ordered Musa(AS) to remind his people of this blessing. So, he stood up and gave them an eloquent sermon, because of which hearts were softened and eyes shed tears. Then, they asked him, “Who is the most knowledgeable of mankind?”
He replied, “I am.”
And in another narration, they asked, “Do you know anyone more knowledgeable than yourself?”
He said, “No.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 3400]
So, Allah gently corrected him, because he did not refer the knowledge back to Allah (Honored and Majestic is He). So, Allah revealed to him, “I have a servant who is more knowledgeable than you. He is at the junction of the two seas.”
Immediately Musa(AS) humbled himself and said, ‘My Lord! If there is anyone among Your slaves who is more knowledgeable than me, indicate him to me.’
“Allah replied, ‘Khidhr is more knowledgeable than you.’ That servant is Khidhr(AS). He was living before Musa(AS), and was living at the time that Dhul Qarnayn set out on his journey.
(60) And when Musa said to his servant, “I will not stop until I reach the junction between the two seas. Else, I will spend a long time seeking it”
The servant referred to here is Yusha’ b. Nun b. Ifrathim b. Yusuf (AS), who was Musa’s(AS) nephew, who served him, followed him, and learned knowledge from him.
The word “fata” literally means youth and shares the same root as fatwa as it passes a judgement, just as a young man passes into manhood by making judgement.
Musa(AS) said “I will not stop” meaning I will continue traveling, seeking this man – who was Khidhr(AS) – “until I reach the junction between the two seas” According to the opinion of the majority of scholars, this refers to the junction between the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Its interesting that they met at a junction and parted at a separation.
“Else, I will spend a long time seeking it” meaning I will continue seeking it until I am certain that I will not obtain my objective, because of the large amount of time that I have spent on it. The word “huqb” in the text means one’s life. Or at the very least seventy or eighty years.
“Musa(AS) said, ‘Where should I seek him out?’
“Allah replied, ‘On the ocean shore near to a large rock.’
“Musa(AS) said, ‘My Lord! How can I recognize him?’
“Allah said, ‘Take a fish with you in a basket. Where you miss it, you will find him.’
“So, Musa(AS) took a roasted fish and placed it in his basket. Then, he said to his servant, “When you miss this fish, inform me.” So, they set out walking until they met Khidhr.
The story of Prophet Musa’s(AS) meeting with Khidhr (AS) makes plain the difference between the people of tashree’ee (sacred) knowledge and the people of takweenee (worldly) knowledge.
The people of takweenee knowledge are those who are charged with rectifying external matters, while the people of tashree’ee knowledge are charged with realizing internal realities, reflected in the meeting of the two oceans.
“And when they had passed beyond that point” beyond the junction between the two seas, which was the appointed place for their meeting, they traveled for the remainder of that night and during the day until the time of the midday prayer. At that time, Musa(AS) felt hunger pains. So, “he said to his servant, ‘Bring us our meal’” meaning that which we will have for our midday meal. He was referring to the fish, as indicated by the response. “We have certainly suffered, in this journey, fatigue” meaning tiredness and exhaustion.
“He responded” i.e. his servant responded, “Did you not see that when we rested upon the rock” i.e. when we laid down and slept next to it, “I forgot the fish.” In fact, when its described, it took off in a way that was unreal (mirage-like), and some say he feel asleep again uncertain if it was real. Amazingly, there is a fish called the lungfish which can survive for up to 4 years without water, and its stated that this fish they came back to life when Yusha was doing wudu and some splashed on to the fish at which point he escaped. On recognising Musa’s(AS) irritation, he quickly follows “and none caused me to forget to mention it except Shaytan” Lets hate Shaytan together.
Ibn ‘Ajibah said “His forgetfulness was an overpowering, Divine Matter, without any intermediary cause. Its wisdom was that they should experience fatigue so that Musa(AS) would venerate the knowledge that he would take from Khidhr(AS). Indeed, success after toil is sweeter than success without toil. That is why Paradise has been encircled in hardships.”
“He said” meaning Musa(AS) said, “That is what we had been seeking” i.e. the matter that occurred with the fish is what we had been seeking, because it was a sign of having achieved our goal. “So, they returned” meaning they both returned “following their footprints” i.e. they returned upon the same path, following their own footsteps closely, until they reached the rock.
“And they found a slave from amongst our slaves” The indefinite case here indicates magnification, and the attribution [to God] indicates exaltation. Khidr’s name is Balya b. Malkan Yu’su, and he was nicknamed Khidhr because he sat on barren, white land and it turned green with vegetation under him, just as has been narrated by Abu Hurayrah (RA) from the Prophet ﷺ [Bukhari]. And in another hadith, the Prophet ﷺ said, while mentioning the story of Khidhr(AS), “He was the son of a king. And his father wanted him to succeed him. However, he refused and fled. He managed to reach an island in the sea, so that they were unable to seize him.”
And it has been narrated from the Prophet ﷺ that he said, “Musa(AS) arrived with Khidhr while the latter was sleeping, covered in a garment. He greeted him with peace. So, he sat up and said, ‘Peace be upon you, o Prophet of the Children of Israel.’
“Musa(AS) asked, ‘Who informed you that I was the Prophet of the Children of Israel?’
“He replied, ‘The One who informed you of me, also informed me.’”
Allah (Exalted is He) said, regarding Khidhr(AS), that he was one “Whom We had given a mercy from Ourselves.” That mercy is revelation and Prophethood, just as is understood from the indefiniteness of “mercy” and its attribution to the Majestic Presence. It has also been said that it is the secret of Election, which is Sainthood. “and taught directly some knowledge” meaning exclusive knowledge, whose nature cannot be ascertained and whose worth cannot be measured. That knowledge is knowledge of some unseen matters. Or, it is [knowledge] of the secrets of reality. Yet still, it may be real knowledge of the Essence and the Attributes.
As for Khidhr(AS), it has been said that he is a Prophet. Those who hold this opinion use his own words later in the Surah, “I did not do it of my own command.” And it has also been said that he is a Saint. Further, there is disagreement over whether he has passed away or is still living.
When Musa met Khidhr(AS), he asked permission to accompany him in order to learn from him, out of courtesy, good manners, and humility. Likewise, it is imperative that anyone who wishes to learn from the Shaykhs have good manners and humility with them.
“Musa said to him, ‘Can I follow you so that you may teach me some of the guidance that you have been taught?’” meaning, that you may teach me some of the knowledge that Allah has taught you, which indicates towards right guidance and correct action. His being a Prophet with a Law does not negate the possibility of his learning some secrets and hidden sciences from someone else, because there is no limit to Allah’s knowledge (Exalted is He).
And it has been narrated that when they met each other, they sat, speaking. And a bird came and plucked a drop or two of water from the ocean. So, Khidhr(AS) said to him, “O, Musa! You reckon that you are the most knowledgeable of people on earth? Your and my knowledge, combined with the knowledge of the first and the last, compared with the knowledge of Allah, is equal to less than the water that bird is carrying [in its beak].”
“He said,” to Musa(AS) “You will not be able to have patience with me” because you are a Messenger who has been charged with upholding the apparent limits of the Sacred Law, while Allah (Exalted is He) has informed me of some hidden matters. Then, he explained the reason that [Musa] could not have been patient, saying: “And how could you have patience with that which your knowledge does not encompass?”
“He said,” i.e. Musa(AS) said, “You will find me, if Allah so wills, patient.” This means, I will be patient and accepting of you “if Allah so wills” to avoid overconfidence, so that he may not fancy himself a patient person. “And I will not disobey you in any command.” This sentence also falls under the conditional clause and he is certain of the latter, his submission. Qushayri said, “He [Musa(AS)] promised two things of himself. The first was that he would be patient. The second was that he would not disobey the command of Khidhr. In the case of patience, Musa(AS) made it subject to the Divine Will. And Khidhr(AS) found him patient, such that he did not stop the hand of Khidhr in the acts that he witnessed him performing. However, in the case of the second, he said, ‘And I will not disobey you in any command.’ He said it as a matter of fact and did not subject it to the Divine Will. So, he did disobey him because Khidhr said to him, ‘Do not ask me about anything…’ But Musa(AS) did question him. Thus, with the conditional statement [of ‘If Allah so wills’], he did not disobey, while with the statement as a matter of fact, he disobeyed.”
Others like Ibn al-Bana said, “An oath is only binding according to one’s capacity. And upholding what has been sworn is only in that which does not contradict the Sacred Law. And there is no obedience to the creation in disobedience to the Creator. And Musa(AS) did adhere to these norms. So, when he saw something that was illicit, he spoke on it. Understand well.”
Then, Khidhr made submitting to what he saw a condition for Musa’s [following him]. He said: “Then, if you follow me, do not ask me about anything”, whether or not you understand it, “until I first make mention of it to you” meaning until I first make clear its explanation and wisdom. By this statement, he informs Musa(AS) that what he does has a hidden wisdom and a blessed outcome.
“So, they set out until they boarded a ship. He damaged it.” Musa and Khidhr set out. Allah didn’t mention the servant now as the journey has switched from teacher to student for Musa(AS).
And they started to walk along the shore of the ocean. A ship passed by them and they spoke to the people in the ship about carrying them. Since the people recognized Khidhr(AS), they carried them for no charge. But when they reached the open sea and they were busy fishing, Khidhr took an axe and damaged the ship by cutting one or two boards in the hull, enough so that they could make it back without drowning. So, Musa(AS) covered it with his garment. “He said, Have you damaged it to drown its people?’” meaning, so that its people may drown. “You have brought” i.e. you have come with and done “a grievous thing.”
“He said” meaning Khidhr(AS) said, “Did I not say that you would not be able to have patience with me?” He said this as a reminder of what he told Musa(AS) when they set out, and as an admonishment for his not keeping the pact that they made.
“He said” meaning Musa(AS) said, “Do not take me to task because I forgot.” And it has been narrated in a hadith, “The first rejection of Musa(AS) was due to forgetfulness.” And the one who forgets is not taken to task. Or, by forgetfulness, he meant his abandoning his order. In other words, “Don’t take me to task for the first instance of my disobedience.”
“Nor, deal harshly with me” meaning do not afflict me or overburden me “in my affair” i.e. in my following you. Do not be harsh with me in my following you. Rather, make it easy upon me by overlooking and forgiving my mistakes.
“And they set out” Khidhr accepted his apology. And they exited the boat. Then, they set out “until they met a boy. He killed him.” It has been said that [the boy] was playing with two other boys. And Khidhr snapped his neck as mentioned in an authentic hadith.
“He said” meaning Musa(AS) said, censuring him, “Have you killed a pure soul” free of sin. “You have surely brought an evil thing.” i.e. an abominable act. The damage caused by this act cannot be repaired, unlike the hole in the ship. Although others have said that the first act is a greater evil, because killing one soul is lighter than drowning all the people of the ship. And this shows Khidr(AS) was a Prophet because no-one else has the ability to be judge, jury and executioner.
“He said” Khidhr(AS) said, “Did I not say to you that you would not be able to have patience with me?” Khidhr added, “to you” this time, to add emphasis and a harsh rebuke as he increased in his rejection by calling the action “evil.”
“He said” meaning Musa(AS) said, “If I ask you about anything hereafter” meaning after this instance, “do not keep my company” even if I ask you to keep my company.
And the Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said, “May Allah have mercy on my brother Musa. He became shy and hasty in this. But, if he had remained with his companion, he would have seen the most amazing things.” And indeed haste is from Shaytan.
“So, they set out until they came to the people of a town.” That town is considered Antioch, while Abu Hurayrah and others have said that it is a town in Andalus. It has also been mentioned that it is a green island.
And it has been narrated that they Prophet ﷺ said, “The people of that town were wicked.” Qatadah said, “The most evil town is that in which the guest is not treated honorably and in which the right of the traveler is not recognized.”
“They sought sustenance from its people.” They sought food from them. But the residents did not feed them. And they sought shelter, “but they refused to treat them hospitably.”
While they were walking, “they found in it a wall.” Wahb said, “It was one hundred forearms’ lengths long surrounding the town.” “That wanted to fall over.” meaning it was about to collapse.
“He repaired it.” It has been said that Khidhr(AS) rebuilt it alone. On completing it, recognising that Musa(AS) would have felt hungry, tired and frustrated, “He said” meaning Musa(AS) said to him, “If you wish, you may ask a reward for it” meaning that we may use the reward to purchase our needs, as he was hungry again (like at the beginning of this story).
It has been said that the purpose of his journey was discipline. So, he was required to bear the difficulties. How could it be forgetfulness when, before, he had given water to the daughters of Shu’ayb? And the exhaustion and hunger that he was suffering at that time was greater. However, at the earlier time, he was carried, while at the later he was made to carry [his burden].”
From the damaging of the ship, one can learn that the hidden knowledge and divine secrets will not pour out onto the student until he breaks the habits of his soul and damages the ship of his existence, through demolishing its outer form until no one turns towards him, nor he towards anyone else. By that, his heart will become isolated and steadfast in the remembrance of his Lord. As long as his outer form remains decorated by ordinary robes, he has no hope of receiving gifts and benefits.
“He said” meaning Khidhr(AS) said, “This is the parting between you and I.” meaning “Do not keep my company after this.” “I will inform you of the interpretation of that with which you could not have patience.”
Interpretation is to connect something to its end result, meaning its consequence.
“As for the ship,” which I damaged, “it belonged to some poor people” meaning weak people who cannot defend themselves from oppression. And it has been said that the ship belonged to ten brothers. Five of them were ill, while the other five “worked in the ocean.”. “So, I wanted to damage it.” meaning I wanted to cause it to be defective. “And behind them was a king who was seizing every ship” meaning every undamaged ship “by force” from its owners, perhaps for an army of his own.
Look at this beautiful lesson, because of their generosity in giving a free ride, Allah(SWT) preserved their main means of earning and the vehicle of their generosity. If you want Allah(SWT) to put barakah in your life, then spend from it generously – feed others, help others, listen to others and make dua for others.
Don’t be short-sighted – this difficulty is saving you from a bigger difficulty if you really learned with hindsight. Allah(SWT) will protect you with smaller trials to protect you from bigger trials.
“As for the boy” that I killed, “his parents were believers.” and the boy has been sealed as a disbeliever. And Khidhr did not call the boy a disbeliever openly because there was no need to, because it was evident from his words “but we feared that he would oppress them.” This means, we feared that he would propagate [his disbelief] to them, “out of rebellion” against them “and disbelief” i.e. denial of their blessing, due to his neglect of their rights, and his evil acts. So, he would make them go from a better state to a more evil state. Or, they would be harmed due to their extreme love for him, which would cause them to obey him.
“So, we wanted that their Lord should replace him” by providing them in his place “with a purer son” freer from sin and blameworthy traits “and one closer to mercy” meaning beneficence and kindness. And in shifting the focus from himself to the Presence of Lordship, and attributing the Lord to them, there is an apparent indication of the good that would come to them. For that reason, it has been said that the parents of the boy had a daughter. And they married her to one of the Prophets. And they had a son who was a Prophet, upon whose hand Allah (Exalted is He) guided one of the nations. And it has been said that their daughter gave birth to seventy Prophets. And it has also been said that they were given, in his place, a believing son who matched their state.
Imagine the pain and suffering of the parents who lost their child, in a random killing. One thing worse than a child who leaves this world is a child is to have a living child whose heart is spiritually dead – an ungrateful, evil, arrogant child who mocks and harms you and others. Next time you lose out, remember that Allah(SWT) never takes a blessing from you, where you have Iman in Him(SWT), without replacing it with something better. Allah(SWT) – you know best!
Qatādah said, “His parents rejoiced when he was born and grieved for him when he was killed. If he had stayed alive, he would have been the cause of their doom. So let a man be content with the decree of Allah, for the decree of Allah for the believer, if he dislikes it, is better for him than if He were to decree something that he likes for him.” That’s why in connection to these verses ibn Kathīr رحمهم الله quotes the hadīth, “Allah does not decree anything for a believer, save that it is better for him.”
«لَا يَقْضِي اللهُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ قَضَاءٍ إِلَّا كَانَ خَيْرًا لَه»
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If Allah wills goodness for his servant, he hastens the punishment for him in this world. If Allah wills harm for his servant, he withholds punishment for his sins until he appears on the Day of Resurrection.” In another narration, the Prophet said, “Verily, with greater rewards come greater trials. If Allah loves a people, he will test them. Whoever is content will be pleasing to Allah, and whoever is displeased will be displeasing to Allah.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2396
“As for the wall” that I repaired, “it belonged to two orphaned boys in the city” and perhaps it was called a city here, to signal its importance, due to the importance of the two orphans and their pious father who lived within its limits. And it has been said that the names of the two orphans were Asram and Sarim.
“And below it was a treasure that belonged to them both” i.e. a treasure of silver and gold. Ibn ‘Abbas said, “It was a sheet of gold on which was written, ‘I marvel at the person who believes in the Divine Decree. How could he ever be sad? I marvel at the person who believes in Providence. How could he ever become exhausted? I marvel at the person who believes in death. How could he ever be overcome with joy? I marvel at the person who believes in the Judgement. How could he ever be negligent? I marvel at the person who knows this world and the ever-changing nature of it and its people. How could he ever place is trust in it? There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’”
And it has been said that the “treasure” was some buried scrolls in which was some knowledge. And if these townspeople were so stingy to not give a glass of water, what would they have done with this wealth?
“And their father was a pious person.” In this statement, there is an indication that his effort to repair the wall was due to the piety of their father. And that is an evidence of the fact that Allah (Exalted is He) preserves for His Saints, their children. It has also been said that between them and the father for whom they were preserved were seven grandfathers.
Put yourself in the shoes of that widowed mother and the children, who may have been begging Allah(SWT) for help and wealth. If they had received it then, they would have lost. But Allah(SWT) knows best. By delaying the response of the dua, Allah(SWT) knows what you need, either though you may want something else.
The parents were righteous and the child was evil so Allah(SWT) removed the evil. WIth the orphans, the father was righteous but he died an early death, so Allah(SWT) took care of the finances of those children. Parents, listen carefully, if you want your children to be good, be good yourself. If you want your children to be rich, be saaliha like this story. Deen and dunya is given when you have a relationship with Allah(SWT). When you have a good relationship with Allah(SWT) even your challenges are a blessing in disguise.
The believer is never truly punished – the purpose of trials and tests is to raise your status. And how do you know its a blessing? Look at your own reaction – if you increase your dua, your dhikr, sadaqa – these are blessings.
And Sa’id b. Musayyab used to say to his son, “I increase my prayers on your behalf, hoping that you will be protected for me.” And he would recite this verse. And it has been narrated in a hadith, “No one employs his wealth in an excellent manner, except that Allah treats those he left behind excellently.” We can also understand from the verse the importance of upholding the rights of the children of the pious, since that is what Khidhr (peace be upon him) did.
“So, your Lord willed” as an indication to Musa(AS) of his obligation to completely submit and surrender to Allah’s (Blessed is He) will “that they should reach adulthood” meaning puberty and their perfect intellect, “and take out their treasure” from under the wall.
It was “a mercy from your Lord” for the one for whom the action had been done. Khidhr(AS) used the utmost etiquette in this address. He attributed that which was (outwardly) a defect to himself. That which was mixed, good with bad, he attributed to himself and to Allah. For, killing without an apparent reason is a defect. And replacing a person with someone better is good. So, Khidhr used the plural pronoun. And he attributed that which was complete perfection, the repairing of the wall, to Allah (Exalted is He).
Then he said, “And I did not do it” meaning that which you witnessed of strange actions “of my own accord.” i.e. due to my own opinion and reasoning. Rather, it was revelation from my God and King.
It has been said that for everything that Musa(AS) repudiated Khidhr, something similar had [previously] happened to him. And in that similarity, there was a proof against Musa(AS).
That is, when Khidhr repudiated him for damaging the boat, Musa(AS) was addressed, “O, Musa! Where was your directive when you were cast into the sea?” as a child.
And when Khidhr rebuked him for killing the boy, it was said to Musa(AS), “Where was your rebuke of your rigidness with the Egyptian and your judgement of him?”
And when Musa(AS) rebuked Khidhr for erecting the wall, it was called to him, “Where was this when you lifted the stone for the daughters of Shu’ayb without wage?”
And Allah (Exalted is He) knows best. It has been narrated that Khidhr said to him, “If you had been more patient, I would have brought you a thousand amazing things from the category of that which you witnessed.”
And when Musa(AS) was going to part from Khidhr, he said, “Advise me.”
Khidhr replied, “Don’t seek knowledge in order to speak of it. Seek it to act upon it.”
In another narration, Khidhr said to Musa عليهم السلام, “Place your ambition on your Hereafter. Don’t delve into that which does not concern you. Don’t feel safe from that which you fear. Nor, despair of safety. Contemplate those things that are disclosed to you. And do not abandon excellence in what you are able to do.”
Musa(AS) said to him, “Increase me, o, Saint of Allah!”
Khidhr replied, “O, Musa! Beware of obstinacy. Only work to fulfill your needs. Do not laugh for anything other than amazement. Do not reveal anyone’s sin after they have shown remorse. Yet, you should cry for your own sins, o, son of Imran! And beware of being impressed with yourself and of wasting that which remains of your life.”
Musa(AS) said to him, “You have given an outstanding advice. May Allah complete His blessing upon you, cover you in His mercy and protect you from His enemy.”
Then, Khidhr said to him, “Amin. Advise me, o, Prophet of Allah!”
Musa(AS) said to him, “Beware of becoming angry except for the sake of Allah. And do not be pleased with anyone except for the sake of Allah. Neither love nor hate for the sake of the world. For, by that, you will exit from the domain of faith to the domain of disbelief.”
Khidhr said to him, “You have given an excellent advice, o, son of Imran! May Allah help you to obey Him, grant you happiness in your affair, make you beloved to His creation and spread over you His grace.”
Musa(AS) said, “Amin.”
And Bukhari related [that the Prophet ﷺ said], “How we wish that Musa had been patient, so that Allah would tell us more about their affair.”