Allah mentions a righteous man in the Quran who had excellent knowledge and wisdom. However, He doesn’t directly name him in the Quran. But, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the companions spoke about this story and Khidr in intense detail. He is known as a man who would pass on his immense knowledge to others and also help them when they were in distress. Allah says in the Quran that He blessed him with a certain type of knowledge.
This story is in the 18th surah of the Quran, Surah al-Kahf. In the story, Musa (AS), by chance, meets this wise man. Then, Khidr does things that Musa (AS) finds objectionable. However, Musa (AS) doesn’t realize the deep wisdom behind his actions. At the end of their encounter, Khidr explains the reasoning behind his actions. The circumstances that he describes show the wisdom behind his actions. Therefore, there are many lessons that Muslims can learn from the story of Khidr.
It is quite symbolic that the beautiful story of Khidr takes place in Surah al-Kahf. This is one of the surahs that Muslims read the most often. That is primarily because of the emphasis upon that in the Sunnah. The Prophet (PBUH) stated the importance of Surah al-Kahf on multiple occasions. Furthermore, he also recommended that Muslims recite this surah every Friday. Hence, it is one of the most well-known surahs.
The importance of Surah al-Kahf stems from the many lessons contained in it, including lessons from the story of Khidr. All the various stories in the surah serve a distinct purpose and teach a specific lesson. Hence, frequent reminders about these lessons are helpful for Muslims. For this reason, it’s important that Muslims don’t only recite this surah. Instead, they should also understand it by means of a Quran translation, if needed.
Musa (AS) and His Search for Knowledge
And [mention] when Moses said to his boy [i.e., servant], “I will not cease [traveling] until I reach the junction of the two seas or continue for a long period.” But when they reached the junction between them, they forgot their fish, and it took its course into the sea, slipping away. So when they had passed beyond it, [Moses] said to his boy, “Bring us our morning meal. We have certainly suffered in this, our journey, [much] fatigue.” He said, “Did you see when we retired to the rock? Indeed, I forgot [there] the fish. And none made me forget it except Satan – that I should mention it. And it took its course into the sea amazingly.” [Moses] said, “That is what we were seeking.” So they returned, following their footprints.(Quran 18:60-64)
According to the Sunnah, the Children of Israel asked Musa (AS) about the most knowledgeable person, and he said he himself was. Allah took him to task for not that and revealed that a slave of His would be in a certain place. Hence, he began to travel in search of this man. He expressed to the servant that he would keep on traveling until he reached the two seas. Musa (AS) received a command to carry a type of fish with him, which he did. When he would lose the fish, he would be at the right place, and that is what happened.
Initially, Musa (AS) and his servant went beyond the prescribed place. However, they soon realized that they had forgotten the fish. The servant remembered the place where he had forgotten the fish. Musa (AS) realized that was the place they had been searching for. Hence, they went back to it, following their footsteps.
Musa (AS) Meets Khidr
And they found a servant from among Our servants [i.e., al-Khiḍr] to whom We had given mercy from Us and had taught him from Us a [certain] knowledge. Moses said to him, “May I follow you on [the condition] that you teach me from what you have been taught of sound judgment?” He said, “Indeed, with me, you will never be able to have patience. And how can you have the patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?” [Moses] said, “You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in [any] order.” He said, “Then if you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I make to you about it mention [i.e., explanation].”(Quran 18:65-70)
Musa (AS), at this point, had clearly realized his error. He completely intended to obey Allah’s command and learn from this knowledgeable man. While Allah doesn’t explicitly mention the name Khidr in the Quran, we can find ample evidence regarding it in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
In a famous Hadith related to this incident, Ubayy bin Ka’b relates that Musa (AS) and his servant came and saw a man covered with a garment. Musa (AS) greeted him with the Islamic salutation of Salam. To this, Khidr replied, asking how there could be peace in his land. Musa (AS) then introduced himself. Khidr then understood that he had to show Musa (AS) his wisdom and sound knowledge as Allah had ordained. Hence, the conversation described in Surah al-Kahf took place.
Khidr Damages a Ship
So they set out until when they had embarked on the ship, he [i.e., al-Khiḍr] tore it open. [Moses] said, “Have you torn it open to drown its people? You have certainly done a grave thing.” [Al-Khiḍr] said, “Did I not say that with me, you would never be able to have patience?” [Moses] said, “Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not overwhelm me in my matter with difficulty.”(Quran 18:73-74)
This was the first of the incidents that took place during the journey. Once again, we can find more comprehensive details in the Sunnah and Tafsir of the Quran. The two men came upon a boat and asked the people to let them board it. The members onboard recognized Khidr. Hence, they allowed the two men to board the boat.
When they were on the boat, Musa (AS) saw Khidr pulling out one of the ship’s planks. He reprimanded him straight away, saying that its people had allowed them to ride, and yet, he was damaging their boat. He accused him of doing something unjust. Immediately, Khidr pointed out Musa (AS)’s promise to follow him without asking questions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated that this happened because Musa (AS) forgot. After this, he stated that a bird sat on the boat and put its beak into the sea, getting a drop or two onto it. Khidr stated that their combined knowledge was equivalent to the water the bird took out of the sea, with the sea being Allah’s knowledge.
Khidr Kills a Boy
So they set out until when they met a boy, he [i.e., al-Khiḍr] killed him. [Moses] said, “Have you killed a pure soul for other than [having killed] a soul? You have certainly done a deplorable thing.” [Al-Khiḍr] said, “Did I not tell you that with me, you would never be able to have patience?” [Moses] said, “If I should ask you about anything after this, then do not keep me as a companion. You have obtained from me an excuse.”(Quran 18:74-76)
As described by Ubayy bin Ka’b, Musa (AS) and Khidr got off the ship. As they were walking by on the shore, Khidr saw a boy playing with some others. He cut off the boy’s head and killed him. Once again, Musa (AS) saw what he felt was an injustice being carried out and reprimanded him straight away. He said that he had done something evil.
Khidr once again reminded him of his promise, saying that he had already warned Musa (AS) that he wouldn’t have the patience to travel with him. Musa (AS) immediately took back what he said and stated that Khidr would be within his rights to abandon his company if he asked another question. And so they continued.
Khidr Builds a Wall
So they set out until when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to offer them hospitality. And they found therein a wall about to collapse, so he [i.e., al-Khiḍr] restored it. [Moses] said, “If you wished, you could have taken for it a payment.”(Quran 18:77)
The Hadith pertaining to this incident describes that the men continued to travel the land until they came to a town. There, they asked people for food, but they refused to entertain them, so the two men continued moving onwards. However, soon after that, they found a wall that was about to collapse.
Khidr then set about repairing the wall all by himself. Musa (AS) was astounded, stating that the people of the town refused to give them food or show any hospitality. He stated that Khidr could have taken payment for what he did from the people. Hence, once again, he questioned Khidr’s decision-making.
[Al-Khiḍr] said, “This is parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience. As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working at sea. So I intended to cause defect in it as there was after them a king who seized every [good] ship by force. And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy. And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.”(Quran 18:78-82)
Thanks to Allah’s infinite wisdom and knowledge, Khidr already knew the circumstances. Now, he explained them to Musa (AS).
Why Hazrat Khidr Damaged the Boat
He damaged the boat so that it would appear to have faults. This was because a king in the area was an oppressor. Hence, he was seizing all the good boats. If he saw a boat had a defect, he wouldn’t want it, and thus, the poor family’s boat would be safe. They would only have to repair it, rather than losing it altogether.
Why Al-Khidr Killed the Boy
The Prophet (PBUH) narrated in a Hadith that the boy’s destiny was to be a disbeliever. As Allah mentions in the Quran, his parents were believers. According to the Sunnah, the boy would have caused his parents much pain if he stayed alive. Hence, with him being dead, they would have the chance to have a better and purer child.
Why Hazrat Khidr Built the Wall
Allah describes in the Quran that the wall belonged to two orphans. They had had a righteous father, and underneath the wall, there was some treasure. Hence, Allah took care of the righteous person’s off-spring in His way. If Khidr didn’t build the wall, then perhaps someone else would have found the treasure and taken it.
Lessons From the Story of Khidr and Musa
There are many lessons that we can learn from this story.
The Importance of Seeking Knowledge
The whole incident started after the Children of Israel asked Musa (AS) about the most knowledgeable person. Musa (AS) said that he himself was the most knowledgeable one. However, that wasn’t the correct answer. Instead, one should say Allah knows best when they are put in such a position.
We can have all the knowledge in the world, but it is never going to be enough. Allah is the only one with perfect knowledge. Humans can have only a tiny fraction of the knowledge that Allah has. Hence, we can keep learning throughout our lives. We start learning from the beginning of our lives and continue to the end.
The Prophet (PBUH) is known to have encouraged Muslims to seek knowledge. Furthermore, Allah also emphasized the importance of knowledge in the Quran. He said that He would raise the knowledgeable people in degrees. Additionally, He also stated that only those could truly fear Him who have knowledge.
We Must Have Determination
After Musa (AS) learned about there being a more knowledgeable man than him, he was desperate to learn. As Allah shows us in Verse 60 of Surah al-Kahf, Musa (AS) stated a firm desire to continue traveling. Allah told him to travel until he reached the junction of the two seas, and he was determined to do that.
He set out with his servant and obediently followed the path. It took time, but he was persistent because he had his eyes on the end goal. This is an excellent lesson for us. When we are in the pursuit of knowledge, especially Islamic knowledge, we must be determined and willing to overcome any obstacles and hardships.
Things May Not Always Be What They Seem
One of the important principles of Islam is that we should not judge things easily. When things happen to us, we may feel that they are hurtful, unfair, etc. However, as the story of Musa (AS) and Khidr shows, it’s not always what it seems. A seemingly harmful action can have solid reasoning and a good outcome behind it.
Allah says in the Quran that Muslims may like something that is bad for them. He also mentions that a Muslim may dislike something that is good for him. That is because we have a very limited amount of knowledge. We can only see things at the base level. Meanwhile, Allah has an infinite amount of knowledge, and He knows best for every situation.
We Hear, We Obey, and We Trust in Allah
The Islamic principle of hear and obey is very important. Sometimes, there are certain things in Islam that we may find strange, and the reasoning for them may not be apparent. However, when Allah and the Prophet (PBUH) ask us to do something, we should accept it without question and do it right away.
This attaches to the previous point of things not always being what they seem. From a human and a logical point of view, something may not always make sense to us. However, we don’t have the privilege of knowing all the finer points. This is because we don’t have complete knowledge, and we will never reach that level.
The Wisdom of the Lesser Evil
Khidr’s actions show us the wisdom behind the lesser evil. Sometimes, we may be faced with two options that both contain a certain aspect of wrongfulness. However, one of them may be much more than the other. In such cases, we must make a wise choice and opt for the lesser of the two evils.
For example, Khidr damaged the boat. That caused the boat’s owners some loss as they would have to spend time or money on repairing it. However, it saved them from losing the boat altogether since the king was going to seize it otherwise. Hence, Khidr doing the lesser evil averted a much bigger evil that would have otherwise taken place.
The Importance of Patience
When Musa (AS) finally met Khidr, Khidr warned him and said that he wouldn’t have the patience to travel alongside him and learn from him. Musa (AS) turned down the suggestion and stated that he would find him to be a patient person if Allah so willed. However, as we repeatedly see in this story, Musa loses patience with Khidr quickly.
Having knowledge is important, but being patient is also crucial. When Allah asks you to do something, you should always do it without questions. Musa (AS)’s curiosity was warranted, given that Khidr seemed to be doing some outrageous things. However, being patient and allowing Khidr to explain the wisdom behind his actions would have been wiser.
Righteousness Benefits Us and Our Descendants
The part of the story where Khidr repairs a wall contains a hidden treasure. That is a hidden treasure under the wall, but also a hidden treasure in the meaning of the story. Allah stated that the orphans’ father had been righteous, and therefore, He intended for his children to receive their treasure as a mercy.
Being righteous and obedient follows of Allah doesn’t only benefit us. It benefits those around us, our children, and others connected to us. Allah is the Most Merciful, and this is one of His ways of showing His mercy to His creation. He didn’t specify that the children were or would be righteous. Rather, He pointed out the righteousness of their father.
Teacher and Student
The story of Musa (AS) and Khidr teaches us a few things about how the relationship should be between a teacher and student. Since Musa (AS) wanted to gain the knowledge that Khidr had, he was a student here. Meanwhile, Khidr, with all his wisdom, was carrying out the actions as a means of showing Musa (AS) his wisdom.
Musa’s (AS) actions show us that we must not be hasty when we are learning. We must not be impatient, interrupting our teachers and demanding answers. Instead, we should wait for the lesson to ends so that we can get a complete picture of the situation. After that, we should ask questions.
Be Respectful Toward Your Teacher
Musa (AS) made a promise to Khidr at the start of his journey. The promise was that he would try to ensure that he remained patient throughout the journey, though Khidr felt that wasn’t likely. Sure enough, Musa (AS) faltered on multiple occasions. He questioned Khidr’s actions straight away and even accused him of indulging in something evil.
After Khidr replied to him and pointed out his promise earlier, Musa (AS) quickly realized his mistake and took back what he said. Sometimes, people nowadays think that they have the right to keep questioning their teachers. To an extent, questioning is good, but when it goes beyond that, it is disrespectful.
Convert Knowledge Into Action
This is a critical point in Islam. Once we have the knowledge, we must put it to good use and apply it in a productive manner. Khidr was blessed with immense knowledge from Allah, and he put that to good use. He did some things that may have seemed questionable but were actually wise in the bigger picture.
The Prophet (PBUH) stated in a Hadith that knowledge from which we gain no knowledge is like a treasure out of which we don’t spend anything in Allah’s way. Hence, we must remember that seeking knowledge is only half of what we need to do. We must apply that knowledge and engage in wise acts based on it.
Pass Your Knowledge on To Others
A point that we might overlook here is that it is vital for knowledgeable people to share their knowledge with others. A person with a lot of knowledge should be a teacher to someone. It is not right for a person to keep knowledge and wisdom with himself and refuse to educate others. Rather, he should be like Khidr, sharing his knowledge.
Instead, we should focus on the collective betterment of people and the community. This will only happen when we share knowledge. Thus, scholars and jurists teach others about Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also stated that the best Muslims are those who learn and teach the Quran, showing the importance of sharing knowledge with others.
Allah Always Plans What Is Best for Believers
It is an integral part of Islamic belief that Allah’s plan for the believers is always something good. We may plan something, but something contrary to that happens. As a result, we feel dismayed. Alternatively, we may encounter a tragedy or something that we feel is going to negatively impact our lives, whereas that isn’t really the case.
Allah’s plan always results in betterment for believers. This may not be in a direct way, but if a person is firm in his belief, he can withstand any adversity, as in the case of the family that Khidr harmed. They may not have realized the immediate benefit, but if they knew that the king would have seized their ship, they would have known the hidden blessing.
The Treatment of Servants
This is one of the hidden gems of the story of Khidr. During his journey to get to Khidr’s location, Musa (AS) travels with a servant. Hence, there is clearly nothing wrong with keeping a servant. Still, what’s more important is that we observe the way Musa (AS) treated his servant in this story.
It is the servant who loses the fish. However, Musa (AS) is not angry with him and doesn’t reprimand him. Instead, he lets it go. After this, as Allah states in the Quran, Musa (AS) tells him to bring them “their” morning meal. Hence, both of them each together without any prejudices, unlike what we see in the world nowadays.
Divine Law Trumps Everything Else
The Prophets received revelation from Allah and had the allowance to do certain things and carry out His commands. Khidr also received some form of revelation from Allah that allowed him to see the hidden wisdom and do something that is otherwise forbidden, i.e., to kill the boy who would bring pain to his parents.
In normal circumstances, it isn’t permissible for someone who follows Allah and the Prophet’s law to go against it. One can’t preemptively kill someone. They can only do it actively in the form of self-defense or something similar. Muslims generally do not have the permission to go against the divine laws.
Was Khidr a Prophet?
This is a question that has popped up often over the ages. Due to his actions, many people automatically believe that he was a prophet. How can he be as knowledgeable or more knowledgeable than Musa (AS), one of the foremost prophets of Allah, and yet not be a prophet? However, there are no direct references in the Quran that indicate he was a prophet. Yet, it’s a matter of contention between scholars and Islamic jurists, who have often debated this point over the past several hundred years.
One can argue that when Allah mentions bestowing Mercy upon His slave, i.e., Khidr, it refers to the blessing of Prophethood and revelation. Furthermore, Allah says in the same verse that He gave Khidr knowledge. Allah gives all humans knowledge, but when He gives someone a specific type of knowledge or something out of the ordinary, that person is usually a prophet.
Another verse that hints at Khidr being a prophet is when he says that he didn’t do the actions of his own accord toward the end of the story in Surah al-Kahf. This is a possible sign of Prophethood because Allah often inspired His prophets and messengers with things that other people didn’t have. For example, He permitted Isa (AS) to create birds from clay, cure the blind, and even give life to the dead.
If someone does something that is not of his own accord, then the means of conveying it is a revelation. The acts that Khidr did were quite specific, and to do them, he would have to receive some sort of revelation from Allah. Allah says elsewhere in the Quran that He only warns Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through revelation. Regarding the answer to this question, we say Allah knows best.
Is Khidr Alive on This Earth?
Another question people often have after reading about this story is whether the wise man known as Khidr is still alive on this Earth. One of the reasons behind this question is because of the traditions that indicate the Prophet Ilyas (AS) is still alive and that he and Khidr perform Hajj every year. However, the basis for these stories is quite weak, and the traditions do not appear to be grounded in facts. Hence, we can’t say they are authentic.
This is a matter that Muslims have disputed. However, the more prevalent view seems to be that Khidr is not alive. There are many reasons behind this ruling. Among them is the verse in the Quran where Allah says that He didn’t grant any human immortality before the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Another proof for this can be the Hadith where the Prophet (PBUH) prayed that Allah saves the Muslims, for if they were destroyed, no one would be left to worship Allah. That statement wouldn’t be true if Khidr were still alive.
Another bit of evidence in favor of this point of view is the authentic Hadith, in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated that after a hundred years, everyone alive on Earth would have passed away. He said that none of the people would be alive after a hundred years. Hence, that would naturally include Khidr if he was still alive. In this Tafsir, Ibn Kathir also makes many arguments to the same effect, saying that Khidr cannot be alive. The evidence that suggests he is alive, however, is weak. Still, we close this by saying once again that Allah knows best.
The Dangers of Over-Glorification
Due to the nature of this story and the powerful impact it has on humans, some people tend to go overboard in their reverence of Khidr. They ascribe to him powers that no man has had or will ever have, blurring the lines between belief and disbelief. We must remember that Khidr was a man, like all other humans. Even the prophets were just men who received revelation. If he achieved something great, it was with Allah’s help. Without Allah’s help, no human being can achieve these things.
Overtly glorifying Khidr, entering the realm of even worshiping him, is akin to committing shirk. This is the gravest sin in Islam. Hence, no matter how touching the story is and how it impacts us, we must remember that at the end of the day, Allah is the All-Powerful Being who blesses us with knowledge and wisdom. We must worship Him and rely on Him alone. No one else is worthy of worship besides Him.
Surah al-Kahf is one of the important surahs in the Quran in terms of the lessons we can learn from it. Hence, there is clearly great wisdom behind it being one of the things that we frequently recite on Fridays, in accordance with the Sunnah. Alongside reading it, however, we should understand it and learn from it.
The story of Musa and Khidr contains lessons that can be beneficial for all Muslims. Ranging from the importance of gaining knowledge and determination to the wisdom of the lesser evil, there are many virtues of this story. Once we gain the knowledge of this story and its meanings, we should try to implement what we have learned from it into our lives. That will be when we genuinely succeed and fulfill the purpose of this remarkable story.