Alhamdulillah in our last session we were able to explore the meanings of verses 1-8. InshAllah, today we’ll cover the meanings of verses 9-16 that deal with the story of the people of the cave. Just as a quick refresher the Surah starts by teaching us how to express our thanks and gratitude to Allah ﷻ. We are being reminded to thank Allah ﷻ and be grateful for the blessing of the Qur’ān, which was described as having no crookedness in it and being upright. We were also told about two of the objectives of the Qur’ān; 1) to warn and 2) to give glad tidings. Allah ﷻ also consoled and comforted the Prophet ﷺ because of the opposition he faced from his community. Afterwards, we were reminded of the reality of the life of this world.
Verses 9-26: The Story of the People of the Cave
Now Allah ﷻ turns our attention to the story of the People of the cave, from which the Surah gets its name. As mentioned in the introduction to the Surah this account was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ in response to three specific questions posed by the leadership of Quraysh. This is an extremely famous story that is also related in the Biblical tradition. There it is referred to as the story of the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus”.
Now whenever a story is mentioned in the Quran it is mentioned for a reason or purpose; so that we can learn and extract lessons from it. The stories of the Quran are not entertainment or simple historical facts. Rather they are there so that we can study them and derive lessons, morals, and reminders that we can use in our daily lives. That is one of the reasons why we find that Allah ﷻ has not related a complete story in chronological order, from beginning to end, with all its details. He ﷻ only relates those parts of the story that are relevant and related to guidance. As Allah ﷻ says, “Surely, in the narratives of these, there is a lesson for the people of understanding. It is not an invented story, rather, a confirmation of what has been before it, and an elaboration of everything, and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.” For example, one of the objectives of this story is to serve as proof of Allah’s power of resurrection. In Surah Hud, Allah ﷻ tells us, “We narrate to you all such stories from the events of the messengers as We strengthen your heart therewith. And in these (stories) there has come to you the truth, a good counsel and a reminder to those who believe.” So another purpose of these stories is to also console, comfort, support and provide strength to the Prophet ﷺ. Just as Allah ﷻ saved this very small group of believers from religious persecution Allah will also save and protect the Prophet ﷺ and his companions.
This same method of relating stories is used in narrating this story; only the parts that are related to guidance have been mentioned. There is no mention of the remaining parts of the story that are purely historical or geographical. However, the commentators of the Quran by studying historical and religious sources have been able to provide these details. There are countless reports that speak about the sleepers in the cave, and just as many versions of their story… I will stick to the narrative as it is mentioned in the Tafseer of Ibn Kathir.
The Surah first introduces the story with a short summary before relating it in detail. This is a method that is employed elsewhere in the Qur’ān as well. It grabs the attention of the listener/reciter. Allah ﷻ says,
Verses 9-12: (9) Do you think that the people of the cave and the inscription were a wonder among Our signs? (10) When the youths took refuge in the cave, they said: ‘Our Lord! Bestow on us Your grace, and provide for us right guidance in our affair.’ (11) So We drew a veil over their ears in the cave, for a number of years, (12) and then We awakened them so that We might mark out which of the two parties managed to calculate the time they had remained in that state.
These few verses summarize the entire incident highlighting its main points. Allah ﷺ introduces the story by asking the Prophet ﷺ a rhetorical question, “Do you think that the people of the cave and the inscription were a wonder among Our signs?” Even though this question is addressed directly to the Prophet ﷺ, it’s actually directed towards the non-believers of Quraysh. Meaning, do you think that the story of the people of the cave and the inscription is something that is wondrous, amazing, miraculous and extraordinary? If you do, then you should recognize that there are other “signs” that are even more wondrous in nature such as the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything that they contain. The natural order of the world is itself a greater wonder and miracle than the occasional alteration of its regularity through miracles. There are many more things that are much more marvelous and miraculous in the universe that the story of the people of the cave.
In this verse, the seven sleepers are also referred to as the “people of the cave and the inscription.” The inscription refers literally to an inscription that was made on a tablet that was placed at the entrance of the cave that detailed their story.
Allah then summarizes their story very briefly saying, (10) When the youths took refuge in the cave, they said: ‘Our Lord! Bestow on us Your grace, and provide for us right guidance in our affair.’ (11) So We drew a veil over their ears in the cave, for a number of years, (12) and then We awakened them so that We might mark out which of the two parties managed to calculate the time they had remained in that state.
Meaning, remember or mention to your people when the youths took refuge in the cave for the sake of their religion fleeing from religious persecution. When they entered the cave they turned to Allah in supplication asking Him for His mercy, grace, guidance and protection. In this dua they asked specifically for two things: 1) mercy and 2) right guidance. This is a dua for guidance, forgiveness, knowledge, provision, patience in their trial, steadfastness, strength, security and eventual deliverance. They prayed that the end of their affair would be sound and rightly guided.
Allah ﷻ responded to their dua by causing them to sleep for a long period of time. “(11) So We drew a veil over their ears in the cave, for a number of years…” This is an Arabic expression that means He put them into a very deep sleep. (12) and then We awakened them so that We might mark out which of the two parties managed to calculate the time they had remained in that state.
After this brief summary that captures our interest, the Surah begins a more detailed narrative by stating that what is about to be mentioned is the truth regarding their affair.
Verse 13: We shall relate to you their story in all truth. They were young men who believed in their Lord, so We increased them in guidance.
Allah ﷻ is telling us that He will relate the real and true story to us; not the exaggerated or false version that was preserved by the people of that time. This event took place after the time of ‘Isa (as) before the time of Muhammad (saw). The People of the cave were from a city known as Ephesus (Ifsus in Arabic), which was a major city in the Roman Empire. It is located on the west coast of Asia Minor. The people and government of the Roman Empire at that time were idol worshippers. Their society had reached the heights of moral decay and immorality. It was a society built on vice, materialism, immorality… The Emperor’s name during that time was Daqyānūs (Decius). He was an oppressive tyrant forcing his people to worship idols. This was a time when Christians were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Every year the people would take part in a religious festival where they would meet to worship and sacrifice. One year, the 7 young men, identified as the people of the cave, came to the festival. They were shocked by what they saw; people taking rocks that they carved with their own hands as Gods, worshipping them and sacrificing for them. Allah ﷻ blessed them to dislike and turn away from this absurd behavior. They used their reason to arrive at the conclusion that worship belongs to one Supreme power Who has created the heavens and the earth and everything in them.
“They were young men who believed in their Lord, so We increased them in guidance.” Allah highlights the fact that they were youth; that they were young. That’s because being young is a virtue; there are certain advantages to it. Even historically it was the youth of a community who responded to the message of the Prophets, while the elders were more entrenched and set in their ways. It was the younger members of Quraysh that were more open and willing to listen to and follow the Prophet ﷺ.
This thought crossed their minds at the same time and they all started moving away from the festival. The first young man went far away from the crowd and sat down under a tree. Then the second and the third also did the same until all seven of them gathered at that tree. None of them were familiar with each other, nor did they know why they had all gathered at the same spot. After sitting there silently one of them finally spoke up and explained why he had come to sit under the tree. They all started talking and discussing and came to the same conclusion. So they broke away from the way of their people rejecting their way of life and system of belief. They set up their own place of worship where they would get together to worship Allah ﷻ. However, they soon became the talk of the town. Their news spread throughout the city. The Emperor learned about them and had them arrested and brought before him. He asked them about their beliefs. Allah ﷻ gave them the courage to state their belief in the Oneness of God. They even called the Emperor towards the message of tawheed. Allah ﷻ mentions this part in the Surah.
Verse 14: And We fortified their hearts. When they arose, they said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We shall call upon no god apart from Him, for then we would have certainly uttered an outrage.
Allah ﷻ gave them the courage and strength to speak the truth in front of the king. This verse highlights their open defiance to the tyrant king. They stood up and courageously spoke the truth despite the fear of persecution. They knew that if they spoke the truth in front of the king they would be in trouble. But that didn’t stop them. Their faith was strong and as a result Allah ﷻ strengthened their hearts and resolve giving them courage to speak truth to power. Courage is related to faith… Speaking truth to power is a very important concept in Islam. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “The best for of jihad is to speak the truth in front of a tyrant ruler.”
They told him, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. We shall call upon no god apart from Him, for then we would have certainly uttered an outrage.” This angered the Emperor even more. He gave them a few days to reconsider their beliefs and to return to the way of the people. If they did they would be allowed to live. If not then he would kill them. These few days were a blessing from Allah ﷻ that provided them the opportunity to further strengthen their faith and to escape from the city and find safety in a cave.
Verse 15: These, our people, have taken gods apart from Him. Why do they not bring a clear authority concerning them? For who does greater wrong than the one who fabricates a lie against Allah?
The people of the cave are highlighting the main issue they had with the religion of their people. They recognized the absurdity of associating partners with Allah. If these idols are truly worthy of worship then why don’t they provide some sort of proof or evidence? They recognized that what their nation is involved in is one of the greatest wrongs that can be done against Allah ﷻ. That’s why they ask, “Who does greater wrong than the one who fabricates a lie against Allah?”
Syed Qutb comments, “Up to this point the attitude of the youths appear to be clear, open and straightforward. They are resolute in their adoption of the faith, betraying no hesitation whatsoever. Indeed they are shown to be very strong physically and mentally, and strong in their faith and in their rejection of the way followed by their community. Here they are talking about two vastly different ways of life. There can be no meeting point between the two, and there can be no participation by these young believers in the life of their community. They had no choice but to flee in order to protect their faith.”
So they sought refuge in the cave in order to protect their faith and religion. They left the comfort of their home, the only way of life they knew, their families, homes, and their friends just for the sake of their religion. They gave up all pleasures of this life for the sake of Allah ﷻ (Sacrifice for the sake of Allah). Allah then tells us what they said to each other once they decided to flee.
Verse 16: When you have turned away from them, and those whom they worship, except Allah, then seek refuge in the cave, and your Lord will extend His mercy for you, and provide you ease in your matters.
Some of the commentators mention that these are the words of the leader of the youths, which he said when they decided to flee for the sake of their religion. In this statement, he’s reminding them to rely upon Allah ﷻ and to place their trust fully in Him. If you place your trust in Allah and rely solely upon Him, He will take care of you. He will shower his mercy upon you, protect you and make your affairs easy (explain the concept of tawakkul, mercy, ease, and contentment. Explain how faith is meant to change our perspective of the world. When a human heart is full of faith, it sees a totally different world, where God’s grace imparts reassurance and genuine happiness. Hence whatever turn events may take will be accepted, because the total result is comforting and fitting for one’s life in this world and in the life to come).
Once they reached the cave Allah ﷻ put them to sleep, “So We placed [a veil] over their ears in the cave for a number of years.” Allah, as a sign of His great power and majesty, kept them asleep for 309 yrs. They literally disappeared from the face of the earth; they were nowhere to be found. So the king wrote down their names on a tablet so that they wouldn’t be forgotten…
In the next few verses, Allah ﷻ informs us of what happened to them in the cave, which is where we’ll pick up in our next session. Tawakkul is perhaps one of the most powerful characteristics that we can have; it’s the key to true happiness. Tawakkul is the foundation of a worry-free, stress-free, anxiety-free life. It leads to a life of peace and contentment. Linguistically the word التوكل is a verbal noun from the verb توكل/يتوكل, which means to rely, depend on, to place one’s confidence in or to trust. It’s derived from the root letters و ك ل that convey the meaning of relying upon someone else for something. One who relies on Allah, who has التوكل on Allah, is the one who knows that Allah takes care of his sustenance and affairs so he trusts Allah alone and doesn’t rely on anyone else.
- صدق اعتماد القلب على الله تعالى في استجلاب المنافع و دفع المضار من أمور الدنيا و الآخرة.
The truthfulness of the hearts reliance on Allah for bringing benefits and repelling harms from the affairs of this world and the next.
- الثقة بما عند الله و اليأس عما في أيدي الناس.
To have trust in what is with Allah and to despair from what is in people’s hands. (Don’t rely on anyone but Allah). Having absolute, firm, one hundred percent conviction that no one gives, prevents, harms or benefits except for Allah ﷻ. The reality of Tawakkul is that we place our trust and reliance on Allāh (ﷻ) in terms of both our worldly affairs, as well as our Dīn, as well as utilizing our visceral, or tangible means of attaining that which we want to attain.
What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.
The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.
In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.
It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.
Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.
With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:
“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”
The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.
The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.
While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.
First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.
The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:
One Hundred and Twenty Days:
The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.
This view is shaped by the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..
“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”
The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.
This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood :
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…
“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”
Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.
Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.
No Excuse Required:
The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.
Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.
Only Under Extreme Risks:
The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.
As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.
Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.
For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.
The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.
This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.
Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.
Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:
Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:
((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))
“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)
Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.
Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.
Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.
As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.
Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf
Tafsir Verses 72-81
Alhamdulillah last session we were able to explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. InshAllah, we’ll try our best to cover the meanings of verse 71-82. As we learned in the last session, this passage of the Surah deals with a very unique and interesting episode from the life of Musa . It’s the story of his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. We reached the point in the story where Musa finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s sincerity in seeking knowledge, his lack of pride and his willingness to humble himself in front of Khidr despite his own status as a Prophet.
But Khidr initially declined his request telling him, “Truly you will not be able to bear patiently with me. And how can you be patient with that which you have no knowledge?” Khidr recognized that he would do things that Musa would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa was sent as a Prophet of Divine Law, while Khidr had been entrusted with some unique knowledge and actions that seemed to be contradictory to that law. So he explained to Musa that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa was extremely eager to learn. He resolved to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ.
He tells Khidr, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.” Khidr finally gave in and both of them set off on their way. This is where we’ll pick up the story again. Allah ﷻ says,
Verse 71: So they both went on till, when they had embarked upon a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.”
They set out walking together along the shore looking for a ship to ride. As they were walking a ship of sailors passed by them and Khidr asked for a ride. The sailors knew Khidr so they let both him and Musa come on board without any charge. After traveling for a while Khidr got up and pulled out one of the planks from the bottom of the ship using an ax making a hole in it. This placed everyone on the ship in danger of drowning. Obviously, this seemingly absurd and cruel behavior surprised Musa . He was literally in shock. He couldn’t understand why Khidr would do such a thing to someone who helped him out. This went against his moral compass of what’s right and wrong. Musa forgot about the conditions of his teacher and objected. These people gave us a free ride and you’re pulling a plank to drown their ship. You’ve done something bad. “Have you made a hole in it to drown its people? Certainly, you have done a grave thing.” Khidr then reminded him gently with patience.
Verse 72: He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?”
Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to be patient with me and my actions? The way he says this shows that he was willing to overlook and tolerate Musa’s (as) impatience. Musa (as) felt a sense of regret and apologized to Khidr telling him that he completely forgot about his deal.
Verse 73: He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me responsible for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.”
Basically he apologized. He said please don’t hold me responsible for what I forgot and allow me to continue travelling in your company. While telling the story the Prophet ﷺ says, “the first (question) was out of forgetfulness. While this conversation was taking place a bird came and sat on the side of the boat and took a sip of water from the ocean. Khidr said to Musa, ‘my knowledge and yours combined in comparison to the knowledge of Allah is like the sip of water compared to the ocean.’” Khidr accepting his apology and they continued travelling on their way.
Verse 74: So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.”
“So they continued…” They both got off the ship and started walking along the shore until they came across a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr went up to this young boy and killed him by either strangling him to death or striking him on his head. This was too much for Musa (as) to handle. He objected even more vehemently. How can he kill an innocent young boy for no reason whatsoever? To Musa (as) this seemed absolutely absurd, cruel and unjustified. It was too much for him to tolerate patiently despite his promise not to question anything that he saw. So he said, How can you kill a pure innocent child for no reason whatsoever? You have done something unjustified and have committed a heinous act. Once again Khidr reminds him of the condition that he made and the promise that Musa (as) had given.
Verse 75: He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?”
Didn’t I warn you that you wouldn’t be able to handle what I would do? Didn’t I tell you that you wouldn’t be able to remain silent when I do certain things? In this reminder, Khidr added the word “laka” to show that this time his reminder is more severe and clearer. The first time someone forgets and makes a mistake it’s overlooked. The second time it’s also overlooked but with a sense of hesitation. Musa again feels a sense of regret for breaking his word and not sticking to the conditions of Khidr. He’s now done this twice so he apologizes by saying,
Verse 76: He said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not keep me in your company. You have had enough excuses from me.”
Musa (as) again apologizes but this time gives himself one last chance. He said if he questions Khidr one more time then Khidr can choose to part ways with him. Once again Khidr accepts his apology and they set off on their way. After commenting on this part ibn Kathīr narrates a hadīth from the Prophet ﷺ. He writes, “Ibn Jarir narrated from Ibn `Abbas that Ubayy bin Ka`b said: “Whenever the Prophet ﷺ mentioned anyone, he would pray for himself first. One day he said:
- «رَحْمَةُ اللهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى مُوسَى لَوْ لَبِثَ مَعَ صَاحِبِهِ لَأَبْصَرَ الْعَجَبَ، وَلَكِنَّهُ قَالَ:
- ﴿إِن سَأَلْتُكَ عَن شَىْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلاَ تُصَاحِبْنِى قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذْراً﴾»
May the mercy of Allah be upon us and upon Musa. If he had stayed with his companion he would have seen wonders, but he said, (`If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.’))” That brings us to the third and last adventure they had together.
Verse 77: Then, they moved on until they came to the people of a town and sought food from them. But they refused to show them any hospitality. Then, they found there a wall that was about to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.”
Musa and Khidr continued traveling until they came upon the people of a town that most commentators identify as the ancient city of Antioch. Being tired and hungry they asked them for some food but they refused to give them any or show them any hospitality whatsoever. As they were leaving the city they came across a wall that was about to fall down. Khidr stopped by it and repaired it. Now, this situation is also bizarre; Khidr is a complete stranger in a town that refused to give them food or host them yet he still stops and fixes their wall for nothing in return. Musa finds the situation full of irony. Why should a stranger exert so much effort in rebuilding a wall in a town where they were denied even a little food and all hospitality? He should have at least demanded some money for his labor and then they could have bought some food to eat.
Musa couldn’t hold himself so he objected, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” And that was the end of their relationship. Khidr responded,
Verse 78: He said, “This is the parting between me and you. I shall inform you of the meaning of that which you were unable to bear with patiently.”
Meaning, this is the end of our relationship and this is where we’ll part ways. But before we go our separate ways I’ll explain to you the wisdom and hidden meaning behind everything I did. Up till this point in the story, we’ve probably been just as impatient as Musa ; we have no clue why Khidr did the things he did. But he then explains everything is detail; why he pulled a plank out of the bottom the ship, why he killed an innocent child and why he rebuilt the wall without taking anything in return.
Verse 79: As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. I wanted to damage it, for just beyond them was a king who was seizing every ship by force.
Khidr is explained that his act of damaging the ship was, in reality, a means of saving it. It comes in a narration that these poor people were ten brothers, 5 of them were handicapped while the other five worked. The ship was their only source of income. The king was a cruel, tyrannical oppressor who would take ships by force. The damage done to the ship made it undesirable for the king and ultimately saved it for its owners. Had it been seaworthy, it would certainly have been confiscated by the tyrannical king. Perpetrating some small damage to the boat saved it from the greater harm and ruinous injustice which was certain to take place without it. Hence, causing such damage was a good and kindly action. So damaging the ship actually turned out to be a good thing.
Verses 80-81: And as for the young boy, his parents were believers and we feared that he would make them suffer much through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord give them in exchange one who is better than him in purity, and nearer to mercy.
Although the young child seemed to be pure and innocent in reality the seeds of disbelief and wickedness were entrenched in his heart. If he had grown up he would have been a source of grief and sorrow for his parents who were believers. Their love for this child would have led them towards evil and wickedness as well. They would suffer because of the rebellion and disbelief. So Allah told Khidr to kill this boy to spare them that grief and to replace him with a child that would be better and more dutiful. Now obviously the parents weren’t aware of this at this time so to them this was a huge loss and tragedy. They weren’t aware of the future difficulties that they were saved from by his death.
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»
It is mentioned in a narration that the parents were blessed with a pious daughter who gave birth to a Prophet. So the murder of this child actually turned out to be something good in the long run.
Verse 82: And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and beneath it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was righteous, and your Lord desired that they should reach their maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. And I didn’t do this upon my own command. This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.
Khidr explained to Musa that the wall that was about to fall that he rebuilt was covering a treasure that belonged to two orphan boys. If the wall had fallen down the treasure would be exposed and the orphan children would’ve been deprived of their wealth. By rebuilding the wall Khidr made it possible for them to access their treasure when they grew up. This was done partially because their father was a righteous and pious man. Khidr then explains to Musa that he didn’t do any of these things based on his own accord or understanding. Rather he did them according to the Divine command, decree, and will of Allah ﷻ. “And I didn’t do this upon my own command.” He concludes by saying, “This is the meaning of that which you couldn’t bear with patiently.” Meaning, this is the explanation of my actions that you didn’t understand and weren’t able to be patient with.
1) One of the most powerful and profound lessons we learn from this entire episode is that oftentimes a tragedy is a blessing in disguise. Everything that happens in this world, whether good or bad, happens according to the Divine will and decree of Allah ﷻ. There’s some deep divine wisdom behind every single thing that happens in this world. When something good happens we recognize it as a blessing. For example, if we get a good job, get a raise at work, purchase a new car or are blessed with the birth of a child. All of recognize this as something positive. On the other hand whenever we face setbacks, difficulties, hardships and tragedies we tend to lose patience.
This incident is teaching us that difficulties, tests, trials, and hardships are oftentimes blessing in disguise. The first thing to understand is that Allah isn’t sending these difficulties our way to break us or destroy us. Rather he’s sending them our way to test our patience and faith, as a source of mercy and a reminder. As a way of nurturing and training us. He’s reminding us to turn back to Him, to hold on to our faith, to be steadfast, patient, strong, and to persevere. When we’re struggling and going through difficult times we shouldn’t assume that somehow Allah is displeased with us. Similarly, when we’re comfortable and enjoying life we shouldn’t assume that Allah is pleased with us. The opposite can be true. The Prophet said,
- « إِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الْخَيْرَ عَجَّلَ لَهُالْعُقُوبَةَ فِى الدُّنْيَا وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِعَبْدِهِ الشَّرَّأَمْسَكَ عَنْهُ بِذَنْبِهِ حَتَّى يُوَفَّى بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
“If Allah wants good for his servant, He hurries on His punishment in this world, and if He wills ill for a servant, he holds back punishing him for his sin so He can give it to him in full on the Day of Resurrection.”
Everything we face in this world is actually a source of blessing for us. The Prophet said:
- «مَا يُصِيبُ المُسْلِمَ مِنْ نَصَبٍ،وَلاَ وَصَبٍ، وَلاَ هَمِّ، وَلاَ حُزْنٍ، وَلاَ أَذًى، وَلاَ غَمِّ، حَتَّىالشَّوْكَةِ يُشَاكُهَا؛ إِلاَّ كَفَّرَ الله بِهَا مِنْ خَطَايَاهُ»
“No fatigue, illness, anxiety, sorrow, harm or sadness afflicts any Muslim, even to the extent of a thorn pricking him, without Allah wiping out his sins by it.”
Allah tells us that the main tool, the key to deal with the world and all the problems it contains is through patience and turning towards Him. When we’re dealing with our problems we should turn to Allah. We should make dhikr, read Quran, spend time in prayer and reflection and try to be around good company. We should try to focus our attention, our spiritual and emotional energy on our relationship with Allah instead of our problem. By doing so we’ll find peace and comfort. True contentment. Part of patience is recognizing that whatever we’re going through is something that we can handle. Whatever we’re going through will not last forever. That’s why throughout the Quran whenever Allah consoles and comforts the Prophet He reminds him to be patient and to turn to him. “So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord.” (20:130) “So be patient. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth.” (30:60) “So be patient, [O Muhammad], over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting.” (50:39)
2) Being content with the Divine decree of Allah ﷻ.
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