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Lesson 11 From Surah Al-Kahf

Tafsir Verses 72-81

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) finally finds Khidr and asks with the utmost humility and respect to allow him to be his student. This highlights Musa’s 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. But Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)(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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him); 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) 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.

Lessons:

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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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 subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) 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 subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) consoles and comforts the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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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Why I Turned to Tech to Catch Laylatul Qadr

Make sure you maximize your sadaqah

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By Ismael Abdela

My life, just like yours, is sooo busy. So naturally, as the tech nerd I am, I turn to tech to help me manage my regular routine including project management apps to manage my daily tasks. I even have a sleeping app that wakes me up at the optimum time (whatever that means!). But even though tech has changed everything in all sectors and helped make efficiencies in my daily life, it had had little impact on my religious activities.

A few years ago, whilst I was preparing for the last 10 nights of Ramadan, it hit me – why doesn’t something exist that automates my donations during these blessed nights to catch Laylatul Qadr. Rather than putting a reminder on my phone to bring out my bank card every night and inputting it into a website – why doesn’t something exist that does it for me, solving the problem of me forgetting to donate. After all we are human and it’s interesting that the Arabic word for human being is ‘insan’ which is derived from the word ‘nasiya’ which means ‘to forget.’ It is human nature to forget.

So the techie in me came out and I built the first scrappy version of MyTenNights, a platform to automate donations in the last 10 nights of Ramadan (took two weeks) because I wanted to use it myself! I thought it would be cool and my friends and family could use it too. That same year, nearly 2000 other people used it – servers crashed, tech broke and I had to get all my friends and Oreo (my cat) to respond to email complaints about our temperamental site!

I quickly realised I wasn’t alone in my need  – everyone wanted a way to never miss Laylatul Qadr! Two years down the line we’ve called it MyTenNights, and our team has grown to 10, including Oreo, senior developers, QA specialists, brand strategists, creative directors and more. It fast became a fierce operation – an operation to help people all over the world catch Laylatul Qadr!

Last year alone we raised almost $2 million in just 10 days – and that was just in the UK. We’ve now opened MyTenNights to our American, Canadian. South African and Australian brothers and sisters and we’re so excited to see how they use it! We’ve made it available through all the biggest house name charities – Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Helping Hand, Penny Appeal, you name it! All donations go directly to the charity donors choose – all 100% of it.

Looking back at the last couple of years – it feels surreal: The biggest charities in the world and tens of thousands of users who share my need to be certain they’ve caught Laylatul Qadr. Although I hear many impressed with the sheer amount MyTenNights has raised for charity (and that excites me too!), it’s not what motives me to go on. What excites me most is the growing number of people who catch Laylatul Qadr because we made it easier.

I often tell my team that the number of people that use MyTenNights is the only metric we care about, and the only metric we celebrate. It makes no difference to us whether you donate $1 or a million – we just want you to catch Laylatul Qadr and for you to transform your Akhirah, because (after Allah) we helped you do it.

To catch Laylatul Qadr with MyTenNights, visit their website MyTenNights.com

Ismael Abdela is a Law & Anthropology graduate from the London School of Economics. He spent some years studying Islamic Sciences in Qaseem, Saudi Arabia. He is now a keen social entrepreneur. Ismael likes to write about spiritual reflections, social commentary, and tafsīr. He is particularly interested in putting religion in conversation with the social sciences.

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Lesson 10 From Surah Al-Kahf

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

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Alhamdulillah last week we were able to explore the meanings of verses 54-59. InshAllah tonight we’ll explore the meanings and lessons of verses 60-70. In this set of verses, Allah ﷻ relates a very unique and interesting story about Musa (as) and his encounter and journey with a man of God known as Khidr or Khadir. Interestingly this story is not told or hinted at anywhere else in the Qur’ān. Similarly this is the only account of Musa (as) in the Qur’ān that doesn’t also have some reference in the Biblical text. This is the third story mentioned in the Surah after the story of the people of the cave and the owner of the two gardens.

Now the Surah itself relates a few events from this story but doesn’t provide all the fine details. For example, it doesn’t mention exactly where this story took place. Nor does it tell us when exactly it took place. So we don’t know if it took place when Musa (as) was still in Egypt, or after he escaped from Fir’awn and his army or even later on. The Qur’ānic narrative also doesn’t mention the name of the individual who Musa (as) sent out to meet. It doesn’t mention who he was, where he was from and whether he was a prophet, scholar or an ascetic. Allah ﷻ simply describes him as “a servant from amongst Our servants”.

One of the reasons why all of these details are left out is because they’re not that important. They actually take away from the main purpose, objective and lessons of the story. We’re supposed to focus on what lessons, morals, and guidance we can derive from these incidents and not worry about the minute detail. However, a more detailed version of this story is found in a hadith recorded in both Sahih Bukhari and Muslim narrated by Ubay ibn Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him).

Ubay ibn Ka’b raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was making a speech to the Children of Israel when he was asked which person had been endowed with the most knowledge. Meaning he was asked, “Who is the most knowledgeable person?” Since Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) wasn’t aware of anyone who was more knowledgeable than him he said, ‘I am’. Even though he was right, Allah ﷻ didn’t like his answer. The situation demanded that he say Allah knows best. Allah ﷻ has a unique way of teaching and training those close to Him. That is why Allah ﷻ gently reprimanded him for his answer and revealed to him that there is a servant of his at the meeting point of the two seas (the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea) who is more knowledgeable than him. This doesn’t mean that Khidr had a higher station than Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). What it means is that he had a special field of knowledge given to him that Musa didn’t have.

Musa had an intense desire to seek knowledge. So he asked Allah ﷻ, ‘How can I find him?’ Allah ﷻ told him to cook a fish, place it in a basket and head towards the meeting point of the two seas. The place where you lose fish is the place where you will find Khidr. So Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) set out with his servant/student Yusha’ ibn Nun, who in English is Joshua. This is where Allah ﷻ starts the story in the Quran.

Verse 60: And when Musa said to his servant, “I shall continue on till I reach the junction of the two seas, even if I journey for a long time.”

Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was instructed by Allah to travel to the meeting point or junction of the two seas and that is where he will find Khidr, the one who is more knowledgeable than him. So Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) in his determination said that he will continue traveling till he reaches this junction even if it takes him a long time. There’s a lot of discussion amongst the commentators regarding the exact location of the junction of the two seas. Some mention it’s referring to the point where the fresh water of rivers meets the salt water of the seas. Others mention that it’s the meeting point between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. The actual geographical location is ultimately immaterial to the story; it doesn’t really matter. The narration mentions that they continued to travel until they reached a large rock where they decided to rest for a while. Both of them fell asleep. As they were sleeping, all of a sudden, the fish moved, fell out of the basket and into the ocean. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) stopped the flow of water around the fish forming a tunnel around it allowing it to swim.

Verse 61: Then when they reached the junction of the two, they forgot their fish, and it made its way to the sea, burrowing away.

Yushā’ witnessed this extraordinary event. He saw the fish make its way into the sea and burrow away. Meaning, a tunnel was formed around it allowing it to swim away. When Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) woke up he forgot to tell him and they continued on their journey. They traveled for another day and night. After traveling for another day and night Musa finally felt hungry.

Verse 62: Then when they had passed beyond, he said to his servant, “Bring us our meal. We have certainly met with weariness on this journey of ours.”

They had passed the meeting point of the two seas, which is where they decided to rest and where the fish escaped from the basket. So when he finally felt hungry he asked Yushā’ to take out the fish that they had prepared to eat. In the narration, the Prophet ﷺ says, “Musa didn’t feel any fatigue until he passed the place Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)informed him of. When Musa asked for food that is when Yusha’ remembered what had happened to the fish.

Verse 63: He said, “Did you see? When we took refuge at the rock, indeed I forgot the fish – and nothing made me forget to mention it except Shaytān – and it made its way to the sea in a wondrous manner!”

He told Musa (as) that while they were resting at the rock the fish miraculously came back to life and made its way into the ocean. And that he completely forgot to tell him and that Shaytān made him forget. When Musa (as) heard this he remarked,

Verse 64: He said, “That is what we were seeking!” So they turned back, retracing their steps.

He immediately realized that the place where the fish was lost to the sea was exactly the place where he would meet the servant of Allah more knowledgeable than him. So they turned back retracing their steps back to that rock.

Verse 65: There they found a servant from among Our servants who We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Our presence.

When they returned to that rock they found a man lying there covered in a white sheet. Musa (as) greeted him with Salam startling Khidr who replied, “Where is this salam coming from in this land? Who are you?” He replied, “Musa.” Khidr asked, “Musa Bani Israel?” He answered, “Yes.” The servant from among our servants is identified by all commentators as Khidr or Al-Khadir, which is translated as the Green One. It’s mentioned that wherever he prayed or stood everything around him would become green. There’s a huge discussion regarding his status as well; was he a prophet, a messenger or simply a righteous servant of Allah? What we do know with absolutely certainty is exactly what the Qur’ān tells us. He was a righteous servant who was granted unique divine mercy and was given a special type of knowledge from Allah ﷻ. Some of the commentators mention that “rahmah” is referring to the fact that he was a wali; a very devout and close servant of Allah. The knowledge from Allah is knowledge from the unseen that he taught to Khidr. It’s an understanding of the divine wisdom and reason behind the occurrence of certain events.

Verse 66: Musa said to him, “May I follow you so that you can teach me some of that which you have been taught of sound judgment?”

Musa (as) asked him with the utmost respect and humility to allow him to be his student. This form of questioning, this request is full of humility. Musa made himself a follower of Khidr, asked for permission and admitted his ignorance regarding the knowledge that Khidr had. Khidr responded to his request as Allah ﷻ tells us,

Verses 67-68: He said, “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 (as) would find to be illogical, irrational and even impermissible. Things that on the surface level seem to be horrible and despicable. So he explained to Musa (as) that he wouldn’t be able to be patient with him and his actions. He explained to Musa (as), “O Musa! I have knowledge from Allah that you don’t have that he taught me. And you have some knowledge from Allah that he taught, which I don’t have.”

  • يا موسى، إني على علم من علم الله، لا تعلمه، علمنيه، و أنت على علم من علم الله علمكه، لا أعلمه.

But Musa (as) is extremely eager to learn. He resolves to be patient and obedient while relying upon the will of Allah ﷻ. He says,

Verse 69: He said, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey you in any matter.”

Meaning, don’t worry, you’ll find me to be patient, if Allah wills, and I won’t disobey you or challenge you in any matter. This convinced Khidr to allow Musa (as) to accompany him as his student but with certain conditions.

Verse 70: He said, “If you will follow me, then don’t question me about anything until I mention it to you.”

Meaning, he told Musa (as) that if you follow me then you’re not allowed to ask me about anything or challenge anything I do until I allow you to do so. Musa (as) accepted this condition and then they both set out together. Now up till this point in the story, there are several important lessons that we can learn and derive.

1) Intellectual humility – Our knowledge regarding a specific topic or subject, our understanding of a certain issue or our expertise in a certain field shouldn’t make us proud and arrogant. It shouldn’t make us think that we’re better than anyone else. Rather it should make us humble; it should create a sense of gratitude and humility. We should express gratitude to the One who gave us that knowledge and should recognize that there’s much more that we don’t know. And that’s the lesson that Allah ﷻ taught Musa (as). When he was asked who is the most knowledgeable individual, Musa (as) based on his own understanding and station as a Prophet assumed that he was. So Allah ﷻ gently reprimanded him for his answer and revealed to him that there is a servant of his at the meeting point of the two seas (the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea) who is more knowledgeable than him.

No matter how advanced we become as human beings, no matter how many discoveries we make and how many inventions we create, our knowledge is still limited; it’s nothing compared to the infinite knowledge of Allah ﷻ. As Allah ﷻ tells us in the Qur’ān, “Over every possessor of knowledge is one [more] knowing.” Similarly, in one of the narrations, Khidr tells Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), “My knowledge or your knowledge compared with the knowledge of Allah is nothing but the small amount of water the sparrow takes in its beak.” This is especially true for religious knowledge; the more we learn the more we should recognize that we don’t know. That’s why it’s important for us to not reject or disregard things that we don’t know or haven’t heard of. Just because we don’t know something, haven’t heard something or haven’t read something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Also, learn how to say “I don’t know”. There’s a famous story of Imām Mālik …

2) The importance of seeking knowledge. Seeking knowledge is something that has to be done actively; it’s not a passive activity. knowledge isn’t something that’s going to come to us automatically. It’s something that requires us to put in work; it requires time, effort, wealth and sacrifice. And in order to seek knowledge, we’ll have to go through some difficulties. Seeking knowledge is a religious obligation upon us just like praying, fasting, paying zakah and performing Hajj. The Prophet ﷺ told us, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” All the commentators agree that this is referring to knowledge of Allah; knowledge of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. That knowledge that brings us closer to Allah ﷻ. That’s why there are so many narrations from the Prophet ﷺ that encourage us to seek knowledge. Interestingly, this is the only story in the Qur’ān that talks about seeking knowledge and in it the student is required to go and look for the teacher. On a side, not the amount of knowledge we learn regarding our religion at homes or at Sunday schools is not enough. We need to have a systemized way of learning the fundamentals of our faith and religion and teaching it to our children.

3) Respecting the people of knowledge. This is another very important lesson we learn from this particular part of the story. Musa (as) is a Prophet, he’s kalīm Allah, the one who spoke directly with Allah ﷻ, yet he still treated Khidr with the utmost honor and respect. Knowledge itself has a very special status in Islam and because of its status, those who seek it and possess it have also been granted a special status. As the Prophet ﷺ told us, “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophets.” Humility is an essential characteristic that we as students must have to truly benefit from our teachers. In the hadith of the Messenger of God ﷺ, when the angel Jibrīl 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) came to ask the Prophet ﷺ about Islam, Imān, and Iḥsān, he is described as having, “put his knees against the knees [of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)] and placed his hands on his thighs.”[2] When the Companions used to sit with the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), they did not use to raise their heads up to him out of their reverence for him. It is reported on the authority of Anas raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), “If the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) used to enter the mosque, none of us used to raise our heads except Abū Bakr and ʽUmar. They used to smile at him and he used to smile at them.”[3] It is also reported on the authority of ʽUbāda b. al-Ṣāmit that the Messenger of God ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said regarding respecting scholars and honoring them, “He is not from my community who does not venerate our elders, have mercy on our youth, and know the rights of our scholars.”[4]

Disrespect of scholars and people of knowledge is actually a problem within our communities and has been for some time. People of the past used to say that the flesh of scholars is poisonous and the way of Allah with those who insult them is well-known. So whoever insults the scholar of this ummah by his tongue Allah will afflict him in this world by death of the heart. There are many other beneficial lessons that we can derive from this story that we’ll talk about next session after we complete the story itself.

4) Studying is an act of worship but it’s not the goal in and of itself. The goal is to attain guidance.

 

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