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Lesson 10 From Surah Al-Kahf

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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).

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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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Shaykh Furhan Zubairi was born in 1983 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, he moved and spent most of his youth in Southern California, graduating from high school in Irvine in 2001. He began his pursuit of Islamic knowledge and spirituality at the Institute of Knowledge (IOK) in 1998, where he started the memorization of the Qur’an and studied the primary books in the Islamic Sciences and Arabic language. After starting college, he took a break and went to Karachi, Pakistan, for 9 months to complete the memorization of the Qur’an at Jami’ah Binoria. He returned home and completed his B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine in 2005. He then traveled to Egypt to further his studies of the Arabic language. Thereafter, his pursuit of Islamic knowledge led him back to Pakistan, where he completed a formal ‘Alamiyyah degree (Masters in Arabic and Islamic Studies) at the famous Jami’ah Dar Al-’Ulum in Karachi. He has obtained numerous ijazat (traditional licenses) in the six canonical books of hadith, as well as the Muwata of Imam Malik and Imam Muhammad, and has also received certification in the field of Islamic Finance. Shaykh Furhan Zubairi serves as the Dean of the Full-Time and Part-Time Seminary Programs at the Institute of Knowledge in Diamond Bar, CA. He also serves as IOK University Chaplain for students at UCI and Community Chaplain for the local and extended SoCal Community, and he regularly delivers sermons and lectures at various Islamic Centers and events in Southern California. Learn more about Institute of Knowledge at www.instituteofknowledge.com.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. HIrra

    May 23, 2019 at 1:52 PM

    In general, standards of modesty call for a woman to cover her body, particularly her chest. The Quran calls for women to “draw their head-coverings over their chests” (24:30-31), and the Prophet Muhammad instructed that women should cover their bodies except for their face and hands. Most Muslims interpret this to require head coverings for women, although some Muslim women, especially those of more conservative branches of Islam, cover the entire body, including the face and/or hands, with a full body chador. You can Visit Divasty for Divasty Modest clothing.

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