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  • Raya Shokatfard


Updated: Dec 24, 2020

By: Raya Shokatfard

We all remember the sweet stories our mothers told us at our bedside when we were young. Some of them are unforgettable.

These stories likewise have impact on our consciousness and are a part of forming who we become as we grow up.

Sadly, most of the stories showed in television for kids or adults are commercial and sensation-driven and produced mainly for material gain. Thus, some believe that the end result may be a dramatic change in human behavior during childhood and adverse consequences in adulthood.

Yet, the Divine stories and examples told in the Quran are meant to educate and provide positive lessons. But some people rather argue than trying to understand the Divine message.

In fact God reminds us:

{And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Quran, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything.} (Al-Kahf 18: 54)

The following story from Surah Al-Kahf, the 18th chapter of the Quran, is one that shakes the mind and the soul at its core with its significance, drama and wisdom. No Hollywood movie can match this true teacher-student episode, both of whom were among the most honored servants/Prophets of God.

The story here is narrated using the Quranic verses as well as clarification and more details told by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the book of Al-Bukhari, paraphrased and summarized.

We do find many stories and topics in the Quran that were further clarified and explained by the Prophet.

God says:

{I have revealed to you the reminder that you may explain clearly to people what is sent down to them, and that they may reflect.} (An-Nahl 16: 44)

The story begins with a follower of Moses asking him if he was the most knowledgeable person on earth. Moses responded in affirmation. In Islam, everyone ascribes all good, including knowledge to God and not to themselves. This, Moses did not do, and for it, God admonished him and informed him that there is someone more knowledgeable than him. Moses, anxious to know who this person was, inquired from God about his whereabouts.

God revealed to Moses to look for the man, named Al-Khidr at the junction of two seas (believed to be where the two arms of the Red Sea join together). Moses asked for a sign whereby God informed him to put a dead fish in a basket and take it on the journey, “and the place where the fish comes back to life and you lose it, that is where you will find the wise man”.

After putting the dead fish in the basket, Moses gave it to his servant boy and asked him to inform him when and where he loses this fish.

God explains:

{And (remember) when Moses said to his boy-servant: “I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I spend years in travelling.} (60)

Prophet Moses went on to explore at the junction of the two seas where they reached a large boulder beside the sea. Looking for the promised servant, Moses found no one there.

At the base of the rock, there was a spring called the Spring of Life. It was given that name because anything dead which came in contact with its waters came back to life. Prophet Moses went to sleep on the rock while his servant stood guard in the shade at the base of the rock where the ground was wet.

Fish Coming Back to Life

{But when they reached the junction of the two seas, they forgot their fish, and it took its way through the sea as in a tunnel.} (61)

When the servant set down the basket with the fish, the wind blew some water from the spring unto the dead fish and it moved swiftly and came to life.

Prophet Muhammad went on to say, “the fish flipped out of the basket and tunneled its way into the sea and swam off.

The young man watched in amazement and said to himself: “I will not awaken him.” He wanted to wait till Allah’s messenger woke up. He then lay down on the rock and slept and he forgot to inform Prophet Moses when they awoke.

Not remembering that the fish was no longer in the basket, they both set out to go further until they came to a place of rest. In the next verse, Allah mentions:

{So when they had passed further on (beyond that fixed place), Moses said to his boy-servant: “Bring us our morning meal; truly, we have suffered much fatigue in this, our journey.} (62)

One might think that lunch here is meant to be the fish. However, scholars have pointed out that the fish was a guide for the location of Al-Khidr as stated in the hadith, as the Prophet is reported to have said that Allah told Moses that he will find the wise man when he loses the fish. Thus they concluded that their provision for the journey was something besides the fish.

In response to Moses asking for food, the boy answers:

{He said:”Do you remember when we betook ourselves to the rock? I indeed forgot the fish, none but Satan made me forget to remember it. It took its course into the sea in a strange (way)!}

Moses remembers what God told him. (64-65)

Prophet Muhammad went on to explain that when Moses met Al-Khidr and gave him greeting, Al-Khidr asked who he was.

Moses replied, “I am Moses.”

Al-Khidr asked, ‘Are you the Moses of the Israelites?’

Moses replied, “Yes.”

{Moses said to him (Al-Khidr) “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah)?} (66)

The Prophet said that Al-Khidr asked Moses what he wanted and Moses responded:

“I came to you so that you could teach me some of the truth which you were taught.”

Al-Khidr said: “O Moses! Isn’t it sufficient for you that the Torah is in your hands and Divine inspiration comes to you?”

Al-Khidr went on to say: “O Moses! You have some of Allah’s knowledge which Allah has taught you which I don’t know; and I have some of Allah’s knowledge which He has taught me which you don’t know.”

“Moses then asked him, “May I follow you so that you can teach me some guidance from what you have been taught?”

{He (Al-Khidr) said: “Verily! You will not be able to have patience with me! And how can you have patience about a thing which you know not?} (67-68)

Here, Prophet Muhammad explained that Al-Khidr felt that Moses could not bear with him when he sees things that he does not understand and may look strange to him.

Thus he would not be silent, while Al-Khidr had to do what he was ordered to do. (69)

Naturally anyone seeing such an act would be struck by astonishment. Moses was no exception.

Moses seemed sure of his ability to abide by the request, and felt he could be patient:

{He (Al-Khidr) said: “Then, if you follow me, ask me not about anything till I myself mention of it to you.} (70)

“So they set out together until they rode a boat,” The Prophet went on to explain:

“After that both of them proceeded along the sea coast until they saw a small boat which carried people from one shore to the other. [When it passed by, they requested the crew to allow them to go on board.] The crew recognized Al-Khidr and [one of them said] said, ‘He is a righteous servant of Allah, so let us carry him free of charge.’ When they got on board, [a sparrow came and perched on the edge of the boat. When it dipped its beak into the sea, Al-Khidr told Moses, ‘My knowledge, your knowledge and the knowledge of all creatures compared to Allah’s knowledge is not more than the water taken by this sparrow’s beak.’”

So they both proceeded, till, when they embarked on the ship, he (Al-Khidr) made a hole in it. Moses said: “Have you made a hole in it in order to drown its people? Verily, you have committed a thing “Imr” (evil, bad, dreadful thing).} (71)

Naturally anyone seeing such an act would be struck by astonishment. Moses was no exception. But he forgot that Al-Khidr had already warned him that he would do somethings abnormal and that he would have to be patient and not ask any questions. But Moses reacted and even rebuked Al-Khidr for intending to harm people.

{He (Al-Khidr) said: “Did I not tell you, that you would not be able to have patience with me?} (72)

This was a gentle reminder that Moses went beyond what he had promised.

{(Moses) said: “Call me not to account for what I forgot, and be not hard upon me for my affair (with you).} (73)

Moses remembered his promise and immediately made an excuse for which God does not hold his creatures accountable.

The Prophet said:

“Indeed, Allah has excused my followers from genuine mistakes, forgetfulness and what they have been forced to do.” (Ahmad)

And so Moses asked Al-Khidr for permission to continue to travel with him…

To be continued…


Published on: Thursday, 17 January 2013

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