The Story of Khadir and Musa

By Al-Amir As-Sanan’I

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Who was Al-Khadir ?

The Prophet (ﷺ) said he was called Al-Khadir because he sat on a Barren ground and it turned green beneath him. (Al-bukhari3402)

Al-Mujahid said: He was called Al-Khadir because wherever he prayed the field around him turned green.

An-Nawawi said: There is a consensus among the scholars that his kunya is , “ Abul Abbass”.

Al-Hafith Ibn Hajr said: There is a difference of opinion as to why he was called Al-Khadir, if he was a Prophet, and if he still lives.

Was Al-Khadir a Prophet or a Messenger?

Ibn Atiyah and Al-Baghawi both mentioned that most scholars have determined that Al-Khadir was a prophet, but they differ if he was a messenger, while some Sufis say he was a righteous devout servant.

There are some evidences that establish the Prophet hood of Al-Khadir.

  1. Imam Al-Qurtubi said according to the majority of the scholars Al-Khadir was a Prophet. This is based on the verse, “ Musa said to him, “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge which you have been taught (by Allah)? [Al-Kahf-66] 

This infers that a Prophet doesn’t take knowledge from someone lesser than him and that things related to the unseen are only manifest to Prophets.[ Al-Fath6/434]

  • Allah said: “And whom We have taught knowledge from us.” [Al-Kahf -65]. The meaning for knowledge in this verse represents Prophet hood. This is further supported by two verses in the Quran; Al-Qasas ; 86 and Az-Zukhruf :32
  • Allah said : “ Musa said to him, “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge which you have been taught (by Allah)? [Al-Kahf-66]

A Prophet only and learns and follows other Prophets. 

  •  “ And I did it not from my own accord.” [Al-Kahf-82] Al-Asam said : The means that Al-Khadir did those actions based on Divine Revelation, which further proves he was a Prophet.
  • Allah said: “And whom We have taught knowledge from Us.” [Al-Kahf-65].

This implies that Allah taught Al-Khadir directly and everyone who learns from Allah without a human between them is considered a Prophet, so the things learnt are considered revelation.

Al-Amir As-Sanan’I said: Therefore the strongest of opinions is Al-Khadir was a Prophet and not a saint; as the Sufis claim. This debunks the claim that saints know more than Prophets. The Sufis use the story of Al-Khadir and Musa as proof that saints have real knowledge and know the true essence of things.

Is Al-Khadir alive or dead?

Ibn Hajr mentioned in Fath that Ibn As-Salah said: There is a majority among the scholars that Al-Khadir is still alive, and only a few scholars among the people of Hadith differ in this view, and Imam An-Nawawi agreed with him. [1]

After mentioning the weak and fabricated narrations Ibn Harj concluded that Al-Khadir is dead.  Ibn Taymiyyah said: The correct position in the issue of Al-Khadir is that he is dead and didn’t live to see Islam .

Al-Amir As-Sanan’I said: The correct positon regarding Al-Khadir is he is dead and he didn’t live to the era of Muhammad (ﷺ). This is based on strong evidence from the Quran and the Sunnah.

Allah said: “And we granted not to any human being immortality before you.” [Al-Anbiya-34]

Bani’ Israel asked Musa who was the most knowledgeable on Earth and he replied, “I am”, and he didn’t say Allah knows best. Therefore he was tested by those words with a man more knowledgeable than him. [2]

The story of Musa and Al-Khadir is one that many scholars have used to highlight the manners and etiquettes of a student with his teacher. However, this story isn’t only restricted to those mannerisms, but also covers many Fiqh principles and maxims. Some those benefits are;

  • Whenever a person intends to travel then he should choose a close companion whom he trusts to accompany him.
  • A person should place some importance in seeking knowledge.
  • A person should place some importance on traveling to attain knowledge and prepare himself along the way for the difficulties that come with it.
  • Al-Khadir placed a hole in the ship and built a wall in order choose between the lesser of the two evils.
  • Allah decreed that the young boy be killed at the hands of Al-Khadir similarly to how the Angel of death takes souls. The purpose of this was for Musa to see the wisdom of Allah, and at the same time understand this was a mercy for the boy and his parents.
  • The scholar’s role is to advise those who wish to companion him and learn from him.
  • This story also shows us that the scholar doesn’t have to reply right away to those who refute him.
  •  When a prophet seeks knowledge this doesn’t lower his status, even if he were to learn from other than a prophet or messenger.
  • This story shows that every legislation given to the prophets protected 5 things; the soul, the wealth, the religion, the lineage, and the intellect. The two mentioned in this story are the protection of one’s property and religion. When Al-Khadir scuttled the ship Musa thought that he wasted wealth and took a life, however, Al-Khadir informed him that he did that to preserve one’s wealth. When Al-Khadir killed the boy, then Musa thought that he wasted a life unjustly, however, Al-Khadir told Musa that he killed him to protect the religion. Therefore based on that Musa learned which of these 5 things that Sharia protects is given precedence. i.e Protecting the religion takes precedence over protecting life.
  • The story highlights some the pretext of Allah’s actions.
  • It is allowed for a person to say, “I forgot”, The young man accompanying Musa said, “ I indeed forgot the fish…” [Al-Khaf63] and Musa said to Al-Khadir, “ Don’t call me to account for what I forgot.” [Al-Khaf:73]. In regards to avoding this word, then it probably only applies to the Quran. i.e don’t say I forgot that verse. These are some of the manners for dealing with the Quran.
  • It appears to me that the reason this story is in Al-Khaf is because the Jews used to taunt the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) with questions he couldn’t answer right away. For example they asked him about the soul, the people of the cave, and Thul Qarnayn, only to try and show he was unable to answer their questions and was ignorant. He didn’t answer them right away as he had to wait for revelation to ascend and to come down a little slower than normal, so much so the Polytheists said, “ Your lord has left you.”

The enemies of Muhammad took advantage of that delay, and then Allah sent him the answers to their questions and added the story of Musa to show that Musa was unaware of three things as well, and this didn’t diminish his rank as a prophet. [3]

Translated and complied by Abu Aaliyah Abduallah ibn Dwight Battle

Doha, Qatar, 1441 H(C)

[1] Fathul Bari 6/435

[2] المدهش / pg 97 , by Ibn Al-Jawzi

[3] A Research into the Story of Musa and Al-Khadir, by Al-Amir As-Sanan’I vol 3 pg 219.

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