Lecture 10 in the Ramadaan series:
Monday 4 May 2020 (10 Ramadaan 1441)
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider

Once again, we are in these beautiful nights of Ramadaan, in the service of the Holy Quran and responding to various enquiries, questions and possible confusion regarding certain verses or concepts in the Quran.

Our question for this discussion is, how is it possible for Prophet Moosa (a.s) to learn from Khidr (a.s), considering that Khidr (a.s) was lower in rank. In response to this question, we would like to firstly acknowledge that it is possible, and this did in fact occur.

The verse I would like to draw reference to is verse 66 of Surah Kahf (chapter 18 of the Holy Quran) which establishes this fact explicitly:

قَالَ لَهُ مُوسَىٰ هَلْ أَتَّبِعُكَ عَلَىٰ أَنْ تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمْتَ رُشْدًا
“Musa said to him: Shall I follow you on condition that you should teach me right knowledge of what you have been taught?”

So, it is clear from this verse that the request from Nabi Moosa (a.s) from Khidr (a.s) is to learn. The question is how is this possible, since Nabi Moosa (a.s) is an Ulul Azm Prophet ie. he is amongst the big five prophets. How can he learn from a person like Khidr (a.s) who may or may not be a Prophet?

Before we reply to this question in the appropriate level of detail, we need to revisit this very interesting story as narrated in the Holy Quran, in verses 60 – 82 of Surah Kahf. There are three stories narrated in Surah Kahf, and each of them take us out of the confines of our limited horizon of life which we are accustomed to. These three stories show us that the world is not limited to what we see, nor is the main face of events always the same as what we find in our first encounter to such events.

Surah Kahf has three stories where this theme is common. Firstly, the story of the cave itself, and similarly the story of Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s), and then the story which comes thereafter is that of Zulqarnain.


The story of Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s) is narrated in the Holy Quran as follows. Nabi Moosa (a.s), after establishing himself, moved along with his very reliable companion, Yusha ibn Nun, commonly known as Joshua. This was according to the command of Almighty Allah (SWT) to Nabi Moosa (a.s), that if he wanted to see a more knowledgeable person then he should go to meet him (Khidr) at the place where two oceans meet.

There are a few incidents which occurred on this journey, which is a detailed discussion of its own. Finally, Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Yusha arrived at the meeting point where Khidr (a.s) was based. The Holy Quran describes Khidr (a.s) in verse 65 of Surah Kahf:

فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِنْ عِنْدِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِنْ لَدُنَّا عِلْمًا
“Then they found one from among Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves.”

Every word in this verse is full of meaning! All these verses in this story are very important in understanding the question of tonight’s topic.

After Nabi Moosa (a.s) met this great man Khidr (a.s), he asked Khidr (a.s) as referred to in verse 66: “Shall I follow you on condition that you should teach me right knowledge of what you have been taught?”

Khidr (a.s) responds to Nabi Moosa (a.s) by saying that he (Nabi Moosa (a.s)) will not be able to tolerate, saying: “How can you tolerate on something which you do not know?” Verse 67 and 68 of Surah Kahf refers to this:

قَالَ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا

  1. “He said: Surely you cannot have patience with me.”

وَكَيْفَ تَصْبِرُ عَلَىٰ مَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ خُبْرًا

  1. “And how can you have patience in that of which you have not got a comprehensive knowledge?”

Nabi Moosa (a.s) replied by saying that he will, Insha’allah, be patient, and he will not disobey Khidr (a.s). Verse 69 refers:

قَالَ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ صَابِرًا وَلَا أَعْصِي لَكَ أَمْرًا
“He said: If Allah pleases, you will find me patient and I shall not disobey you in any matter.”

Khidr (a.s) then agreed to allow Nabi Moosa (a.s) to follow him, but stipulated that Nabi Moosa (a.s) should not ask him any questions until he has explained. Nabi Moosa (a.s) agreed. Verse 70 refers:

قَالَ فَإِنِ اتَّبَعْتَنِي فَلَا تَسْأَلْنِي عَنْ شَيْءٍ حَتَّىٰ أُحْدِثَ لَكَ مِنْهُ ذِكْرًا
“He said: If you would follow me, then do not question me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.”


They both continued on their journey together, until when they boarded a boat and Khidr (a.s) made a hole in the boat. Nabi Moosa (a.s) was clearly flabbergasted and could not comprehend this very strange action of Khidr (a.s), since people are on board the boat which is going to transport them. Verse 71 refers:

فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا رَكِبَا فِي السَّفِينَةِ خَرَقَهَا ۖ قَالَ أَخَرَقْتَهَا لِتُغْرِقَ أَهْلَهَا لَقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا إِمْرًا
“So they went (their way) until when they embarked in the boat he made a hole in it. (Musa) said: Have you made a hole in it to drown its inmates? Certainly you have done a grievous thing.”

Nabi Moosa (a.s) could not take it and questioned Khidr (a.s) what on earth is he doing?! Khidr (a.s) responds in verse 72:

قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا
“He said: Did I not say that you will not be able to have patience with me?”

Nabi Moosa (a.s) accordingly apologizes to Khidr (a.s) in verse 73:

قَالَ لَا تُؤَاخِذْنِي بِمَا نَسِيتُ وَلَا تُرْهِقْنِي مِنْ أَمْرِي عُسْرًا
Moses said: “Rebuke me not for forgetting, nor grieve me by raising difficulties in my case.”

With this apology from Nabi Moosa (a.s), they continue their journey together, until they reached a place where there was a young boy and Khidr (a.s) killed this young boy for no apparent reason. Nabi Moosa (a.s) was totally besides himself at witnessing this. Verse 74 explains:

فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا لَقِيَا غُلَامًا فَقَتَلَهُ قَالَ أَقَتَلْتَ نَفْسًا زَكِيَّةً بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ لَقَدْ جِئْتَ شَيْئًا نُكْرًا
“So they went on until, when they met a boy, he slew him. (Musa) said: Have you slain an innocent person otherwise than for manslaughter? Certainly you have done an evil thing.”

Nabi Moosa (a.s) couldn’t take it and remonstrated with Khidr (a.s). What do you think the response from Khidr (a.s) was? Verse 75 says that he repeated what he told Nabi Moosa (a.s) earlier:

قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَكَ إِنَّكَ لَنْ تَسْتَطِيعَ مَعِيَ صَبْرًا
“He said: Did I not say to you that you will not be able to have patience with me?”

Nabi Moosa (a.s) again apologized in verse 76 and said that he will not question again and if he did so then they can part ways.

قَالَ إِنْ سَأَلْتُكَ عَنْ شَيْءٍ بَعْدَهَا فَلَا تُصَاحِبْنِي ۖ قَدْ بَلَغْتَ مِنْ لَدُنِّي عُذْرًا
“He said: If I ask you about anything after this, keep me not in your company; indeed you shall have (then) found an excuse in my case.”

Verse 77 explains that they continued their journey until they reached a city, where the residents of the city did not welcome them or take care of them. In the city, Khidr (a.s) saw a wall which was on the brink of collapse and then decided to have it erected correctly.

فَانْطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰ إِذَا أَتَيَا أَهْلَ قَرْيَةٍ اسْتَطْعَمَا أَهْلَهَا فَأَبَوْا أَنْ يُضَيِّفُوهُمَا فَوَجَدَا فِيهَا جِدَارًا يُرِيدُ أَنْ يَنْقَضَّ فَأَقَامَهُ ۖ قَالَ لَوْ شِئْتَ لَاتَّخَذْتَ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا
“So they went on until when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them as guests. Then they found in it a wall which was on the point of falling, so he put it into a right state. (Musa) said: If you had pleased, you might certainly have taken a recompense for it.”

Again, Nabi Moosa (a.s) found this action of Khidr (a.s) to be strange and asked why is he taking the trouble to build the wall for people who had total disregard for them. Surely they don’t deserve the special treatment? Khidr (a.s) again told Nabi Moosa (a.s) that he again demonstrated that he does not have patience by asking questions before he (Khidr) has explained the reason for his apparent strange action.

Nabi Moosa (a.s) once again apologized for repeating this error on his part but this was going to be the point at which they would part ways.


Verse 78 indicates that Khidr (a.s) now used this as an excuse to part ways but was first going to explain the actions that seemed strange to Nabi Moosa (a.s):

قَالَ هَٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنِكَ ۚ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأْوِيلِ مَا لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا
“He said: This shall be separation between me and you; now I will inform you of the significance of that with which you could not have patience.”

Khidr (a.s) then explained to Nabi Moosa (a.s) the reasons for his actions in these 3 events, which were the hole he created in the boat, the young boy he killed, and the wall he built for the people in the city.

Khidr (a.s) says that the reason he created the hole in the boat was due to the king usurping all the boats while the people of the area used the boat as a means of earning their livelihood by fishing. Therefore, by creating the hole, it would be damaged and be seen by the king as defective. The king would then not usurp this boat from the poor people who own it. Verse 79 explains:

أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَاءَهُمْ مَلِكٌ يَأْخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصْبًا
“As for the boat, it belonged to (some) poor men who worked on the river and I wished that I should damage it, and there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force.”

Khidr (a.s) explains in verses 80 and 81 that the reason he killed the young boy was due to the parents being pious servants of Allah (SWT) and this young boy will grow up to be a bad influence. Hence, by killing this boy, Khidr (a.s) is protecting them from this boy’s rebellion.

وَأَمَّا الْغُلَامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَنْ يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا

  1. “As for the youth, his parents were people of Faith, and we feared that he would grieve them by obstinate rebellion and ingratitude (to Allah and man).”

فَأَرَدْنَا أَنْ يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا

  1. “So we desired that their Lord might give them in his place one better than him in purity and nearer to having compassion.”

Khidr (a.s) also explains in verse 82 that the reason for building the wall in the city where nobody welcomed them was because there was a treasure hidden beneath, and there is the risk of it being stolen. Khidr (a.s) wanted to protect the treasure, since it belonged to orphans, and therefore he built the wall.

وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنْزٌ لَهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَنْ يَبْلُغَا أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسْتَخْرِجَا كَنْزَهُمَا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ ۚ وَمَا فَعَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَمْرِي ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَأْوِيلُ مَا لَمْ تَسْطِعْ عَلَيْهِ
“And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father was a righteous man; so your Lord desired that they should attain their maturity and take out their treasure, a mercy from your Lord, and I did not do it of my own accord. This is the significance of that with which you could not have patience.”

This inspiring story is full of lessons. We are only addressing one aspect, namely we are trying to understand how it is possible that an Ulul Azm Nabi Moosa (a.s) could learn from Khidr (a.s), who is not a Prophet.


There is absolutely no doubt that Khidr (a.s) was a great personality. His deep wisdom is clearly evident from these verses, which explain his very special spiritual status. What we learn from verse 65 is that Khidr (a.s) is blessed with Divine knowledge (“whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves”) as opposed to being groomed the traditional way in a school through a teacher.

These verses which explain the relationship between Khidr (a.s) and Almighty Allah (SWT) clearly indicate that Khidr (a.s) was of a very high status. He holds a very Divinely position through his supreme spiritual status, where Almighty Allah (SWT) also holds special attention towards Khidr (a.s).

That being said, Nabi Moosa (a.s) is the Divinely appointed Prophet of his time, and Khidr (a.s) is a follower. As noted earlier, Nabi Moosa (a.s) is not a normal Prophet, because he carries special status since he came with Divine revelation in the form of the Torah.

On the other hand, Khidr (a.s) was not a Prophet. This is the view held by the majority of our religious scholars, although there are some who believe that he was a Prophet. Even if he was a Prophet, he certainly was not on the stature of Nabi Moosa (a.s).

So, in summary, we have Khidr (a.s) on the one side, with his extraordinary spiritual and mystical status, carrying special mercy and Divine knowledge from Almighty Allah (SWT). Then on the other side is Nabi Moosa (a.s), an Ulul Azm Prophet with Divine revelation in the form of the Torah. There is clearly no doubt that Nabi Moosa (a.s) is much higher in rank than Khidr (a.s).


After all is said and done, the most important lesson here is that being on a higher status does not mean that you cannot learn from someone who is an expert in his own field. Of course, we are not talking here about two normal people. We are talking about Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s), two individuals who are the topmost in two fields. Hence, there is nothing wrong if one enjoys knowledge and wisdom from another. That is the moral of the story, but the question is how?

There are two systems running in parallel in this world. The first is the natural, universal system of creation. Almighty Allah (SWT) has created this world through this system, and the whole world and universe is being managed through this system. The second is the legislative system.

Both systems are in harmony with each other, in principles. However, sometimes they are separated in the details. An example is that universal system of creation (Takwini) with which Almighty Allah (SWT) is managing this whole world. According to that system, in order to test His servants, Almighty Allah (SWT) afflicts them with fear, lack of wealth, loss of life and so many other trials and tribulations, so that it is clear who is the patient in the face of these events.

This is the promise of Almighty Allah (SWT) in verse 155 of Surah Baqarah (chapter 2 of the Holy Quran):

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
“Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.”

Can this same approach be employed on the legislative system? Can you destroy a property to test how much patience you have? Can you kill a person with the intent of wanting to see how the parents respond to the setback? Of course NOT, because a jurist or Prophet is functioning in the system of legislation. Therefore, he can never get away with something like this.

Let us look at our own situation these days, which is a perfect example to illustrate the point. The whole world is now tested with the terrible coronavirus, to see how we react and respond, and express our humanity.

Now, can anybody do this to achieve the same purpose? Of course NOT. For example, Almighty Allah (SWT) sometimes takes away blessings from us to test whether we are grateful or not. We read this in verse 7 of Surah Ibrahim (chapter 14 of the Holy Quran):

وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
“And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.”

So, if someone is ungrateful, Almighty Allah (SWT) takes away blessings as a form of punishment or retribution. Is it permissible for us to do something like this? Clearly not. For example, we cannot sink a ship for this same purpose.

Another interesting example – a doctor can amputate a gangrene finger to save the rest of the body of a diabetic. But can we cut someone’s finger for the purpose of testing that person’s sabr (patience and perseverance)? Clearly NOT!

So, this is a proven fact, that we have two systems. Indeed, both systems are run by Almighty Allah (SWT) and at the same time, there is nothing to prevent Him from appointing a group of people/agents to enforce one system and similarly another group of people/agents to enforce another system.


From the point of view of the system of Divine creation or universal system, there is no obstacle for Almighty Allah (SWT) to cause a mature, young child to have an accident and die, because his existence in the future may cause greater danger.

Example, Almighty Allah (SWT) tests us with ill health. Right now, we are in lockdown and therefore we did not go out. Who knows what would have happened if we went out? Only Allah (SWT) can test us with ill health in that universal system.

There are plenty of examples to bring forward on this subject, but I would like to summarise by saying that it is possible for Almighty Allah (SWT) to conduct certain things in the system of Divine creation. However, what is possible in the universal system of divine creation is not possible in the legislative system.

Now, when we understand this in the life of Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s) we realize that they are both agents of Almighty Allah (SWT) on two different levels. The one is through the natural system of creation and the other one is Moosa (a.s) being a Divine Prophet with jurisprudence and is an agent of Almighty Allah (SWT) in the legislative system.

In both cases, Almighty Allah (SWT) has the ultimate delegation of authority. Nobody can do anything without His endorsement.


What Khidr (a.s) was doing along the journey with Nabi Moosa (a.s) was based upon his exposure to that universal system which is beyond the normal system of cause and effect we experience on a daily basis. He was doing his actions based upon the universal system, whereas the criticism from Nabi Moosa (a.s) was from the legislative perspective. Both of them are correct!

The objection from Nabi Moosa (a.s) was not wrong, because he was sent as a Divine Prophet with legislation (Sharia). This legislation does not allow for us to kill a child because he will become corrupt sometime in the future and make his parents corrupt as well. He has not yet committed a crime, so from a legislative perspective he cannot be punished.

However, Almighty Allah (SWT), in His own universal system of creation is able to see the future state of this child and can therefore do the action of killing him. This is what Khidr (a.s) did, as an agent of Almighty Allah (SWT).

It was difficult for Nabi Moosa (a.s) to comprehend, but when Khidr (a.s) opened up the background from the perspective of the universal system of creation, then Nabi Moosa (a.s) understood what was going on and realized through this wisdom that there is absolutely nothing wrong.

Since Khidr (a.s) is an agent for Almighty Allah (SWT), he explains that his actions were according to the commands of Almighty Allah (SWT). What we see here is that Nabi Moosa (a.s) was the subject matter expert on the legislative system, and therefore found the actions of Khidr (a.s) to be wrong from this standpoint, not knowing that the actions of Khidr (a.s) was based on the universal system.

We should not miss the point – both systems are leading human beings toward perfection. However, they are different in their details and therefore leading mankind towards perfection in different ways. This distinction is critical to understand.


There was a world of meaning and secrets which was not exposed to Nabi Moosa (a.s). This is the lesson – a person can reach to any level of superiority, virtue, status and position. Despite this, one can never claim to know everything and does not need to learn anything.

Sometimes, a person of the esteemed level of Nabi Moosa (a.s) can learn from someone of a lower rank like Khidr (a.s), who had a higher level of mystical intuitive knowledge of the universal system of creation compared to Nabi Moosa (a.s), who was the legislative expert.

Mystics explain this story of Nabi Moosa (a.s) and Khidr (a.s) by saying that Nabi Moosa (a.s) was connected to those attributes of Almighty Allah (SWT) which was manifested in this world according this normal system in which we live. This was his duty, and therefore the responsibility of Nabi Moosa (a.s) was to address matters pertaining to rule of law in society. That is why he was the man of propagation from a legislative/jurisprudence perspective.

Khidr (a.s) on the hand, experienced his heart and soul united with different attributes of Almighty Allah (SWT). That is why his approach has a different exposure and different meaning.


There are plenty of such experiences in the lives of the Ahlul Bait (a.s). One day, the 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), received a person who came all the way from Khorasan. This man said to Imam Sadiq (a.s) that he is his follower and that the people of Khorasan are very much in love and committed with him (Imam Sadiq (a.s)). This person wanted to know from Imam Sadiq (a.s) why he does not take a full stance against the oppressive regime of the time, as he can count on the unwavering support of the people of Khorasan.

Imam Sadiq (a.s) asked his servant to prepare the oven where they would make bread. The servant prepared the bread oven, which was burning hot red coals. Once the heat reached its peak, Imam Sadiq (a.s) told this visitor from Khorasan to jump into this bread oven. This man was naturally totally confused at such a strange request, and asked Imam Sadiq (a.s) to please pardon him for not going into the fire.

After a while, another highly committed companion of Imam Sadiq (a.s) by the name of Haroon Makki came to join the two of them. Imam Sadiq (a.s) made the same request, asking Haroon Makki to enter the burning hot bread oven. Haroon Makki did not ask questions. He simply followed the command of Imam Sadiq (a.s) and entered the oven.

After a while, Imam Sadiq (a.s) asked the man from Khorasan to look inside the oven, to see what is happening to Haroon Makki. This Khorasani checked inside the oven and found Haroon to be sitting there as if he was in a garden playing with fire!

This man could not believe what he was seeing. Imam Sadiq (a.s) asked this man whether there are people like Haroon Makki in Khorasan, to which this man replied with a clear NO. Imam Sadiq (a.s) then told this man that he will take a revolutionary stance the day that there are even a handful of people of the calibre of Haroon Makki in Khorasan.

Haroon Makki could see what others could not see.


Another example is also narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s) while on journey towards Karbala for Ziyarah of their grandfather, Imam Husain (a.s). He asked one of his companions along the journey to invite their followers to join them. This companion went looking for the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) along the route but found nobody.

Imam Sadiq (a.s) asked his companion why he could not find anybody. His companion said that he found people in the villages, but they know absolutely nothing. They do not know the basics of cleanliness, so why would he even bother asking them to join for Ziyarah of Imam Husain (a.s) and the martyrs of Karbala?

Imam Sadiq (a.s) replied to his companion by saying that we normal human beings do not see what he is seeing as the infallible Imam. His companion was drawing conclusions based on how he evaluated these village people from a legislative perspective, whereas Imam Sadiq (a.s) has insight into the universal system of creation and therefore sees the world and creation in a very different light.

In conclusion, it is Nabi Moosa (a.s) with all his greatness, but is unable to see what Khidr (a.s) had exposure to. That is why Nabi Moosa (a.s) wanted to spend time with Khidr (a.s), to learn the wisdom of the world which Khidr (a.s) had access to.

We hope and prayer to Almighty Allah (SWT) to reward us with the Noor of Hikmah and Irfan in this world and beyond.

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