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The story of Moses and Al-Khidr (a.s) according to Hadiths and Narrations
The sweet story of Moses (a.s) and Al-Khidr (a.s), is one of the interesting stories of Moses’ life.
Moses’ (a.s) speech and his first Tarke Ula' (leaving the better work for a less desirable one)
When Pharaoh and his folks were drowned and died in the Nile River and after years of struggle, the Israelites who were leaded by Moses came to power and Moses (a.s) was chosen as their leader. He gave a speech among a very large number of people (which can be called as a Victory Celebration) as well as, in the presence the Israelites. The celebration was very magnificent, but suddenly a person asked Moses (a.s): “Do you know anyone more knowledgeable and wiser than yourself?” In response to this question Moses said: “No, I don’t”. In this regard, there is a Hadith from the prophet Muhammad (phuh) which has been narrated from Ibn Abban and then from Ubay ibn Ka'b. Accordingly he said: “One day Moses was giving speech to the Israelites, then someone asked him: “Who is the most knowledgeable person in the world?” Moses replied: “I do not know anyone more knowledgeable and wiser than myself.” At that moment, Moses received a revelation from God that in Majma al-Bahrain, We have a servant who is more knowledgeable and wiser than you. Then, Moses requested that God allow him to meet with that scholar, therefore, God showed Moses the way to reach his goal. Another Hadith with the same concept has also been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s). In fact, it was a warning to Moses that in spite of all his knowledge, he did not have to consider himself as the best person. According to some narrations, it is said that having received Torah through the revelation and having been able to talk directly to God, Moses (a.s) said to himself: “God has created no one more knowledgeable and wiser than me”. At that moment, God revealed to Moses through Gabriel and said to him: “take care of Moses because he is in a lethal situation. (It means that due to arrogance, he is getting far from the high spiritual status, so Gabriel you help him to be reformed, therefore Gabriel came to Moses…). Gabriel was sent down to Moses and conveyed him the message of God. Accordingly, God revealed to Moses through Gabriel and said that: “Yes, Al-Khidr is our servant who is more knowledgeable and wiser than you. He is in the junction of the two seas and beside a huge rock. Moses (a.s) said: “How can I meet with him?” God said: “take a fish and put it in your basket and travel to the junction of the two seas. Wherever the fish was lost, there you can find the scholar (Al-Khidr)”. Moses (a.s) realized that this commandment of God has been due to his imagination that he believed he was the most knowledgeable person. Inevitably, he walked on along with Joshua Ibn Nun until they reached Majma'al Bahrain. There, they were faced by Al-Khidr who was worshipping the Almighty God. Beizavi, the famous commentator relates the story as the following: Moses said to God: “who is your favorite servant from among your servants?” Then, God revealed to him through Gabriel and said: “The one who reminds me and never forgets”. Moses said: “Which of your servants are better in terms of judging others?” God said: “The one who does not act according to his lust and he who regards the truth while judging.” Moses said: “Which of your servants is more knowledgeable and wiser than others?” God said: “The one who makes an attempt to learn from others’ knowledge, in this way he may faces with a statement which guides him or saves him from lapses.” Moses said: “How can I find him?” Then, again God revealed to him through Gabriel and said: “Place a fish in your basket and move on, wherever you lost your fish, there you would find Al-Khidr.”
Moses (a.s) in search of his master (Al-Khidr)
Moses (a.s) who always desired to acquire knowledge said: “I do not stop searching for him until I reach the junction of the two seas, even though I have to proceed for a long time.” Moses then chose a friend and fellow traveler for himself. This person was the same brave and faithful man of Israelites who was called Joshua Ibn Nun. So, Moses placed a fish in his basket and took some meal and proceeded with Joshua towards the junction of the two seas. When they reached there, they retired to a rock for a moment. There, Moses and Joshua forgot the fish they were carrying. Later, it was revealed that the fish had been disappeared when the water droplets were sprinkled on it and then the fish miraculously had thrown itself from that strait into the sea. Moses and his fellow traveler crossed that place and due to the long distance, they became tired and hungry. At that moment, Moses (a.s) remembered that they were carrying a meal and then he said to Joshua: “Bring us our meal. We have certainly suffered in this, our journey, much fatigue”. Joshua said: “Do you remember when we retired to the rock? Indeed, there I forgot to relate to you the story of the fish and none made me forget it except Satan - that I should mention it. And the fish took its course into the sea amazingly and disappeared.” Since Moses (a.s) had been told that this issue would be a sign for finding that scholar, he found out this event was the same sign and said: “That is what we wanted and were seeking." At that moment, they returned and started to seek for the scholar. When they reached the strait, there they saw Al-Khidr (a.s). In this regard, a Hadith has been narrated from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Accordingly the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “When Moses (a.s) met with Al-Khidr (a.s) at the seaside, a bird flew to them, then then it bird picked up a droplet of water with its beak”. Al-Khidr said to Moses: “Do you know what this bird is saying?” Moses said: “What is this bird saying?” Al-Khidr said that he was saying: “I swear to the Lord of heavens, the earth and the sea that the comparison between the knowledge of you two (Moses and Al-Khidr) and the knowledge of God is nothing but like the comparison between what I have picked up of water with my beak and the sea.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 13, p. 302). In another Hadith, it has also been mentioned that: “This bird was smaller than a sparrow but it was from the swallow species” and it has also been said that: “The comparison between the knowledge of Muhammad and his families (pbuh), and your knowledge is like the comparison between what I have picked up of water with my beak and the sea.” Anyhow, after greetings Moses (a.s) said to him: “May I follow you so that you teach me from what you have been taught of sound judgment?”
Al-Khidr: “Indeed, with me you will never be able to have patience, and how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?”
Moses: “You will find me, if Allah wills, patient, and I will not disobey you in any order.”
Al-Khidr: “Then if you follow me, do not ask me about anything until I make to you about it mention.” Moses (a.s) again promised that he follows his mater with patience and accordingly, he proceeded with Al-Khidr (a.s).
Moses’ observation of three strange events
Moses, Joshua and Al-Khidr (a.s) went to the seaside and there they embarked on the ship. The ship was full of travelers, nonetheless the owner of the ship allowed them to embark on the ship. After a period of time, Al-Khidr (a.s) stood up and scuttled a corner of the ship and broke that part and again he filled this part with a piece of cloth and clay in order to prevent the water from entering the ship. When Moses (a.s) saw that dangerous scene which was endangering the life of the people on the ship, he became furious and said to Al-Khidr: “Have you torn it open to drown its people? You have certainly done a grave thing.” Al-Khidr (a.s) said: “Did I not say that with me you would never be able to have patience?!” Moses said: “Do not blame me for what I forgot and do not cover me in my matter with difficulty.” Then they crossed there and got off the ship and proceeded. On the way, Al-Khidr saw a child who was playing among other children. Al-Khidr attacked the child, took him and then killed him.
Having seen this scene, Moses (a.s) could not remain patient and as a result he furiously said to Al-Khidr: “Have you killed a pure soul for other than having killed a soul? You have certainly done a deplorable thing.” Since Moses (a.s) was very furous, he even attacked Al-Khidr and took him and beat him to the ground and said: “why did you do that?” Al-Khidr said: “Did I not tell you that with me you would never be able to have patience?” Moses (a.s) said: “If I should ask you about anything after this, then do not keep me as a companion. You have obtained from me an excuse.”
Then, they set out until they reached a town which was called Nazareth. There, they asked its people for food and water, but the inhabitants of Nazareth refused to offer them food and hospitality. At that moment Al-Khidr (a.s) looked at the wall which was about to collapse and said to Moses (a.s): “stand up by the permission of God, we have to repair this wall and prevent its collapse.” Al-Khidr (a.s) started to repair the wall.
Moses (a.s) was very tired and hungry, above all he felt that they had been disrespected by the improper behavior of the people of the town, nonetheless, Al-Khidr was repairing the wall. So, again he forgot his promise and started to object Al-Khidr (a.s) but this time it was less severe than before. Accordingly he said: “If you wished, you could have taken for it a payment.” There, Al-Khidr (a.s) said to Moses (a.s): “This is parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.” It has been narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “God have mercy upon my brother Moses (a.s), if he bore and remained patient, he could see the strangest wonders (from Al-Khidr).” He also said: “If he had patience, he would see a thousand wonders”. It has been narrated that Imam Baqir (a.s) or Imam Sadiq (a.s) said: “if he bore and remained patient, that scholar (Al-Khidr) would show Moses (a.s) seventy strange events”. It has also been narrated that: “Moses was asked, what was the most unbearable hardships of your life from among all your hardships” Moses replied: “None of my hardships (of the time of Pharaoh and during the reign of Israelites with all its difficulties) was like the statement of Al-Khidr (a.s) who said “This is parting between me and you” and I was deprived of his knowledge.” Moses (a.s) then said no words and recognized that he could no longer be with Al-Khidr (a.s) and have patience with his strange actions.
Moses’ descriptions regarding the three strange events
Al-Khidr (a.s) described the secrets of these three strange events to Moses (a.s) as the following: “As for the ship, it belonged to a group of poor people who were working by the ship at sea and I intended to cause defect in it and to prevent it from being taken by the tyrant of that time, because there was after them a king who seized every good ship by force. As a result, I caused defect in the ship so as to keep it for its owners.” “But as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared that he would overburden them by transgression and disbelief. So we intended that their Lord should substitute for them one better than him in purity and nearer to mercy.” “But as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure for them, and their father had been righteous. So your Lord intended that they reach maturity and extract their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. I did so, in order to prevent the treasure from being found by other people because the treasure had to be hidden beneath the wall. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of that about which you could not have patience.” Moses (a.s) was convinced by Al-Khidr’s (a.s) descriptions.
Al-Khidr’s (a.s) recommendation and advice about the inscription of the tablet (treasure)
When the time of parting between Al-Khidr (a.s) and Moses (a.s) arrived, Moses said to him: “May you give me a piece of advice?” Then Al-Khidr said to him some statements including: “avoid three things: 1-obstinacy 2-walking unnecessarily and without having any purpose 3. And laughing without reason, remember your faults and avoid investigating into people’s faults”. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq has narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s) who said: “At the moment of parting between Moses (a.s) and Al-Khidr, Moses said to him: “Give me a piece of advice” The advice Al-Khidr gave to Moses was that “avoid obstinacy, acting without having purpose and laughing without reason” he also recommended that he shall remember his fault and avoid mentioning people’s faults. Al-Shaykh al-Saduq has also narrated another Hadith from Imam Sajjad who said: Al-Khidr’s last recommendation to Moses was: “Do not blame anyone for his sins and always bear in mind that the most valuable things with God are three things: Moderation while you are wealthy, forgiveness when you are powerful and forbearance with the servants God, and God will forbear with all those servants who forbear with other servants.” The real wisdom makes you fear of the Almighty God. It has been narrated from Imam Reza (a.s) that the treasure which was beneath the wall was a golden tablet on which it had been inscribed that: “In the name of Allah, the compassionate the merciful, I wonder how someone who certainly believes in death is very joyful. I wonder how someone who believes in the divine destiny becomes sad. I wonder how someone who believes that the changes of the world is done by its people, trusts in it. The person who is not unaware of God, does not blame God for His judgment and does not forget to remember Him frequently when He supplies him with provisions, is regarded as a good servant.”
Different narrations (Hadiths) about the story of Moses and Al-Khidr
In Tafsir Al-Mizan, Allameh Tabatabaei says that Ibn Babawayh has narrated a Hadith in his book Tafsir Al Burhan. According to this Hadith which has been narrated from Ja'far Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ammarih and from his father Ja'far Ibn Muhammad (a.s), when God talked to Moses and revealed Torah to him, He preached to him and talked to him from everything. God bestowed upon him miracles which were related to his hand and his staff (rod). Additionally, when some other miracles including those which were related to storm, locust, frog, crocodile, blood, crossing the sea, drowning the Pharaoh and his troops were accomplished by him, his human nature made him say to himself: I do not believe that God has created any creature wiser than me. Once this supposition crossed his mind, the Almighty God revealed Himself to Gabriel and said that: “Help my servant and save him from arrogance before it is late and say to him that there is a righteous man at the junction of the two seas, you have to follow him and learn from his teachings.
Gabriel was revealed to Moses and conveyed him the message of God. Moses (a.s) found out that this commandment had been due to his supposition. Inevitably, along with his fellow traveler Joshua Ibn Nun, he set out until they reached Majma al-Bahrain. There, they saw Al-Khidr who was worshiping the Almighty God. In this regard, the Holy Quran says: “And they found a servant from among Our servants to whom we had given mercy from us and had taught him from Us a certain knowledge.” (Surah Al-Kahf-Verse 65).
In their interpretation books, Ayyashi and Qomi have narrated this story in two ways and accordingly only one of them has a documentation. Additionally, it has to be said that in the book Al-Durr Al-Manthur, this story has been narrated from the famous narrators including: al-Bukhari, Muslim, Nasayi and tirmizi. Moreover, Ibn Abbas and Ubay ibn Ka'b have also narrated this story from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The concept of all these Hadiths are the same as the Hadith which was narrated from Muhammad Ibn Ammarih. Therefore, they are different in many of those details which have been added to the description of the Quran regarding this story. For instance, according to what has been narrated from Ayyashi and Qomi, Majma al-Bahrain was located in land of Levant and Palestine however, at the same time as these two honorable people have narrated, the town in which Moses and Al-Khidr repaired the wall was called Nazareth which was attributed to the Christians and Nazareth was also located in that land. However, in some narrations, Majma al-Bahrain has been considered as Azerbaijani lands. Moreover, the same concept has also been narrated from al-Sadi in the book Al-Durr Al-Manthur, accordingly it has been said that these two seas were “Kerr” and “Ross” which entered the sea and the town which was mentioned in the story of Moses and Al-Khidr was called “Bajoran” whose people were very mean. It has been narrated from Ubay that this city was called “Ifriquia” and it has also been narrated from al-Qarzi that it was called “Tangier”. In this regard, it has been narrated from Qatada that Majma al-Bahrain had been the junction of Baḥr al-Rum (Mediterranean Sea) and Persian Gulf. The other difference which exists here is related to that fish. Some narrations have mentioned that it was a roasted fish, however most of them have stated that it was a salted fish. According to Mursale by Qomi and other narrations from Muslim, al-Bukhari, tirmizi, Nasayi and other narrators, there was a spring of water of life near the rock over which the fish had been placed. Even as it has been narrated from Muslim and other narrators, in this spring there was the water of life and anyone who drank form this water, could stay alive forever. Hence, this water of life could bring to life any dead creature who was close to it. That is why when Moses and his boy-servant approached the water of that spring, the fish became alive…
In a different narration, it has been mentioned that at that moment Moses’ boy-servant was performing Wudu. Hence, a water droplet was sprinkled on the fish and made it alive. In another narration, it has been mentioned that Joshua drank from that water, despite the fact that he had not been allowed to do so. Thus, when Al-Khidr saw him with Moses, tied him up to a ship and left him on the sea. As a result he would be among the sea waves until the Day of Judgment. In some other narrations it has been mentioned that there was a spring of water of life near that rock, the same rock from which Al-Khidr drank water. It has to be said that this part has not been mentioned in other narrations. One of the differences which exists in this story is that in the four authentic narrations from Muslim, al-Bukhari, Nasayi, tirmizi and other narrators, it has been mentioned that the fish took its course into the sea, slipping away. Then, the Almighty God made the water immovable and as a result the fish was trapped in a space which had turned into a room… and in addition, in some other narrations it has also been narrated that when Moses returned from his travel with Al-Khidr, he saw the trace of the movement of the fish and chased it. Moses was chasing the fish while walking over the water until he reached an island from Island of the Arabs. According to Hadith Tabari which has been narrated from Ibn Abbas, Moses returned until he reached the rock and there, he saw the fish. But the fish escaped and changed his direction in the water and entered the sea. Moses was also chasing the fish whereas he was hitting the water so as to catch it. From that moment on, wherever the fish crossed the sea became waterless and turned to the rock. It has to be said that this part has not been mentioned in some narrations. The other difference is related to the place where Moses met with Al-Khidr. Accordingly, in most of the narrations, it has been mentioned that Moses saw Al-Khidr near a rock. In some other narrations, it has been mentioned that Moses chased the fish in order to catch it. So, he reached an island from Island of the Arabs. There, he met with Al-Khidr. Moreover, in other narrations it has been mentioned that he saw Al-Khidr who was sitting over or leaning on the water. The other difference is that, were Moses’ boy-servant following them (Moses and Al-Khidr) or did they left him?
Another difference is related to the way Al-Khidr scuttled the ship, the way he killed the child and the way he repaired the wall as well as the kind of the treasure which was beneath the wall. According to most narrations, this treasure had been a golden tablet on which some recommendations and pieces of advice had been inscribed. Regarding the righteous father of that two orphans, in most narrations it has been mentioned that he had been the father of that two children but in others it has been mentioned that he had been their 10th great grandfather or 7th great grandfather. According some narrations, the time distance between that righteous father and the two children were seventy years, while others mentioned it as seven hundred years. In addition, in this regard there are also other differences in this story.
According to Tafsir Qomi, Muhammad ibn Bilal had asked Yunus a question regarding the letter which had been written to Imam Reza (a.s). Accordingly, Imam Reza (a.s) was asked, which of them were more knowledgeable and wiser, Moses or the scholar (Al-Khidr) with whom he met? The other question was that, “Was it proper that a prophet like Moses who was himself the proof of the existence of God, be contemporary with another prophet?” Imam Reza (a.s) said: “Moses went to visit that scholar and found him in an island from the islands of the sea while Al-Khidr was sitting or leaning. Moses said hello to him, but Al-Khidr did not understand the meaning of saying hello, because it was not common to say hello in all lands.” Then Al-Khidr said: “Who are you?” Moses replied: “I am Moses ibn Imran.” Al-Khidr asked “Are you Moses ibn Imran, the person who talked to God?” Moses replied: “Yes, I am.” Al-Khidr said: “How can I help you?” Moses said: “I have come to visit you so that you teach me from what you have been taught of sound judgment.” Al-Khidr said: “I have become responsible for something with which you will never be able to have patience likewise, you have become responsible for something with which I will never be able to have patience….” It has to be said that the same concept has also been mentioned in Shia and Sunni Hadiths. According to the book Al-Durr Al-Manthur it is an authentic Hadith. Ubay has narrated a Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who said: “When Moses saw Al-Khidr, a bird landed and picked up a water droplet with its beak.” Al-Khidr said to Moses” Do you know what this bird is trying to tell you by its action?” Moses said: “What is the bird saying?” Al-Khidr said: “the bisrd is saying that In comparison to the knowledge of God, the knowledge of you and Moses’ Knowledge is like what I have picked up of water from the sea.” In the book Tafsir Ayyashi, it has been narrated from Hisham bin Salim that Abu Abdullah (a.s) said: “Moses was more knowledgeable and wiser than Al-Khidr.” Moreover, in the same book Abu Hamza has narrated a Hadith from Imam Baqir (a.s) who said: Joshua Ibn Nun had been the successor to Moses and the term “boy” which has been mentioned in the Holy Quran refers to this person. Again in this book, Abdullah ibn Maymun al-Qaddah and his father have narrated a Hadith from Imam Sadiq (a.s) who said: “one day when Moses was sitting among a group of the elders of the Israelites, a man said to him: “I do not know anyone more knowledgeable and wiser than you” Moses said: “I do not know either.” God revealed to him through Gabriel and said: “No, you are not the most knowledgeable person because my servant Al-Khidr is more knowledgeable than you.” Moses demanded that God show him the way. So, the story of the fish which has been mentioned in the Holy Quran was a sign between God and Moses for finding Al-Khidr.
1 – Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 13, p. 491- 494
2 - Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 13, p. 278, P. 294, P. 280, P. 284, and p. 301
3 – Tafsir Noor ul Saqlain, vol. 3, p. 282
4 – Andishe Qom Website, the story of Moses and Khidr article
5 - Tarikh al-Anbia, Rasoul Mahallati
6 - Stories of the Quran and Tarikh al-Anbia (the history of the Prophets) in Al-Mizan, and on balance, collected or compiled by: Hussein fa’al araqi
7 - Tafsir Nemooneh, vol. 12, p. 515
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