ALLAH HAS GIVEN human beings the power to emote and interact, and to discern and analyze our actions so that we can live our lives judiciously by following the path of Islam. In this journey of life we encounter many issues, seemingly insurmountable problems and setbacks which may dishearten us. But again, we need to turn to the Quran to deeply absorb the many messages embedded in its pages so that we can not only confront these problems, but successfully cope with them and combat and tackle them in the true Islamic way.
Many stories of the Quran also act as guiding beacons, if we can look closely and perceive the lessons they are trying to teach us. One such story we had mentioned in the first part of this article was the tale of Prophet Musa and Al-Khidr. Let us throw light on the variegated messages and values we can discern from this story.
Humbleness is a valued trait in Islam, and Prophet Musa detects this in his encounter with Al Khidr. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud reported: The Prophet said,
No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise. (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Ahmad)
Prophet Musa, one of the most learned and respected Prophets of Allah was admonished for having assumed he was the most learned person. When it was revealed to him that Al-Khidr was more knowledgeable than him, he was instantly contrite and in all humility not only accepted this fact, but was willing to pursue and gain more knowledge from this learned sage who could teach him more than he already knew, as he realized that Allah gives ‘‘Ilm’ (revealed knowledge) to whom He pleases.
Initially when Al-Khidr imposed certain conditions as a prerequisite to the journey, Musa promptly complied and agreed to the conditions. Whenever he erred and questioned Al-Khidr, he immediately realized his mistake and courteously apologized. Allah grants each person different skills and abilities, and when we have gained a certain amount of knowledge it does not mean we have reached the pinnacle of learning; in fact it means that the more we acquire knowledge, the more we should become humble, as this humility only paves the path to elevating us as true Muslims.
Quest for Knowledge
Prophet Musa was already a Prophet when he met Al-Khidr. Yet when he was informed that there was one person more superior in knowledge to him, or one who perhaps had a different kind of wisdom than him, he was willing to undertake an arduous journey over both land and sea, even if he had to pursue it for a lifetime in order to acquire this knowledge. For Prophet Musa was aware there was a special connection to knowledge attained when it is sought in the real world with a more knowledgeable teacher. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud reported that the Messenger of Allah said,
The seekers of two things are never satisfied: the seeker of knowledge and the seeker of material gain. (Ibn Abi Hatim)
Nothing stopped Musa’s zeal in undertaking this journey – hunger, toil or the enduring of hardships and difficulties – he was determined and committed to pursuing his goal in attaining new lessons.
When Al-Khidr committed actions that seemed to Prophet Musa to contravene the laws of Allah, he could not help but speak out. But when reminded of his promises, he patiently agreed to remain silent and persevere so that he would eventually attain clarity on these matters.
Prophet Musa realized through his journey with Al-Khidr that no one knows everything, and that Allah blesses whomsoever He wishes to by bestowing knowledge on them, but in order to acquire it one needs to be patient.
As Muslims, we need to realize this too – that knowledge is not only crucial, but it is also a boon from Allah and for its acquisition we are indeed blessed. Half of wisdom is the ability to admit to the fact that one may fall short of a certain type of awareness and to hope, pray and seek information so that Allah will bestow beneficial education upon us if we have true passion and patience for it. It is rightfully stated in the Quran:
And seek help in patience and prayer. [Surat Al-Anfal, 8:46]
It is stated in Surat Al-Kahf:
And [mention] when Moses said to his servant, “I will not cease [travelling] until I reach the junction of the two seas or continue for a long period.” [Surat Al-Kahf, 18:60]
When Musa found out there was someone more learned than himself he was determined to find him. Prophet Musa was a true seeker of erudition and was resolute enough not to stop until he got to the place where he would meet Al-Khidr. The ability to be persistent and dogged in the face of all odds should be a sign of the true believer and a diligent seeker of knowledge. Allah always rewards the steadfastness and the endurance of a true Muslim.
Shaytan Will Always Try to Block Knowledge
The boy said, “Did you see when we retired to the rock? Indeed, I forgot [there] the fish. And none made me forget it except Satan. And it took its course into the sea amazingly. [Surat Al-Kahf, 18:63]
This is a reminder that seeking knowledge is not an easy task, and it’s a surety that a person will encounter difficulties. Shaytan will endeavor to block every path that leads to the acquisition of knowledge. That is why we should be ceaseless and tenacious not only in the quest for knowledge but also when faced with other issues in life, as, under some circumstances, it is so tedious to attain our goals and even more difficult to act upon them righteously. We should constantly be aware that through Shaytan’s evil maneuvers we may find our efforts thwarted at every turn, but this should make us even more indefatigable.
Good Manners are a Prerequisite of a Teacher’s and Student’s Personality
Prophet Musa was a wise, learned man and a Prophet of Allah, yet when he met Al-Khidr he assumed the role of the supplicant and became an obedient pupil as he wanted to gain scholarly knowledge from Al-Khidr. The role naturally assumed by him was of a humble pupil, while now the mantle worn by Al-Khidr was that of a teacher.
Al-Khidr was also a magnanimous teacher – he knew his pupil well. He always reminded Prophet Musa of his promise to be patient – he never once lost his complacence. He donned the robe of a tutor with aplomb, cautiously reminding Prophet Musa that all would be revealed eventually. All through the journey, he never endeavored to degrade or humiliate Prophet Musa, though he would gently reprimand him and then move on.
Similarly, in life, parents are the teachers and children their pupils. They must always endeavor to be courteous but firm, thus fashioning themselves as suitable role models that their children may emulate later in life.
Abu Hurairah said, the Prophet said,
The best among you in Islam are those with the best manners, so long as they develop a sense of understanding. (Bukhari)
The Move from Knowledge to Productivity
The Prophet said:
Knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of God. [Tirmidhi]
If knowledge brings you closer to Allah and cultivates ‘taqwa’ in you then it is a blessing from Allah. Knowledge can also be a trial; you can use it in the wrong way or not practice what you learn at all! Knowledge about certain deeds and their immense reward can bring you closer to Allah and this can promote productivity.
An example is the two-rak‘at sunnah salah we pray before Fajr salah. Some people don’t comprehend the value of this act of worship and therefore neglect to perform it. Many people read the Quran and comprehend the lessons explained in it, but compartmentalize the knowledge they gain from this perusal of the Book and fail to apply it to their daily lives.
Gaining knowledge is only the initial step and it should be viewed as a stepping stone towards applying this knowledge in our daily lives. Al-Khidr says about the actions he did, “I did it not of my own accord.” He had been commanded by Allah to do it for a greater good for which at the time, no reason or satisfactory explanation could be given.
These are paradoxes in life which we need to be aware about – apparent loss may be real gain; apparent cruelty may be real mercy; returning good for evil may really be justice and not generosity. Allah’s wisdom transcends all human comprehension.
Belief in Allah’s Plan
And they plan, and Allah’s plans. And Allah is the best of planners. [Surat Al Anfal, 8:30]
Finally, a priceless lesson learned by Prophet Musa in his meeting with Al-Khidr, and one learned by all of us through this story is the supreme faith in ‘Qadar’ or Allah’s divine plan. A believer should have implicit faith and trust in what Allah has ordained for us,
So put thy trust in Allah for you are on (the path of) manifest Truth. [Surat Al-Naml, 27:79]
Certain events may seem meaningless and ambiguous to us but we must realize Allah has a plan for everything, and His plan is the best plan.
In spite of repeated reminders from Al-Khidr, and assurances from Moses that he would not question any of Al-Khidr’s actions, Prophet Musa forgot his promise and demanded immediate explanations for actions that seemed to him unjust and inexplicable at that moment. Al-Khidr had only obeyed Allah’s commands in the destruction of the boat and the setting up of the wall. As for the boy whom Al-Khidr had killed, his future decadence and sinful behavior would not only have weakened his parent’s faith, but would have been a source of corruption and hardship for them.
Therefore all the actions performed by Prophet Musa had been executed by the Divine decree of Allah. The example should make us remember and resolve never to have any misgivings, surprise or regrets about occurrences in our life that might temporarily inconvenience us or thwart our desires. For all things, there is an outer aspect and an inner reality and it is therefore, beyond comprehension of the human mind and the limitations of human understanding.
After all, it is Allah Who Knows what’s best for us and He, The Most Merciful, plans everything for our benefit which is not immediately visible to us. He decides on the basis of some overriding good to act beyond the limits of apparent recompense.
Humans are short sighted and due to their limitations, can only perceive what they think may be beneficial to them for a short while, but what Allah has decreed for us is for the greater good, and if we have implicit faith in Him, He will certainly smoothen every path strewn with trouble. Man is always impatient and seeks immediate answers to all the occurrences in his life that sometimes defy rationality. What may appear as a calamity would probably be a blessing in disguise, as through our trials and tribulations Allah chooses to purify us and raise the rank of the believer. Faith in Allah should make us accept His rulings without any questioning.
These are some of the paramount lessons we can glean from the story of Prophet Musa and Al-Khidr extracted from one of the exalted Surahs of the holy Quran. If we listen to the recitation of the Quran with concentration, if we read it with focus and ‘taqwa’ in our hearts, if we try to lead our lives according to the tenets dictated in many of these anecdotes, Allah will open every Muslim’s mind and heart to more such subliminal, specific and well defined messages that we can absorb into our lives so that we can achieve higher and purer standards of faith, and eventually reach our goals of striving towards pleasing Allah.