Then, it is undertaken by Us to explain it. [75:19]

Al-Kahf 71-82

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Continuation of the Story

فَٱنطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا رَكِبَا فِى ٱلسَّفِينَةِ خَرَقَهَا‌ۖ قَالَ أَخَرَقۡتَہَا لِتُغۡرِقَ أَهۡلَهَا لَقَدۡ جِئۡتَ شَيۡـًٔا إِمۡرً۬ا (٧١) قَالَ أَلَمۡ أَقُلۡ إِنَّكَ لَن تَسۡتَطِيعَ مَعِىَ صَبۡرً۬ا (٧٢) قَالَ لَا تُؤَاخِذۡنِى بِمَا نَسِيتُ وَلَا تُرۡهِقۡنِى مِنۡ أَمۡرِى عُسۡرً۬ا (٧٣) فَٱنطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا لَقِيَا غُلَـٰمً۬ا فَقَتَلَهُ ۥ قَالَ أَقَتَلۡتَ نَفۡسً۬ا زَكِيَّةَۢ بِغَيۡرِ نَفۡسٍ۬ لَّقَدۡ جِئۡتَ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا نُّكۡرً۬ا (٧٤) ۞ قَالَ أَلَمۡ أَقُل لَّكَ إِنَّكَ لَن تَسۡتَطِيعَ مَعِىَ صَبۡرً۬ا (٧٥) قَالَ إِن سَأَلۡتُكَ عَن شَىۡءِۭ بَعۡدَهَا فَلَا تُصَـٰحِبۡنِى‌ۖ قَدۡ بَلَغۡتَ مِن لَّدُنِّى عُذۡرً۬ا (٧٦) فَٱنطَلَقَا حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَآ أَتَيَآ أَهۡلَ قَرۡيَةٍ ٱسۡتَطۡعَمَآ أَهۡلَهَا فَأَبَوۡاْ أَن يُضَيِّفُوهُمَا فَوَجَدَا فِيہَا جِدَارً۬ا يُرِيدُ أَن يَنقَضَّ فَأَقَامَهُ ۥ‌ۖ قَالَ لَوۡ شِئۡتَ لَتَّخَذۡتَ عَلَيۡهِ أَجۡرً۬ا (٧٧) قَالَ هَـٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيۡنِى وَبَيۡنِكَ‌ۚ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأۡوِيلِ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡتَطِع عَّلَيۡهِ صَبۡرًا (٧٨)

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Hence agreement was reached. Then the two moved forward in a certain direction. Probably, Yusha’ (عليه السلام) accompanied them. However, he was subordinate to Sayidna Musa (عليه السلام) and mention of the one followed relieves from the need to mention the follower; until, while proceeding on their journey they reached a place where the need to board a boat arose. At that time when they boarded the boat, the elder sliced it by removing a plank thereof and then perhaps repaired it. Also, perhaps the occupants of the boat were his devotees and for this reason did not stand in his way. Musa (عليه السلام) said, Did you create this rip in it solely to drown its occupants? That is to say, such harm resulting from this was not far-fetched and although such harm was merely a possibility, but as long as no prevailing benefit justified it, it was also obligatory to refrain from anticipated harm. For now, no prevailing benefit exists. You have done something grave (meaning reckless) indeed! The elder said, Did I not say, You will not be able to maintain patience with me? After all, that is exactly what happened. You were not able to hold to your word. Musa (عليه السلام) said, I did not remember. Therefore, please do not hold me accountable upon my forgetfulness and do not place undue difficulty in my matter of companionship in that even forgetfulness is not pardoned. Let it be.

Having disembarked from the boat, the two then moved forward until when they met an underage boy; the elder killed him. Musa (عليه السلام) panicked and said, You just killed a sinless soul and that too not out of recompense for a soul. This which you have done is something deplorable indeed! Because not only is this the killing of an under-aged boy (even as punishment for murder children are not killed), but the fact that he did not commit any deed worthy of capital punishment at all makes this act graver than the previous. This is because what was done to the boat, though certainly resulting in loss of wealth, contained only a possibility of loss of life. Here, loss of life became certain, and that too of an underage child, as Muslim relates in the Sahih marfoo‘an “… لو أدرك”. Sayidna Khadir’s upcoming excuse also suggests the same. Otherwise, if the boy was pubescent and a robber, as some claimed, then that excuse would have been more understandable. It should have been mentioned. The elder said, Did I not say you will not be able to maintain patience with me?

Musa (عليه السلام) said, Fair enough. Please allow this one also. However, if after this instance I ask you about anything, do not keep me with you. Surely you have reached the extent of excuse on my behalf. That is to say, you have forgiven profusely. Now, if you choose to separate me, it would be understandable. This time, not availing the excuse of forgetfulness suggests that he did not forget. Thereafter, the two proceeded further, until when they came upon the occupants of a town; they sought food from its people that we are guests. So they refused to host them; meanwhile they found a wall there ready to fall. So the elder (with a gesture of the hand, miraculously) set it upright. Musa (عليه السلام) said, If you wanted you could have at least taken a wage upon it. It could suffice for our temporary needs in addition to contributing to the betterment of their behavior. Otherwise, being nice to such people generally increases their bad manners further. The elder said, This is the time of my and your separation, as you yourself stipulated. I will inform you shortly regarding the reality of those matters in which you were unable to practice patience. Accordingly, the upcoming verses mention this reality.


It wouldn’t be surprising if revealing these secrets was a way of fulfilling Musa’s request (أَن تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمۡتَ رُشۡدً۬ا), though only through a sampling. Had the two remained together the elder probably would have himself disclosed the secrets at some appropriate time and would have done this repeatedly after every subsequent event. Consequently, increased knowledge would have been achieved.1

Similarly, this [attention given to the fulfillment of Musa’s request] was in spite of this particular knowledge not being generally beneficial to the level of Musa’s own knowledge, due to not being actionable. However, there is no question in it being specifically beneficial in the sense that it involved manifestation of detailed points of wisdom, though for the purpose of nearness to Allah a general belief of every event comprising upon wisdom is enough.

When Khadir reprimanded Musa on questioning him, Musa (عليه السلام) did not counter by saying, You’re acting in an unlawful manner. This is because after Musa’s anger subsided, he realized indistinctly that the elder’s actions must be in accordance to Sacred Law for the very reason that Allah Most High directed him here.

Musa’s objecting upon the elder despite having promised to restrain himself was perhaps because Musa (عليه السلام) took upon himself something which Allah Most High had not made an obligation upon him. In fulfilling it was his own benefit, while acting contrary to it resulted in no harm upon Khadir (عليه السلام). This is especially true given that Khadir knew he would not be able to maintain patience. Abandoning such matters which in and of themselves are not religiously mandatory, rather one chooses to take them upon oneself for their own benefit only to later leave them without harming others, does not fall under disobedience.

Therefore, this does not necessitate breaking a promise (which is religiously prohibited). Just as going against such promises is permissible once, similarly, it is permissible multiple times. Hence, the question does not arise of why he did it again and again. Primarily, this returns back to having a good personality which manifests itself in people of perfection also from time to time.

Rest of the Story

أَمَّا ٱلسَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتۡ لِمَسَـٰكِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ فِى ٱلۡبَحۡرِ فَأَرَدتُّ أَنۡ أَعِيبَہَا وَكَانَ وَرَآءَهُم مَّلِكٌ۬ يَأۡخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصۡبً۬ا (٧٩) وَأَمَّا ٱلۡغُلَـٰمُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤۡمِنَيۡنِ فَخَشِينَآ أَن يُرۡهِقَهُمَا طُغۡيَـٰنً۬ا وَڪُفۡرً۬ا (٨٠) فَأَرَدۡنَآ أَن يُبۡدِلَهُمَا رَبُّہُمَا خَيۡرً۬ا مِّنۡهُ زَكَوٰةً۬ وَأَقۡرَبَ رُحۡمً۬ا (٨١) وَأَمَّا ٱلۡجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَـٰمَيۡنِ يَتِيمَيۡنِ فِى ٱلۡمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحۡتَهُ ۥ كَنزٌ۬ لَّهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَـٰلِحً۬ا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَن يَبۡلُغَآ أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسۡتَخۡرِجَا كَنزَهُمَا رَحۡمَةً۬ مِّن رَّبِّكَ‌ۚ وَمَا فَعَلۡتُهُ ۥ عَنۡ أَمۡرِى‌ۚ ذَٲلِكَ تَأۡوِيلُ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡطِع عَّلَيۡهِ صَبۡرً۬ا (٨٢)

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Concerning that boat, it belonged to some poor people who toiled in the sea thereby earning their livelihood. This was their only source of income. So I decided to cause a fault in it. The reason for this was that ahead of them was a tyrant king who would take every well-maintained boat forcefully. Therefore, if a fault was not caused in their boat, it too would have been confiscated resulting in their livelihood being affected. Thus was the benefit in this damage; and regarding the boy, his parents were believers and if this child was to grow older, he would become a disbeliever. Meanwhile, his parents loved him very much. So we became apprehensive (meaning knew with certitude) lest he influence them with rebellion and disbelief. That is to say, in fear that they too adopt his ways of disbelief on account of their love. So we deemed it appropriate that his ‘story’ be concluded. Then their Lord will instead give them such offspring – be it a boy or a girl – who in terms of purity (meaning religion) would be better than him and in love would be superior; and as for that wall, it belonged to two orphan boys who live in this city and under it a treasure of theirs was buried, which had come to them through the inheritance of their father and their father who died was a righteous man. Hence due to his righteousness Allah Most High decided to protect the wealth of his children. Had the wall fallen, people would have looted the wealth. Perhaps the guardian of these children who must have known about the treasure (for some reason) was not available to see to the situation. So your Lord on account of His Mercy willed for them to reach their youthful age and extract their treasure, and all of these actions I carried out based on divine inspiration. No act did I perform of my own accord. There you go. This is the reality of those matters upon which you were incapable of maintaining patience. As promised, I have disclosed their reality.

Thereafter, Musa (عليه السلام) took leave and left from there. It is related in the Hadith that Musa (عليه السلام) out of embarrassment stipulated that you may let me go, if I further question you. Had he not said this and remained with him longer, they would have witnessed more wondrous things.


All of the points mentioned in the extended translation were taken from narrations related in the Sahihayn, with the exception of those statements in which the following wording occurred: purpose, meaning, probably, perhaps, possibility/possibly, intent (what is intended by), apparently, must have, it is not surprising, and the word ‘or‘.

Some have been deceived by this story into thinking that inner knowledge (‘ilm al-batin) is superior to knowledge of the Shar‘iah. In response, we say that inner knowledge has two branches; knowledge related to divine pleasure which concerns the nafs, and knowledge pertaining to secrets of the creation (asraar kawniya). The first is already a segment of the Shar’iah, and the segment can never be superior to the whole. The second does not contribute to divine nearness and therefore has no possibility of being superior.

The second misconception is in thinking Khadir (عليه السلام) has a higher status than Musa (عليه السلام). In response, we say that these verses establish Khadir (عليه السلام) possessing the second branch of inner knowledge. Concerning it you have just heard that it is not superior to knowledge of the Shari’ah in which Musa (عليه السلام) was a master. As for why, then, was the latter sent to the former? The basis of this is not superiority. Instead, this was done for the purpose of education and discipline in order for him to maintain increased caution when speaking and in the future for him to not speak in absolute terms where conditional wording is more appropriate.

Some have been deceived into saying that one should not criticize their peer (spiritual guide) upon unlawful actions. Hence, regarding this story, the Hadith states that had Musa (عليه السلام) remained quiet, it would have been great. In reply to this, Khadir’s (عليه السلام) perfection was established through divine text. For this reason, remaining quiet was permissible. Others cannot be compared to him.

Others are confused that acting unlawfully based on inspiration (ilhaam) is permissible. The reply is that he was either a prophet, or this was permissible in earlier Sharaai’. In our Shari’ah this is not permissible.

Some people of the book claim that this story is not of the well-known prophet Musa (عليه السلام). Rather, it is some other Musa. Otherwise this would be mentioned in our books. However, the Hadith explicitly states that the prophet mentioned in this story is definitely the same Musa (عليه السلام). Many books of the Jews have been lost. It is possible for the story to be contained within one of these lost books. Even if that is not the case, that which establishes is always preferred over that which negates.

Some have expressed doubt about how and when this story occurred in that it never became popular among the Bani Israeel. Addressing this, we would say that either they did become aware but suppressed the story out of embarrassment thus not allowing it to attain popularity, or Musa (عليه السلام) chose not to inform them in consideration of their dull-wittedness lest they fall into confusion and tribulation. Meanwhile, the Bani Israeel thought he must have set out on some normal travel.

  1. Maulana Thanwi (قدس سره) writes in the footnote regarding the above quoted statement:

    “Most probably the purpose behind this [paragraph and the one following it] is to explain the Hadith wherein the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) expressed desire that if Musa (عليه السلام) would not have spoken, additional incidents would have occurred.

    “The explanation is as follows: Being able to hear further stories was not the point of the desire. Rather, the secrets which would have become revealed through these additional stories are what were being longed for. Khadir (عليه السلام), in the case of [Musa (عليه السلام) maintaining] silence, would have himself disclosed the secrets, and though these secrets are not generally beneficial, however, due to specifying and detailing the points of wisdom, they are definitely beneficial in a specific sense. Obviously, the more incidents occur, the more such wisdom would have a chance of manifesting, resulting in increased knowledge. This is why the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) expressed the desire.

    “The reason I am saying ‘most probably’ is that I am not entirely sure why I added this text at the time of writing the tafsir”. []

Written by Yusuf Mullan

August 30th, 2009 at 3:07 am

Posted in Surah Al-Kahf

One Response to 'Al-Kahf 71-82'

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  1. jazakallah khair ; it is wonderful, clarifying so many misconceptions. May Allah assist you in all you do.


    31 Aug 09 at 6:06 am

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