Allah Most High, without mentioning his name, describes Khidr in the Holy Qur’an as:
…one of Our servants whom We have granted mercy from Us and whom We have taught knowledge from Ourselves. (Surah Kahf (the Cave), 65)
He is the teacher of Hd. Moses (a.s.) who was seeking Ilm-i Ledun (Divine Knowledge), as described in the story told in Surah Kahf, verses 60-82.
Khidr is also mentioned in the following hadiths:
Aba Hurayra reports that, “The land is green and fertile wherever Khidr has made his salat.”
Anas ibn Malik reports: “Khidr came to our master often, but he did not identify himself.”
Anas also reports that Resulallah (saws) said: “There are five chosen servants of Allah Most High who are ever alive, even today. Two are in heaven: Isa and Idris; three are on earth: Khidr, Ilyas and Mahdi.”
There are also hadiths related by Khidr. In one of them he reports that Resulallah (saws) said: “If you meet someone who is stubborn and arrogant, know that he has wasted his life on earth and in the hereafter.”
Many waliullah, amongst them Hd. Ibn Arabi (k.s.), Hd. Imam Ghazali (k.s.), Hd. Abdulqadir Gaylani (k.s.), and Hd. Niyazi Misri (k.s.), have met Khidr and have discoursed about him.
He was born at the time of the Prophet Noah (a.s.) in a place close to Shiraz. His real name is Milkan ebul Abbas.
It is related that Hd. Noah (a.s.) asked for someone to go to Serendip (Ceylon) and bring him the bodies of Hd. Adam (a.s.) and Hd. Hawwa (a.s.). Khidr volunteered and brought to Hd. Noah the remains of Hd. Adam and Hd. Hawwa. Hd. Noah prayed for a long life for Khidr; Allah Most High accepted his prayer, and gave him until the era of Zulkarneyn (Alexander the Great), when he received a divine order to meet and help him. Meanwhile Plato had advised Alexander to go to the Western lands to seek the fountain of eternal life. Alexander sent Khidr and his companion Ilyas (Elijah) as advance guards. On their path they found a fountain of shimmering light. As they were taking their ablution, drops of water fell on a dried fish which they had brought to eat, whereupon the fish came alive and jumped into the water. Thus they found the fountain of eternal life, from which they drank. Allah Most High lengthens their lives every 500 years, and will continue until the end of the worlds. Ilyas has been given the task to help people on water, and Khidr has been given the task to assist people on land.
In a hadith related by Ibn Abbas, Resulallah says: “Khidr is in charge of people on land and Ilyas is in charge of people voyaging on water. Every night they meet at the top of the rampart whose construction Alexander commissioned. Every year they perform the Hajj and Umrah and drink from the well of Zamzam, which is their only sustenance for the whole year.”
Khidr has been endowed with compassion for all the people on earth. At all times he has ten helpers amongst men. They help the ones who are in need, but they prefer to help those who expect help from none other than Allah, and who are close to Him.
Khidr may appear to the ones in need in the shape and form of the most ordinary people, and he behaves as such in public places, never identifying himself. When asked, he replies: “I am from the western lands.” He has married many times and has had many children, but has not done so for countless years; thus all his progeny have disappeared. Close to the end of the worlds he will enlist to fight Dajjal (the Antichrist) and will be martyred by him.
THE LEGEND OF HD. KHIDR AND HD. MOSES (A.S.)
IN THE HOLY QUR’AN
One day, Hd. Moses (a.s.) was preaching to his people, enumerating Allah’s blessings upon the Israelites, saying, “Be thankful to our Lord, Who has saved you from the Pharaoh and his armies. He is the One Who abases the powerful and saves the helpless. He has given you the Torah to follow and raised you above others.” Someone in the congregation asked, “Oh Moses, is there anyone who is superior to you in knowledge, cognizant of the gifts of Allah, with Whom he has spoken?”
Hd. Moses (a.s.) said: “Nay, there is none on earth as knowledgeable as I.”
Then Allah spoke to him, saying: “Oh Moses, I have a servant whose knowledge far surpasses yours.”
Hd. Moses (a.s.) prayed to his Lord to bring him to that blessed servant in order to attain his knowledge, and he asked his Lord how to find him.
Allah said: “Oh Moses, Your nourishment will lead you to him.”
Hd. Moses (a.s.) said to his companion Yusha (Joshua):
I will not cease until I reach the junction of the two seas, even if I have to go on for years. (Surah Kahf, 60)
The two seas are interpreted as the Shariah (the rules of behavior befitting a believer, established by the prophets), and the Haqiqah,(the absolute truth in the possession of Allah Most High). Hd. Moses (a.s.) would find Khidr where the two seas met, indicating that Khidr was given the knowledge of both the Shariah and the Haqiqah.
Hd. Moses (a.s.) asked his servant Yusha to prepare some provisions for the trip. Yusha gathered a few dried fish and some bread to eat on the way. In three days they reached the place where the two seas met, but they did not see anyone. They were both very tired. Hd. Moses (a.s.) climbed up on a flat rock next to the water and slept. Yusha ate half of the last dried fish. He then took some water from the shore and sprinkled it over the remaining portion of fish to soften it. The half eaten fish came alive and jumped into the water.
But when they reached the junction between the two seas, they forgot all about their fish, and it took its way into the sea and disappeared from sight. (Surah Kahf, 61)
Yusha was shocked, but so tired that he fell asleep. The next day they continued their trip following the shore. At sunset Hd. Moses (a.s.) asked for food, as he had the habit of alternately fasting one day and eating the next.
And after the two had walked some distance, (Moses) said to his servant: "Bring us our mid-day meal; we have indeed suffered hardship on this (day of) our journey!” (Surah Kahf, 62)
Only then did Yusha remember, and he told Hd. Moses (a.s.) what had happened to the last dried fish.
Said (the servant): "Wouldst thou believe it? When we betook ourselves to that rock for a rest, behold, I forgot about the fish-and none but Satan made me thus forget it! - and it took its way into the sea! How strange!” (Surah Kahf, 63)
Hd. Moses (a.s.) remembered that the Lord had told him that his nourishment would lead him to Khidr.
(Moses) exclaimed: "That (was the place) which we were seeking!” And the two turned back, retracing their footsteps. (Surah Kahf, 64)
They returned to the spot where they had stopped the day before, and found Khidr praying upon the rock where Hd. Moses (a.s.) had slept.
When Hd. Moses (a.s.) said to him:
May I follow you that you may teach me of the good that you have been taught? (Surah Kahf, 66)
You cannot have patience with me. For how can you have patience in which you have no understanding. [Moses] said if Allah permits, you will find me patient, nor shall I disobey you. [Khidr] said if you obey me, then promise that you will not question me until I myself speak to you about it. (Surah Kahf, 67-70)
These words spoken between Hd. Moses (a.s.) and Khidr are interpreted as a quranic proof that someone who is limited solely by his knowledge in Shariah will be unable to understand the knowledge of Haqiqah, even if he is the Prophet Moses (a.s.). Indeed Hd. Moses (a.s.) opposed Khidr’s action at each step, but because he had the potential to receive the truth, he apologized each time.
The story of Hd. Moses (a.s.) and Khidr illustrates the relationship between a spiritual teacher and his student:
Sometimes a murshid does not appear to do things which meet the approval of the general public.
Furthermore, his actions may seem not in accordance with the religious norms of things to do and not to do. This may be because of his personal concern to abase his own ego and save himself from pride, the greatest enemy for a spiritual teacher.
Furthermore, he teaches not according to what is acceptable or wished for by the student, but the truth, which has to be taught, even if the student may consider it a bitter pill. Neither the environment nor the circumstances within which the teaching is carried out have to be safe or pleasant. When Khidr destroyed the boat and made holes in it, both he and Hd. Moses (a.s.) were on the boat, risking drowning if the boat sank. Real teaching is only possible in a sinking ship, and cannot be performed in the bars and bordellos of this worldly life!
When Khidr destroyed the ship, it was an attempt to join the separate souls of the shipmates in the united single divine soul.
When Khidr killed the baby in the cradle, the soul of a potential tyrant destined for hell was sent to heaven as a pure soul.
When he repaired the fallen wall, he eliminated the material being of Hd. Moses (a.s.) and made it join the eternal body of Truth. Thus he completed the teaching of Divine Knowledge to Hd. Moses (a.s.).
Hd. Moses (a.s.) found Khidr where the two seas met, Majma ul Bahreyn, where the knowledge of the Shariah met the knowledge of the Haqiqah and became one.
In the Holy Qur’an, the verses where Khidr tells Hd. Moses (a.s.):
Now I will inform you of the significance of all that which you could not bear with patience. (Surah Kahf, 78)
are exactly the middle of the Holy Book, joining the two halves.
The Nile Delta, where Nile River meets the Mediterranean Sea, is said to be the place where Hd. Moses (a.s.) met Khidr. In reality the salty water of the sea penetrates into the Nile River about half a mile and the sweet water of the Nile penetrates into the Mediterranean Sea about half a mile. If you stand on the shores of the Nile, the two waters meet in the Nile; if you stand on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the two waters meet in the Mediterranean Sea. Does the joining of the Shariah with the Haqiqah lie within the Shariah, or visa versa, or both? Or does it depend on where you are?
The Shariah and the Haqiqah are like Adam and Eve. If they had been in opposition to each other, they would not have had children, and humankind would not have existed. Yet if they would have totally fused into each other and became one, humankind would not have existed. Adam, the first in creation, is the Haqiqah, and Eve, created from his left rib, is the Shariah, born from the Haqiqah. Yet they are one and the same, because a part of a thing is the same as the whole.
When Khidr destroyed the boat as they were riding on it, he made holes in it, and the boat should have sunk, but it did not, so that Moses would learn that what makes a boat float and sail is not its wood, mast and sails, but that only God makes it float and sail and carry the ones who are riding on it.
Hd. Abraham’s (as) knife, which split the stone in two did not cut Hd. Ishmael’s (as) throat, nor did the fire into which Nimrod threw Abraham burn Abraham. Instead it turned into a rose garden. If Allah so wills, a knife will not cut, nor will fire burn. If Allah so wills He can pass a camel through the hole of a sewing needle, without diminishing the size of the camel, or enlarging the size of the needle hole. There is nothing done but by Allah alone, as Khidr said to Hd. Moses:
…a mercy from your Lord, and I did not do it of my own accord. (Surah Kahf, 82)
Before Hd. Moses met Hd. Khidr he had three burning questions about things which had happened to him, for which he had no answers. The first question: when he was born, the Pharaoh’s sorcerers informed Pharaoh that one of the newborn male children would cause the destruction of his kingdom. And the Pharaoh ordered all the newborn boys killed. To save her child, Moses’ mother put him into a basket and let it float down river to the king’s palace, where it was picked up. The Pharaoh wanted the baby to be killed but his Queen Hd. Asiya convinced him that they had no male child and a child raised in their palace could never betray them. Then Moses’ mother, who was a maid at the palace, became his wet nurse and he was fed by his own mother’s milk. Hd. Moses wondered at the miracles of his not drowning and being raised in Pharaoh’s palace by his own mother.
His second question was: once he had seen the Pharaoh’s men trying to kill someone, who begged Moses to save him. As Moses tried to save the man he killed one of Pharaoh’s soldiers. And he agonized as to why he was permitted by Allah to kill this man.
His third question was: when he escaped from the Pharaoh, and wandered hungry and destitute in the desert, he encountered the daughters of Hd. Shuayb (as), (Jethro) trying to lift a heavy block of stone covering a well to water their thirsty sheep. He removed the heavy stone and did not ask anything in return. He wondered why he had not asked for anything, although he was in terrible need. He begged Allah at each prayer to answer these questions.
During his voyage with Khidr all these three questions were answered. When Khidr destroyed the boat they were riding on and made holes in it, Moses objected:
Have you made a hole in it to drown its occupants? You have surely done a grievous thing! (Surah Kahf, 71)
But Khidr meant to show Moses that the reason why he was not drowned when he was newborn and his mother let him float in the Nile was because Allah protected him, the same way He did when the boat did not sink when Khidr destroyed it.
And when Khidr killed an innocent baby boy in his cradle, Moses said to Khidr:
You have slain an innocent baby, who is not guilty of any sin. You have indeed done a horrible thing. (Surah Kahf, 74)
By this, Khidr meant to show Moses that eliminating someone who in the future would commit horrible sins and kill numerous men was an act of mercy, such as Moses had committed by killing the Pharoah’s soldier.
And when Khidr repaired the wall of the city where people were inhospitable and refused to give them food, Khidr could have asked for payment but he did not, although they were in dire need. By this act, Khidr meant to show Moses that he was right not to ask anything in return from the daughters of Shuayb when he lifted that heavy stone which covered the well, the recompense would have been much less than what he would have received later by Allah’s will.
But Moses did not understand these answers to his questions directly. What he heard as an explanation to his three questions when Khidr destroyed the boat was so as to prevent injustice and tyranny:
As for the boat it belonged to poor people working on the river and intended to damage it for there were behind them a king who seized every boat by force (Surah Kahf, 79)
When he killed the child he protected the innocent from harm:
His parents were believers and We feared that he should involve them in wrongdoing and in disbelief. (Surah Kahf, 80)
When he repaired the wall he protected the property of its rightful owners:
There was a treasure beneath it which belonged to two orphans in the city, hidden there by their righteous father. So your Lord intended that they should attain their maturity and take out their treasure. (Surah Kahf, 82)
And then Khidr says:
…I did not do it of my own accord.
There are teachers who teach only what they have heard (Ilm el yakiyn). There are teachers who teach Divine Wisdom (Marifah) into which their whole being has been transformed (Hakk el yakiyn).
Hd. Ibn Arabi (ks) one day fell from his horse and stayed there on the ground without moving. His companions, terribly worried, tried to help him stand up, but he said: “Leave me, I am trying to find in which Chapter and which Verse Allah Most High mentions this accident.” He certainly referred not to the written Qur’an, but from the Qur’an which he himself had become.
Khidr taught Divine Knowledge by his acts, not his words, which were not understood by Moses till explained by words: man is heedless of Allah’s intentions in what happens around him, and certainly does not understand them in what happens to him. This could only be possible to know when a murid leaves his identity and becomes his shaykh (Fana fi shaykh). It is only then that one can really know oneself. The self is something to be known, but it is only the soul that can come to know the self. That is the meaning of “He who knows himself knows his Lord”.
That is why in the Holy Qur’an Jesus (as) is called the Spirit, the Soul (Ruh). That is why Gabriel (as) is called the Soul. It is only through the soul of one’s shaykh, with whom one becomes one, that can one perceive one’s nafs.
On that boat which Khidr destroyed, a bird appeared on the shoulder of the Khidr and sang in his ear; Khidr asked Moses: “Do you know, O Moses, what the bird told me? That my knowledge and your knowledge put together, compared to the knowledge of Allah Most High, is like a drop of water on my beak in comparison to this ocean around us.”
Allah knows best.
Adapted and interpreted
From an article of
Hd. Pir Niyazi Misri al Halwati