1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet


(This story should be read in conjunction with the story of Khidr in the Koran.)

The merchant Muhammad spent about a quarter of a century retracing the trade routes of the Middle East, the most travelled being between Mecca and Damascus. The future Prophet must have spent hundreds, if not thousands of evenings around a campfire trading stories and tall tales with people along his trade itinerary.

It is unfortunate that because of the vaunted illiteracy of God's Messenger very little was written about what the Prophet heard; human memory being what it is, recollections, over time, often morph into confabulations i.e. fabricated, distorted or misinterpreted memories. An example, in the Koran the Good Samaritan of the Gospels becomes the Bad Samaritan of the Exodus.

For Zayd ibn Thabit, the compiler of the Koran, it must have been difficult at times to differentiate between an old anecdote heard and reprised by the Prophet and a revealed story to be included in the Koran. The reported trials of Khidr and Moses may have presented Thabit with that type of dilemma.

The following hadith is mess, as are the variations (you may want to skip directly to the edited version that made it into the Koran, it is slightly less confusing). It is a second-hand account of the Prophet's Khidr story, a rather confusing one with three people arguing among themselves (the mix of double and single parenthesis not helping) about what he said.

It is a story which, I hope, will give you an appreciation of some of the difficulties Thabit must have faced with the Prophet no longer around to help decide what should be included in the Koran from the mountain of often contradictory hearsay evidence of which God's Messenger was the primary source.

The following is also presented as evidence that complex and confusing stories such as Khidr's, with different narrators arguing among themselves or presenting different account of what was said, must have been edited to make any sense at all before being included in the Koran.

Narrated Ibn Juraij:

Ya'la bin Muslim and 'Amr bin Dinar and some others narrated the narration of Said bin Jubair.

Narrated Said: While we were at the house of Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn 'Abbas said, "Ask me (any question)"

I said, "O Abu Abbas! May Allah let me be sacrificed for you! There is a man at Kufa who is a story-teller called Nauf; who claims that he (Al-Khadir's companion) is not Moses of Bani Israel."

As for 'Amr, he said to me, Ibn 'Abbas said, "(Nauf) the enemy of Allah told a lie."

But Ya'la said to me, "Ibn 'Abbas said, Ubai bin Ka'b said, Allah's Apostle said, 'Once Moses, Allah's Apostle, preached to the people till their eyes shed tears and their hearts became tender, whereupon he finished his sermon. Then a man came to Moses and asked, 'O Allah's Apostle! Is there anyone on the earth who is more learned than you?'

Moses replied, 'No.' So Allah admonished him (Moses), for he did not ascribe all knowledge to Allah. It was said, (on behalf of Allah), 'Yes, (there is a slave of ours who knows more than you ).'

Moses said, 'O my Lord! Where is he?'

Allah said, 'At the junction of the two seas.'

Moses said, 'O my Lord! Tell me of a sign whereby I will recognize the place.'"

Amr said to me, Allah said, "That place will be where the fish will leave you."

Ya'la said to me, "Allah said (to Moses), 'Take a dead fish (and your goal will be) the place where it will become alive.'" So Moses took a fish and put it in a basket and said to his boy-servant "I don't want to trouble you, except that you should inform me as soon as this fish leaves you."

He said (to Moses), "You have not demanded too much." And that is as mentioned by Allah: 'And (remember) when Moses said to his attendant ... ' (18:60)

Yusha' bin Nun. (Said did not state that). The Prophet said, "While the attendant was in the shade of the rock at a wet place, the fish slipped out (alive) while Moses was sleeping. His attend[ant] said (to himself), 'I will not wake him', but when he woke up, he forgot to tell him the fish slipped out and entered the sea. Allah stopped the flow of the sea. where the fish was, so that its trace looked as if it was made on a rock."

Amr forming a hole with his two thumbs an index fingers, said to me, "Like this, as in its trace was made on a rock."

Moses said "We have suffered much fatigue on this journey of ours." (This was not narrate by Said). Then they returned back and found Al-Khadir. 'Uthman bin Abi Sulaiman said to me, (they found him) on a green carpet in the middle of the sea.

Al-Khadir was covered with his garment with one end under his feet and the other end under his head. When Moses greeted, he uncovered his face and said astonishingly, 'Is there such a greeting in my land? Who are you?'

Moses said, 'I am Moses.'

Al-Khadir said, 'Are you the Moses of Bani (tribe of) Israel?'

Moses said, 'Yes.'

Al-Khadir said, "What do you want?'

Moses said, ' I came to you so that you may teach me of the truth which you were taught.'

Al-Khadir said, 'Is it not sufficient for you that the Torah is in your hands and the Divine Inspiration comes to you, O Moses? Verily, I have a knowledge that you ought not learn, and you have a knowledge which I ought not learn.'

At that time a bird took with its beak (some water) from the sea: Al-Khadir then said, 'By Allah, my knowledge and your knowledge besides Allah's Knowledge is like what this bird has taken with its beak from the sea.' Until, when they went on board the boat (18:71). They found a small boat which used to carry the people from this sea-side to the other sea-side. The crew recognized Al-Khadir and said, 'The pious slave of Allah.'

(We said to Said "Was that Khadir?" He said, "Yes.")

The boat men said, 'We will not get him on board with fare.'

Al-Khadir scuttled the boat and then plugged the hole with a piece of wood.

Moses said, 'Have you scuttle it in order to drown these people surely, you have done a dreadful thing. (18:71) (Mujahid said. "Moses said so protestingly (sic).")

Al-Khadir said, didn't I say that you can have no patience with me?' (18:72) The first inquiry of Moses was done because of forget fullness, the second caused him to be bound with a stipulation, and the third was done intentionally.

Moses said, 'Call me not to account for what I forgot and be not hard upon me for my affair (with you).' (18:73)

(Then) they found a boy and Al-Khadir killed him. Ya'la- said: Said said 'They found boys playing and Al-Khadir got hold of a handsome infidel boy laid him down and then slew him with knife.

Moses said, 'Have you killed a innocent soul who has killed nobody' (18:74) Then they proceeded and found a wall which was on the point of falling down, and Al-Khadir set it up straight Said moved his hand thus and said 'Al-Khadir raised his hand and the wall became straight.

Ya'la said, 'I think Said said, 'Al-Khadir touched the wall with his hand and it became straight (Moses said to Al-Khadir), 'If you had wished, you could have taken wages for it.'

Said said, 'Wages that we might had eaten.' And there was a king in furor (ahead) of them" (18:79) And there was in front of them.

Ibn 'Abbas recited: 'In front of them (was) a king.' It is said on the authority of somebody other than Said that the king was Hudad bin Budad. They say that the boy was called Haisur. 'A king who seized every ship by force. (18:79) So I wished that if that boat passed by him, he would leave it because of its defect and when they have passed they would repair it and get benefit from it.

Some people said that they closed that hole with a bottle, and some said with tar. 'His parents were believers, and he (the boy) was a non-believer and we (Khadir) feared lest he would oppress them by obstinate rebellion and disbelief.' (18:80) (i.e. that their love for him would urge them to follow him in his religion, 'so we (Khadir) desired that their Lord should change him for them for one better in righteousness and near to mercy' (18:81).

This was in reply to Moses' saying: Have you killed an innocent soul.'? (18:74). 'Near to mercy" means they will be more merciful to him than they were to the former whom Khadir had killed. Other than Sa'id, said that they were compensated with a girl.

Dawud bin Abi 'Asim said on the authority of more than one that this next child was a girl.

Bukhari 60.250