After Allah saved the Israelites from Pharaoh and his army and after their affairs were settled, Prophet Musa (Moses) addressed the Muslims, admonishing them and reminding them of all the endowments Allah had granted them over time. He did not overlook a single blessing and made it clear that Allah had blessed them with these endowments. A man among the Israelites asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, is there anyone on earth more knowledgeable than you?” Musa replied, “No”. Allah revealed to him that he should have said, ‘Allah knows best’. Furthermore, Allah revealed to him that he does not know to whom Allah bestows His knowledge, for a man by the seashore was more knowledgeable than Musa in some matters, and he was the slave of Allah, Al-Khadir. (Here, more knowledgeable means that Al-Khadir was given a category of knowledge that Musa was not granted.)
Al-Khadir’s knowledge was the ability to know matters that were concealed or that had not occurred yet, Allah revealed such things to him. Musa’s knowledge, on the other hand, concerned judgements and rulings of occurring matters from people’s speech and actions. As such, Al-Khadir would be more knowledgeable than Musa with regards to certain situations and specific matters, but not more knowledgeable than him in a general sense.
When Musa came to know of Al-Khadir, his honorable soul longed to meet him. Musa’s endeavor was to acquire that category of knowledge, and he aspired to meet the one whom Allah said was more knowledgeable; namely Al-Khadir. This demonstrates that the method of the scholars is to travel seeking more knowledge and to take advantage of meeting other noble scholars even if they were in distant lands.
Allah granted those who travel seeking knowledge greater levels of piety, obedience, goodness and victory in both this life and the hereafter.
Musa asked Allah to see Al-Khadir. Allah revealed to him to go to the sea and on the shore he would find a large fish. He was told to take it and then to leave it in the care of his young companion, then to travel but staying close to the seashore. Musa would find the pious slave of Allah, where he forgets the fish and it goes missing, he would be at the convergence of the two seas. Allah had informed Musa about Al-Khadir without specifying his location, which made Musa yearn further to meet him. So he said, “I will keep travelling until I reach the place where the two seas converge, or until a long time passes so to find him.” This shows that Musa, the one who calls to justice, truth, and knowledge, had prepared himself to overcome the great hardships and burden of travelling in search of further knowledge. This is an indication that the seeker of knowledge is entitled to travel from the east to the west in search of one particular case of knowledge. Musa and Yusha^ bin Nun, Prophet Musa’s young companion who used to learn from him and serve him set out on the journey, taking with them bread and fish, which they have salted and prepared for their sustenance. When they reached the place where the two seas met (it was said they were; the “Persian” and the “Roman” seas), they sat under the shade of a big rock near the seashore and fell asleep.
Springing from the rock was a small fountain of water known as “The Spring Of Life” which poured down as a small waterfall. Whatever this spring touched came to life by the will of Allah. When the water from that waterfall splashed onto the salted fish, it moved out of its container and jumped into the sea. As the fish swam through the sea, water above the fish turned into stone arches, thus forming a pathway. What made this entire occurrence even stranger was that half of the fish had been eaten. This was a miracle for Prophet Musa, peace be upon him. It was also mentioned that after this miracle occurred, the people of that area started seeing a new type of fish from the offspring of that very same fish. The new breed of fish was bony on one side, with only a thin layer of scales and skin covering the bones and the inside. The abnormal looking side highlights the fact that the original fish was once dead, had been half eaten, and was brought back to life by the will of Allah. The half-eaten characteristic stayed with the original fish and was passed down to its offspring.
The young Yusha^ awoke and saw that the fish was no longer in its container. He said, “I will not wake Musa the messenger of Allah; rather, I will tell him about the fish when he awakes.” When Musa woke up, Yusha^ forgot to tell him and Musa forgot to ask Yusha^ if he saw anything strange. They continued on their way for the rest of the day and night without feeling tired or hungry. The next day after they had walked for a long distance, Musa told Yusha^, “Bring us our lunch; our travels have made us tired.” Musa got tired only after they had passed the place where he would find Al-Khadir. Yusha^ then told Musa what had happened, and Musa, who felt that the time to meet Al-Khadir was nearing, said, “This is what we were seeking.”
They went back the same way they came, until they saw the rocky arches that had formed a pathway on the water, they followed it until they reached the exact rock that they had rested near before. It was there that Prophet Musa saw Al-Khadir sitting on a green carpet on the surface of the water, with a green cloth covering his back. Prophet Musa said, “As-Salamu ^Alayka”. Al-Khadir uncovered his face and said, “Wa ^Alaykas-Salam, and how is it that someone in this land is saying the salam?” He asked this because there were no Muslims in that particular area at that time.
Al-Khadir then asked Musa, “Who are you?” He said, “I am Musa.” Al-Khadir said, “Musa of the Israelites?” Musa said, “And how do you know that?” Al-Khadir said, “I know who you are the same way you know who I am.” Meaning Allah revealed it to him. He continued, “Was there not amongst the tribe of Isra’il what needed your attention and which prevented you from making this trip?” Musa said, “Yes there is, but I was ordered to come to you to learn from the knowledge that you have been given.”
Al-Khadir said, “I have knowledge which Allah has bestowed upon me, which has not been bestowed upon you, and you have knowledge which Allah has bestowed upon you, which has not been bestowed upon me.” Musa replied with the greatest of manners and humbleness, “Oh pious slave of Allah, would you allow me to learn from you the knowledge which has been bestowed upon you. I would accompany you and adhere to your orders?”
Allah inspired Al-Khadir to know that Musa would not be able to abstain from forbidding an apparently unlawful matter if he saw it, because such is the condition of infallibility which Musa posseses. So Al-Khadir said to Musa, “You will not be able to be patient with me, and if you accompany me, you will see matters whose outward indications are that of vice and sin; but the reality of which will be rightfully virtuous.’’
Musa who was keen to acquire the knowledge and who was looking forward to learn and seek further information said, “If Allah wills I will be patient, and I will not disobey any of your orders.”
Al-Khadir said, “If you are going to accompany me, then I have a condition. I want you to promise that you will not ask me about anything or object to any of my actions until the trip is over, at which time, I will clarify anything you are wondering about and set your heart at rest.”
Musa told Yusha^ to return to the Israelites; meanwhile, he set out with Al-Khadir. They walked together on the seashore till they sighted a ship. They asked the sailors onboard to take them to where they were going, and Al-Kahdir said, “I will pay double what you usually charge for the both of us.”
One of the sailors said, “We found these men in a deserted place, how do we know they are not thieves?”
Another sailor replied, “Rather we will take them with us for their faces are illuminated – indicative of their righteousness.” The sailors decided to take the two Prophets with them without charge.