The Quran hasn’t clearly mentioned the name of Khidhr, yet he has been referred to as “One of Our servants whom We had granted a grace from Ourselves, and taught him a knowledge from Our own”[i] (which indicates his high degree of servitude and exceptional knowledge) and the teacher of Prophet Musa (pbuh). This high character that the Quran speaks of has been introduced as Khidhr in many hadiths.
He was a divine scholar whom Allah (swt) had bestowed His special grace and mercy upon, was responsible for some of the inner matters of this world, knew some of the world’s secrets and was a teacher to Prophet Musa (pbuh) in some respects, although Prophet Musa (pbuh) was higher than him in others.
Some hadiths and verses of the Quran imply that he was a prophet and messenger of Allah (swt) to his tribe and people, to invite them to tawhid (the oneness of God) and accepting Allah’s (swt) prophets and the divine books. His miracle was that whenever desired, he could revive any dead and dry branch or dry and barren land, making it green again, thus being given the title “Khidhr”. His real name is Talya ibn Malekan ibn Aber ibn Arafkhshad (ارفخشد) ibn Sam ibn Nuh.
Concerning the story of Khidhr and Prophet Musa (pbuh), the Holy Quran says: “(There) they (Prophet Musa (pbuh) and his servant) found one of Our servants whom We had granted a mercy from Ourselves, and taught him a knowledge from Our own. Moses said to him," May I follow you for the purpose that you teach me some of the probity you have been taught?" He said," Indeed you cannot (and will not) have patience with me! And how can you have patience about something you aren’t aware of?” He said," You will find me, God willing, to be patient, and I will not disobey you in any matter." He said," If you follow me, do not question me concerning anything until I (myself) make a mention of it to you." So they went on. When they boarded the boat, he made a hole in it. He said," Did you make a hole in it to drown its people? You have certainly done a monstrous thing!" He said," Did I not say, indeed you cannot have patience with me?" He said, "Do not take me to task for my forgetting, and do not be hard upon me." So they went on. When they encountered a boy, he slew him. He said," Did you slay an innocent soul, without (his having slain) anyone? You have certainly done a dire thing!" He said," Did I not tell you, indeed you cannot have patience with me?" He said," If I question you about anything after this, do not keep me in your company. You have already got sufficient excuse on my part." So they went on. When they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to extend them any hospitality. There they found a wall which was about to collapse, so he erected it. He said," Had you wished, you could have taken a wage for it." He said," This is where you and I shall part. I will inform you about the interpretation of that over which you could not maintain patience. As for the boat, it belonged to some poor people who work on the sea. I wanted to make it defective, for behind them was a king seizing every ship usurpingly. As for the boy, his parents were faithful (persons), and We feared he would overwhelm them with rebellion and unfaith. So We desired that their Lord should give them in exchange one better than him in respect of purity and closer in mercy. As for the wall, it belonged to two boy orphans in the city. Under it there was a treasure belonging to them. Their father had been a righteous man. So your Lord desired that they should come of age and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. I did not do that out of my own accord. This is the interpretation of that over which you could not maintain patience."
The Quran hasn’t clearly mentioned the name of Khidhr, yet he has been referred to as “One of Our servants whom We had granted a mercy from Ourselves, and taught him a knowledge from Our own”, which indicates his high degree of knowledge and servitude. This learned man has been introduced as “Khidhr” in various hadiths.
He was a divine scholar, whom had been endowed with Allah’s (swt) special grace, had responsibilities regarding creation and this world’s laws, was aware of some of this world’s secrets and in some respects, was a teacher to Prophet Musa (pbuh), although Prophet Musa (pbuh) was higher than him in other respects.
Some verses of the Quran and hadiths imply that he was a prophet and messenger of Allah (swt) to his people, inviting them to monotheism (tawhid) and submission to Allah’s (swt) prophets and their divine books. His miracle was that any barren land or dry and dead tree and branch that he desired would immediately be revived and would turn green again. This is why he was given the name “Khidhr”, his real name being Talya ibn Malekan ibn Aber ibn Arafkhshad (ارفخشد) ibn Sam ibn Nuh.
Other than the story of Prophet Musa (pbuh) going to Maj’ma’ul-Bahrain, nothing else has been mentioned about Khidhr and what type of person he was. All that has been said is that he was “One of Our servants whom We had granted a mercy from Ourselves, and taught him a knowledge from Our own”.
Imam Sadiq (as) has been reported saying: “…As for the servant of Allah (swt) Khidr, Allah (swt) extended his life, but not because of his prophetic mission, nor in order to reveal a book onto him, nor to nullify through him, the religion of the past prophets, nor for him to become leader to a nation following him, nor for the obedience that Allah (swt) had made obligatory upon him, but He (Allah (swt)) extended his life because He had chosen to lengthen the occultation of the Qa’im (Imam Mahdi (as)) and knew that some of the people would begin doubting about him as a result, so He lengthened the life of this good servant of His in order for it to be reason for accepting the long life of the Qa’im and so that his life would be compared with the imam’s, rejecting the objection and criticism of the enemies and the bad-minded.
He is, without a doubt, still alive and is currently more than six thousand years old. His life story and the story of him going to the sea of darkness and drinking from the water of life is a detailed one which has been mentioned in historyand hadithic books, you can therefore refer to extensive hadith books to learn his story.
Also, the stories of his presence in Ghadir Khum during the occasion of Ghadir, in the mourning ceremony of the holy Prophet (pbuh) during his Excellency’s demise, and in the mourning ceremony of Imam Ali (as) when martyred, can all be read about in hadith books.
Imam Ridha (as) says: “Khidhr (as) drank from the “water of life” and is alive and will remain alive till the “blowing of the trumpet” (before the day of judgement). He comes to us and says salams to us, we hear his voice but don’t see him. He participates in the Hajj rituals and performs all of its acts; he stays in the
This hadith shows that Khidhr is one of the thirty individuals who are constantly at the service of Imam Mahdi (as), taking care of different matters through his orders.
Khidhr in the Quran
Prophet Musa (pbuh) accompanied this divine learned man until they boarded a ship. The learned man made a hole in it! Prophet Musa (pbuh) was a great prophet and needed to be a protector of the lives of others, enjoining good and forbidding evil, his conscience not allowing him to just sit there and have no objection to what was being done. He forgot his promise to Khidhr and began objecting: “Did you make a hole in the ship in order for its passengers to drown?! You have indeed done something bad and wrong!”
Surely, the learned man’s intention wasn’t for the ship’s passengers to drown, but it was the only reason Prophet Musa (pbuh) could think of for such an act.
In some hadiths we read that those onboard soon became aware of the problem and temporarily fixed it, but the ship was no longer a sound one.
Here the learned one took a deep look at Musa (pbuh) saying: “Didn’t I say that you can't be patient with me?”
Musa (pbuh) who was regretful for the rush he had shown due to the importance of the issue, remembered his vow to Khidhr when they had first met and replied in apology saying: “Do not call me to account for my forgetfulness and take it hard on me.”, meaning that what I did was a mistake and please forgive me because of your greatness.
Their journey in the water ended, and they went on, meeting a child on the way, which the learned one quickly and without previous notice slayed!
Here once again, Prophet Musa (pbuh) objected saying: “Do you kill one who is sinless and hasn’t committed murder himself? You have certainly committed a horrible and ugly act!
Once again, the learned one calmly repeated his same sentence again saying: “Didn’t I say that you will not be patient with me?
Musa (pbuh) once again remembered his promise to Khidhr, became ashamed and upset because he had broken it twice till now, although as a result of forgetfulness, and was beginning to believe what his “teacher” had claimed in the beginning about him and that he can't easily accept his actions without objecting, and said: “Excuse me and my forgetfulness this one last time, and if I ever question your acts again, you can stop accompanying me and you have an excuse on my part.”
After this last promise from Musa (pbuh), he and his “teacher” went on till they reached a town in which they asked for food which they were denied of. Clearly, Musa (pbuh) and his “teacher” didn’t want to be a burden on the townsfolk’s backs, therefore one can conclude that Musa (pbuh) and Khidhr had either ran out of food and money or lost it in their trip, resulting in their tendency to be the guest of the townsfolk. (There is also a possibility that all of this was part of the plan of the learned one to teach Musa (pbuh) a new lesson.)
The Quran then goes on to say that despite the fact that the townsfolk didn’t accept them as guests, when Musa (pbuh) and Khidhr (as) approached a wall in the town that was on the edge of collapsing, the learned one set it up again, preventing such an incident.
Musa (pbuh), who was at the moment most probably tired, hungry, thirsty and most of all, upset about the fact that the townsfolk had insulted his great teacher, and on the other hand had seen that Khidhr had repaired one of the walls of the town instead of leaving it to fall, such that one would conclude that he was rewarding the townsfolk for their ugly act, once again forgot his vow to his “teacher, objecting to his act with a bit more calmness than before, saying “You could have asked them for something in return for the favor you did them.”
It was then that the learned one said his final words to Musa (pbuh), because he had concluded from all of the previous occasions and Musa’s (pbuh) objections that he cannot be patient with his actions. Thus, he said: “This is time for parting between me and you. Now I will tell you the secrets of my deeds that you could not be patient with.
Parting from such a leader was painful for Musa (pbuh), but it was something that Musa (pbuh) had to submit to.
The famous commentator of the Quran, Abul-Futuh Radhi says that in a hadith it has been reported that Prophet Musa (pbuh) was asked about the hardest time in his life. He replied: “I have seen many hardships (pointing to the hardships during the times of the Pharoah and afterwards during his rule over Bani Israil), but none had an effect on my heart more than when Khidhr (as) told that it was time for us to part from each other!”
Once it was certain that the two were to part, it was time for this divine teacher to make Musa (pbuh) aware of the secrets behind his mysterious actions that he wasn’t able to tolerate. In reality, what Musa had gained from accompanying him was to learn of the secrets behind these three incidents, which could be a key for him in various issues to come and an answer to many questions in the future.
As for the secrets:
Khidhr began with the story of the ship saying: “As for the ship, it was for a group of poor workers who worked with it (made a living out of it) in the sea, I wanted to flaw it because I knew that there is a tyrant king behind them who seizes every sound ship he finds.” Hence, behind the ugly face of making a hole in the ship, there was an important goal being followed, which was for the ship not to fall into the hands of the usurping king, because he didn’t consider flawed ships to his benefit, thus not stealing them. Therefore, this was something that had to be done for the ship’s poor owners not to lose their only ship.
After disclosing the secret behind the first incident, he went on to speak of the second:
“As for the youth, his mother and father were faithful, and We feared that he would overwhelm them with rebellion and disbelief.” By killing the youth, Khidhr prevented a bad thing from happening in the case of him staying alive, which was the disbelief and rebellion of the parents. In hadiths from different sources, we read: “Allah (swt) granted them a daughter instead of the (slain) boy, whom seventy prophets were born from the progeny of!”
In the last verse of this subject, the learned one unveiled the secret behind his third act, which was repairing the collapsing wall, saying: “As for the wall, it belonged to two boy orphans in the city. Under it there was a treasure belonging to them. Their father had been a righteous man. So your Lord desired that they should come of age and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. It was my duty to repair the wall because of their parent’s righteousness so that the wall wouldn’t collapse and disclose what was hiding under it, resulting in others taking it.”
In the end, in order to remove any possible doubt remaining in Prophet Musa (pbuh) about these acts being the order of Allah (swt), he went on to say: “I did not do that out of my own accord. This is the interpretation of that over which you could not maintain patience.”
The story of Prophet Musa (pbuh) and Khidhr was that which was mentioned above, coming from the Quran, yet many false issues have been added to this story which give this story a superstitious side to it! This isn’t the only story that has been a victim of falsification, other true stories have also suffered from the same problem.
In order to be sure about what the truth about this story really is, one must only rely on Quranic verses. All hadiths pertaining to this issue aren’t reliable; those of them that are in accordance with the Quran are acceptable, while those that contradict it, clearly aren’t.
For further reading and information on this story, refer to the following:
1- Majma’ul-Bayan, vol. 6, under verses 65-81.
2- Nurul-Thaqalain, vol. 3, under the discussed verses above.
3- Al-Mizan, vol. 13, under the discussed verses above.
4- Al-Durrul-Manthur and other books under the discussed verses.
 See: Translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 13, pg. 584.
 Kamaluddin, vol. 3, pg. 357; Biharul-Anwar, vol. 51, pg. 222.
 Yawmul-Khalas, pg. 157.
 Biharul-Anwar, vol. 12, pg. 172-215; vol. 13, pg. 278-322.
 Of course, there are also hadith that say that the imams would see Khidhr (as), such as the following hadith: لَمَّا قُبِضَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص جَاءَ الْخَضِرُ فَوَقَفَ عَلَى بَابِ الْبَیْتِ وَ فِیهِ عَلِیٌّ وَ فَاطِمَةُ وَ الْحَسَنُ وَ الْحُسَیْنُ عَلَیْهِمُ السَّلَام ... Kamaluddin, vol.2, pg. 390; Biharul-Anwar, vol. 13, 299.
 Kamaluddin, vol. 2, pg. 390; Biharul-Anwar, vol. 13, pg. 299.
 Gheybah Nu’mani, pg. 99, Biharul-Anwar, vol. 52, pg. 158.
 In this article, the terms “the learned one”, “the divine teacher” and “the divine man” are all referring to Khidhr (as).
 The tafsir of Abul-Futuh Razi, under the verse being discussed.
 Nurul-Thaqalain, vol. 3, pg. 286 and 287.
 With help from Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 12, pg. 486 and on; Al-Mizan, vol. 13, under the verses being discussed.