Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Kahf: 18:71-80

18:71 And so the two went on their way, till [they reached the seashore; and] when they disembarked from the boat [that had ferried them across], the sage made a hole in it – [whereupon Moses] exclaimed: “Hast thou made a hole in it in order to drown the people who may be [traveling] in it? Indeed, thou hast done a grievous thing!”


Lit., “made me forget it lest I remember it”.

18:72 He replied: “Did I not tell thee that thou wilt never is able to have patience with me?”


i.e., the disappearance of the fish indicated the point at which their quest was to end (see note

18:73 Said [Moses]: “Take me not to task for my having forgotten [myself], and be not hard on me on account of what I have done!”


In the Tradition on the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka’b (referred to in note 67) this mysterious sage is spoken of as Al-Khadir or Al-Khidr, meaning “the Green One”. Apparently, this is an epithet rather than a name, implying (according to popular legend) that his wisdom was ever-fresh (“green”) and imperishable: a notion which bears out the assumption that we have here an allegoric figure symbolizing the utmost depth of mystic insight accessible to man.

18:74 And so the two went on, till, when they met a young man, [the sage] slew him – (whereupon Moses] exclaimed: “Hast thou slain an innocent human being without [his having taken] another man’s life? Indeed, thou hast done a terrible thing!”


Lit., “that, thou dost not encompass with [thy] experience (khubran)”: according to Razi, an allusion to the fact that even a prophet like Moses did not fully comprehend the inner reality of things (haga’iq at-ashya’ kama hiya); and, more generally, to man’s lack of equanimity whenever he is faced with something that he has never yet experienced or cannot immediately comprehend. In the last analysis, the above verse implies – as is brought out fully in Moses’ subsequent experiences – that appearance and reality do not always coincide; beyond that, it touches in a subtle manner upon the profound truth that man cannot really comprehend or even visualize anything that has no counterpart – at least in its component elements – in his own intellectual experience: and this is the reason for the Qur’anic use of metaphor and allegory with regard to “all that is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception” (al-ghayb).

18:75 He replied: “Did I not tell thee that thou wilt never be able to have patience with me?”


Lit., “he”.

18:76 Said [Moses]: “If, after this, I should ever question thee, keep me not in thy company: [for by] now thou hast heard enough excuses from me.”


Lit., “asked its people”.

18:77 And so the two went on, till, when they came upon some village people, they asked them for food; but those [people] refused them all hospitality. And they saw in that (village] a wall which was on the point of tumbling down, and [the sage] rebuilt it [whereupon Moses] said: “Hadst thou so wished, surely thou couldst [at least] have obtained some payment for it?”


Lit., “to cause a fault in it” – i.e., to make it temporarily unserviceable.

18:78 [The sage] replied: “This is the parting of ways between me and thee. [And now] I shall let thee know the real meaning of all [those events] that thou wert unable to bear with patience.


Lit., “we feared – but it should be borne in mind that, beyond this primary meaning, the verb khashiya sometimes denotes “he had reason to fear” and, consequently, “he knew”, i.e., that something bad would happen (Taj al-‘Arus, with specific reference to the above verse): and so we may assume that the sage’s expression of “fear” was synonymous with positive “knowledge” gained through outward evidence or through mystic insight (the latter being more probable, as indicated by his statement in the second paragraph of the next verse, “I did not do [any of] this of my own accord”).

18:79 “As for that boat, it belonged to some needy people who toiled upon the sea – and I desired to damage it because (I knew that] behind them was a king who is wont to seize every boat by brute force.


i.e., left to them as an inheritance. Presumably, that treasure would have been exposed to view if the wall had been allowed to tumble down, and would have been stolen by the avaricious village folk, who had shown their true character by refusing all hospitality to weary travelers.

18:80 And as for that young man, his parents were [true] believers – whereas we had every reason to fear that he would bring bitter grief upon them by [his] overweening wickedness and denial of all truth.


Implying that whatever he had done was done under the impulsion of higher truth – the mystic insight which revealed to him the reality behind the outward appearance of things and made him a conscious particle in God’s unfathomable plan: and this explains the use of the plural “we” in verses 80-81, as well as the direct attribution, in the first paragraph of verse 82, of concrete human action to God’s will (Razi).


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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