Lessons About Patience from the Story of Musa and Khidr | SoundVision.com

Lessons About Patience from the Story of Musa and Khidr

The Quran contains a vast array of themes that lay out the framework for the moral, spiritual, and social responsibilities of humankind on Earth. Its verses explore the fundamental principles of monotheism, moral and legal guidance, and spiritual practices, as well as the concepts of accountability in the Hereafter, justice, mercy, brotherhood, and the virtues of patience and perseverance. Intricately woven within the chapters of the Quran are verses that narrate tales of past generations and their prophets. These beautiful stories offer a wealth of lessons for everyone, young and old, and especially for educators and parents to teach children. Allah says in the Quran:

“We relate to you ˹O Prophet˺ the best of stories through Our revelation of this Quran, though before this you were totally unaware ˹of them˺.” 

(Surah Yusuf, 12:3)

One of my favorite stories is that of Prophet Musa and Khidr, peace be upon them, in Surah Al-Kahf, Chapter 18 of the Quran. This particular chapter is unique in many ways; it is located in the middle of the Quran, begins with tamhid, “Alhamdulillah,” like the first chapter (Surah Al-Fatihah), and according to hadith narrations, is recommended reading on Fridays as well as for protection during the trial of the Antichrist (Bayhaqi and Muslim). The introduction to the chapter in Dr. Mustafa Khattab’s The Clear Quran, mentions that the thematic order of Surah al-Kahf corresponds to the questions mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in the following hadith:

“No one’s feet will move on Judgment Day until they are asked about four things: 

  1. What they did in their youth?
  2. How they earned and spent their wealth?
  3. What they did with their knowledge?
  4. And how they spent their lives?” 


The third narrative in Surah Al-Kahf pertains to the quest for knowledge of Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, indubitably tied to the virtue of patience. Truthfully, the themes in the entire chapter may be tied back to being patient with Allah’s decree in all matters, however, we will focus on the third story because it is one that is especially appealing for young audiences. It is an evocative story filled with wonder that will keep children captivated and entertained, all the while teaching them about being patient. Below is the retelling of the verses from Surah Al-Kahf that parents and educators can use and/or adapt for storytime. 

The Story of Musa and Khidr H2 Header

The fantastic voyage of Musa and Khidr begins with Prophet Musa’s determination to reach a specified location – “the junction of the two seas (Surah Al-Kahf, 18:60).” However, if we explore hadith narrations, we find that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, provided some preliminary details. In one hadith, he said:

“Musa stood to deliver a Khutbah to the children of Israel. He was asked: ‘Who is the most knowledgeable among the people?’ He said: ‘I am the most knowledgeable.’ So, Allah admonished him since he did not refer the knowledge back to Him. Allah revealed to him: ‘A slave, among My slaves at the junction of the two seas, is more knowledgeable than you.’ So, Musa said: ‘O Lord! How can I meet him?’ He said to him: ‘Carry a fish in a basket, wherever you lose the fish, then he is there.’ So, he set off, and his servant set off with him – and he was Yusha bin Nun…”  


At this point, the Quranic account of the events begins. Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, was very eager to find this mysterious man who possessed a higher level of knowledge. His unwavering determination serves as an exemplary lesson for children, emphasizing the importance of valuing education and illustrating the extent to which one should strive to acquire knowledge. He told his servant, Yusha: 

“I will never give up until I reach the junction of the two seas, even if I travel for ages!”

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:60)

Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, and Yusha had to travel for a long time to reach their destination, not exactly sure of who they would find. Finally, they arrived at the point where the two seas met, which was possibly at the northern part of Sinai between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, or the southern part of Sinai where the Red Sea splits into the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba according to commentary in The Clear Quran.2 They were tired and hungry. Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, asked Yusha to bring them their meal – a salted fish – at which point, his servant recalled something strange. In the Quran, Allah says:

“He (Yusha) replied, ‘Do you remember when we rested by the rock? (That is when) I forgot the fish. None made me forget to mention this except Satan. And the fish made its way into the sea miraculously.’ Moses responded, ‘That is exactly what we were looking for.’ So, they returned, retracing their footsteps.” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:63-64)

Not only were the two exhausted, but they missed the place where they were supposed to stop to find the person for whom they were searching. Nevertheless, Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, remained patient and turned back. Upon reaching the area again, they found Al-Khidr, whom Allah described as His servant (Surah Al-Kahf, 18:65). The majority opinion according to classical scholars like Ibn Atiyya, Ibn Hajar, Imam Qurtubi, Khattabi, and Imam Nawawi, is that Khidr was also a Prophet, peace be upon him.3 He was called Al-Khidr, or “the green one.” The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“He was named Khidr because he sat on a dry, barren piece of land and it suddenly became green under him.” 

(Sahih Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi)

Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, immediately approached Al-Khidr and asked if he could follow him so that he could thus learn from his vast knowledge. The wise Khidr responded: 

“You certainly cannot be patient (enough) with me. And how can you be patient with what is beyond your (realm of) knowledge?” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:67-68)

Nevertheless, Prophet Musa persisted. He told him that he would be patient and not disobey his orders. To this, his new teacher instructed that when he followed him, he should not ask about any of his actions until he, himself, explained them. Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, agreed, and they set out on a journey. 

It was not long, however, before the student questioned his teacher, for Al-Khidr did something that could not be ignored. When they boarded a ship, Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, was shocked when he saw Al-Khidr punch a hole into its deck. He could not stay silent at this apparent injustice. The Quran describes this incident as follows:

“… Moses protested, ‘Have you done this to drown its people? You have certainly done a terrible thing!’ He replied, ‘Did I not say that you cannot have patience with me?’ Moses pleaded, ‘Excuse me for forgetting, and do not be hard on me.’” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:71-73)

Al-Khidr, peace be upon him, decided to forgive his student’s forgetfulness, and they continued their voyage silently. After some time, they spotted a young boy and Khidr killed him. Imagine Prophet Musa’s shock at witnessing this brutal encounter. Allah says:

“… Moses protested, ‘Have you killed an innocent soul who killed no one? You have certainly done a horrible thing!’ He answered, ‘Did I not tell you that you cannot have patience with me?’ Moses replied, ‘If I ever question you about anything after this, then do not keep me in your company, for by then I would have given you enough of an excuse.’” 

(Surah Al-Kahf, 18:74-76)

With these words, Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, intended to keep his comments to himself until Al-Khidr decided to teach him the knowledge that he was withholding. Prophet Musa had created an ultimatum – if he questioned Al-Khidr’s actions again, then he would no longer follow him as a student. Al-Khidr agreed and so, they continued their trek. When they reached a town, Prophet Musa and Khidr expected the hospitality usually accorded to travelers. However, they asked for food and were refused. Keep in mind that the Prophet Musa, most likely had not eaten since he was with Yusha, and they lost their fish. He was probably very hungry, but he and his teacher had no means to purchase food. 

As he and Khidr walked around the town, they found a wall that was almost falling over, so the latter repaired it to prevent it from collapsing. At this, Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, protested yet again. He could not keep quiet despite his self-imposed stipulation that he would lose the chance to learn from Khidr. He demonstrated his disapproval, questioning why Al-Khidr did not charge a fee to repair the wall. Then, the inevitable occurred; before bidding Musa farewell, the mysterious Khidr said:

“… ‘This is the parting of our ways. I will explain to you what you could not bear patiently. As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people working at sea. So, I intended to damage it, for there was a (tyrant) king ahead of them who seizes every (good) ship by force. And as for the boy, his parents were (true) believers, and we feared that he would pressure them into defiance and disbelief. So, we hoped that their Lord would give them another, more virtuous and caring, in his place. And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and under the wall was a treasure that belonged to them, and your Lord willed that these children should come of age and retrieve their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. I did not do it (all) on my own. This is the explanation of what you could not bear patiently.’”

 (Surah Al-Khaf, 18:78-82)

Al-Khidr kept his side of the bargain, he parted ways with Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, according to the latter’s own conditions. The reason why Khidr knew that Prophet Musa could not be patient with him is because he would not understand the events that were going to unfold during their travel. Every action of his was following a plan laid out by Allah, and Khidr was simply fulfilling his obligations as Allah’s servant. Prophet Musa spoke out against the actions he perceived as destructive, evil, and unjust. However, there was Divine wisdom behind Khidr’s every deed, no matter how it may have looked on the surface. Al-Khidr taught Prophet Musa about patience through accepting Allah’s decree, the good and the bad – a fundamental pillar of our faith. 

Lessons on Patience from this Story

The encounter between Prophet Musa and Al-Khidr, peace be upon them, contains enduring wisdom about being patient. It teaches us the following:

1. When facing a difficulty or inconvenience, we should trust that Allah is looking out for our best interest.

The people of the boat may have been disappointed that their vessel was damaged by Al-Khidr. Nonetheless, it was for the best because it meant the tyrant king would not seize their ship. In a hadith Qudsi, Allah says:

“I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a fathom's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” 

(Sahih Bukhari)

2. When dealing with loss, we must pray and ask Allah to reward us for our patience.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“No Muslim is afflicted with a calamity but that he should say what Allah has commanded him: Indeed, to Allah we belong and to Allah we will return. (Surah Al Baqaraah, 2:156) O Allah, reward me in my affliction and replace it with something better than it. If he does so, Allah will replace it with something better.” 

(Sahih Muslim)

3. We must do good even when the people around us are being unfair.

Performing acts of kindness when everyone else is doing the same is commendable, but the true challenge lies in continuing to do good when those around you are not. Allah will reward those who do righteous good deeds despite being surrounded by those who disobey or act unjustly. Allah says in the Quran:

“Is there any reward for goodness except goodness?” 

(Surah Ar-Rahman, 55:60)

4. Seeking knowledge is an arduous process, but its rewards are immense.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said: 

“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” 

(Sunan Ibn Majah)

He also said:

“Whoever travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise…” 

(Sahih Muslim)

5. Being patient will help us reach greater heights.

Regarding the story of Musa and Khidr, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

"We wished that Moses could have remained patient by virtue of which Allah might have told us more about their story.” 

(Sahih Bukhari)

One of the most oft-repeated short surahs is Surah al-Asr, in which Allah says:

“By the Time. The human being is in loss. Except those who believe, and do good works, and encourage truth, and recommend patience.”

(Surah Al-Asr, 103:1-3)

It is no wonder that we are instructed to read Surah Al-Kahf at least weekly, on Fridays as recommended by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in a hadith in al-Bayhaqi. The stories contained therein teach its readers and reciters about remaining patient during times of adversity or when confronting difficult situations. Through his journey with Khidr, even Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, learned a lesson about humility and patience. Oftentimes, we face trials, and we cannot understand why things happen the way they do, but later we realize that Allah had a better plan. These are tests of our patience, and we must learn to recognize them and put our trust in Allah’s perfect plan. 

End Notes

1 The Clear Quran, Dr. Mustafa Khattab, Book of Signs Foundation (2020), p. 159.

2 Ibid, p.163.

3 What Do We Know About Khidr (Musa’s Companion)? - IslamQA

Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and hopes to add an adaptation of the story of Prophet Musa and Al-Khidr to that collection. Díaz currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.

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