Surat al-Kahf, 61-70
But when they reached their meeting-place, they forgot their fish, which quickly burrowed its way into the sea. (Surat al-Kahf, 61)
We understand from this verse that Musa (as) and his young servant had planned to eat fish. However, Allah made both of them forget itand allowed it, at this moment of opportunity, to escape into the water.
Now, someone cannot forget or remember something at will. Here, Allah made them forget the fish, for this forgetfulness was written in their destinies. This being the case, irrespective of how hard they try to remember, they cannot do so unless Allah wills it.
There are many reasons behind this forgetting. For example, Musa (as) has been told to come to this particular place to meet an important and blessed person, about whom more is revealed later on. To reach their destined meeting place, Musa (as) and his young servant travel for a long time. However, they need more detailed information about the exact location, because the area described as "where the two seas meet" is quite large. Without this detailed knowledge, they might have trouble finding this person. This is where one of the reasons for the fish's escape becomes apparent: It is a sign, because the fish pinpoints the exact location for this meeting.
In a wider sense, this verse points out the importance of pinpointing the exact location for any meeting. The meeting point in this case of Musa (as) is a memorable one, defined by an important sign. Generally speaking, a meeting's exact location should be determined and make known in order to prevent difficulties and loss of time, and to make it easier for the people to meet.
When they had passed on, he said to his young servant: "Bring us our morning meal. Truly this journey of ours has made us tired." (Surat al-Kahf, 62)
This verse reveals that after Musa (as) and his young servant have passed the meeting point, they become tired and hungry. When they want to prepare the meal, they remember the fish and realize that they have left it behind. Allah makes them forget the fish and then, at the appropriate time, remember it, thereby pointing the meeting place out to them.
It is important that Allah chose the fish, for Musa (as) and his assistant would definitely remember it when, following their long journey, they would become tired and hungry and so look for it. As eating when hungry is a necessity for all human beings, it seems that Allah chose the fish to lead them to the meeting point.
He [Musa's young servant] said: "Do you see what has happened? When we went to find shelter at the rock, I forgot the fish. No one made me forget to remember it except Satan. It found its way into the sea in an amazing way." He [Musa] said: "That is the very thing for which we were looking!" So, following their footsteps, they retraced their route. (Surat al-Kahf, 63-64)
When Musa (as) and his young servant realize that they have left the fish behind, they also remember where they forgot it: a rocky area. This rocky place where the two seas meet is the place where Musa (as) is to meet the blessed person. Thanks to the fish, Musa (as) pinpoints the exact place for this meeting at which, it is supposed, he was to meet Khidhr (as). The fish, having fulfilled its purpose, disappears into the sea. Also in the verse, Musa's servant states that Satan had made him forget about the fish. Satan's ability to make people forget is also mentioned in other verses, as follows:
When you see people engrossed in mocking Our Signs, turn from them until they start to talk of other things. And if Satan should ever cause you to forget, once you remember, do not stay sitting with the wrongdoers. (Surat al-An`am, 68)
He [Yusuf] said to the one of them he knew was saved: "Please mention me when you are with your Lord," but Satan made him forget to remind his Lord, and so he stayed in prison for several years. (Surah Yusuf, 42)
It must be remembered here that Satan, by himself, has no power. Allah, the sole owner of all power and strength, gave Satan the power to cause people to forget. No being can do anything by his or her own willpower. Allah governs all, as the verse "… There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock…" (Surah Hud, 56) states, the actions of all living beings, including Satan. Therefore, in reality Allah, not Satan, made Musa (as) and his young servant forget the fish, for it was in their interest to do so and their destiny, determined by Allah, called for it.
In Surat al-Kahf 64, we understand that Musa (as) and his young servant realize that the place where they left the fish was the meeting place, and so "they retraced their route" to that very spot.
They found a servant of Ours whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had also given knowledge direct from Us. (Surat al-Kahf, 65)
As was mentioned earlier, Allah is most compassionate, graceful, and merciful toward His servants. Musa (as) sets out to meet Khidr (as), someone to whom Allah has given mercy. Therefore, Allah's attributes of grace and mercy are reflected on him, which has caused him to receive a superior knowledge from Allah and to become one of His distinguished servants. In the coming parts of the narrative, we will see many examples of his superior sense of mercy.
Here, we are reminded of the concept of compassion in the Qur'an. As Allah states in "… then to be one of those who believe and urge each other to steadfastness and compassion. Those are the Companions of the Right." (Surat al-Balad, 17-18), being compassionate is one of the main characteristics of a believer.
Believers who devote their lives to win Allah's good pleasure do their best to abide by His rules. Their sense of compassion is derived from their genuine faith, for they know that nothing happens unless Allah wills it and that they are dependent upon what He may grant them. This awareness makes them modest. People who are not modest cannot be truly compassionate because they are self-centered and thus value their interests and desires above all else. For this reason, they do not consider other people's needs and therefore, quite naturally, cannot feel compassion and mercy for them. Modest people, on the other hand, who have completely submitted to Allah will feel a deep sense of compassion for all other innocent creatures.
One reason why the believers are so determined to be compassionate is their desire to win Allah's good pleasure. As the verses say, Allah is the most Compassionate of the compassionate, and so the believers strive to live by compassion as much as possible: "Were it not for Allah's favor to you and His mercy [you would have suffered many difficult situations] for Allah is All-Gentle, Most Merciful" (Surat an-Nur, 20). Totally dependent upon Allah's grace and compassion, and earnestly seeking His mercy, they are as compassionate as they can be to other believers.
As with everything else, their compassion comes from the Qur'an's guidance. And because of this, they are compassionate only where Allah commands it and with those people whom He has destined to receive that compassion.
Sometimes the love and compassion felt for a fellow believer makes intervention and criticism inevitable, even though this may be hard or difficult to do. However, such actions can become necessary when wrong actions are committed, for the Qur'an commands Muslims to forbid the wrong. This is real compassion, too, for every Muslim can confront fellow Muslims in an attempt to prevent them from engaging in forbidden activities, but they cannot confront the reality of their brothers and sisters going to Hell. This is why Muslims encourage fellow Muslims to abide by the values pleasing to Allah and thus help them to win Paradise. If they did not consider their fellow Muslims' destiny in the Hereafter, and thereby simply observe what wrong acts other Muslims might do, how could they claim to have true compassion?
In: "A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is distressing to him; he is deeply concerned for you; he is gentle and merciful to the believers" (Surat at-Tawba, 128), Allah describes our Prophet's (saas) sense of compassion. And, those who take guidance from this example of morality will be sensitive to one another's destiny in the Hereafter and behave as commanded by Allah.
Musa said to him: "May I follow you, on the condition that you teach me some of the right guidance that you have been taught?" (Surat al-Kahf, 66)
From this verse, we can deduce that Musa (as) has already received detailed information, through revelation, about whom he was to meet. He makes a real effort to go to the meeting point despite its distance from his current location, because, even if he encounters hardship while making his way there, he is certain that he will derive a great benefit from meeting with this very special person.
Then, as soon as they meet, Musa (as) recognizes him, as well as his superior character and knowledge, and asks to join him. This shows that he probably already knew that this special person had been taught much superior knowledge (Allah knows best). It is also probable that he received a revelation that this person was on the righteous path and was a guide for it, and that he should join him and learn from him for those very reasons (Allah knows best).
He said: "You will not be able to bear with me." (Surat al-Kahf, 67)
As we understand from the verses, Khidhr (as) also has detailed information about Musa (as). Moreover, it is possible to deduce that Khidhr (as) knows things about the future because Allah has informed him of them. Upon hearing Musa's (as) request, Khidhr (as) responds straight away that Musa (as) is not patient enough to travel with him. Why would he say such a thing, before anything happened, before even seeing how Musa (as) would behave? The reason for this is that Khidhr (as) knows part of the future (Allah knows best).
Such knowledge indicates that everything happens according to Allah's will, because only He gives such knowledge to his chosen few, and only as much of it as He wills. Thus, Khidhr (as) could only reveal such knowledge of the Unseen by Allah's will.
Everything that will happen to Musa (as) is, as stated earlier, already concluded, and every moment thereof is known in Allah's presence, for He has written it in destiny. This is evidence that people will experience only the destiny that Allah has written for them. Another verse also emphasizes that believers must submit to Allah and their destiny, and trust Him, as follows:
Say: "I possess no power to harm or help myself, except as Allah wills. Every nation has an appointed time. When their appointed time comes, they cannot delay it a single hour or bring it forward." (Surah Yunus, 49)
"How indeed could you bear with patience something you have not encompassed in your knowledge?" (Surat al-Kahf, 68)
Many troubling, pleasing, and joyful things can happen to people in the course of a day. However, because most people do not think of Allah and the fact that He has already written everything in destiny, they try to explain whatever happens to them as "luck" and "coincidence." However, this prevents them from seeing things in the light of goodness and from drawing beneficial conclusions. For this reason, they become troubled, sad, and unhappy. This is a major difference between the believers and the unbelievers, because the believers are aware that everything is created by Allah's will and for their ultimate good.
Those who have a deep understanding of this reality succeed in being content and seeing the hidden beauty and ultimate good behind everything, irrespective of their position in this world. Allah has created everything that we will ever experience, regardless of whether we consider them good or bad, with a subtle plan and with His endless wisdom and intelligence. He controls all of life, for He is the sole Governor all all that exists. Allah creates everything in a perfect and matchless form, with wisdom and beauty. Therefore, humanity must recognize and appreciate this perfection and try to see the wisdom and goodness in everything knowing that Allah's infinite knowledge creates only the most faultless results. Those who believe in Allah, measure everything with an eye for goodness, and interpret things in this way will always find goodness and beauty both in this world and the next.
Allah's intellect is unlimited; humanity's is limited. Given this reality, people can deal only with the visible side of things and interpret them according to their own understanding. Therefore, they might interpret something that, in reality, is full of goodness and beauty as negative and unfortunate, and vice versa. In such situations, believers need to submit to Allah's infinite knowledge and wisdom and look at things from the perspective of goodness in order to see the truth, because everything that appears to be negative is, for the believers, "a lesson in destiny." Allah says in one verse:
… it may be that you hate something when it is good for you, and it may be that you love something when it is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know. (Surat al-Baqara, 216)
Musa said: "You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I will not disobey you in any matter." (Surat al-Kahf, 69)
As we can see in the verse, Musa (as) responds immediately in a Muslim way by saying "In sha' Allah" (if Allah wills). This expression shows the believers' submission to Allah, that they understand how destiny works and are aware that only Allah can grant them success. As we mentioned in the explanation of Surat al-Kahf 23-24 above, it is Allah's command not to say "I will do this tomorrow," but to say "if Allah wills."
Through this answer, Musa (as) draws our attention to the importance of saying "In sha' Allah" before beginning something, reaching a decision, and planning something for tomorrow, because, ultimately, only Allah bestows success and the necessary capabilities to achieve it. It is essential for Muslims to remember this great truth: Only Allah knows and governs everything that occurs in the universe.
He said: "Then if you follow me, do not question me about anything until I myself make mention of it to you." (Surat al-Kahf, 70)
The narrative of Musa (as) and Khidhr (as) re-emphasizes the importance of obeying the Prophets and Messengers. Believers must pay attention by showing strict respect in their allegiance. In connection with this, people must see the wisdom and goodness in the actions of the Messenger to whom they have given their allegiance. They must expect goodness in everything that the Messenger does and, if they cannot see the inherent wisdom, must wait patiently and respectfully for its explanation. Believers must not upset the Messenger by asking unnecessary questions or indulging their curiosity.
If the underlying wisdom of the words or actions is not immediately apparent, Muslims must wait respectfully for Allah's Messenger or chosen one to explain it. Those who adopt this perspective will realize immediately that the word or action was appropriate and recognize their mistaken initial response. The verses say that if the person to whom allegiance is given feels the need to explain the wisdom behind the action, decisions, and words, he will do so. For instance, Khidhr (as) says: "… until I myself make mention of it to you" thus indicating that he will explain the underlying wisdom at the appropriate time