Khidr in the Qur’an – Why do the pronouns change?

September 5, 2008

Asalamu alaykum,

When Khidr [as] explains to Musa [as] why he did what he did, the pronouns that he uses keep on changing.

أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدتُّ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَاءهُم مَّلِكٌ يَأْخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصْبًا {79} وَأَمَّا الْغُلَامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَن يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا {80}فَأَرَدْنَا أَن يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا {81}وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنزٌ لَّهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَنْ يَبْلُغَا أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسْتَخْرِجَا كَنزَهُمَا رَحْمَةً مِّن رَّبِّكَ وَمَا فَعَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَمْرِي ذَلِكَ تَأْوِيلُ مَا لَمْ تَسْطِع عَّلَيْهِ صَبْرًا {82}

[18:79] As for the boat, it belonged to (some) poor men who worked on the river and I wished that I should damage it, and there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force.
[18:80] And as for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should make disobedience and ingratitude to come upon them:
[18:81] So we desired that their Lord might give them in his place one better than him in purity and nearer to having compassion.
[18:82] And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father was a righteous man; so your Lord desired that they should attain their maturity and take out their treasure, a mercy from your Lord, and I did not do it of my own accord. This is the significance of that with which you could not have patience.

So in the first incident it’s ‘I‘, in the second it’s ‘We’ and the third it’s ‘Your Lord’, eventhough in each case it was Khidr who did it.

The following explanation is taken from The Kernels of Kernels by Allamah Tabataba’i :
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Some sages among the gnostics, throughout their lives, would not utter the words “I” and “we” and would say instead, for instance, “This servant came” and “This servant left,” while some, in describing their actions, would ascribe that which was beautiful and good and which derived from the Divine Essence to Him, and attribute to themselves that which related to themselves as such, the Sacred Divine Being being absolved of its taints. And in cases where something could be related to themselves as well as to God they would say “we.” They based this practice on the episode of Hadrat Khidr and Musa, may Peace be upon them, where Khidr says:

أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدتُّ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا

As for the ship, it belonged to certain poor men, who toiled upon the sea; and I desired to damage it, (18:79)

because the inflicting of damage may not be attributed to the Divine Essence, and, accordingly, he ascribes it to himself by making the statement in the first person singular. However, as the killing [of the lad] could be ascribed to Hadrat Khidr and to God, he describes it in the first person plural.

.وَأَمَّا الْغُلَامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَن يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا فَأَرَدْنَا أَن يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِّنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا

As for the lad, his parents were believers; and we were afraid he would inflict on them insolence arid unbelief, so we desired that their Lord should give to them in exchange one better than he in purity, and nearer in tenderness. (18:80‑81)

As the concern for welfare and the will to grant benefit and excellence derives, from the Divine Essence, it is attributed to the Sustainer

.وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنزٌ لَّهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا
صَالِحًا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَنْ يَبْلُغَا أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسْتَخْرِجَا كَنزَهُمَا رَحْمَةً مِّن رَّبِّك

As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan lads in the city, and under it was a treasure belonging to them. Their father was a righteous man; and thy Lord desired that they should come of age and then bring forth their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord.. . (18:82)

The same manner of speech can be observed in the words of Hadrat Ibrahim (`a) when he said:

الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ وَالَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْقِينِ وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ

…Who created me and Himself guides me; who Himself gives me to eat and drink, and, whenever I am sick heals me. (26:78‑80)

Here he attributes sickness to himself and its healing to God. Attainment to the station of Islam‑e azam and riddance from the soul’s egoism, which sets the stage for Satan to make appearances, must take place with Divide succour. Hajj Imam‑Qulli Nakhjawani was the teacher in the ma`arif of marhum Aqa Sayyid Husayn Aqa Qadi, the father of marhum Aqa Hajj Mirza ‘Ali Aqa Qadi, may God be pleased with theirs, and he was traversing the stages of perfection in ethics and Divine teachings tinder the tutelage of marhum Aqa Sayyid Quraysh Qazwini, may God be pleased with him.

He says: “After I reached old age and decrepitude I saw Satan as the two of us stood at the top of a mountain. Putting my hand on my beard I said to him, `I have reached old age and become decrepit. Spare me, if it is possible.’ Satan said to me, `Look over this side.’ When’ I looked, I saw a very deep ravine. It was a dizzying sight and I was seized with an intense fright and terror. Satan said, `I don’t have any mercy or compassion in my heart. Should I get my hands on you, your place will be at the bottom of this pit that you see!'” Read the rest of this entry »

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