English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 18: Al-Kahf — The Cave (Revealed at Makkah: 12 sections, 110 verses)

Section 10 (Verses 18:71–18:82): Moses Travels in Search of Knowledge

Translation:

18:71 So they set out, until, when they embarked in a boat, he made a hole in it. (Moses) said: Have you made a hole in it to drown its occupants? You have surely done a terrible thing.
18:72 He said: Did I not say that you will not be able to have patience with me?
18:73 He said: Do not blame me for what I forgot, and do not be hard upon me for what I did.
18:74 So they went on, until, when they met a boy, he killed him. (Moses) said: Have you killed an innocent person, not guilty of killing another? You have indeed done a horrible thing.
Part 1618:75 He said: Did I not say to you that you will not be able to have patience with me?
18:76 He said: If I ask you about anything after this, do not keep company with me. You will then indeed have found an excuse in my case.
18:77 So they went on, until, when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to entertain them as guests. Then they found in it a wall which was on the point of falling, so he put it into a right state. (Moses) said: If you had wished, you could have taken a recompense for it.
18:78 He said: This is the parting between me and you. Now I will inform you of the significance of that about which you could not have patience.
18:79 As for the boat, it belonged to poor people working on the river, and I intended to damage it, for 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 that he might involve them in wrongdoing and disbelief.1
18:81 So we intended that their Lord might give them in his place one better in purity and nearer to mercy.
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 had been a righteous man. So your Lord intended 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 about which you could not have patience.2

Commentary:

  1. That the youth himself deserved death is abundantly clear. His inordi­nacy had now reached an extreme when it was feared that his innocent parents would be involved in the trouble which must befall him as a result of his wrong­doing. The circumstances were known to Khaḍir, though not to Moses.
  2. The interpretation of the three incidents shows a manifestation of Divine wisdom in what takes place in the everyday life of man. Divine laws, as manifested in nature, are really working towards ultimate good, though sometimes they may appear to the outward eye to be working to the detriment of somebody. The beneficent hand of Allah that works in nature is always directing humanity to the goal of great good, though that goal must necessarily be reached with apparent loss. Sometimes the loss is only apparent, as in the case of making a hole in the boat; there was no real loss, but the apparent loss served a great purpose and brought much benefit to the owner. The second instance is that in which there is real loss to a person, but it is for the good of humanity at large, for life must be sacri­ficed for the ultimate good of humanity. The third instance shows that, for the good of humanity, deeds must be done which bring no immediate reward, and that good done by one generation is not devoid of benefit to the next. Moses himself had, in fact, to undergo the experience of his teacher, and the incidents seem no more than prophetic allegories of Moses’ own life-work. Moses had to lead his people to a place where they thought they had only been brought to be drowned; but their safe passage through the sea showed that it was for their good. Then he had to order his men to fight against an iniquitous people and to put them to death, but he was not shedding human blood to no purpose, for it was really a step towards the evolution of a better race. And finally, his devoting his own life to the Israelites, descendants of a righteous man, corresponded to his teacher’s building the wall for the orphans without claiming recompense. Read in this light, the narration is clearly an Ascension of Moses, foreshadowing the great events which were to befall him.

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