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 9 (Verses 18:60–18:70): Moses Travels in Search of Knowledge


وَ اِذۡ قَالَ مُوۡسٰی لِفَتٰىہُ لَاۤ اَبۡرَحُ حَتّٰۤی اَبۡلُغَ مَجۡمَعَ الۡبَحۡرَیۡنِ اَوۡ اَمۡضِیَ حُقُبًا ﴿۶۰﴾

18:60 And when Moses said to his servant:1 I will not cease until I reach the junction of the two rivers, or I will go on for years.2

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَا مَجۡمَعَ بَیۡنِہِمَا نَسِیَا حُوۡتَہُمَا فَاتَّخَذَ سَبِیۡلَہٗ فِی الۡبَحۡرِ سَرَبًا ﴿۶۱﴾

18:61 So when they reached the junction of the two (rivers), they forgot their fish, and it took its way into the river, being free.

فَلَمَّا جَاوَزَا قَالَ لِفَتٰىہُ اٰتِنَا غَدَآءَنَا ۫ لَقَدۡ لَقِیۡنَا مِنۡ سَفَرِنَا ہٰذَا نَصَبًا ﴿۶۲﴾

18:62 But when they had gone further, he said to his servant: Bring us our morning meal, we have certainly found this journey of ours tiring.

قَالَ اَرَءَیۡتَ اِذۡ اَوَیۡنَاۤ اِلَی الصَّخۡرَۃِ فَاِنِّیۡ نَسِیۡتُ الۡحُوۡتَ ۫ وَ مَاۤ اَنۡسٰنِیۡہُ اِلَّا الشَّیۡطٰنُ اَنۡ اَذۡکُرَہٗ ۚ وَ اتَّخَذَ سَبِیۡلَہٗ فِی الۡبَحۡرِ ٭ۖ عَجَبًا ﴿۶۳﴾

18:63 He (the servant) said: Did you see when we took refuge on the rock, I forgot the fish, and none but the devil made me forget to speak of it, and it took its way into the river; what a wonder!3

قَالَ ذٰلِکَ مَا کُنَّا نَبۡغِ ٭ۖ فَارۡتَدَّا عَلٰۤی اٰثَارِہِمَا قَصَصًا ﴿ۙ۶۴﴾

18:64 He said: This is what we sought for. So they returned retracing their footsteps.

فَوَجَدَا عَبۡدًا مِّنۡ عِبَادِنَاۤ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ رَحۡمَۃً مِّنۡ عِنۡدِنَا وَ عَلَّمۡنٰہُ مِنۡ لَّدُنَّا عِلۡمًا ﴿۶۵﴾

18:65 Then they found one of Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves.4

قَالَ لَہٗ مُوۡسٰی ہَلۡ اَتَّبِعُکَ عَلٰۤی اَنۡ تُعَلِّمَنِ مِمَّا عُلِّمۡتَ رُشۡدًا ﴿۶۶﴾

18:66 Moses said to him: May I follow you that you may teach me some of the good you have been taught?

قَالَ اِنَّکَ لَنۡ تَسۡتَطِیۡعَ مَعِیَ صَبۡرًا ﴿۶۷﴾

18:67 He said: You will not be able to have patience with me.

وَ کَیۡفَ تَصۡبِرُ عَلٰی مَا لَمۡ تُحِطۡ بِہٖ خُبۡرًا ﴿۶۸﴾

18:68 And how can you have patience in matters in which you do not have a comprehensive knowledge?

قَالَ سَتَجِدُنِیۡۤ اِنۡ شَآءَ اللّٰہُ صَابِرًا وَّ لَاۤ اَعۡصِیۡ لَکَ اَمۡرًا ﴿۶۹﴾

18:69 He said: If Allah please, you will find me patient, nor shall I disobey you in anything.

قَالَ فَاِنِ اتَّبَعۡتَنِیۡ فَلَا تَسۡـَٔلۡنِیۡ عَنۡ شَیۡءٍ حَتّٰۤی اُحۡدِثَ لَکَ مِنۡہُ ذِکۡرًا ﴿٪۷۰﴾

18:70 He said: If you would follow me, do not question me about anything until I myself speak to you about it.


  1. Some reports give his name as Joshua, the son of Nun, the man who afterwards appears so prominently in the history of Israel. The incidents narrated in verses 60–82 may be the actual experience of Moses or this journey may simply be an Ascension of Moses, like the Ascension (Mi‘rāj) of the Holy Prophet, referred to in the last chapter. What is stated in the next section makes the latter view more probable.
  2. Moses lived in Egypt for forty years, and the junction of the two rivers (Majma‘ al-Baḥrain) is no other than the junction of the two great branches of the Nile at Khartoum. Rabbinical and Hellenistic literature agree that Moses went to Ethiopia. Hence a journey to Khartoum, which was near the southern boundary of Ethiopia, made in search of knowledge, is most probable. Some commentators, however, do not take these words literally, taking the meaning to be the union of the rivers of human and Divine knowledge. I would, however, suggest that if we accept this journey in the light of an Ascen­sion, it would be an indication of the limitation of the Mosaic dispensa­tion. Moses’ going on for years until he reached the “the junction of the two rivers” would mean that the Mosaic dispensation would see its termination after a time, being replaced by one which was to be guided by a prophet who is the union of the two seas of human and Divine knowledge, or one in whom the temporal and the spiritual would find their highest manifestation, this being the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
  3. The loss of the fish was, according to a report, to serve as a sign that the goal had been attained (Bukhari, 3:44). There is nothing either in the Quran or in the Hadith to show that this was a roasted fish. Taking refuge on the rock shows that they were staying at a place which was flooded by the river, and Moses’ compa­nion, when hastening for refuge, forgot to take the fish along with him. The wonder is not expressed at the fish having gone down into the river, but because he had forgotten to mention the loss to Moses.
  4. His name was Khaḍir (Bukhari, 3:44).