Cii Radio| Maulana Khalid Dhorat| 27 May 2016|20 Sha’baan 1437

Most Muslims recite Surah Kahf weekly on a Friday. There are many virtues of doing so as contained in the blessed ahadith, but more significant than the virtues, are the life-altering lessons this marvelous Surah offers us. Who does not like stories? Children love to listen to stories with one ear open and the other ear focused on the sound of the chocolate about to be unwrapped, but adults listen with two ears open.

Well, Surah al-Kahf contains four short, but powerful stories – each carrying a lesson for us. From these four,today we will focus on the one that stands out the most: the story of Prophet Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) and Prophet Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam). These teach us the etiquettes of learning which we seem to have misplaced nowadays.

When Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam), one of the prominent prophets of Allah, is asked as to who is the most learned among them, he claimed that it was himself. Although this answer was correct, Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) did not like Prophet Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) ascribing knowledge to himself, for Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) is Al-Aleem (the All-Knowing) and Al-Khabeer (the All-Aware). As part of his prophetic training, Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) is informed about a man more learned than himself. Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) is eager to meet such a man, and sets out on a journey to meet him as per the direction of Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA).

The story is very interesting and is generally known by all, but the lessons we can derive from this story is as follows:

1) Attribute all knowledge from Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA), even if we acquired it through our own intellect:
Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) introduces this man as someone whom He had taught knowledge to directly. Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) teaches us how to attribute all good that we own to none but Him, and be always humble. He discourages self-praise, even if we are worthy of such praise. We should not say: “This is a man who is intelligent,” rather say: “His knowledge is a special favour from Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA).”

2) Value the time of others:
We learn the etiquette (adab) of meeting a teacher and introducing ourselves briefly. When Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) meets this favoured servant of Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA), he does not narrate the hardships of his journey and goes into a long discourse on how difficult it was to find him. He knows the value of time. In as few words as possible, he conveys his purpose of meeting and asks if he could accompany the knowledgeable man.

3) Assess potential:
In response, Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) says, “Verily, you will not be able to have patience with me,” (Al-Kahf: 67). Right in the beginning, he understands Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam)’s aptitude and realizes that the two of them have great knowledge, but of two different kinds, operating in two different dimensions. A teacher must have the right skills to evaluate his students’ potential. Understanding others’ capabilities lowers expectations and saves one from disappointments. It also helps in planning lessons and activities, and assigning the right roles to the right person.

4) Commit and persevere:
Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) does not get offended by Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam)’s opinion of him. He respectfully replies, “If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey you in aught,” (Al-Kahf: 69).

Sometimes, people quit their studies because they were offended by their teacher’s remarks, or if one of their classmates bullies them. In Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam), we see perseverance. Despite his teacher’s discouragement, he commits to staying put. He understands he will be thrown challenges that he must stand up to. One cannot proceed in life if he lacks perseverance or easily gives up.

5) Be always respectful:
One principle of life is that in order to seek respect, we must first be respectful of others. When Sayyadina Khidr(‘Alaihis Salaam) remarks Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) lacked the required patience, he remains respectful of Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam)’s opinion of him. Getting along helps build relationships and so being able to learn from the other person.

6) Set rules for learning:
Seeing the dedication of his student, Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) sets some rules. He says, “Then, if you follow me ask me not about anything till I myself mention of it to you.” (Al-Kahf: 70) Here is another lesson. If one does not set rules in the beginning then half of the time will be wasted in keeping everyone calm and organised. Spending some time on discipline at the start of the year saves one much problems and time during the year.

In one adult class, the teacher had just started the topic when questions started pouring in. The teacher, instead of instructing to keep the questions for the end, started answering them right away. Most questions were repetitive and the teacher kept saying we are going to study this next time. Soon the class time was up and the students were still at the opening paragraph. Many students were disappointed because they had not learnt anything new that day. Others were still complaining.

7) Learning location:
Next, we see that Prophet Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) and Prophet Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) do not sit in a formal classroom. They embark on a ship and start their study trip. Learning should not only be confined to the classroom. One can learn at any place, at any moment. In the Qur’an, Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) instructs us to look at His many Signs around us and reflect. We can go out and learn from nature at any time. Every person has something good to offer you. While commuting, one can read a book, listen to an audio lecture and even learn a new language. Become observant, alert and receptive.

8 ) Give feedback:
During the journey, Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) does some actions (by the permission of Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) that startles Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam). Perturbed by what is happening Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) breaks his commitment to remain patient and speaks up. Instead of rebuking or insulting Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam), Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) says, “Did I not tell you, that you would not be able to have patience with me?” (Al-Kahf:72)

Notice how concise and clear his feedback is. In a few words, he points out that Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) is breaking his promise. Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) immediately realised his mistake and knew what he was expected to do.

Feedback helps convey what is expected. A teacher must be focused and not go on complaining, tarnishing students’ self-esteem. For feedback to be effective, it should be tangible, transparent, actionable and timely. Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) corrected Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) right away. Not at the end of the journey. His feedback is timely. He clearly informs Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) where he was failing.

9) Accept mistakes:
We see the effectiveness of this succinct feedback when Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) immediately accepts his error and confesses that he had forgotten his promise. This shows the honesty of the student. He does not blame his teacher for doing any wrong, but rather admits that he was mistaken. This is meaningful and positive teacher-learner interaction.

When Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) repeats his mistake, he proposes to Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) to end the journey in case he breaks the decorum one more time. Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) is considerate of Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam)’s precious time and role and does not persist on staying with him despite his errors. So when this happens a third time, Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) announces their parting and fulfils his side of the promise. It was now time to reveal the wisdom behind the actions that he undertook. After finishing explaining the reasons, Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) adds, “And I did them not of my own accord,” (Al-Kahf: 82).

This is the golden lesson of the entire episode: Sayyadina Khidr (‘Alaihis Salaam) attributes all the knowledge that he had to Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) alone. This was the lesson that Prophet Sayyadina Musa (‘Alaihis Salaam) was sent out to learn.

In conclusion, knowledge has a special status in Islam. Among all the things created for mankind, our noble Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam) does not ask Allah (SUBHANAHU WA TA’LA) for an increase in anything but knowledge (Taha: 114). The first word to be revealed was “Read” (Al-’Alaq: 1). The first thing to be created by Allah was a pen (the pen of destinies), and there is an entire Surah with this name contained in the Qur’an.

May He Who has created the pen and paper instill the love of beneficial knowledge in our hearts – Ameen.