Who was the teacher who accompanied Moses?

Researched by A. Muhammad

When we read verses 65-82 of Sura 18 we come across a servant of God who walked, talked and passed wisdom to Moses. We are not given his name anywhere in the Quran nor knowledge of his true identity. The following are the relevant verses:

SURA 18

65. They found one of Our servants whom We granted mercy from Us, and whom We taught some knowledge from Us.

66. Moses said to him, "May I follow you, provided that you teach me some of the sound judgement you have been taught?"

67. He said, "You will not be able to have patience with me,

68. for how can you have patience with that which you do not encompass its knowledge?"

69. He said, "You will find me, God willing, patient and I will not disobey any command of yours."

70. He said, "If you follow me, do not ask me about anything, until I make mention of it to you."

71. So they set out, then when they boarded a ship, he made a hole in it. He said, "Did you make a hole in it to drown its people? You have done a terrible thing."

72. He said, "Did I not say that you will not be able to have patience with me?"

73. He said, "Do not hold me accountable for what I have forgotten and do not overburden me, making my affair difficult for me."

74. Then they proceeded on until they came upon a young boy, so he killed him. He said, "Have you killed a pure self that has killed no one? You have certainly come up with a deplorable thing."

75. He said, "Did I not tell you that you will not be able to have patience with me?"

76. He said, "If I ask you about anything else after this, do not keep me company, for then you would have been given an excuse from me."

77. Then they proceeded on. Then when they came to the people of a village they asked its people for food, but they refused them hospitality. Then they found in it a wall that was about to collapse, so he erected it. He said, "If you wished, you could have received a payment for it!"

78. He said, "This shall be the parting between me and you. I will inform you of the interpretation of what you had no patience for.

79. As for the ship, it belonged to some poor people working at sea and I wanted to make it defective as there was a king in their pursuit who was forcibly seizing every ship.

80. As for the young boy, his parents were believers, so we feared that he would burden them with transgression and disbelief,

81. and so we willed that their Lord would replace him for them with one who is better than him in purity and compassion.

82. As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city and underneath it was a treasure that belonged to them and their father was righteous. So your Lord wanted them to reach their full maturity and extract their treasure; a mercy from your Lord. I did not do it of my own volition.
This is the interpretation of what you had no patience for."

Traditional scholars maintain that the servant of God spoken of in these verses was a man named Khidr. Where exactly did they get that name from? Certainly not from the Quran! All sorts of tales have ensued as to who exactly this Khidr may be! However, the lack of Quranic evidence compels us to discard these tales and regard them as mere speculation.

In contrast, when we research the above Quranic verses, we find sufficient evidence that points out that this servant of God could not have been a human being. He could have only been one of God's angels who was commissioned to undertake specific duties at a specific time. As such, this angel was not any different from the angels who came to Abraham (Daif Ibrahim) informing him that they were sent to destroy the sinful people of Lot. This understanding is based on the following:

1- It is significant to note that nowhere in the above verses are we told that this teacher was human, nor are we given a name for him. In 18:65, God refers to him as "one of Our servants". Servants of God are not only the humans, but they include angels.

2- The servant of God was commissioned by God to terminate the life of a young boy. This act bears great significance once again in determining the identity of the servant. The servant tells Moses the reason he was commanded to terminate the life of the boy:

As for the boy, his parents were believers, so we feared that he would burden them with transgression and disbelief. 18:80

The Quran informs us that the termination of the lives of humans is assigned to angels and not to humans:

Say, "The angel of death put in charge of you will take you back, then to your Lord you shall be returned." 32:11

The significance of the termination of the boy's life is that it was executed before the boy committed the sin of burdening his parents with transgression and disbelief! When the life of the boy was terminated he was still innocent of any crime. We know that killing an innocent soul is prohibited in the Quran:

Do not kill any person; God has prohibited that, except in the course of justice. 6:151

It follows that:

1- If any human was to kill an innocent person (which the boy was at the time), he would be disobeying God's law. Any killing that is not in the course of justice is murder.

2- God does not violate His own law. Therefore, God would not command any human to commit an act which is prohibited by God in the first place.

The verdict of 32:11 confirms that it is the angels and not the humans who are assigned this task of terminating the lives of humans.

In this case, the termination of the boy's life would not be any different from all the other young boys and girls who die every day at a young age. None of them are murdered, rather, their lives are simply terminated in accordance to God's will.
This constitutes solid evidence that
the servant of God was indeed an angel and not a human being. It was an angel who was put in charge, and his duty was to put the boy to death at the time appointed by God.

3- The servant of God performs a number of acts that imply knowledge of the future, known only to God. The servant of God is not heard of again throughout the Quran. One would expect this servant (had he been human) to have further mention, impact or association with Moses and the events that follow in the life of Moses, but no further mention of him is found in the Quran. Once again, this points to the fact that he was an angel sent by God to execute specific duties, after which his role on earth is completed. This is not any different from the angels who spoke with Abraham, who were sent to destroy the people of Lot, not being mentioned anymore in the Quran.