5 Lessons for the Seeker of ‘Ilm from the Life of Prophet Musa (upon him be peace)

Musa alayhi as-salam and Khidr alayhi as-salam Story Lessons

The incident of Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) and Khidr (alayhissalam) as recorded in Sahih Muslim states that one day while Musa (alayhissalam) was addressing his people, he was asked, who of the people is the most learned? Musa (alayhissalam) replied: “I am the most knowledgeable of the people”, it was due to his not acknowledging that there is a more knowledgeable being than him that Almighty Allah admonished Musa (alayhissalam) and instructed him to journey in search of Khidr (alayhissalam). Many lessons can be derived from this Quranic incident. Some are explained below:

1. Travelling in search of knowledge

Travel in Search for Knowledge

A student must keep in mind the greatness of his undertaking. As the saying goes: ‘No pain – No gain’, the journey to seek knowledge and reach great heights will not be free of struggle and fatigue. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) undertook the tiresome journey with his companion, Yusha bin Noon with the sole intention of seeking the knowledge he needed from Khidr (alayhissalam). Musa (alayhissalam) described this in his own words where he said:

“We have suffered much fatigue in this journey of ours.” (Quran 18:62)

Ibn Mughal (rahimahullah) was a renowned writer in Islamic History. He kept travelling for 28 years in his search for knowledge. Hafiz Abul Qasim Sulaiman ibn Ahmed Tabarani (rahimahullah) spent 33 years of his life in the pursuit of collecting and verifying Hadith. In that period of time, he met and acquired knowledge from one thousand scholars. Ibn Maqarri (rahimahullah) once undertook a journey of eight hundred and forty miles for a copy of a valuable book that he needed.

Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said “Nothing which Allah has created is greater, in terms of its reward, than seeking knowledge, neither Hajj nor Umrah [Lesser Pilgrimage], nor Jihad, nor Zakat, nor emancipating slaves. If knowledge had a physical image it would be more beautiful than the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, and a magnificent throne.” [1]The Heirs of the Prophets, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, The Starlatch Press p. 35

The rewards earned will be in proportion to the amount of struggle and fatigue that is patiently endured. The sweetness experienced after this patient endurance in the path of seeking knowledge is superior to any worldly pleasures, as Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan (rahimahullah) remarked: “Will the sons of kings ever experience such pleasure?” He said this after he spent the night in study and made a breakthrough in a difficult matter he was researching.

2. Humbling oneself and being comfortable with seeking knowledge from those of a lesser rank or age

knowledge-humble

Being conceited about knowledge or status can lead to ones detriment. A poet said: Pride proves to be so deadly an enemy for a knowledgeable person, similar to how a flood is an enemy to a high place. (Meaning: Pride destroys ones knowledge in the same way that a flood causes utter destruction even in a high and lofty place).

The student must not be arrogant about his high level of intelligence, understanding and brainpower.

“That is the grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills.” (Quran 62:4)

Each man is given only a drop from the vast ocean of knowledge. Even though his knowledge may seem plentiful to him, he need not be proud of it, but instead he must use it as a motivation to dive deeper into the oceans of knowledge throughout his life.

It is said about the accursed Satan that for thousands of years he worshipped Allah excessively. He possessed a great amount of knowledge and was regarded as the teacher of the angels. But despite this he was rejected from the court of Allah and wretched because of his haughtiness.

Linked to this point is the aspect of lowering ones pride to learn from those whom you might consider as lower than yourself in rank, status or age. The etiquette of acquiring knowledge is nothing but that the student should show respect for the teacher and follow him with eagerness to learn – even if the student happens to be superior to his teacher. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) was Kalimullah (the one who spoke to Allah). He was a high ranking messenger of Allah, yet he kept learning even after becoming a leader and did not consider it below himself to seek knowledge from Khidr (alayhissalam) who was a pious servant of Allah. Many a times you may think that you know something, yet each man’s intellect is limited and it does not comprehend many matters, as is seen from the way that Musa (alayhissalam) objected to Khidr (alayhissalam) yet in each of his doings there was wisdom.

3. Striving and avoiding laxity

excellence

Almighty Allah says:

“As for those who strive hard in our cause, we will surely guide them to our paths.” (Quran 29:69)

Whoever searches for a certain thing and strives with effort, will most definitely find what he is looking for and whoever knocks at a door with persistence will make an entrance. Your desired goal will be achieved in proportion to the amount of effort you put in. If you need to learn something, the secret is to keep striving. This was the way of the Messengers, pious predecessors and learned scholars. Never allow laziness and despondency get the better of you even if this requires a long period of sacrifice and commitment. Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) was determined to reach his goal and so he said to his companion, “I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I go on for years (a long period of time).” (Quran 18:60)

A poet wrote the following verses:

If you aim to become a decisive scholar and theologian without making effort
Then remember that this is one of the many forms of insanity
Whilst even wealth cannot be earned without some difficulty
How then can knowledge be gained in such a way. [2]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 26/27

Also:

O soul, distance yourself from being slothful and from adopting carelessness
Or else be satisfied with your lot when you are considered from amongst the ones despised and humiliated. I have indeed not seen the outcome of a lazy one other than disappointment, remorse and long lost hopes. [3]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 30

4. Don’t impose on the teacher, be a decent student

Before blaming the teacher or the institution check yourself. It is incumbent on the student to instil in himself or herself lofty character, towards his teacher, institution, and fellow pupils. It is part of good manners that the student clearly informs the teacher of his intention and exactly what he aims to achieve from his studies.

Prophet Musa (alayhissalam) informed Khidr (alayhissalam) of his intention of seeking the special knowledge that Allah had bestowed him with and he politely asked, “May I follow you so that you teach me something of the knowledge which you have been taught?” (Quran 18:66). He also pledged to Khidr (alayhissalam) that he will be humble and patient and strive to give off his best. Musa (alayhissalam) said:

“If Allah wills, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey your command.” (Quran 18:69)

By the student doing this in the initial days of study, it will instill confidence about him in the heart of the teacher assist the him in fulfilling his duties to the student as well as keeping the teacher pleased with him.

A wise man once said:

The teacher and the doctor both
Are not sincere in advising when they are not honoured
So bear patiently your ailment if you adopt harshness with your doctor
And be content with your ignorance if you offend your teacher.

5. If you intend something important in your studies, say Insha’Allah!

hourglass patience

Musa (alayhissalam) told Khidr (alayhissalam), “If Allah wills, you will find me patient” (Quran 18:69). He did not merely say: “You will find me patient”.  The lesson we derive here is to always keep the consciousness of Allah alive in the heart and His remembrance fresh on the tongue. Seek His help at every step.

“Whoever places his trust in Allah, Allah will be sufficient for him.” (Quran 65:3)

Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) said: “I attained knowledge through praising and being grateful to Allah, thus, whenever I understood any matter of jurisprudence or wisdom I used to say: ‘Praise be to Allah The Most High’, and thus my knowledge was increased.” [4]Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 40

If one adopts piety and is conscious of Allah as a student then his or her knowledge will hold great benefit.

   [ + ]

1. The Heirs of the Prophets, Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali, The Starlatch Press p. 35
2. Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 26/27
3. Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 30
4. Ta’lim al-Muta’allim Tariq at-Ta’allum, Maktabatul Bushra, p. 40
2017-01-27T11:48:03+00:00

About the Author:

Ustadha Khadijah Moosa is a writer and TA at Rayyan Institute. She is an Islamic scholar based in South Africa.

2 Comments

  1. Muhammad Essa January 19, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Assalam-u-alaikum;

    This is an amazing article, nicely written and very helpful.

    The reference “As for those who strive hard in our cause, we will surely guide them to our paths.” (Quran 30:69)

    It seems there is a typo, 30 should be 29 which is Surah Ankaboot, Surah 30 is Surah Room which has only 60 Ayaat.

    وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

    Allah Hafiz
    Essa Mughal

  2. Jahed June 27, 2017 at 2:07 am - Reply

    Jazakillahu Khairan

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.