|Mystic, Green One, Teacher of the Prophets|
|Influenced||Countless future Sufi saints and mystics|
Khidr or al-Khidr (Arabic: الخضر al-Khiḍr "the Green One", also transcribed as Khidar, Khizr, Khyzer, Khizar) is a revered figure in Islam, whom the Qur'an describes as a righteous servant of God, who possessed great wisdom or mystic knowledge. He is most often said to be a contemporary of Moses, but in other variations of his story, he lived at the same time as Abraham, the mythological Persian king Afridun and Nashiya bin Amus. The 18th sura ("The Cave") presents a narrative where Khidr accompanies Moses and tests him about his oath to not ask any questions.
In medieval Islamic tradition, Khidr is variously described as a messenger or a prophet.
Qur'anic narrative 
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In chapter 18, verses 65–82, Moses meets the Servant of God, referred in the Quran as "one from among Our friend whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves", at the junction of the two seas and asks for permission to accompany him so Moses can learn "right knowledge of what [he has] been taught". The Servant of God informs him in a stern manner that their knowledge is of different nature and that "Surely you [Moses] cannot have patience with me. And how canst thou have patience about things about which thy understanding is not complete?" Moses promises to be patient and obey him unquestioningly, and they set out together. After they board a ship, the Servant of God damages the vessel. Forgetting his oath, Moses says, "Have you made a hole in it to drown its inmates? Certainly you have done a grievous thing." The Servant of God reminds Moses of his warning, "Did I not say that you will not be able to have patience with me?" and Moses pleads not to be rebuked.
Next, the Servant of God kills a young man. Moses again cries out in astonishment and dismay, and again the Servant of God reminds Moses of his warning, and Moses promises that he will not violate his oath again, and that if he does he will excuse himself from the Servant's presence. They then proceed to a town where they are denied hospitality. This time, instead of harming anyone or anything, the Servant of God restores a decrepit wall in the village. Yet again Moses is amazed and violates his oath for the third and last time, asking why the Servant of God did not at least exact "some recompense for it!"
The Servant of God replies, "This shall be separation between me and you; now I will inform you of the significance of that with which you could not have patience." Many acts which seem to be evil, malicious or somber, actually are merciful. The boat was damaged to prevent its owners from falling into the hands of "a king who seized every boat by force… And as for the boy, his parents were believers and we feared lest he should make disobedience and ingratitude to come upon them." God will replace the child with one better in purity, affection and obedience. As for the restored wall, the Servant of God explained that underneath the wall was a treasure belonging to two helpless orphans whose father was a righteous man. As God's envoy, the Servant of God restored the wall, showing God's kindness by rewarding the piety of the orphans' father, and so that when the wall becomes weak again and collapses, the orphans will be older and stronger and will take the treasure that belongs to them.
Muslim scholars identify the Servant of God mentioned in these verses as Khiḍr, although he is not explicitly named in the Qur'an and there is no reference to him being immortal or being especially associated with esoteric knowledge or fertility. These associations come in later scholarship on Khiḍr.
Khiḍr in "The History of al-Tabari" 
In his chapter 'The Tale of al-Khiḍr and His History; and the History of Moses and His Servant Joshua,' al-Tabari describes several versions of the traditional story surrounding Khiḍr. At the beginning of the chapter, al-Tabari explains that in some variations, Khiḍr is a contemporary of the mythical Persian king Afridun, who was a contemporary of Abraham, and lived before the days of Moses. Khiḍr is also said to have been appointed to be over the vanguard of the king Dhu al-Quarnayn the Elder, who in this version is identified as the king Afridun. In this specific version, Khiḍr comes across the River of Life and, unaware of its properties, drinks from it and becomes immortal. Al-Tabari also recounts that Khiḍr is said to have been the son of a man who believed in Abraham, and who emigrated with Abraham when he left Babylon.
Khiḍr is also commonly associated with Elijah, even equated with him, and al-Tabari makes a distinction in the next account in which Khiḍr is Persian and Elijah is Israeli. According to this version of Khiḍr's story, Khiḍr and Elijah meet every year during the annual festival season.
Al-Tabari seems more inclined to believe that Khiḍr lived during the time of Afridun before Moses, rather than traveled as Abraham's companion and drank the water of life. He does not state clearly why he has this preference, but rather seems to prefer the chain of sources (the isnad) of the former story rather than the latter.
The various versions in al-Tabari's History more or less parallel each other and the account in the Qur'an. However, in the stories al-Tabari recounts, Moses claims to be the most knowledgeable man on earth, and God corrects him by telling him to seek out Khiḍr. Moses is told to bring a salted fish, and once he found the fish to be missing, he would then find Khiḍr. Moses sets out with a travel companion, and once they reach a certain rock, the fish comes to life, jumps into the water, and swims away. It is at this point that Moses and his companion meet Khiḍr.
Al-Tabari also adds to lore surrounding the origins of Khiḍr's name. He refers to a saying of Muhammad, that Khiḍr was called green because he sat on a white fur and it shimmered green with him.
Reports in the Hadith 
Among the strongest transmitted proofs about the life of Khiḍr are two reports, one narrated by Imam Ahmad in Al-Zuhd whereby Muhammad is said to have stated that Elijah and Khidr meet every year and spend the month of Ramadan in Jerusalem and the other narrated by Ya'qub ibn Sufyan from Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz whereby a man he was seen walking with was actually Khiḍr. Ibn Hajar declared the claim of the first fair and that of the second sound in Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 6:435). He goes on to cite another sound report narrated by Ibn 'Asakir from Abu Zur'a al-Razi whereby the latter met Khiḍr twice, once in his youth, the other in old age, but Khiḍr himself had not changed.
Khiḍr is believed to be a man who has the appearance of a young adult but a long, white beard. According to some authors like Abdul Haq Vidhyarthi, al-Khiḍr is Xerxes (not to be confused with Xerxes I), who disappeared after being in the lake regions of Sijistan or Sistan that comprise the wetlands of the Irano-Afghan border today, and after finding the fountain of life, sought to live his entire remaining life in service of God and to help those in their path/journey to Him.
Imam Bukhari reports that Khiḍr got his name after he was present over the surface of some ground that became green as a result of his presence there. There are reports from Al-Bayhaqi that Khiḍr was present at the funeral of Muhammad and was recognized only by Abu Bakr and Ali from amongst the rest of the companions, and where he came to show his grief and sadness at the passing away of Muhammad. Khiḍr's appearance at Muhammad's funeral is related as follows: A powerful-looking, fine-featured, handsome man with a white beard came leaping over the backs of the people till he reached where the sacred body lay. Weeping bitterly, he turned toward the Companions and paid his condolences. Abu Bakr and Ali said that he was Khiḍr.
In another narration Khiḍr met with Ali by the Ka'bah and instructed him about a supplication that is very meritorious when recited after the obligatory prayers. It is reported by Imam Muslim that during the time when the false Messiah appears and as he approaches at the outskirts of the city of Medina, a believer would challenge him, whom the false Messiah will slice into two piece and rejoin, making it appear that he caused him to die and be resurrected, to which this man would proclaim the falsehood of the Dajjal who would try again to kill him (or make show of it) but would fail and thus his weakness and inability being made revealed. According to the commentators and transmitters of this narration the person who will challenge the Antichrist and humiliate him will be Khiḍr.
Islamic Perspectives 
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In Shia Islam 
Many Shī‘ī Muslims believe al-Khiḍr accompanied the Twelfth Imām, Muhammad al-Mahdi, in meeting one Sheikh Hassan ibn Muthlih Jamkarani, on 22 February 984 CE (17 Ramadan 373 A.H.) and instructing him to build a mosque at that site of their meeting, known as Jamkaran. The site, six kilometres east of Qom, Iran, has been a pilgrimage destination for the Shī‘ah for some time. In the last few years, however, it has become very popular, particularly with young people, and drawn crowds of tens of thousands.
In Sufism 
To Sufis, Khiḍr holds a very dear place. Although amongst the Sunni scholars there is a difference of opinion about him being still alive, amongst Sunni Sufis there is almost a consensus that Khiḍr is still alive, with many respected figures and shaykhs, and prominent leaders claiming having had personal encounters with him. Examples of those who have claimed this are Hazrat Syed Sheikh Sultan Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani, Imam Nawawi, Ibn Arabi, Sidi Abdul Aziz ad-Dabbagh and Ahmad ibn Idris al-Fasi. Ibn 'Ata' Allah in Lata'if al-Minan (1:84-98) states that there is consensus among the Sufis that Khiḍr is alive. In fact there are orders that claim origin with Khiḍr himself, or that Khiḍr was part of their chain, for example some of the Naqshbandiyya, the Muhammadiyyah, the Idrisiyyah, and the Sanusiyyah are tariqahs that had Khiḍr as one of the central figures connecting them to the spiritual outflow of Muhammad.
In Sufi tradition, Khiḍr has come to be known as one of those who receive illumination direct from God without human mediation. He is the hidden initiator of those who walk the mystical path, like some of those from the Uwaisi tariqa. Uwaisis are those who enter the mystical path without being initiated by a living master. Instead they begin their mystical journey either by following the guiding light of the teachings of the earlier masters or by being initiated by the mysterious prophet-saint Khiḍr.
Khiḍr has had thus gained enormous reputation and popularity in the Sufi tradition due to his role as an initiator. Through this way come several Sufi orders which claim initiation through Khiḍr and consider him their master. Khiḍr had thus come to symbolize access to the divine mystery (ghayb) itself. In the writings of Abd al-Karim al-Jili, Khiḍr rules over ‘the Men of the Unseen' (rijalu’l-ghayb)— the exalted saints and angels. Khiḍr is also included among what in classical Sufism are called the abdāl (‘those who take turns’). In Sufi hierarchy, abdal is a mysterious rank. It is thought in Sufism that Allah decides who will be abdal for a decade before an abdal is born. Adbals are thought as the gainers of mysterious power that is knowing the future also called Ilm-e-ladunni. They are deployed to protect some unwanted evil activities that threaten the existence of Islam. In a divinely-instituted hierarchy of such saints, Khiḍr holds the rank of their spiritual head.
The Sri Lankan Sufi Bawa Muhaiyaddeen gives a unique account of Khiḍr. Khiḍr was on a long search for Allah, until Allah, out of his mercy, sends the Archangel Gabriel to guide him. Gabriel appears to Khiḍr as a wise human sage, and Khiḍr accepts him as his teacher. Gabriel teaches Khiḍr much in the same way as Khiḍr later teaches Moses in the Qur'an, by carrying out seemingly unjust actions. Khiḍr repeatedely breaks his oath not to speak out against Gabriel's actions, and is still unaware that the human teacher is actually Gabriel. Gabriel then explains his actions, and reveals his true angelic form to Khiḍr. Khiḍr recognises him as the Archangel Gabriel, and then Gabriel bestows a spiritual title upon Khiḍr, by calling him Hayat Nabi, the Eternal Life Prophet.
The French scholar of Sufism, Henry Corbin, interprets Khiḍr as the mysterious prophet, the eternal wanderer. The function of Khiḍr as a 'person-archetype' is to reveal each disciple to himself, to lead each disciple to his own theophany, because that theophany corresponds to his own 'inner heaven,' to the form of his own being, to his eternal individuality. Accordingly, Khidr is Moses' spiritual guide, who initiates Moses into the divine sciences, and reveals to him the secret mystic truth.
In Ahmadiyya 
Ahmadiyya identifies al-Khidr to be the symbolic representation of the Islamic prophet Muhammad himself. Ahmadis believe that the Quranic passage of Moses’ encounter with the "Servant of God" is closely linked, contextually to the subject matter of surah Al Kahf in which his story or parable is cited. According to Ahmadi exegesis on al-Kahf, which draws upon external and internal, religious and historical evidence to show that Moses' journey towards, and his experience with the "servant of God" was not physical but by way of vision, similar to the Mi'raj (ascension) of Muhammad.
The righteous 'servant of God' otherwise known as al-Khiḍr is not believed to be a historical figure but rather a symbolic figure who signifies the person of Muhammad whom Moses had desired to see and whom he saw in this vision. Muhammad has been called the 'servant of God' in many places within the Qur'an and is believed to be the servant of God par excellence who has been called a mercy to the whole world; he is also believed to have been vouchsafed divine knowledge in a very large measure.
The place of the meeting of the two seas signifies the time when the Mosaic dispensation meets the Islamic dispensation, i.e. when the Judaic dispensation will be superseded by the Islamic one.
The first action of "the servant of God" of making a hole in the boat is interpreted as signifying the commandments laid down by Muhammad which would, as it were make a hole in the boat, which in spiritual terms denotes worldly riches, i.e. he would see to it that wealth is fairly distributed and does not accumulate in the hands of a few. The "poor people" to whom the boat belonged represent the Muslims, and making a hole in it means that Islam would exhort its followers to spend in the way of God by way of Zakat and charity that would seem to be a source of economic weakness, but in fact would be one of economic strength and prosperity.
The tyrant king who confiscates the boats were the Byzantine and Persian Empires who would have seized Arabia had it not seemed to them a poor and barren land not worth conquering. Thus the Arabian land in which Muhammad was to appear, represented as the damaged boat had been safeguarded from being conquered or "taken by force".
The youth, is interpreted as ignorance, strength and wild impulses, thus the second action of the "servant of God", the killing of the youth signifies that the teachings of his religion would require its followers to bring about a veritable death over their carnal desires and passions. The source of these carnal desires, impulses and passions is the human body and soul combined, from which all moral qualities spring. Islamic theology holds that every human is born virtuous, thus because his parents have been called "believers", this means that the believers may be dragged into vice by the impulses represented as the "youth". Islam seeks to eradicate these impulses and leaves man with the soul and body combined to develop along beneficent lines to achieve the high purpose of human life.
Then Moses and the "servant of God" approach a town, ask its people for food and are refused to be accepted as guests. This signifies that both Moses and Muhammad would seek co-operation from Jews and Christians but it would be denied. The two orphan boys to whom the wall belonged are Moses and Jesus and their 'righteous' father is Abraham. Their treasure was the true teaching bequeathed by them to their peoples, which was in danger of being lost due to the latter’s irreligiousness. Thus the third act of the 'servant of God' (Muhammad) of rebuilding the wall signifies that the treasure or true teachings were to be safeguarded in the Quran, so that they (the people of Moses and Jesus) may accept it after having awakened to a realization of the truth of the Quranic teachings.
Comparative mythology 
There are several versions of the Novel Alexander Romance in which Khiḍr figures as a servant of Zul-Qarneyn. in one version, Khidr and Zulqarnain cross the Land of Darkness to find the Water of Life. Zulqarnain gets lost looking for the spring, but Khiḍr finds it and gains eternal life. In the Iskandarnamah by an anonymous author, Khiḍr is asked by Zulqarnain to lead him and his armies to the Water of Life. Khidr agrees, and eventually stumbles upon the Water of Life on his own.
Some scholars suggest that Khiḍr is also represented in the Arthurian tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as the Green Knight. In the story, the Green Knight tempts the faith of Sir Gawain three times. The character of Khiḍr may have come into European literature through the mixing of cultures during the Crusades. It is also possible that the story derives from an Irish myth which predates the Crusades in which Cuchulainn and two other heroes compete for the champion's portion at feasts; ultimately, Cuchulainn is the only one willing to let a giant — actually a king who has magically disguised himself — cut off his head, as per their agreement.
The story is also similar to one told by Rabbi Nissim ben Jacob in the eleventh century of a journey made by the prophet Elijah and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi. The first house where they stay the night belongs to a pious old couple who give the prophet and the rabbi the best of their food and beds. However, the couple's cow dies in the night. Elijah later explains that the Angel of Death came and he persuaded the angel to take the cow instead of the wife. The next house, as in the Khiḍr story, is that of a rich miser, and Elijah repairs his wall so that he will not, in having it repaired, find the treasure hidden under it.
A third potential parallel to the legend surrounding Khiḍr is the epic of Gilgamesh. The episode in question takes place after the death of the king Gilgamesh's closest friend Enkidu. Gilgamesh goes on a journey to find his ancestor Utnapishtim, a wise figure who was granted immortal life and who lives at the mouth of two rivers. Ultimately, although Gilgamesh finds Utnapishtim, he is not able to attain immortality. Although the parallel is not exact, the story shares several major themes with both Surah 18 in the Qur'an and the Alexander romance, namely, the presence of a wise figure in all three stories, and the quest and ultimate failure to attain immortality in the epic of Gilgamesh and the Alexander romance.
In certain parts of India, Khiḍr is also known as Khwadja Khidr, a river god or spirit of wells and streams. He is mentioned in the Sikandar-nama as the saint who presides over the well of immortality, and is revered by both Hindus and Muslims. He is sometimes pictured as an old man dressed in green, and is believed to ride upon a fish. His principal shrine is on an island of the Indus by Bakhar.
In The Unreasoning Mask, by famed science fiction writer, Philip José Farmer, Ramstan, captain of the al-Buraq, a rare model spaceship capable of instantaneous travel between two points, attempts to stop an unidentified "creature" that is annihilating intelligent life on planets throughout the universe, he is haunted by repeating vision of meeting al-Khidr.
See also 
- Muslim views on the intercession of saints
- Saint George#Interfaith Shrine
- The Green Man
- Qur'an, 18:65
- "al-Khadir (al-Khidr)". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Qur'an, 18:64–65
- Stories of The Prophets, ibn Kathir, The Story of Khizr
- [Quran 18:65]
- [Quran 18:66]
- [Quran 18:68]
- Wheeler, Brannon M. (2002). Moses in the Quran and Islamic Exegesis. London: Routledge Curzon. p. 23.
- Wheeler, Brannon M. (2002). Moses in the Quran and Islamic Exegesis. London: Routledge Curzon. pp. 23–24.
- Al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. pp. 1–2.
- al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. p. 2.
- al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. pp. 2–3.
- Al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. p. 3.
- Al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. pp. 4–5.
- Al-Tabari (1991). The History of al-Tabari. Albany: State University of New York. p. 17.
- Ibn al-Jazari, 1994, p. 228
- "History of Jamkaran Mosque". Jafariya News. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- Nasr, Vali, The Shia Revival, (Norton, 2006), p.220
- Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Ismailis: "(Ismaili's believe in) a 'permanent Imam'."
- Quran 21:108
- "The Holy Quran". Alislam.org. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- "The Holy Quran". Alislam.org. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- Anonymous (1978). Iskandarnamah. New York: Columbia University. p. 55.
- Anonymous (1978). Iskandarnamah. New York: Columbia University. p. 57.
- Lasater, Alice E. (1974). Spain to England: A Comparative Study of Arabic, European, and English Literature of the Middle Ages. University Press of Mississippi.
- Ahmad, Hadhrat al-Hajj Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmood -Khalifatul Masih II. Tafsir e Kabir iv. (10 Volumes. Rabwah, 1962).
- Nissim ben Jacob ibn Shahin, Sefer Ma'asiyyot ha-Hakhamim wehu Ḥibbur Yafeh meha-Yeshu'ah, (Judeo-Arabic, 11th century);
modern translation by William M. Brinner as An Elegant Composition concerning Relief after Adversity: Yale 1977 (Yale Judaica Series vol 20), ISBN 978-0-300-01952-0; pbk 1996, ISBN 1-56821-984-9
extracted in Polano, H. (1876). The Talmud: Selections.
- Brannon M. Wheeler, The Jewish origins of Qur An 18:65-82? Reexamining Arent Jan Wensick's theory, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 118, 153–171, April–June 1998 (via findarticles.com)
- "al-Khidar (al-Khidr)". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Longworth Dames, M. "Khwadja Khidr". Encyclopedia of Islam, Second Edition. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Michelangelo Chasseur: Oriental Elements in Surat al Kahf. Annali di Scienze Religiose 1, Brepols Publishers 2008, ISSN 2031-5929, p. 255-289 (Brepols Journals Online)
- Oliver Leaman: The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis 2006, ISBN 0-415-32639-7, p. 343-345 (restricted online version (Google Books))