Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 216..........Part 2
Prescribed for you is fighting, though it is disliked by you. It may well be that you dislike something but it is good for you, and it may well be that you like something but it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know. (Chapter 2: Verse 216)
How many times did each one of us chase after something he or she really wanted only to regret it later? How many times did each one of us expect good to come out of an action only to be sorry to see evil? The opposite is also true.
Allah –the All Wise- had clarified this concept for us through the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). He says:
Moses said to his servant, ‘I will not rest until I reach the place where the two seas meet, even if it takes me years!’ But when they reached the place where the two seas meet, they had forgotten all about their fish, which made its way into the sea and swam away. When they had gone a distance further on, he said to his servant, ‘Bring us our lunch. Truly this journey of ours has made us tired.’ He said, ‘Remember when we were resting by the rock? I forgot about the fish- and none but Satan made me forget to mention it to you- and it made its way into the sea in an amazing way!’ Moses said, ‘Then that was the place we were looking for.’ So the two turned back and retraced their footsteps. (18:60-64)
Prophet Moses was once walking towards the junction of the two seas accompanied by a young man helping him. Moses was searching for a wise man that he wished to meet. They carried with them a supply of salted fish to eat from on their journey. The trip was long, hard, and tiring. As they were walking, the young man noticed the salted fish miraculously make its way to the sea. When Moses and his companion rested from fatigue, Moses asked for the fish to eat. The young man apologized for forgetting to tell him what he saw of the fish. Moses said to him: ‘this is exactly what we have been looking for. It is a sign from God that we have reached our destination, and the man we are supposed to meet –named Al Khidr- is at the place where the fish made its way to the sea.’
Moses, peace be upon him, traced his steps back and met the righteous servant. Allah taught Al-Khidr from the divine knowledge which He only gives to His righteous servants as a reward for their devotion and piety. Moses, peace be upon him, asked the Lord's servant to teach him from his knowledge. But Al Khidr whom God granted more knowledge than the human capacity can entertain replied:
The man said, ‘You will not be able to bear with me patiently. How could you be patient in matters beyond your knowledge? (18:67-68)
Allah –the All-wise- had given prophet Moses a hint of what is to come. Moses knew that the loss of his fish food supply was a bad thing, but it was actually for his own benefit because it was a sign that led to the meeting place of the righteous servant. The same blueprint would continue throughout the verses as events unfold with Moses & Al Khidr –may God be pleased with them-. The verses narrate event after event that appears evil and unjust but in reality hold good and wisdom. Prophet Moses wanted to learn from the divine knowledge that Al Khidr was given. But Al Khidr warned him that he might see events that would test the limits of his patience. Moses insisted and promised to be a polite learner, to remain quiet, and not to object nor inquire about the reasons behind what he sees until it is explained to him. God narrates what happened next:
So they set forth until, when they embarked on the boat, he made a hole in it. Moses said: "Have you made a hole in it in order to drown its people? You have certainly done an awful thing!" He replied, ‘Did I not tell you that you would never be able to bear with me patiently?’ (18:71,72)
Prophet Moses couldn’t hold himself back from asking when he saw the Al-Khidr destroy a ship which belonged to poor men; then he remembered his promise.
He said, ‘Forgive me for forgetting. Do not make it too hard for me to follow you.’ (18:73)
And so they travelled on. Then, when they met a young boy and the man killed him, Moses said, ‘How could you kill an innocent person? He has not killed anyone! What a horrible thing to do!’ He replied, ‘Did I not tell you that you would never be able to bear with me patiently?’ He said, ‘If I question you about anything after this, do not keep me in your company. You have obtained from me an excuse." So they went on until when they came upon the people of a township, they asked its people for food, but they refused them hospitality. They found there a wall which was on the verge of tumbling down, and the man restored it. Moses said: "If you had wished, you could have taken payment for it." (18:74-77)
After this, Al Khidr and prophet Moses –peace be upon them- separated. But before they left, the righteous man explained to Moses the reasons behind the events that he was unable to be patient over due to his lack of knowledge. Al Khidr said: ‘I put a hole in the ship to save it from a king who seized every ship by force; I damaged it so the king would find the defective ship unappealing to take from the poor men. As for the young boy I killed. He was the son of righteous parents; this son would grow up to bring them tyranny, misery, and disbelief; God wanted to give them another son who is humble and righteous. By killing the boy before the age of puberty, he was guaranteed heaven, and so were his righteous parents. Finally, the wall that I rebuilt for the town had treasure buried underneath it that belonged to two orphans from the village. Their father was a pious man, so it was necessary to rebuild the wall and preserve it from the town’s rude and greedy people until the orphans reached the age of strength to extract the treasure. Then Al-Khidr said:
I did not do these things of my own accord: these are the explanations for those things you could not bear with patience.’ (From 18:82)
And there lies the key to the whole story: Al-Khidr did not attribute these acts to himself; rather he attributed them to the divine Creator who taught him. Allah is teaching you not to assume that good is always in what you like, nor is evil always in what you hate. God says: “It may well be that you dislike something but it is good for you, and it may well be that you like something but it is bad for you.” Thus, keep this fact in mind when it comes to fighting wars when necessary. Moreover, remember that God only issues commands of ‘do’ and ‘do not do’ to those who loved and believed in Him. God does not obligate anything on the disbelievers.
Here you may ask: how come God urges the believers to do something they do not like and leaves the disbeliever alone? We answer that Allah asks of those who love Him to do what is good and beneficial in this world and the next. The believers have entrusted God with their affairs, so He –the All-Merciful- takes care of them. Allah does not interfere with your freedom of choice. God orders you to do things only after you chose to believe and declare your faith in Him. Perhaps most importantly, and as a reminder, God says at the end of the verse: ‘God knows, and you do not know.’