قَالَ هَذَا فِرَاقُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنِكَ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأْوِيلِ مَا لَمْ تَسْتَطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا
He said: ‘This is the parting between me and you. But now I will tell you the interpretation of that which you could not patiently bear.
أَمَّا السَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتْ لِمَسَاكِينَ يَعْمَلُونَ فِي الْبَحْرِ فَأَرَدْتُ أَنْ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَاءَهُمْ مَلِكٌ يَأْخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصْبًا
As for the ship, it belonged to poor people working on the sea. I rendered it imperfect because behind them there was a king who was taking every ship by brutal force.
وَأَمَّا الْغُلامُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤْمِنَيْنِ فَخَشِينَا أَنْ يُرْهِقَهُمَا طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا
As for the boy, his parents are believers, and we were afraid lest he should impose on them with his insolence and disbelief.
فَأَرَدْنَا أَنْ يُبْدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيْرًا مِنْهُ زَكَاةً وَأَقْرَبَ رُحْمًا
It was our wish that their Lord should grant them another in exchange, another better in purity and tenderness.
وَأَمَّا الْجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلامَيْنِ يَتِيمَيْنِ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحْتَهُ كَنْزٌ لَهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَالِحًا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَنْ يَبْلُغَا أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسْتَخْرِجَا كَنْزَهُمَا رَحْمَةً مِنْ رَبِّكَ وَمَا فَعَلْتُهُ عَنْ أَمْرِي ذَلِكَ تَأْوِيلُ مَا لَمْ تَسْطِعْ عَلَيْهِ صَبْرًا
As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city. Beneath it was (buried) a treasure which belonged to them. Their father had been a righteous person and your Lord willed that when they reach manhood to bring out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. What I did was not done by my own command. That is the interpretation of what you could not bear with patience.’
(al-Kahf: 78 – 82)
This passage is part of Surah al-Kahf, and it is Khidr ‘alaihis salaam explaining his actions to Musa ‘alaihis salaam. There were three different incidents which took place, and if you study the reply of Khidr ‘alaihis salaam carefully, you would notice something very interesting. For each case he uses a different pronoun, although it is all his speech.
In the first case he says “fa aradtu – I intended”. In the second one he says, “fa aradnaa – we intended”. And lastly, he says, “fa araada rabbuka – your Lord intended”. So what is the reason for this? Why a different choice of words in each ayah, rather than just the same one throughout?
In the first instance, Khidr ‘alaihis salaam had damaged the boat of the people. And it is a characteristic of the Qur’an, that negative acts are not attributed directly by Allah, ‘azza wa jall, to Himself (see 17: 83 and 26: 80) even though He is the Controller of all affairs. So here Khidr ‘alaihis salaam attributed this evil deed to himself and not to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
In the second scenario, he had killed the young boy so that he could be replaced by one better and more righteous. So two things are involved in this, one of them evil and the other one good. That is why he used the dual pronoun “we”. By doing so he attributed the evil of killing the boy to himself, while attributing the replacement of a more pious child, to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
In the last case, the rebuilding of the wall contained only benefit and good for the orphans and their father. There was nothing bad included in it. Therefore the wording used attributed this deed to Allah ‘azza wa jall alone.
(This was adapted from the book ‘Lamasaat Bayaaniyyah fi Nusus min al-Tanzeel‘ by Dr. Fadil Salih al-Samirani)