Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: Is the supremacy of the shariah not attacked in the story of Prophet Musa and Khidr?
1) The story implies that the actions which are by apparent standards contrary to shariah should not be opposed because Khidr was granted future knowledge. This would imply that the shariah rule of applying based on what is apparent would be broken.
2) By inferring that a person with such knowledge as Khidr would also have a superior authority of interpreting the shariah itself. Therefore, a shariah cannot be applied upon a person with ilham as his ilham grants him authority over interpreting the shariah itself.
So in these two ways the story would question the supremacy of the shariah. How is this issue answered?
I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.
The short answer is no, the supremacy of the Sacred Law (sharia) is by no means attacked in the story of Prophet Musa and Khidr (Allah bless them and send them peace).
It is true that the actions of our Master Khidr appeared to be contraventions of the Sacred Law, such as damaging a boat (18:71) and killing a boy (18:74). However, as we learn from the Qur’an, they were not actual contraventions since he was given revelation by Allah to do those acts.
The Particular is not Generalized
The particular incidents that took place in the meeting between our Masters Musa and Khidr (Allah bless them and send them peace) cannot be generalized to other situations. In our community, any contravention of the Sacred Law (sharia) is just that — a contravention of the Sacred Law, whether done by a Sufi, scholar, or any other member of the umma.
As for the particular incidents between Khidr and Musa (Allah bless them and send them peace), they were not contraventions simply because Allah Most High commanded Khidr to do those acts by way of revelation (wahy). Therefore, knowledge of those acts being sanctioned exceptions to normal legal rulings was definitive (qat’i).
Related Qur’anic Verses
Allah Most High describes our Master Khidr as follows: “We granted him vast mercy from Our Presence, and We taught him, directly from Our Presence, profound knowledge.” (18:65)
Imam Baydawi explains the “vast mercy” as “revelation (wahy) and prophethood (nubuwwa).” And he explains the “profound knowledge” as “knowledge of the unseen realms.” [Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil] Although there is difference of opinion as to whether he was a prophet or not, all scholars agree that his actions were sanctioned by direct knowledge from Allah Most High.
As Khidr himself said, as conveyed to us by Allah in the Qur’an, “I did it not [i.e., all that you saw] of my own accord.” (18:82)
Imam Baydawi comments, “Nay, rather I did it only by the command of Allah Mighty and Majestic.” [Anwar al-Tanzil wa Asrar al-Ta’wil]
No one in the umma — no matter how great a saint or scholar — can receive revelation (wahy), and hence none may contravene the Sacred Law. Inspiration (ilham) differs from revelation (wahy), and if any inspiration suggests contravention of the Sacred Law, it is not true inspiration but instead whisperings from the devil and utter heresy.
Related Statements by Sufi Masters
Imam Junaid (Allah have mercy on him) said, “All paths are blocked off, except for those who wholeheartedly follow the way of the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace).”
Abu Sulayman al-Darani (Allah have mercy on him) said, “Sometimes a Sufi perspective will occur to my heart for days, yet I refuse to accept it unless testified by two upright witnesses: The Book and the Sunna.”
Abu Sa’eed al-Kharraz (Allah have mercy on him) said, “Any inward matter that contradicts an outward ruling is pure falsehood.”
[Birgivi, Tariqa Muhammadiyya, citing Qushayri’s Epistle]
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani