Irfan Omar in "Khidr in the Islamic Tradition"[1]:

Khidr in the Qur’ān

In the Qur’an the story begins by Moses’ declaration to his servant/companion that “I will not give up till I reach the confluence of two oceans”.[2] Moses and Joshua had begun to search for “a servant of Allah” from whom Moses was to learn the ‘secret knowledge given him by God. As seen above, Muslim tradition identifies this “servant” as Khidr.

Qur’ānic commentators have related several opinions with regard to the status of Khidr. Some say he is one of the prophets; others refer to him simply as an angel who functions as a guide to those who seek God.[3] And there are yet others who argue for his being a perfect wali meaning the one whom God has taken as a friend.[4]

Some commentators who have thought of Khidr as a prophet, have mainly argued on the basis of the Qur’ānic reference to him as rahma. What does this term, rahma, mean in its Qur’ānic context? As related above the Qur’ān re­lates in S.18:65; Khidr is one of those “…whom We had blessed…”. This characterization usually applies to the prophets. Rahma comes from the root RHM meaning ‘womb’. Other translations of S.18:65 include,

And there they found a devotee among Our devotees. We had blessed him with Our grace…[5]

…they found one of our servants unto whom we had granted mercy from us…[6]

Commentators are more or less in agreement that the status of Moses is certainly higher than that of Khidr, since he (Moses) is not only a Messenger (rasūl) but also a prophet (nabi),[8] bearer of the divine revelation and provisions of the law. Khidr, on the other hand, does not hold these titles, although the Qur’ān calls him a ‘Servant’ of God. Ibn ‘Arabi’s account of this encoun­ter also sheds some light on the nature of their relationship. Netton, for example, points out that there is an

…overwhelming emphasis on rank and knowledge…for al-Khadir is aware that Moses hold the exalted rank of Messenger (rasūl) which he, al-Khadir, does not…[9]

However, to analyze the subsequent verse of Sūrat al-Kahf, verse 66, in this context, we find that it deals with Moses’ request to he instructed by Khidr, which, seemingly at least, puts Khidr at a higher position than that of Moses. This further confirms the status of Khidr as a prophet, as mentioned in the previous verse.

The emphasis here is on two key words which perhaps determine the overall meaning of the verse, atabi’ka and tu’allimanī which may have direct bearing upon the status of Khidr. Ahmed Ali translates it as,

“…May I attend upon you that you may instruct me in the knowledge you have been taught of the right way?’ (emphasis added)

Amir-Ali has translated the key words as,

…May I follow thee so that thou mayst teach me something of thy wisdom?” (emphasis added)

[1] The Muslim World Vol. LXXXIII, No. 3-4, July—October, 1993.

[2] S.18:60 Qur’ān. translation of Ahmned Ali. 255.

[3] Sultan Hasan, ‘Irfan al-Qur’ān (Agra: Maktaba ‘Irfan. n.d.). 113.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hashim Amir-Ati, The Message of the Qur’ān: Presented in Perspective (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1974), K-30. Sec. 328-330.

[6] George Sale, The Koran, 244.

[7] Note that here Ahmed Ali translates rahma as ‘benevolence’; cf. A. Yusuf Ali’s translation as ‘mercy’.

[8] See Hifzur Rahman. Qisasul Qur’ān, (Delhi: Nadwatul Musannifin, 1975), pt. l, 545; cf. lan Richard Netton. “Theophany as Paradox: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Account of al-Khadir in his Fusus al-Hikam” in the Journal of the Muhiyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society XI: (1992), 18.

[9] Nettoms. “Theophany as Paradox: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Account of al-Khadir in his Fusus al-Hikam” in the Journal of the Muhiyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society XI: (1992), 18.