Al-Khidr

Joumana Medlej

London, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Al-Khidr الخضر, “the green one” is a mythical figure of Islam loosely situated as contemporary of Moses. In Lebanese folklore he’s sometimes identified with St George, the patron of Beirut. Two points about Khidr, the fact he lives “where the two seas meet” and he is referred to as the wisest man, indicate that as a mythological figure he descends straight from the Canaanite god El, and beyond him to the Mesopotamian Ea, both of which lived at the meeting of the two seas in the Underworld and were called wisest of the wise.

Materials: watercolor, silver leaf and gel pen on 300g Cotman paper. The total paper size is 50×50cm.
The choice of green is obvious, but the reason I went for silver, rather than gold, is that as a hidden, initiatic figure, Khidr has a lunar quality rather than solar. (Work process on my blog)

Khidr’s role as initiator of prophets and archetypical wali (Sufi saint) is best known from this story told in the Qur’an:

At the place where the two seas meet, Moses met Khidr, one whom Allâh had given knowledge of Himself. Moses asked Khidr, “May I follow you so that you may guide me by that which you have been taught?”
“You will not be able to bear with me,” Khidr replied. “For how can you bear with that which is beyond your knowledge?”
Moses said, “If Allâh wills you will find me patient; I shall not disobey you in anything.”
Khidr said, “If you want to follow me, you must not ask any questions about anything, until I myself speak to you about it.”
The two set out. They embarked on a ship and immediately Khidr bored a hole in the
bottom of the ship.
“What a strange thing you have done!” exclaimed Moses. “Have you bored a hole in order
to drown the ship’s passengers?”
“Did I not tell you,” he replied, “that you would not bear with me?”
“Pardon my forgetfulness,” said Moses. “Do not be angry with me because of this.”
They continued on their journey until they met a young man. Moses’ companion killed this young man, and Moses said: “You have killed an innocent man who has done nothing wrong. You have committed a wicked crime.”
“Did I not tell you,” Khidr replied, “that you would not bear with me?”
Moses said: “If I ever question you again, abandon me; for then I would have deserved it.”
They journeyed on until they came to a certain city. They asked the people for some
food, but these people would not receive them as guests. Finding a wall on the point of falling down, Moses’ companion repaired it. Moses said to his companion, “If you had wanted, you could have asked payment for your work.”
“The time has now come when we must separate,” said Khidr. “But first I will explain to
you the meaning of those acts which you could not bear to watch with patience.
“The ship belonged to some poor fishermen. I damaged it because if it had gone to sea it
would have been captured by a king who was seizing every boat by force.
“The young man was a criminal, who would have committed many crimes that would have brought sorrow to many people, including his parents.
“As for the wall, it belonged to two orphaned boys in the city whose father was an honest
man. Beneath the wall their treasure is buried. Allâh decreed in his mercy that they should dig out this treasure when they grew to manhood. What I did was not by my own will.
“That is the meaning of my acts which you could not bear to watch with patience."

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