Hadith of Moosa (A.S) and Hoot (Whale)

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Hoot (حوت) means big fish in Arabic. Normally the word is used for whales and dolphins. There is an incident mentioned in Al-Kitab about a Hoot/Whale swallowing prophet Yunus A.S. There is another incident mentioned in Al-Kitab about Prophet Moosa (A.S)and a youth who went on an expedition. The indication they had of their quest was to follow a Hoot/whale uptil the point of merging of two oceans.

18:60  وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِفَتَاهُ لَا أَبْرَحُ حَتَّىٰ أَبْلُغَ مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ أَوْ أَمْضِيَ حُقُبًا

And when, Moses said to his attendant, “I will not give up until I reach the junction of the two seas or even If I have to spend a long time in travel.”

18:61  فَلَمَّا بَلَغَا مَجْمَعَ بَيْنِهِمَا نَسِيَا حُوتَهُمَا فَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ سَرَبًا

But when they both reached the Junction, they forgot (about) their Whale, which took its course in the sea freely.

18:62  فَلَمَّا جَاوَزَا قَالَ لِفَتَاهُ آتِنَا غَدَاءَنَا لَقَدْ لَقِينَا مِن سَفَرِنَا هَٰذَا نَصَبًا

When they had passed on (some distance), Moses said to his attendant. “Bring us our supper; truly we have suffered much fatigue at this (stage of) our journey.”

18:63  قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِذْ أَوَيْنَا إِلَى الصَّخْرَةِ فَإِنِّي نَسِيتُ الْحُوتَ وَمَا أَنسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ ۚ وَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ عَجَبًا

He replied. “Did you see (what happened) when we betook ourselves to the rock? I did indeed forget (about) the Whale. none but Satan made me forget to tell (you) about it. it took its course through the sea in a marvelous way!”

18:64  قَالَ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنَّا نَبْغِ ۚ فَارْتَدَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِمَا قَصَصًا

Moses said. “That was what we were seeking after.” So they went back on their footsteps, following (the path they had come).

18:65  فَوَجَدَا عَبْدًا مِّنْ عِبَادِنَا آتَيْنَاهُ رَحْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا وَعَلَّمْنَاهُ مِن لَّدُنَّا عِلْمًا

So they found one of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence.

The conventional story associated with above Ayas in Quran is that Moosa and his attendant were on land. They had a cooked fish with them as their meal. After walking for a long time Moosa was tired and asked the attendant to bring the fish for their meal. At that time the attendant told him that when they passed over the rock, the dead fish suddenly became alive and made its way into the water. Moosa told him that was the place they were seeking and they turned back to find that place.

In the above conventional story beside the problem of a cooked fish suddenly becoming alive and jumping in water, another point is that the word Hoot (حوت) is used for big fish like whale and dolphin which people don’t carry for lunches.  The small fish which are eaten are called Samak( سمك) in Arabic. If we ponder over the Ayas only, the scenario which builds up is that Moosa and the youth must be travelling on a boat or ship. They are following a whale or dolphin. Whales do season migration on known routes. They are following the whale which is destined to go to a specific place as part of whale migration. The likely place which fulfills the conditions of the meeting place of two seas is the ‘Strait of Jibralter’. The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow body of water between Spain and Morocco that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

The points which indicate likely hood of Strait of Jibraltar to be the Moosa’s intended place are given below:

  1. This place has to be the meeting place of two seas or oceans. Strait of Jibralter is the meeting place of Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea
  2. For the term Majma al Beharain (مَجْمَعَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ )The Quran states that there are two large bodies of flowing water (Bahr-ain in Arabic) that meet but do not intermingle because of a “barrier” between them, a barrier that doesn’t prevent meeting but prevents intermingling (Al-Quran 55:19-20). THE ATLANTIC AND THE MEDITERRANEAN MEET BUT DO NOT INTERMIGLE OVER THE GIBRALTAR BECAUSE OF THE “BARRIER”. These two waters keep their distinct salinities separate over the junction.
  3. Another point to indicate the place is the Sakhra (الصَّخْرَةِ ) / Rock mentioned in 18:63. Moosa’s youth told him that the Whale made its way near the Rock, at that point he was distracted. Rock (صَّخْرَةِ) of Jibraltar is an interesting tourist place and a land mark, and a likely candidate to have distracted the youth who was following the whale upto that point.  See link http://www.gettyimages.ca/photos/rock-of-gibraltar?sort=mostpopular&mediatype=photography&phrase=rock%20of%20gibraltar#license
  4. This place is visited by a lot of whales and dolphins and many tourist companies now a days run whale watching tours in this place. See link, http://www.firmm.org/en/

 

 

 

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