1st Edition

The Qur’anic Dilemma A Hermeneutical Investigation of al-Khidr

By Abla Hasan Copyright 2023

    This book focuses on reconnecting with the lost rich humanitarian content of the Qur’an through a hermeneutical investigation of al-Khidr’s story. Through an active engagement with primary and secondary sources, the book provides a new analytic reading of this puzzling Qur’anic story.

    By reinvestigating the largely overlooked pluralistic message in the Qur’an, the book debunks an Islamic fundamentalism, which often uses the text as a justification for ill-informed choices that can be easily seen to drag the Qur’anic text in unexpected directions. It introduces current academic controversies over proper addressing of critical issues in Islamic heritage and goes beyond mystic romanticization to clarify blind spots in reading al-Khidr’s story. Through rethinking al-Khidr’s story, the book addresses the exegetical classical and modern attempts to reconcile the Qur’anic unconditional endorsement of the right to life for everyone regardless of their faith, with the perplexing reference to infidelity as a justification for killing found in chapter 18.

    The Qur’anic Dilemma will be of interest to all scholars of Islamic Studies or those interested in Qur’anic interpretation, Muslim ethics, or comparative theology.


    1. A Modern Relevance of an Old Story

    2. The Story

    3. Does the Qur’an Endorse Killing and Religious Violence?

    4. The Dilemma

    5. Exegetical Attempts to Solve the Dilemma: Classical and Modern

    6. Solving the Dilemma: A New Qur’anic Approach





    Abla Hasan is Associate Professor of Practice of Arabic Language and Culture at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA. She is the author of On Pain and Suffering: A Qur’anic Perspective (2022) and Decoding the Egalitarianism of the Qur’an: Retrieving Lost Voices on Gender (2019).

    "Hasan’s work advances the conversation in important ways by considering the historical, textual, linguistic, and literary aspects of the story of Prophet Khidr from within the ethical frame of view. This book addresses the "dilemma" posed by the Khidr narrative in the Qur’an concerning some of the key theological themes: taking of life, religious other, pluralism, human and divine powers, etc. Hasan examines the issues at hand at the granular level; something that is missing in many other works on the subject, and in that makes a significant contribution to Qur’anic studies, ethics, and to religious studies more broadly."

    Irfan A. Omar, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA

    "The Qur’anic Dilemma is a beautifully written, fascinating and brave book that takes the reader on a journey into one of the most controversial and wicked questions of Islam: How to reconcile the Qur’anic message of social justice and humanity with elements that seem to portray infidelity as a justification for killing? Through her analysis of the controversial (and often misunderstood) Qur’anic story about al-Khidr, Abla Hasan convincingly finds the solution to this dilemma in the Qur’an itself – a solution that centers the Qur’an’s deeply humanitarian message and challenges purposively politicising interpretations of both militant Islamists as well as Islamophobes from around the world. This book is highly engaging and deserves a broad readership, within and beyond Islamic Studies, within and beyond academia, and everyone interested in religious pluralism and co-existence."

    Mario Peucker, Victoria University, Melbourne, author of Muslim Citizenship in Liberal Democracies

    "With close textual analysis, Dr. Hasan demolishes claims by those who distort the Qur’an to argue that Islam is the sole legitimate faith and to justify brutality toward non-followers. She ably explains the enigmatic tale of al-Khidr, a mysterious figure whose killing of a young boy is cited by terrorists to rationalize murdering so-called infidels. Contradicting that distortion, Dr. Hasan instead eloquently demonstrates how the power of life and death in matters of faith resides in the hands of the Divine alone. She also draws fascinating parallels to the Biblical story in which Divine intercession spares Abraham’s son, despite a commanded sacrifice. Her work is an insightful contribution both theologically and politically, drawing on the text to advance the ideals of tolerance, compassion and understanding."

    Joseph Weber, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska, USA