Al Khidr : The Spiritual “greenness”

Khidr Al-Khadir (Kh-D-R) – an Arabic term meaning “green” and “verdant” – is the etymological root for a Middle-Eastern character known as al-Khidr: the Green One.

Khidr, Khizr, Khezr or Hizir – all point to a legendary figure who is said to have discovered the “Water-of-Life” (i.e. Spirit / Pure Consciousness) and is considered an eternal prophet. Coleman Barks informs us:

Khidr is connected philologically with Elijah and with Utnapishtim of the Gilgamesh epic. He may be partial source, along with Druidic lore, for the enigmatic Green Knight in the Middle English poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’.

It is important to examine the Qur’anic encounter between Moses and Khidr, as it provides critical dimension to our understanding of the Green Man archetype. Below is the excerpt:

...One day Moses said to his servant: “I will not cease from my wanderings until I have reached the place where the two seas meet, even though I may journey for eighty years” But when they had reached the place where the two seas meet, they forgot about their cooked breakfast fish; and the fish somehow came alive and found its way out and through a stream into the sea. Now when they had journeyed past this place, Moses said to his servant: “Bring us our breakfast, for we are weary from this journey” But the other replied “Oh! See what has befallen me! When we were resting there by the rock, I forgot the fish. Only Shaytan can have put it out of my mind and in wondrous fashion it found its way to the sea” Then Moses said “But that is the place we seek!” And so they went back the way they had come. And they found one of Our servants, whom we had endowed with Our grace and Our wisdom. Moses said to him “Can I follow you, that you may teach me, as guidance, some of the wisdom you have learnt?” But he answered “You will not bear with me, for how should you bear patiently with things you cannot comprehend?” Moses said “If Allah wills, you shall find me patient; I shall not in anyway disobey you” He said “If you are bent on following me, you must ask no question about anything till I myself speak to you concerning it” The two set forth, but as soon as they embarked, Moses’ companion bored a hole in the bottom of the ship. “A strange thing you have done! exclaimed Moses “Is it to drown her passengers that you have bored a hole in her?” “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 on this account”

They journeyed on until they came across a certain youth. Moses’ new companion drew a sword and slew him, and Moses said “You have killed an innocent man who has done no harm. Surely you have committed a wicked crime?” “Did I not tell you” he replied “that you would not bear with me?” Moses said “If ever I question you again, abandon me; for then I should deserve it” They travelled on until they came to a certain city. They asked the people for some food, but the people declined to receive them as their guests. There they found a wall that was on the point of falling down. Moses’ companion raised it up without fuss and qualm, and Moses said “You know, had you wished, you could have demanded payment from these ungrateful townsfolk for your labours” “Now the time has arrived when we must part!” said the other “But first I will explain to you those acts of mine which you could not bear with in patience. Know that the ship belonged to some poor fishermen. I damaged it because in the rear was a tyrant king who was taking every ship by force [and for certain corruptible means]. As for the youth, his parents both are true believers and we feared lest he should plague them with his wickedness and unbelief. It was our wish that their Lord should grant them another in his place, a son more righteous and more filial. As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city whose father was an righteous man. Beneath it, a treasure lays buried which is to be their inheritance. Your Lord decreed in His mercy that they should dig out their treasure when they grew to manhood [where it would not be wasted, or swindled from them]. What I did was not done by caprice. That is the meaning of the things you could not bear with in patience.”

The person referred to as “One of our servants, whom We had endowed with Our grace and Our wisdom” is the figure of Khidr, “the Verdant One” who plays a pivotal role in Islamic mysticism]- Qur’an (18:60-82) Adapted from: (accessed 2006)

Analogous to the chlorophyll within our plants and trees, Khidr (the “Green One”) symbolically images the threshold or interspace (barzakh) between our ‘solar’ (heavenly) and ‘earthly’ (physical) existence([i.e. “where the two seas meet”) (Qur’an (18:60/61) (This can be equated to the psycho-spiritual ‘Heart’ in humans (i.e. qalb)), thus providing our ‘earthly’ consciousness with the connective sustenance and vitality of the divine light of Spirit (i.e. Khidr transcends and refreshes our habitually dry, literalist or dogmatic religious understanding by representing the connective sustenance of direct intellection). Khidr is the spiritual teacher within us, the spark in the heart, our inborn secret… We meet him at the place where the cooked fish becomes alive; where the spiritual tradition becomes a living reality

As though exhibiting a Dionysian element, Khidr begins as a symbol of the “irrepressible Spirit” ( Anderson 1990. Pg 14) (re: the sudden resurrection of the fish).

Coleman Barks comments on the bridging function of Khidr:

He exists on the edge between the seen and the unseen. When Moses vows to find the place “where the two seas meet,” meaning where the spiritual and the worldly mix, he meets Khidr…Khidr represents the inner dimension which transcends form. He is the personification of the revealing function of the metaphysical intellect, the ‘prophetic soul’. He especially appears to solitaries, those who are cut off from normal channels of spiritual instruction.(In: Barks 1995. Pg 287)

Khidr, in his role as ‘guide’ into the deeper spiritual mysteries, has also been associated with Hermes (Idris): Idris, Enoch, al-Khidr and Hermes all seem to be one person. 

This guide al-Khidr initiates Moses into deeply esoteric lore. The ijnaj Ilhami, in Hadith traditions, consider al-Khadir as a holy being, mysterious and immortal whom all spiritual initiatory orders revere as the Master of the Path (Tariqa). Al-Khidr is often mentioned as the Green Angel Guide in Islamic writings. In fact, in Egyptian frescoes he is some times painted green with the head of an ibis.(  

and more here

Tom Cheetham comments,

In accordance with Islamic iconography, the color of the final stage [in the transformation of the self] is emerald green. For [Henry] Corbin this stage marks the meeting with the heaven Guide, the perfectly individuated and individual Angel of Humanity and Angel of Knowledge that is the biblical Angel of the Face. This is the Figure of whom Mohammad could say: “I have seen my Lord in the most beautiful of forms.” It announces the truth that beauty is the supreme theophany. The Qur’anic source for this Person is Sura XVIII… The seeker is born into his true self through the encounter with Khidr…

...Khidr is a mysterious figure, who acts as Moses’ Guide and initiator into the secret meanings of the Law and the world. He is the archetypal hermeneut whose speech is the lost poetry of Creation. In the Islamic tradition he is identified with the Old Testament figure of Elija. Khidr is the personal guide, and Corbin says, equivalent to the Paraclete and the Hidden Imam, to the Christ of the Cross of Light; he is the Verus Propheta, the inner guide of each person, the celestial Anthropos and Angel of Humanity whose appearance to every person is each time unique.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee adds essential insight to what is perhaps the true significance of Khidr:

One of the most important archetypal figures in Sufism is Khidr, ‘the green one.’ Khidr represents direct revelation, the direct inner connection with God that is central to the mystical experience.

Khidr is not an abstract mystical figure, but an archetype of something essential within us.The Green One’ images a natural aspect of our divinity, something so ordinary that we overlook it. To follow the way of Khidr is to awaken to our own natural state of being with God and with life. In this natural state of being we know how to respond to the real need of the moment.

Reza Shah-Kazemi contextualizes:

According to Ibn Arabi… the encounter between Moses and al-Khidr is understood microcosmically: al-Khidr represents a mode of universal consciousness within the very soul of Moses, one which surpasses his consciousness qua prophet, whence the disapproval by the prophet of the antinomian acts of the saint: ‘He [al-Khidr] showed him [Moses] nothing but his [Moses’] own form: it was his own state that Moses saw, and himself that he censured’. Shah-Kazemi, R. 2006. The Metaphysics of Interfaith Dialogue: Sufi Perspectives on the Universality of the Quranic Message

Jung shared a similar interpretation, albeit within a psychological framework:

Khidr may well be a symbol of the Self. His qualities symbolize him as such; he is said to have been born in a cave i.e. in darkness. He is the “Long-lived One” who continually renews himself, like Elijah. He is analogous to the second Adam… he is a counsellor, a Paraclete, “Brother Khidr.” Anyway, Moses looks up to him for instruction. Then follow these incomprehensible deeds which show how ego-consciousness reacts to the superior guidance of the Self [emphasis mine] through the twists and turns of fate.

To the initiate who is capable of transformation it is a comforting tale; to the obedient believer, an exhortation not to murmur against Allah’s incomprehensible omnipotence. Khidr symbolizes not only the higher wisdom but also a way of acting. Anyone hearing such a mystery tale will recognize himself in the questing Moses and forgetful Joshua. see Islam and the West: A Cultural and Psychological Analysis Dr. Durre S. Ahmad Jung and the 18th Surah

The suggestion here is that there are plausible resonances between a host of mythical manifestations (e.g. Dumuzi-Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, Skanda-Kumara etc) and what appears to be a guiding root archetype, significantly refined in the Qur’anic appearance of Khidr. I say “refined” because whereas the Green Man is previously considered to be a symbolic representation of the authentic / essential self – in natural submission to Spirit and reflective of the divine attributes – Khidr, on the other hand, appears to be symbolic of the very source of divine nourishment: the ever-living and consequently irrepressible divine consciousness.

Khidr, therefore, represents the “Living Water” or “Breath of Life” (rûh), as well as the direct sustenance that it provides the human Heart (qalb).

It has been said of Khidr that he is the one “in whose footsteps plants and trees grow” and we can deduce from this – as well as from the Qur’anic reading – that while he is responsible for the “greening” of the Heart and self, he is not just the effect (a way of acting / being)( In his ‘green’ and ‘vegetative’ forms) but primarily the cause (the divine / prophetic consciousness itself); ( In his role as “Stranger,” or the “Hidden One,” or as the “Hidden Initiator” [Finds resonance with Melkizedek; also the qutb of Sufism; “The Hidden Imam” (Shia mysticism); the “The Standing One” / “Primal Adam” / “Hidden Power” doctrines of the Elkasites and Nazorai-Mandaeans; also Purusha in the Vedic traditions)

or is perhaps symbolic of both (as the title “the Green One” suggests)?( By way of analogy: not just the greenness of the chlorophyll within the leaves, but also the sunlight / water responsible for their nourishment and liveliness; not just the (secondary) green ray of light that is refracted as the “middle-pillar” within the light spectrum, but also the (primary) undifferentiated light of pure consciousness. Once again we return to the concept of interconnectedness, harmony, balance, nourishment and renewal, as discussed in relation to the “green signature.”)

  • The Spiritual “greenness” or “Viridity”of the wisdom of Life

The Color Heaven Loves

“Be in love with green. I’m telling you to love green, haji Mehmed, my son. Make it green. Make it green. In everything green there is dhikr, there is tasbih. That’s why I am telling you to use it. The favourite color of the heavens is green. There can’t be a more beautiful color. It is green. Our Allah. It is good news for our life.

Wear green, your illnesses will be gone, your troubles will be gone, your sadness will be gone. You will open. Green is the good news of heavens. Green is the good news of heavens to those on earth. Use it. Even if a handkerchief, I’m telling you to use green. Green is the reflection of heavens on earth. Who looks at green understands the green of heavens. Green gives comfort to the servants of Allah. It’s a sign of life. It becomes green, when spring comes, life comes. We ask that the angels of Janab-ul Mawla dress us in it too. They dress the dear nation of the Habib. Green.

If necessary, plant straw. Let it become green, let it open. Don’t leave the world dark. No. Let it appear green, the whole world. Let it be green. It is the good news of heavens; it is a sign, good news. Allahu Akbar. The color of heavens is green. Prophets wear green too. Saints wear green too. A chosen color is a green color. Yes, how beautiful. How beautiful. Green, the most beautiful of all colors. Allahu Akbar. May we be given too, may we wear it. Green color is the color of health, the color of life, the color of honor, the color of heavens. Allahu Akbar.”

Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Al-Haqqani An-Naqshibandi, Sohbat of the 20th of February, 2014.

  • Divine Healing Power of Green

During her lifetime, Hildegard of Bingen was famous for her visions that she had published in her mystical & theological works, Liber Scivias, Liber Vitae Meritorum and Liber Divinorum Operum. – Known as the German Prophetess (Prophetissa Teutonica), she perceived herself as the Trumpet of God called to denounce the social and political state of her time. Thus, she did not merely admonish nun and monks but also pope and emperor. – Hildegard was a seeing listener and a listening seeress. Her visions were at once auditions in which she perceived the voice of God, heard the music of the angels and gained insight into the secret of God (Vision of Trinity), the position of the human being in the cosmos and the history / herstory of God with humankind – from creation to incarnation up to the Last Judgement. ( Hildegard von Bingen 1098-1179)

  • Viriditas: the greening power of the Divine (or Divine Healing Power of Green)

Viriditas is one of the most recognizable contributions of Hildegard of Bingen.

For Hildegard, viriditas encapsulated the divine force of nature, the depth and breadth of which is reflected in the various translations. These words within the word are laden with meaning; with lively, powerful connotations that capture the essence Hildegard had conceptualized so long ago.

The origin of Viriditas,” Viridity” may be the union of two Latin words: Green and Truth. (Latin viridis (source of Spanish, Italian verde), related to virere “be green, and Old English triewð (West Saxon), treowð (Mercian) “faith, faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant,” from Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho, from Proto-Germanic treuwaz “having or characterized by good faith,” from PIE *drew-o-, a suffixed form of the root *deru- “be firm, solid, steadfast.also *dreu-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “be firm, solid, steadfast,

But like most Latin words, Viriditas does not easily translate into convenient, straightforward English. While being difficult to translate may be frustrating to some, there is beauty in this complexity.

The Basic Definition and Origin

The definition is both literal, as in “green”, “greenness”, and “growth”, yet also metaphorical, as in “vigor”, “verdure”, “freshness” and “vitality.” For Hildegard, the spiritual aspects were just as essential as the physical meaning. In much of her work, viriditas was “the greening power of God.” It was in everything, including humans.

This “greenness” was an expression of heaven, the creative power of life, which can be witnessed in the gardens, forests, and farmland all around us. And like those lands, she saw viriditas as something to be cultivated in both our bodies and our souls.

What is it? Hildegard says it is God’s   freshness that we receive as spiritual and physical life‐forces. This is vivid imagery  that probably came to her simply as she looked around the countryside. The  Rhine valley is lush and green and as we know today, a wonderful place,  flourishing in fruit and vineyards. This greening power mysteriously is inherent in  animals and fishes and birds, in all plants and flowers and trees, in all the  beautiful things of this world.

Human flesh is green she says and our blood  possesses this special greening power. The “life force of the body” (the soul) was  green. Whenever sex was involved—she said there was a particular brightness in  the green. This greening power was at the heart of salvation and the reality of the  Word was verdant life.    This greenness connects us all together as humanity  and shines forth giving us common purpose. It is the  strength within us that manifests as a strong and  healthy life. This greenness originates in the four  elements: earth and fire, water and air. It is sustained  by the four qualities: by dry and moist, by cold and hot;  not only the body—but greenness of soul as well.

Hildegard contrasts greening power or wetness with  the sin of drying up (one of her visions.) A dried‐up  person or a dried‐up culture loses the ability to create.  Hildegard saw this as a grave sin and a tragedy. It also  describes how she felt about herself during those years  when she was refusing to write down her visions and  voices. Her awakening did not occur until she embraced  her own viriditas. From then on Hildegard was  constantly creating.

This is in contrast to greening— dry straw, hay or chaff  representing dried up Christians  who are scattered and cut  down by the just Divinity of the  Trinity. 






‘O most honored Greening Force, You who roots in the Sun;
You who lights up, in shining serenity, within a wheel
that earthly excellence fails to comprehend.

You are enfolded
in the weaving of divine mysteries.

You redden like the dawn
and you burn: flame of the Sun.”
–  Hildegard von Bingen, Causae et Curae

Hildegard gives an interesting image about greenness  stating that it drenches all things in this world and then  gives the tree as an example. The function of the tree’s sap [its life blood that we know as its essential oil] falls to the soul in the human  body. Its powers or abilities enable us to unfold or develop form just as it does in  the tree. In other words, the tree’s essential oil gives life and nourishment— moistness to humans. She goes on to make comparisons between the tree’s  branches, leaves, blossoms, and fruit with  various stages within human life.    For Hildegard, viriditas is that natural driving   force, the life force that is always directed  toward healing and wholeness. Love, too, is the  breath of the same vital green power that  sustains all life’s greenness. She sees the Holy  Spirit as that power that gives human beings  the green and open space where they are  capable of responding to the Word and joining  in all of creation. The Spirit purifies the world,  scours away all guilt, and heals all wounds and  sadness.    So, green is not a mere color for Hildegard—it is  an attitude and purposeful intent. It is the  permanent inflowing and outflowing of  viriditas. Ultimately—we are talking about  physical health from the inexhaustible fountain  of life’s living light. It is the very joy of being  alive.

  • Rightly Guided One

That Khidr may be seen as being an initiator of, or precursor to, the rehabilitation of consciousness – both individually and collectively – is supported in part by those prophetic traditions which relate that prior to the eschatological advent of the “Rightly Guided One” (al-Mahdi) in the so-called “End Days,” ‘Khidr / Elijah’ will make an appearance.

This is further alluded to in the mystical tales of Ismaili Shi’ism, which refer to the appearance of Khidr prior to the unveiling of the Hidden Imam. For an insightful reading of the Mahdi tradition, please refer to: Morris J.W. Ibn Arabi’s Messianic Secret: From “the Mahdi” to the Imamate of Every Soul.

Having noted all of this, however, it is very easy to fall into the trap of excessive mysticism, whereby the essential divine reality of the symbol is not realized. One should not lose sight of the fact that ‘Khidr’ is a mythical representation / personification of the otherwise direct ontological relationship between the self and the guiding Spirit at the “place where the two seas meet” (i.e. the spiritualized ‘Heart’).

By ontological extension (i.e. macrocosmically), guidance from Khidr may also be seen as the direct contemplation of nature and cosmos (as theophany) by virtue of the non-discursive, supra-rational intellect. Khidr is not a humanist. He is a messenger from far beyond.

The world that he opens up to us is infinite. He announces that the cosmos itself is a ‘house of reading’ – it is the Primordial Temple of the Word. The guardians of high culture, of literature and the humanities, have for a long time not read this book at all. They have been too curved in upon themselves. And when it is read, as it is by natural scientists, it is too often only in the most abstract languages of domination and control.



The present article is an in depth examination of the role of Khidr (or  KhiZr, KheZr) and the Mahdi in the Islamic tradition, focusing on their significance as spiritual guides, transmitters of sacred knowledge and on their importance in the preparation for the end of time. The author uses the concept of the ‘Eliatic function’ presented by Leo Schaya as a guiding principle for this study, and begins the article with an explanation of this concept. On the basis of this, he then discusses the traditional Islamic understanding firstly of Khidr and then of the Mahdi. Throughout the analysis the author presents quotations from the Qur’an and Hadith along with the interpretations of classical and contemporary commentators, focusing in particular on Shi’ism and Sufism.

Here the article