Adopted from Mariful Qur'aan by Mufti Mohammed Shafi (RA)
وَيَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ عَن ذِى ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِۖ قُلۡ سَأَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡكُم مِّنۡهُ ذِڪۡرًا (٨٣) إِنَّا مَكَّنَّا لَهُ ۥ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَءَاتَيۡنَـٰهُ مِن كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ سَبَبً۬ا (٨٤) فَأَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا (٨٥) حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ ٱلشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغۡرُبُ فِى عَيۡنٍ حَمِئَةٍ۬ وَوَجَدَ عِندَهَا قَوۡمً۬اۗ قُلۡنَا يَـٰذَا ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ إِمَّآ أَن تُعَذِّبَ وَإِمَّآ أَن تَتَّخِذَ فِيہِمۡ حُسۡنً۬ا (٨٦) قَالَ أَمَّا مَن ظَلَمَ فَسَوۡفَ نُعَذِّبُهُ ۥ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِۦ فَيُعَذِّبُهُ ۥ عَذَابً۬ا نُّكۡرً۬ا (٨٧) وَأَمَّا مَنۡ ءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَـٰلِحً۬ا فَلَهُ ۥ جَزَآءً ٱلۡحُسۡنَىٰۖ وَسَنَقُولُ لَهُ ۥ مِنۡ أَمۡرِنَا يُسۡرً۬ا
And they ask you about
Dhul-Qarnain. Say, "I shall now recite to you some narration about him." [18:83]
Surely, We gave him power on Earth and provided for him a way to everything. [18:84]
So he followed a way, [18:85]
until when he reached where the sun sets, he found it setting into a miry spring
and found near it a people. We said,
Dhul-Qarnain, either you punish or take to something good for them!' [18:86]
He said, "As for the one who transgresses, we shall punish him, thereafter he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him - an evil punishment. [18:87]
As for the one who believes and acts righteously, he will have the best in reward, and we shall deliver to him of our command that which is easy." [18:88]
Verse 84 opens with the statement: يَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ (They ask you). Who is asking? Related narratives show that they were the Quraysh of Makkah, those who were coached to ask three questions from the Holy Prophet. The purpose was to test his prophet-hood and veracity. The questions were about Ruh (spirit), Ashab al-Kahf (People of Kahf) and Dhul-Qarnain. Two of these have already been answered. The story of the People of Kahf has appeared earlier in this Surah, 9-26. The question about 'Ruh' has appeared towards the later part of the previous Surah (Bani Isra'il). Who was Dhul-Qarnain and what happened to him? This is the third question. (Al-Bahr al-Muhit)
Dhul-Qarnain: His identity, period and country and the reason why he was so named
Why was he named Dhul-Qarnain? (the one having two horns) Regarding its reason, there are numerous sayings, and strong differences. Some said that he had two curly locks of hair, therefore, he
was called Dhul-Qarnain. Some others said that he ruled countries of the East and West, therefore, he was named Dhul-Qarnain. There was someone who also said that he had marks on his head that resembled those of horns. It appears in some narratives that he had wound marks on both sides of his head, therefore, he was identified as Dhul-Qarnain. Allah knows best. But, this much already stands determined that the Qur’an has certainly not given him the name of Dhul-Qarnain. In fact, this name came from the Jews. He may have been known by this name with them. Whatever part of the event of Dhul-Qarnain has been mentioned by the Holy Qur’an is no more than what is described below:
"He was a righteous and just king who reached the East and the West and conquered countries in between and ruled there justly. All sorts of means had been provided to him by Allah Ta'ala in order to help him achieve his objectives. On the route of his conquests, he traveled in three directions: to the far West, to the far East and then to the mountain range in the North. At the last mentioned place, he closed the pass in between two mountains by a wall cast in molten metal which made it possible for the people of the area to stay protected against the pillage of Gog and Magog."
As for the question posed by the Jews to test the veracity
and prophet-hood of the Holy Prophet, the answer given had left them satisfied.
They did not ask any more questions, such as: Why was he given the name,
Dhul-Qarnain? Which country did he come from? What period of time did he belong
to? This tells us that the Jews themselves took such questions to be unnecessary
and redundant. And it is obvious that the Qur’an mentions only that part of
history or stories which relates to what is beneficial in the present life or in
the life to come, or on which depends the understanding of something necessary.
Therefore, neither did the Qur’an take these things up nor were there any
details about it described in any authentic Hadith. And it was for the same
reason that the most righteous forbears of Islam, the Sahabah and the Tabi'in
also paid no particular attention to it.
Now the thing that remains to be addressed is this matter of historical narratives or that of the present Torah and Injil. Then it is also evident that perennial interpolations and alterations have not left even the present Torah and 1nj;l intact as revealed Scriptures. Their status can now be that of history at the most. As for ancient historical narratives, they are overwhelmingly filled with Isra'ili tales that come from no authentic source, nor have they been found trustworthy in the sight of the learned of any time. Whatever the commentators have said in this matter is a compendium of these very historical narratives. Therefore, there are countless differences in them. Europeans have given great importance to history in modern times. No doubt, they have carried out painstaking research in this field. Through archaeological excavations and collection of inscriptions and artifacts, they have tried to reach the reality behind past events and in this process, they have come up with achievements not matched in earlier times. But, archaeological finds, inscriptions etc., can certainly help support an event but it is not possible to read a whole event through these. For it, therefore, historical narratives alone have become the basis. As for the validity of old historical narratives in these matters, we have just now learnt that their status is no more than that of a story. In their books, scholars of Tafsir, classical or modern, have reported these narratives in their historical status only no Qur’anic objective depends on the element of their authenticity. Here too, that which is necessary is being written with the same status in view. A comprehensive research relating to this event appears in 'Qasas al-Quran' by Maulana Hifzur-Rahman (RA), re ders with a taste for history may see it there.
In some narratives, it appears that there have been four kings who ruled over the whole world - two believers, and two, disbelievers. The believing kings are:
1) Sayyidna Sulaiman (RA)
2) and Dhul-Qarnain
while the disbelieving ones are Nimrod (Namrud) and Nebuchadnezzar (Bukht Nassar).
About Dhul-Qarnain, it is a strange coincidence that several men have been famous in the world while bearing the same name. And it is equally strange that the title Sikandar (Alexander) is also attached with the Dhul-Qarnain of every period of time.
Approximately three hundred years before Sayyidna Masih (AS), there is a king known as Sikandar (Alexander). He is identified with the appellations of the Greek, the Macedonian, the Roman etc. He was the one who had Aristotle (Arastu) as his minister, who fought a war against Darz (Darius) and who conquered his country after killing him. This was the very last person to have become known in the world by the name Sikandar (Alexander). Stories relating to him are comparatively more famous around the world, so some people have also equated him with the Dhul-Qarnain mentioned in the Qurun. This is totally wrong because this person was a fire-worshipping polytheist. As for the Dhul-Qarnain mentioned by the Qur’an, he may not be a prophet for 'Ulama'have differed about his being a prophet. But, everyone unanimously agrees thathe was a righteous believer - then, there is the textual authority of the Qur’an in its own right which bears testimony to it.
Quoting Ibn 'Asakir, Hafiz Ibn Kathir (RA) s given his complete family tree in al-Bidayah wa an-NihZyah which ascends to Sayyidn Ibraihim (AS) He has said, 'this is the Sikandar who is recognized as the Greek, the Egyptian and the Macedonian, who founded the city of Iskandariyah (Alexandria) after his name and the Roman calendar dates back to his time. This Sikandar Dhul-Qarnain appeared after a long passage of time from the first one. This time has been identified as being more than two thousand years. He was the one who killed Darz (Darius), overpowered the Persian monarchy and conquered their country. But, this person was a polytheist. Declaring him to be the one mentioned in the Qur’an is totally wrong. Ibn Kathir's own words are being quoted below:
First of all, this research of Imam ibn Kathir, the great scholar of Hadith and history, helps remove a misconception. It clarifies that this Iskandar, who lived three hundred years before Sayyidna Masih (AS) who fought Darz (Darius) and the Persian kings, and who is the founder of Alexandria, is not the Dhul-Qarnain mentioned in the Quran. This misconception seems to have affected some leading commentators as well. Abu Hayyan in al-Bahr al-Muhit and 'Allamah 'Alus in Ruh al-Ma'ani have said that this very Dhul-Qarnain is the one mentioned in the Quran.
The second point emerges from the sentence of Ibn Kathir: وانھ کان نبیا (he was a prophet). It shows that, in the sight of Ibn Kathir, the weightier opinion was that he was a prophet. Although, according to the majority of scholars, the weightier opinion is what Ibn Kathir has himself reportedon the authority Abi al-Tufayl from Sayyidna 'Ali (RA) that he was neither a prophet nor an angel, rather was a righteous believer. Therefore, some 'Ulama have explained it by saying that the pronoun in: وانھ (he was) reverts to Al-Khadir and not to Dhul-Qarnain - which is closer in sense.
This leaves us with a problem. The Qur'an mentions Dhul-Qarnain. Who is he? Which period of time did he belong to? Regarding this, sayings of 'Ulama' differ. According to Ibn Kathir, his time was the time of Sayyidna Ibrahim (RA), two thousand years before the time of Alexander, the Greek, the Macedonian. Al-Khadir was his minister. Ibn Kathir has also reported from the early righteous elders in al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah that Dhul-Qarnain went for Hajj traveling on foot. When Sayyidna Ibrahim found out about his arrival, he went out of Makkah to greet him. It is said that Sayyidna Ibrahim (AS) also prayed for him and passed out some good counsel to him. (Al-Bidayah, p. 108, v. 3)
Tafsir Ibn Kathir reports from Adhraqi that he did Tawaf with Sayyidna Ibrahim and offered sacrifice.
And Abu al-Raihan al-Bairuni has said in his book al-'Athar
al-Baqiyah 'an al-Quran al-Khaliyah that 'this Dhul-Qarnain mentioned in the
Qur’an is Abu Bakr ibn Samma ibn 'Umar ibn Ifriqis al-Himyari, the one who
conquered the East and West of the Earth. Tubba' al-Himyari al-Yamani has shown
pride in his poetry that his grandfather, Dhul-Qarnain, was a believer. He says:
Dhul-Qarnain, my grandfather, was a believing Muslim
A king who conquered the non-believing Earth
He reached the Easts and the Wests seeking
Means of power from the noble Master.
Abu Hayyan has reported this narrative in al-Bahr al-Mubit. Ibn Kathir has also mentioned it in al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah. Ibn Kathir adds that 'this Dhul-Qarnain is the first Tubba' (the title of the kings of Yaman). He was among the Tababi'ah (plural of Tubba') of Yaman and this is the same person who had ruled in favor of Sayyidna Ibrahim in the case of Bi'r Sab' (seven wells)' - (al-Bidayah, p. 105, v. 2). In all these narratives, irrespective of the difference regarding the elements of his identity, his time period has been identified as that of Sayyidnii Ibraim (AS)
As for the detailed discussion relating to Dhul-Qarnain provided by Maulana Hifzur-Rahman in his book, Qasas al-Qur'an, it can be stated in a nutshell. It can be said that the Dhul-Qarnain mentioned in the Qur'an is the king of Persia who is called Khorus by the Jews, Cyrus by the Greeks, Gorush by the Persians and Kai-Khusro by the Arabs. His period is said to be the period of Daniyal (Daniel) from among the prophets of Bani Isra'il - much later than the time of Sayyidna Ibrahim This brings it closer to the time of Iskandar al-Maqduni (Alexander, the Macedonian), the killer of Darz (Darius). But, the learned Maulana – like Ibn Kathir - has also strongly maintained that Alexander, the Macedonian who had Aristotle as his minister cannot be the Dhul-Qarnain. The former was a fire-worshipping polytheist while the later, a righteous believer.
According to his research about the detailed description of Bani Isra'ail falling into wrongdoing and rebellion twice, and of the respective punishment given to them twice, as in Surah Bani Isra'il (al-'Isra'), the Qur’an says on the occasion of the first transgression of Bani Isra'il: عَلَيۡڪُمۡ عِبَادً۬ا لَّنَآ أُوْلِى بَأۡسٍ۬ شَدِيدٍ۬ فَجَاسُواْ خِلَـٰلَ ٱلدِّيَارِۚ (We sent upon you some of Our servants having strong aggressive power, who combed through the houses -17:5). Here, the men with 'strong aggressive power' are Nebuchadnezzar and his supporting troops who killed forty thousand - seventy thousand in some narratives - men from the Bani Isra'il in Baytul-Maqdis, while taking more than one hundred thousand of them driven like a flock of sheep to his city of Babel. After that, as regards the second statement ofthe Qur’an: ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنَا لَكُمُ ٱلۡڪَرَّةَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ (Then We gave you your turn to overpower them - 17:6),'this event transpired at the hands of the same king, Kai-Khusraw (Khorus or Cyrus). He was a righteous believer. He confronted Nebuchadnezzar, secured the release of Bani Isra'il held as captives by him and rehabilitated them back into Palestine. He even went on to resettle and repopulate the city of Baytul-Maqdis that was ransacked earlier to the limit that he managed to have all treasures and major effects of Baytul-Maqdis carried away by Nebuchadnezzar from there returned back into the possession of Bani Isra'il. Thus, this person proved to be the savior of Bani Isra'il (the Jews).
It is likely that of the questions the Jews of Madinah had set for the Quraysh of Makkah which they would ask the Holy Prophet to test his prophethood, was this question about Dhul-Qarnain and that it had an underlying reason. This question was special since the Jews took him to be their savior and respected him.
In short, Maulana Hifzur-Rahman has collected a sufficiently large number of evidences from the prophesies of the prophets of Bani Isra'il with reference to the present Old Testament as well as from historical narratives to present his research on this subject. Anyone who finds it imperative to proceed towards additional research may consult it. My purpose in reporting all these narratives was simply to bring into focus sayings of leading Muslim scholars, historians and commentators as they relate to the life and time of Dhul-Qarnain. To decide as to whose saying is weightier and worthier out of these is not part of my objective. The reason is that things not claimed by the Quran nor explained by
Hadith are things we have not been obligated to fix and clarify on our own for that responsibility does not rest on our shoulders. Thus, whichever saying turns out to be regarded as more weighty, worthy and sound, the aim of the Qur'an will stand achieved after all. Allah knows best.
Let us look at the first verse cited above: قُلۡ سَأَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡكُم مِّنۡهُ ذِڪۡرًا (I shall now recite to you a narration about him - 83). It prompts us to find out as to why the Holy Qur'an has elected to bypass the possible shorter expression of ذِڪۡرًہ dhikrah; (his narrations) at this place and has opted for two words: مِّنۡهُ ذِڪۡرًا (('minhu dhikra') (some narration about him)? A little reflection would reveal that these two words have been used as indicators. They tell us that the Qur’an has not promised to narrate the entire story of Dhul-Qarnain in its historical setting. Instead, it has stated that it
will mention it in part. This is evident from the use of the particle: مِّنۡ(min) and the nunnation (tanwzn) of 'dhikra' - a distinct feature of Arabic grammar. As for the historical debate relating to the name, lineage and time period of Dhul-Qarnain reported earlier, the Holy Quran has already said in advance that it has skipped it as something unnecessary.
The word: سَبَبً۬-' (sabab) used in: وَءَاتَيۡنَـٰهُ مِن كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ سَبَبً۬ا (and provided for him a way to everything - 84) is employed ik the Arabic lexicon to denote everything harnessed to achieve an objective. It includes material instruments and resources as well as knowledge, insight and experience etc. (al-Bahr al-Muhit). As for the expression: مِن كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ (to everything), it means all things needed by a ruler to run the state system. The sense of the verse is that Allah Ta'ala had provided for the righteous king Dhul-Qarnain practically everything needed at that time in order that he could maintain his just rule, establish universal peace and extend his area of influence to other countries.
Verse 85: فَأَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا (So he followed a way) means that - though, the material means related to everything, even those that would facilitate his access to every region of the world - however, the first thing he did was to use his means to travel in the direction of the West.
The statement in verse 86: حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ ٱلشَّمۡسِ (until when he reached where the sun sets) means that he reached the far limit towards the West beyond which there was no populated area.
The word: حَمِئَةٍ۬ (hami'ah) in the succeeding phrase: فِى عَيۡنٍ حَمِئَةٍ۬ (into a miry spring) literally means dark marsh or mud carrying the sense of water beneath which there is dark mud and which causes the water itself to appear black. As for the sense of his seeing the Sun setting into such a spring, it means that an onlooker perceived it as setting into the spring because there was no habitation or dry land in sight. This is like being in an open field while the Sun is setting where as far as one can see there appears to be no mountain, tree, or structure, naturally one who looks at the sight would feel that the Sun was sinking into the land mass.
Said in the sentence which follows immediately was: وَوَجَدَ عِندَهَا قَوۡمً۬اۗ (and found near it a people), that is, near this dark spring, Dhul-Qarnain found a people. The later part of the verse shows that these people were infidels. Therefore, as said in the next verses, Allah Taala gave Dhul-Qarnain the choice of punishing them right away for their infidelity. Or, if he so wished, he could choose to deal with them benevolently by first asking them to consider the message of faith and bring them round to embrace it through dissemination of information and good counsel. After that, he could reward those who believe and punish those who do not. In response, Dhul-Qarnain elected to go by the second option. He said that he would try to bring them to the straight path through good counsel and advice. Then, he would punish those who stood by their infidelity and reward those who believed and did what was good.
The statement: قُلۡنَا يَـٰذَا ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ (We said, '0 Dhul-Qarnain ...) shows that Allah Ta'ala has himself said this addressing Dhul-Qarnain. Now, if Dhul-Qarnain is taken to be a prophet, there is no problem here. It will mean that it was said to him through the medium of revelation. And if, his prophethood is not to be recognized, there is only one way to rationalize the statement: (qulna: We said) and the address: يَـٰذَا ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ O Dhul-Qarnain). This way could be to take this address to have been made to Dhul-Qarnain through the medium of some prophet - as suggested
by the reported presence of Al-Khadir with him. Then, it is also possible that this revelation is just not the kind of waby that is peculiar to a prophet or messenger of Allah. May be, it is a waby or revelation in the literal sense like the word: واوحینا (awhaina: We revealed or put into the heart) used in the Qur’an for the mother of Sayyidna Musa (AS)- though, there is no probability of her being a prophet or messenger of Allah. But, Abu Hayyan says in al-Bahr al-Muhit that the command given here to Dhul-Qarnain is a command to punish and kill those people. No such command can be given without the authority of a revelation to a prophet. This action cannot be taken on the authority of Kashf (illumination) and Ilham (inspiration), nor can it be activated through any other source without the authority of wahy (revelation) to a nabiyy (prophet). For this reason, no probability other than the one being mentioned here is sound: Either Dhul-Qarnain himself is taken to be a prophet, or that there may be a prophet present during his time and it is through him that Dhul-Qarnain is addressed.
And Allah knows best.
The wall of Zulqarnain By Shaykh Ahmed Ali
Many different opinions have been expressed as to the location of the iron wall of Zulqarnain. Having read many books, the best on the subject I came across was Sheikh Hifzur-Rahman's "Stories of the Qur'an" and thus have chosen to share a brief summary of what he has written.
He writes "The Yajuj Ma'juj caused destruction and blood- shed in a vast area, and because of their oppression many barriers and walls were erected in different times and places by different kings. Four being the most famous:
1) The Great Wall of China which was built by the Chinese King Fagfor 3460 years after Prophet Adam was put on the Earth.
2) The wall in central Asia near Bukhara and Tirmidh in a place called Derbent.
3) The wall in Dagistan Russia also known as Derbent near the Caspian sea.
4) The wall which is in the westerly direction to the third in the region of the Caucasus.
Because these walls were built for one purpose and are all situated in the North, it has always been very difficult to determine exactly the wall built by Zulqarnain."
He further writes, "The biggest out of the four is the great wall of China and nobody is of the opinion that this is the wall built by Zulqarnain as it is in the easterly direction while the Qur'an indicates the wall of Zulqarnain is in the Northerly direction."
Thus leaving walls 2, 3, and 4.
He writes, "Historians like Masoodi, Istakhari and Hamawi are of the opinion that the wall of Zulqamain is wall number 3 or 4. Those that have said it is wall number two have confused the issue due to the location of Derbent which is near Bukhara and also in Degistan.''
He finally writes, ''Out of two, the historians are of the opinion that it is wall 3 or 4, the master of hadith Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri in his book Aqeeda-tul-Islam holds the opinion that the wall of Zulqarnain is wall number 4, the one in the region of Caucasus.' (Stories of the Qu'ran)
After this short summary I find myself inclined to Allama Aloosi's opinion I conclude with his words, ''We do not know the location of this wall and it is very probable that great seas and mountains stand between us and the wall, and between Ya'juj Ma'juj and the rest of the world.''
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