Who was Dhul Qarnain?

Who was Dhul Qarnain? This is the question that was asked by the pagans of Makkah from the prophet of Allah (SAW). The scholars say that the pagans themselves didn’t make this question. Yet, this was the idea of Jews to ask the prophet (SAW) this question. If the prophet answers it, then he would be a true prophet. Or, if not, then don’t trust him.

Allah (SWT) reveals to his prophet about Dhul Qarnain, and says: “and they ask you about Dhul Qarnain. Say that I will recite on you an account of him. Indeed, we granted him power on the land, and gave him from all types of sources. Then, he followed an expedition.” (Quran, 18, 82-85).

In the commentary of these verses, some Islamic scholars say that Dhul Qarnain was the famous personality who conquered Europe and most parts of Asia named Alexander the Great. However, some other scholars including Imam Ibn Taimiya, Ibn Hajar Al- Al-Al-Asqalani, Ibn Kathir, and Aini (May Allah bless them all) have strictly denied it and emphasized that the person mentioned in the Quran with Dhul Qarnain was another one rather than Alexander the great. They add that it’s considered that the person mentioned in the Quran was either a prophet or a true believer. Whilst, Alexander was a pagan and an idolizer. So, how can Allah (SWT) mention an idolizer in his book with all these good attributes? In fact, Dhul Qarnain was a different person who lived in a different time and different region of the world.

Henceforth, scholars have tried to identify his name, region of origin and the correct period of his reign. Since, there is various, and sometimes, contradictory information about him. The famous Islamic historian, Ibn Hisham thinks that his name was Mus’ab Ibn Abdullah Humairi. This is the opinion of Ibn Hajar Al- Al-Asqalani and Jafar Ibn Habib, too. In one other narration from Ibn Hisham, his name is mentioned Mirzaban Ibn Marduya. On the other hand, Hazrat Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) thinks that his name was Abdullah Ibn Dahak Ibn Ma’d Ibn Adnan.

Anyway, these were some narrations about his name. But he is called with Dhul Qarnain in the Quran, not with any of these names. The scholars say that Dhul Qarnain was his nickname, and because the Jews asked the prophet about him with this name, the Quran also replied with the same name. It’s important to note that he was called Dhul Qarnain due to the fact that he ruled on the lands of two largest empires of the time, the Persian Empire and the Roman Empire. And Dhul Qarnain means the owner of two horns where the word horn gives the meaning of power. So, it finally means the owner and ruler of two powerful lands.

Furthermore, scholars have argued about the exact time Dhul Qarnain lived in. According to some scholars including Azraqi, he lived about 2200 BC at the time of the prophet of Ibrahim (AS). They say that he met prophet Ibrahim (AS), believed in him as a messenger of Allah (SWT), and prophet Ibrahim made Dua for him. These scholars add that he then met prophet Ismail (AS), too.

In contrast to that, some other scholars think that Dhul Qarnain lived about 560BC, reigning on the lands of the middle Asian countries, and making a large powerful empire. He was the one who freed Bani Israel from the prisons of Babylon. Those who were captured by Bukht Nasr and were kept as slaves in the Babylon city. He was named as Khorus or Gorus in the scriptures of book owners (Jews).

Dhul Qarnain and the Story of Gog Magog

The holy Quran reveals more about Dhul Qarnain and his journey of conquest. Qurans says that he traveled to the east and west of the earth, and conquered many countries. The story of Dhul Qarnain and Gog Magog (Ya’joj Ma’joj) is also mentioned in the Quran. Allah (AWT) says in his book: “until he reached between the two mountains. He found beside the mountains a tribe who couldn’t understand anything well. They said: O Dhul Qarnain! Verily, Gog Magog are spreading calamity on the land. So, if we collect taxes for you on the condition that you make a barrier between us and them. He said: whatever my lord has given me is enough for me. So, assist me with power so that I will build between you and them a strong rampart. Bring me ingots of iron, henceforth, he filled up the spaces between the two mountains. He said: (after lighting a fire) ply bellow till he made it a fire. He said: bring me molten copper which I shall pour on it. So, they (the Gog Magog) could neither climb over it nor could make a hole in it.” (Quran, 18, 93-97).

In the verses above, Allah (SWT) explains the story of Dhul Qarnain with the people he met during his journey. These people lived in neighborhood of Gog Magog who were so brutal and wild type of humans. Gog Magog attacked on their lands, and were spreading corruption in their lands. They were not able to fight against them, or even protect themselves. When Dhul Qarnain reached their land, they asked him to protect them from the evil of these wild humans. So, Dhul Qarnain built a wall of iron and copper between the two mountains from where the Gog Magog were attacking on them.

We, Muslims believe in the existence of Gog Magog, and barrier made by Dhul Qarnain, and that they live in some part of our earth. They will come out at the end times of the world, and will make a crisis on the land.

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