Then, it is undertaken by Us to explain it. [75:19]

Al-Kahf 83-98

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Earlier we saw the question in response to which the story of Ashab al-Kahf was related. The matter of Dhul Qarnain was also inquired about. The upcoming verses relate his story – in response to that inquiry – focusing on three of his expeditions.

The First Expedition


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 (٨٨)

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And these people ask you about Dhul Qarnain. Regarding the reason for asking, the books mention that his history was almost entirely lost to the extent that the matters not mentioned in the Quran remain objects of dispute to this very day. It is for this very reason that the Jews chose this story to question about. In this manner, the given response clearly establishes prophethood. Say, I will recite upon you his mention shortly. In the upcoming verses, Allah azza wa jall begins narrating his story that this Dhul Qarnain was such a great king of the times that We gave him reign over the face of the Earth and We gave to him all kinds of sufficient equipment by which he was able to fulfill his royal aspirations.

Hence, intending to conquer the lands of the West, he set off on a path, and continued journeying on this path until when - on the course of his expedition and while conquering all countries and cities which lay in between – he reached the place where the sun sets, meaning the very end of civilization in the West; at that point, the sun appeared for him to be setting in a black-coloured body of water. It is most likely the ocean which is intended by this since its water appears to be black in most places and although the sun was not literally setting in the ocean, it appears as such when ones sight does not reach beyond the ocean. At that juncture he came across a people (upon whose disbelief the upcoming verse “..أَمَّا مَن ظَلَمَ” indicates). By way of inspiration or through the Shari’ah of that time We said, O Dhul Qarnain, Regarding these people you have two options. Either immediately – by way of killing etc. – punish, or adopt a policy of leniency with them. That is to say, begin by inviting them to the true faith. Perhaps the invitation had already reached them and this is why immediate killing was justified. However, since the second option was more preferable it was termed ittikhadh al-husn. Dhul Qarnain spoke, Very well. I will begin by first inviting them. However, after calling to faith, whoever from them remains an oppressor (disbeliever), we people shall punish him by way of killing etc. and this will be the worldly punishment. Then (after death) he will be made to return to his ultimate owner, then He will mete out to him a severe punishment of the Hellfire; and whoever brings faith following my invitation and conforming to sacred injunctions does righteous deeds, then there will be good for him in the afterlife as a reward, and in this life we will also speak to him in our conduct with ease and gentleness. That is to say, even verbal harshness will not be tolerated with him. Let alone physical harshness.


Apparently, it seems that Dhul Qarnain was some pious and righteous king; either a prophet or a wali who was adopting the way of a prophet. Then in the case of being a wali, this conversation was either by way of inspiration or through the informing of a prophet. Perhaps the reason for his title being Dhul Qarnain is because “qarn” means ‘jaanib’ (side, as in this side of the Atlantic) and the duality is indicative upon abundance. Since he achieved dominance over the corners of the earth, he was known as Dhul Qarnain – and Allah knows best.

In Dhul Qarnain’s upcoming two expeditions, the theme of these two options between punishing and adopting leniency is not mentioned. Perhaps by mentioning it on one occasion the purpose is to leave other occasions to the analogical reasoning of the listeners, or the conversation itself was done in order for him (Dhul Qarnain) to act accordingly at other times.

Second Expedition


ثُمَّ أَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا (٨٩) حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَطۡلِعَ ٱلشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَهَا تَطۡلُعُ عَلَىٰ قَوۡمٍ۬ لَّمۡ نَجۡعَل لَّهُم مِّن دُونِہَا سِتۡرً۬ا (٩٠) كَذَٲلِكَ وَقَدۡ أَحَطۡنَا بِمَا لَدَيۡهِ خُبۡرً۬ا (٩١)

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Having conquered the lands of the West, now intending to conquer the lands of the East, he then set off on another path and continued traversing the distance until when he reached the place where the sun rises, i.e. when he reached the end of civilization to the East, he saw the sun rising upon a people (meaning [he came accross] a people who resided at that location) for whom we did not place a barrier intervening from the sun. Apparently, this seems to suggest that these people did not know how to construct houses etc. by which refuge from the sun may be sought. Thus is this story; and whatever equipment and forces etc. Dhul Qarnain possessed we are fully aware of it.


This is to strengthen and affirm the theme that whatever we say regarding this story, we say it through knowledge, and our knowledge is based on reality. Regardless of whether the ‘mushaarun ileih’ for dhalika is the Eastern expedition only or both (the Eastern expedition and the previously mentioned Western one), perhaps the purpose here is to draw increased attention to the nubuwwa Muhammadiya. In other words, ‘Notice how accurately he is able to relate untraceable events of the distant past. This is because it is We who inform him.’

Third Expedition


ثُمَّ أَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا (٩٢) حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ بَيۡنَ ٱلسَّدَّيۡنِ وَجَدَ مِن دُونِهِمَا قَوۡمً۬ا لَّا يَكَادُونَ يَفۡقَهُونَ قَوۡلاً۬ (٩٣) قَالُواْ يَـٰذَا ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ إِنَّ يَأۡجُوجَ وَمَأۡجُوجَ مُفۡسِدُونَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ فَهَلۡ نَجۡعَلُ لَكَ خَرۡجًا عَلَىٰٓ أَن تَجۡعَلَ بَيۡنَنَا وَبَيۡنَهُمۡ سَدًّ۬ا (٩٤) قَالَ مَا مَكَّنِّى فِيهِ رَبِّى خَيۡرٌ۬ فَأَعِينُونِى بِقُوَّةٍ أَجۡعَلۡ بَيۡنَكُمۡ وَبَيۡنَہُمۡ رَدۡمًا (٩٥) ءَاتُونِى زُبَرَ ٱلۡحَدِيدِ‌ۖ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا سَاوَىٰ بَيۡنَ ٱلصَّدَفَيۡنِ قَالَ ٱنفُخُواْ‌ۖ حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا جَعَلَهُ ۥ نَارً۬ا قَالَ ءَاتُونِىٓ أُفۡرِغۡ عَلَيۡهِ قِطۡرً۬ا (٩٦) فَمَا ٱسۡطَـٰعُوٓاْ أَن يَظۡهَرُوهُ وَمَا ٱسۡتَطَـٰعُواْ لَهُ ۥ نَقۡبً۬ا (٩٧) قَالَ هَـٰذَا رَحۡمَةٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّى‌ۖ فَإِذَا جَآءَ وَعۡدُ رَبِّى جَعَلَهُ ۥ دَكَّآءَ‌ۖ وَكَانَ وَعۡدُ رَبِّى حَقًّ۬ا (٩٨)

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Then having conquered both the East and the West, he set off on yet another path. Since population in the North was greater, it seems likely that it is the intended direction here. The scholars of Tafsir have stated the same. Until when having traversed the path he reached between two mountains, he found on the other side of those mountains a people who due to extreme unfamiliarity of language and poor understanding would not even come close to understanding any speech, meaning they could not understand speech because of being natives of another language, and they could not even come close to understanding on account of their poor intellectual faculties. Otherwise, someone intelligent would be able to understand a great deal through signs and indications. However, with the help of a translator they spoke to Dhul Qarnain. They said, O Dhul Qarnain, The tribe of Gog and Magog (who live on the other side of this valley) enter and spread corruption in this land of ours from time to time. Meaning, they attack us without provocation and we are not capable of putting forth a defense. So should you permit, we will gather for you some funds on the condition that you create between us and between them a barrier, preventing them from continued entry. Dhul Qarnain responded, That wealth upon which my Lord has given me control, it is quite plentiful. Therefore, I do not need your wealth. However, if you help me through man power, then I will build between you and between them a rampart.

Very well. You people bring to me ingots of iron! The costs will be covered by us. He must have requested many other things, but since these sheets were the main constituent and because they were scarce in this uncivilized land, they were accordingly singled out for mention. Thus all the material was gathered; a foundation was dug and filled with rocks etc. Finally, these sheets were arranged over the structure until when the empty space between the two cliffs became equal to the two mountains, he ordered, Blow! They began blowing until when they (after repeated blowing) made it blazing red; he said, Bring to me molten brass, that had probably been prepared prior to this, which I may pour upon it, meaning have poured. Hence the molten brass was brought and by means of machinery it was poured from above in order to fill the gaps between the sheets – thus resulting in a single shield-like, fortified, metal wall. God knows how high and how wide. So due to its extreme elevation and slippery nature neither were Gog and Magog able to climb it and due to its extreme fortification nor were they able to pierce it. During the time when the wall was being constructed, they were very far from the construction site since the land on the other side of the mountains was quite vast. Dhul Qarnain observed this completed wall, the completion of which was no small task. Out of gratitude, he said, This completion of the wall is a mercy from my Lord upon me since I was made a means in its construction, and upon the people living on this side of it since they are now protected from the evil of Gog and Magog. Then when the promise of my Lord arrives (meaning the time of its perishing) He will collapse and make it leveled to the ground; and every promise of my Lord is true and fulfilled at its appointed time.


It is possible that what Hazrat Dhul Qarnain said here was based on the basic principle that everything will eventually perish. Another possibility is that he came to know of the exact time when this collapse will occur, i.e. during the end of times (as is clarified in detail by many Ahadith). This would be based on revelation, if he was a prophet. If he was a wali, it would be through inspiration or through the informing of a prophet.

Perhaps Dhul Qarnain said this to show that the human should never become deluded by any blessing and heedless of Allah Most High. Rather, one should be grateful upon the blessing and keep in mind the perishing nature of all things.

Let it be known that authors and logicians have presented many theories and essays regarding this wall of the Yajooj and Majooj and they have given their personal opinions. However, the attributes which are clear from the Quran and Sunnah are as follows:

  1. Its builder is a righteous and accepted servant.
  2. He is also a mighty king.
  3. The wall is made of iron.
  4. Its two ends meet with the two cliffs.
  5. Yajooj and Majooj, who live on the other side, have been unsuccessful in trying to cross the wall.
  6. During the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) a slight hole had been made in it.
  7. They slice away at it daily and by Allah’s permission it returns back to its previous thickness the next day. In the proximity of Qiyaamah, after slicing the wall, they will say, “Inshallah, tomorrow we will destroy the wall once and for all.” Thereafter, the wall will not be repaired for the day and they will completely destroy the wall the following day and freely roam about.
  8. Yajooj and Majooj, despite being human, are more powerful than ordinary humans and their number is also quite large.
  9. They will appear during the time of Sayidna Easa (عليه السلام) and he, along with certain special people, will ascend Mount Tur. The rest of the people will take refuge in fortified buildings on their own.
  10. They will all die a sudden death by some extraordinary means.

The first five attributes are taken from the Quran and the others from sound ahaadith. Whoever keeps these attributes in mind will realize that from all the walls people have suggested, the collective attributes are not found in any. This is why these opinions do not seem correct. On the other hand, rejecting sound narrations or making far-fetched interpretations in sacred text is in and of itself contrary to The Deen. Our Muslim authors have attempted to respond to the doubt cast by antagonists, who say that we have travelled the entire earth and have not come across any such wall, by pinpointing locations. The proper response is what the author of Ruh al-Ma’aani has adopted, which is mentioned below.

The main points mentioned by him can be summarized by saying, we do not know its location and it is quite possible that large bodies of water separate us from it. As for the claim that we have encompassed all that exists in terms of land and sea, this is not necessarily accepted. It is rationally possible for islands to exist in the middle of the ocean, large or small, which are yet to be discovered. Lack of discovery does not necessitate lack of existence. Additionally, since a truthful informer (whose truthfulness is established through indisputable proof) has informed about this wall and its attributes, it is incumbent upon us to believe, just as we believe in the case of other possible matters he has informed about. As such, the motive behind paying attention to the doubts raised by these doubt-casters is nothing more than weakness in religion and scarcity of faith.

There not being any mention in the Quran about an expedition to the South is either because he never had an opportunity to make such an expedition, or for some reason it was not given any mention.

Written by Yusuf Mullan

September 18th, 2009 at 2:35 am

Posted in Surah Al-Kahf

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