قَالَ ہٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَیۡنِیۡ وَ بَیۡنِکَ ۚ سَاُنَبِّئُکَ بِتَاۡوِیۡلِ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡتَطِعۡ عَّلَیۡہِ صَبۡرًا ﴿۷۹﴾
قَالَ هَٰذَا فِرَاقُ بَيۡنِي وَبَيۡنِكَۚ سَأُنَبِّئُكَ بِتَأۡوِيلِ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡتَطِع عَّلَيۡهِ صَبۡرًا
a. 3:8; 12:22. (close)
When the righteous servant of God (the Holy Prophet) saw that Moses, i.e. his followers, in spite of his earnest appeal for their cooperation in the propagation of the ideals which were common between them, would not give up their attitude of sullen aloofness and hostility, he realized that he would have to sever all connection with them. (close)
اَمَّا السَّفِیۡنَۃُ فَکَانَتۡ لِمَسٰکِیۡنَ یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ فِی الۡبَحۡرِ فَاَرَدۡتُّ اَنۡ اَعِیۡبَہَا وَ کَانَ وَرَآءَہُمۡ مَّلِکٌ یَّاۡخُذُ کُلَّ سَفِیۡنَۃٍ غَصۡبًا ﴿۸۰﴾
أَمَّا ٱلسَّفِينَةُ فَكَانَتۡ لِمَسَٰكِينَ يَعۡمَلُونَ فِي ٱلۡبَحۡرِ فَأَرَدتُّ أَنۡ أَعِيبَهَا وَكَانَ وَرَآءَهُم مَّلِكٞ يَأۡخُذُ كُلَّ سَفِينَةٍ غَصۡبٗا
1715. The words, "poor people," here may represent "the Muslims." Making a hole in the boat meant that Islam would exhort Muslims to spend their money in the cause of Allah, by way of Zakat and charity. This would appear to be a source of economic weakness rather than of strength and true prosperity, which in fact it would not be. The tyrant king of the Isra’ were the Byzantine and Iranian Empires which would have swallowed up Arabia had it not seemed to them a poor and barren land, not worth the trouble of conquering. It was thus preserved intact for the Holy Prophet. (close)
With this verse begins an explanation of the foregoing incidents as given by the holy man of Moses’ vision.
The words, 'poor people' here represent the meek of heart whom material prosperity and abundance of wealth do not prevent from taking care of and sympathizing with the needy and the destitute and from associating with them. The expression 'a king' denotes love of the world and attachment for material things. The verse thus means to say that those proud and conceited sons of darkness who disdain to spend their money on philanthropic purposes are wholly lost in the love of this world and fall easy victims to Satan. This is why the Holy Prophet sought to make a hole in the boat of his people—he laid down such laws as should render their love of this world pierced with the love of the next world so that they should spend their money in the service of the oppressed and the down-trodden and instead of tyrannizing over them they should serve them and sympathize with them.
It is worthy of note that whereas in the Holy Prophet’s Vision the love of the world took the form of an old woman, in Moses’ vision it was represented by a cruel king. This signified that the love of the world and its pleasures would exercise much less influence over the followers of the Holy Prophet than over those of Moses. (close)
وَ اَمَّا الۡغُلٰمُ فَکَانَ اَبَوٰہُ مُؤۡمِنَیۡنِ فَخَشِیۡنَاۤ اَنۡ یُّرۡہِقَہُمَا طُغۡیَانًا وَّ کُفۡرًا ﴿ۚ۸۱﴾
وَأَمَّا ٱلۡغُلَٰمُ فَكَانَ أَبَوَاهُ مُؤۡمِنَيۡنِ فَخَشِينَآ أَن يُرۡهِقَهُمَا طُغۡيَٰنٗا وَكُفۡرٗا
1716. Ghulam (a youth), as stated above, in a dream or vision signifies ignorance, strength and wild impulses. "His parents" in the verse are the human body and soul, because the source (or the parents) from which spring all moral qualities is the combination of the human body and soul which are represented here as "believers" because, as taught by Islam, man by nature is inclined to virtue. These "believers" may be dragged into vice by the impulses represented as "youth." Islam eradicates these impulses and leaves man—the human body and soul combined, to develop along beneficent lines and thus to achieve the high purpose of human life. (close)
As explained under 18:75 above غلام (youth) in a vision signifies, activity or buoyancy, power and ignorance; and the word قتل as also shown under the same verse means, diminishing or lessening the effect or vehemence of a thing. In view of the significance of these words, the killing of the youth would signify the lessening or diminishing the evil effects of ignorance, too much power and uncontrolled buoyancy.
The expression ابواہ (his parents) here means the human body and soul, because the parents or the source from which spring all moral qualities is the combination of the human body and soul which is man himself. So the killing of the youth in the vision signifies bringing under proper control unbridled human passions and lessening their vehemence and intensity. Thus the killing of the young man by the holy man of God so that he should not lead his parents to rebellion and disbelief, as seen in his vision by Moses, signifies that man has been gifted with great natural powers to perform the highest deeds of virtue and that in order to bring these powers into play, the faculties of activity, power and ignorance have been implanted in him. Man can fulfil the great object of his life by making use of these powers which spring from a combination of the human body and soul. But if these powers are not kept under proper control, they lead man to disbelief and transgression. These powers have been brought under proper control and their undue vehemence curbed by the commandments and ordinances which God has revealed to the Holy Prophet as signified by the killing of the young boy by the holy man in Moses’ Vision. (close)
فَاَرَدۡنَاۤ اَنۡ یُّبۡدِلَہُمَا رَبُّہُمَا خَیۡرًا مِّنۡہُ زَکٰوۃً وَّ اَقۡرَبَ رُحۡمًا ﴿۸۲﴾
فَأَرَدۡنَآ أَن يُبۡدِلَهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا خَيۡرٗا مِّنۡهُ زَكَوٰةٗ وَأَقۡرَبَ رُحۡمٗا
The verse means to say that Islam has laid down these ordinances and commandments so that man may completely subdue his carnal desires and thus experience a new spiritual birth. But, as mentioned above the followers of Moses gave free play to their low passions and, abandoning themselves to a life of ease and pleasure, exceeded all bounds of moderation and sobriety. (close)
وَ اَمَّا الۡجِدَارُ فَکَانَ لِغُلٰمَیۡنِ یَتِیۡمَیۡنِ فِی الۡمَدِیۡنَۃِ وَ کَانَ تَحۡتَہٗ کَنۡزٌ لَّہُمَا وَ کَانَ اَبُوۡہُمَا صَالِحًا ۚ فَاَرَادَ رَبُّکَ اَنۡ یَّبۡلُغَاۤ اَشُدَّہُمَا وَ یَسۡتَخۡرِجَا کَنۡزَہُمَا ٭ۖ رَحۡمَۃً مِّنۡ رَّبِّکَ ۚ وَ مَا فَعَلۡتُہٗ عَنۡ اَمۡرِیۡ ؕ ذٰلِکَ تَاۡوِیۡلُ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡطِعۡ عَّلَیۡہِ صَبۡرًا ﴿ؕ٪۸۳﴾
وَأَمَّا ٱلۡجِدَارُ فَكَانَ لِغُلَٰمَيۡنِ يَتِيمَيۡنِ فِي ٱلۡمَدِينَةِ وَكَانَ تَحۡتَهُۥ كَنزٞ لَّهُمَا وَكَانَ أَبُوهُمَا صَٰلِحٗا فَأَرَادَ رَبُّكَ أَن يَبۡلُغَآ أَشُدَّهُمَا وَيَسۡتَخۡرِجَا كَنزَهُمَا رَحۡمَةٗ مِّن رَّبِّكَۚ وَمَا فَعَلۡتُهُۥ عَنۡ أَمۡرِيۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَأۡوِيلُ مَا لَمۡ تَسۡطِع عَّلَيۡهِ صَبۡرٗا
1717. The orphan boys are Moses and Jesus, and their righteous father is Abraham. Their treasure was the true teaching bequeathed by them to their peoples which was in danger of being lost through the latter’s irreligiousness. This treasure was safeguarded in the Qur’an in order that when they may awaken to a realization of truth of the Quranic teaching they may accept it. (close)
1717A. It was done under Divine command. (close)
1718. The Vision of Moses points to the fact that because Islamic teaching was based on laws and principles which differed fundamentally from some principles of the Mosaic Law, true and real cooperation between Jews and Muslims was impossible. For a detailed explanation of v. 61-83, see "The Larger Edition of the Commentary," (pp. 1517-1530). (close)
As already pointed out جدار (the wall) represents the elders of the Jews i.e. Moses, Jesus (18:78) and Abraham of whom the Quran says, "and in the next he will surely be among the righteous" (2:131).
By کنز (treasure) is meant the treasure of divine knowledge which was vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus.
The verse purports to say that God preserved in the Quran the great treasure of spiritual knowledge which was vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus (98:4) and which was in danger of being lost because of the irreligiousness of the Jews and their engrossment in worldly affairs so that, when they awaken to a realization of truth, they may accept it.
The words, as a mercy from thy Lord, mean that the preservation by God of the imperishable part of the teachings of Moses and Jesus in the Quran was an act of mercy on His part because the Jews by their repeated rebellion and transgression had forfeited all title to Divine mercy. But despite their iniquities God had mercy on them and preserved their own treasures of spiritual knowledge in the Quran for their guidance.
The words, I did it not of my own accord, mean that the Holy Prophet had no hand in the preservation of this great treasure of divine knowledge. A reference to this fact has also been made in the words, "Nor does he speak of his own desire" (53:4).
After a perusal of the incidents mentioned in the preceding verses and their explanation it becomes abundantly clear that the Vision of Moses has been mentioned here to point to the following facts:
(a) That it was decreed and was in the fitness of things that the Holy Prophet should appear after Christians who constitute the second part of the Mosaic Dispensation had become corrupt.
(b) That because Islamic teaching was based on laws and principles which differed fundamentally from some principles of the Mosaic Law, true and real cooperation between Jews and Muslims was impossible, but salvation without subscribing to Islamic principles was also unthinkable.
(c) That Jews and Christians would refuse to accept the Holy Prophet and would follow their own separate course but they will have to give their allegiance to him in the long run.
(d) That, after a long and fatiguing journey and after having despaired of obtaining real peace and contentment of mind through their own unaided efforts, Jews and Christians would be compelled to take stock of their whole position with the result that they would realize that as their religion had long outlived its usefulness they should have given it up long before.
(e) That after the dawning of this realization upon them, the prophecies concerning them which have been preserved in the Quran will lead Jews and Christians to accept the Holy Prophet.
(f) That after having accepted Islam they will submit themselves to limitations and restrictions which it has imposed upon man to regulate his moral conduct, and that by subduing their unrestrained passions they will become resigned to Divine decree and thus will draw upon themselves God’s grace and will bathe in the sea of His Mercy.
In fact, the Isra’ of Moses constituted a beautiful prelude to the coming Islamic Dispensation which was to supplant the Mosaic Law. (close)
وَ یَسۡـَٔلُوۡنَکَ عَنۡ ذِی الۡقَرۡنَیۡنِ ؕ قُلۡ سَاَتۡلُوۡا عَلَیۡکُمۡ مِّنۡہُ ذِکۡرًا ﴿ؕ۸۴﴾
وَيَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ عَن ذِي ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِۖ قُلۡ سَأَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡكُم مِّنۡهُ ذِكۡرًا
1719. Before proceeding to know and establish the identity of Dhul- Qarnain, it is necessary to state the reasons why at all his story has been related in the Qur’an and why it has found such prominent mention in the present Surah. A pointed reference has already been made in this Surah to the two periods of the great material progress of Western Christian nations. Its opening verses give a somewhat detailed account of the Dwellers of the Cave. After an account of the early persecution of the Dwellers of the Cave and the later material progress and prosperity of their successors, the Western Christian nations, an account of the Isra’ or Spiritual Journey of Moses which represents the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam has been given in some detail in order to show that with the Holy Prophet’s appearance the first period of the material prosperity and progress of the Christian peoples would come to an end, and though it would still be possible for them to make some progress they would reach the zenith of their material glory and greatness for a second time long after his advent. This second period of material pomp and grandeur of the Christian people is represented in Divine Scriptures by the phenomenal rise to power of Gog and Magog which forms one of the central themes of the present Surah. Because politically Gog and Magog and Dhul-Qarnain are inseparably linked with each other, as will appear from the following paragraphs, Dhul-Qarnain’s account has also been given at some length in this Surah. Dhul-Qarnain seems to be the King who founded the Medo-Persian Empire which represented the two horns of the ram of Daniel’s famous dream. "I saw the ram pushing westward and northward and southward, so that no beast might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will and became great" (Dan. 8:4, 20, 21). Quite in harmony with this part of Daniel’s dream, the Qur’an mentions three journeys of Dhul-Qarnain (vv. 87, 91, 94). This fact lends powerful support to the inference that Dhul-Qarnain was the descriptive name of a king of Media and Persia. And of all kings of Media and Persia, the description given in the Qur’an most fitly applies to Cyrus. The Qur’an has mentioned four distinctive marks of Dhul-Qarnain: (a) He was a powerful monarch and a kind and just ruler (vv. 85, 89). (b) He was a righteous servant of God and was blessed with Divine revelation (vv. 92, 99). (c) He marched to the West and made great conquests till he came to a place where he found the sun setting, as it were, in a pool of murky water and then he turned to the East and conquered and subdued vast territories (vv. 87, 88). (d) He went to a midway region where a savage people lived and where Gog and Magog made great inroads; and he built a wall there to stop these inroads (vv. 94-98). Of the great rulers and famous military captains of ancient times Cyrus possesses, in the greatest measure, the four above-mentioned qualities. He, therefore, rightly deserves to be considered the Dhul-Qarnain of the Qur’an, (Isaiah, ch. 45; Ezra, ch. 1 & 2; II Chron., ch. 36:22, 23; Historians' History of the World, under "Cyrus"). (close)
2122. Important Words:
ذوالقرنین (Dhul-Qarnain). قرن is derived from قرن (qarana). They say قرن شیئا بشیء i.e. he connected a thing with a thing. قرنmeans, horn; edge; border of the rising sun; trumpet of the Last Judgement; nobleman; one’s equal in age; a generation of men; people of one time; people of a time among whom there appears a Prophet of God; century; age (Lane & Aqrab). See also 6:7.
Before proceeding to know and establish the identity of Dhul-Qarnain it is necessary to state the reasons why at all his story has been related in the Quran and why it has found such prominent mention in the present Surah. A pointed reference has already been made in this Surah to the two periods of the great material progress of Christian nations. Its opening verses give a somewhat detailed account of the Dwellers of the Cave. We are told that in the early days of Christianity, Christians were true and righteous followers of their Faith. Even in later years when they came to acquire great political power but lost much of their former spiritual vitality and religious fervour, they did not altogether become divorced from their religion because till that time they had retained some faith in Jesus and because also a new Dispensation which demanded their allegiance had not yet come into force.
After the story of the Dwellers of the Cave an account of the Isra’ (اسراء) or Spiritual Journey of Moses which represents the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam has been given in some detail in order to show that with the Holy Prophet’s appearance the first period of the material prosperity and progress of the Christian people would come to an end and though it would still be possible for them to make some progress they would reach the zenith of their material glory and greatness for a second time long after his advent. Spiritually, however, they would be a dead people and without the Holy Prophet’s acceptance there would be no redemption for them. This second period of material pomp and grandeur and the spiritual death of the Christian people are represented in Divine Scriptures by the phenomenal rise to power of Gog and Magog which forms one of the central themes of the present Surah. Because politically Gog and Magog and Dhul-Qarnain are inseparably linked with each other, as will appear from the following paragraphs, Dhul-Qarnain’s account also has been given at some length in this Surah.
Now as to Gog and Magog. These names were given to certain tribes who lived in the extreme north-west of Asia and eastern Europe. The fertility of the Asiatic plains led these tribes to make inroads into the south and south-west of Asia. If these incursions had been uniformly successful the whole course of subsequent human history would have completely changed and, like the marauding Aryans before them, these people would also have settled in Asia and would have been converted to the various religions of the east. But, as is explained in the following verses, Dhul-Qarnain set up a formidable barrier which prevented their spreading into Asia and thus compelled them to move further west. Thus they became hedged in between the extreme north-west of Asia and eastern Europe and instead of penetrating into Asia they spread into other parts of Europe. There they came into contact with Christianity which they accepted and made their national Faith. But these people never ceased to cast longing eyes on the fertile lands of Asia and to cherish an intense desire to conquer them. The sense of frustration at their failure to fulfil their heartfelt desire deepened with every generation till it developed into a feeling of political hostility towards the Asiatic peoples which burst forth in its full fury in the last three centuries. Thus Dhul-Qarnain’s efforts to check these people from spreading into Asia, in a way, led to the great spiritual havoc caused among mankind by Dajjal which is the second name of Gog and Magog. As both Gog and Magog and Dhul-Qarnain are intimately connected with each other, Dhul-Qarnain has found a mention in the Quran along with the account of the second rise to power and prosperity of Christian nations who, in our age, represent Gog and Magog.
Who is this Dhul-Qarnain to whom the present and the following several verses refer and when and where did he live? Before an answer to this question is attempted it must be pointed out that the Quran is not a book of history. It does not merely record a historical event to establish its authenticity. The so-called stories mentioned in the Quran are, in fact, so many prophecies about future events. The story of Dhul-Qarnain also belongs to the same category. It is not merely an account of the military exploits of a great and noble conqueror who lived in the past but it contains also a prophetic reference to another great historical personage, a World Reformer, who was to appear in some future time—our own time. About the appearance of this Reformer who has been called "the Promised Messiah and Mahdi" repeated mention has been made in Muslim scriptures (Bukhari, Majah etc.). Thus the story of Dhu’1 Qarnain possesses both ahistorical and a spiritual significance and therefore deserves special study.
Dhul-Qarnain was the founder of the Medo-Persian Empire which represented the two horns of the ram of Daniel’s famous dream. Daniel says: "I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great" (Dan. 8:4). Quite in harmony with this part of Daniel’s dream, the Quran mentions three journeys of Dhul-Qarnain (vv. 87, 91, 94). This fact lends powerful support to the inference that Dhul-Qarnain is the descriptive name of a king of Media and Persia. And of all the kings of Media and Persia, the description given in the Quran most fitly applies to Cyrus. He ascended the throne of Persia after the death of his father and subsequently conquered Media which was a greater kingdom than Persia, and thus was fulfilled the second part of Daniel’s dream: "and behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other and the higher came up last" (Dan. 8:3).
The Quran has mentioned four distinctive marks of Dhul-Qarnain: (1) He was a righteous servant of God, and he was blessed with Divine revelation (vv. 87, 92 & 99). (2) He was a great conqueror and a kind and just ruler; and he treated the nations he conquered most benevolently (vv. 85, 89). (3) He marched to the west and made great conquests till he came to a place where he found the sun setting in a pool of murky water and then he turned to the East and conquered and subdued vast territories (vv. 85, 87, 88, 89). (4) Last of all he went to a midway region where lived a savage people and where Gog and Magog made inroads, and he built a wall there to stop these inroads (vv. 94-98). Now of the great monarchs and famous military captains of ancient times Cyrus possesses in the greatest measure the four above-mentioned qualifications. He therefore more than anybody else deserves to be considered as the Dhul-Qarnain of the Quran.
The first distinguishing mark of Dhul-Qarnain mentioned above is that he was a righteous man of God and was blessed with Divine revelation. The Bible agrees with the Quran in this respect. The Bible says:
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus whose righthand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel…Now in the first year of Cyrus King of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing saying: Thus saith Cyrus King of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah (Isaiah, 44:28; 45:1-3; Ezra. 1:1-2 & 2 Chron. 36:22-23).
Thus according to the Bible Cyrus was Jehovah’s "friend", His "anointed" and "shepherd" and "performed all His pleasure" (Jew. Enc., vol. 4, p. 404 & Enc. Bib., vol. 1, col. 980).
Dhul-Qarnain’s second characteristic according to the Quran is that he was a great conqueror and ruler of vast territories. About this the Bible says:
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem…Whose hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates…I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places (Ezra 1:2; Isaiah 45:1-3).
In this respect history also supports the Quran and the Bible. It represents Cyrus as a great conqueror and a very humane ruler who treated the nations he conquered most generously and in return received their most willing allegiance:
I knew that there were some who willingly obeyed Cyrus, that were many days’ journey, and others that were even some months’ journey distant from him, some, too, who had never seen him and some who knew very well that they never should see him; and yet they readily submitted to his government; for he so far excelled all other kings, as well as those that had received their dominion from their fore-fathers, as those that had acquired it by their own efforts…More than this he was most humane. His shield is stained by no horrible deeds of blood, of frightful revenge and cruelty…He spared and made gifts to conquered enemies…because no wide stream of blood separated him from the vanquished, he found the only possible basis for his giant structure in the raising of the conquerors and the conquered to equal privileges…Who is there that approaches him? He is not only beloved by his own people as a father incomparable in every way…He was not the product and child of his age but its creator and father. (Historians’ History of the World, under Cyrus).
Dhul-Qarnain’s third outstanding mark mentioned in the Quran is that he conquered and established a vast empire in the East as well as in the West. Now it is a well-known fact of history that Cyrus ruled over vast territories which extended to the waters of the Black Sea in the west and to the confines of Afghanistan, Samarkand and Bukhara in the East. About his conquests in the West it may briefly be stated that he had hardly become the ruler of Media and Persia when Croesus, the King of Lydia (Asia Minor), from his capital, Sardis, instigated the rulers of Babylon, Egypt and Sparta, and rose against him but within a few days suffered a crushing defeat and opened the way for Cyrus’ conquests up to the banks of the Black Sea. Cyrus conquered Babylon, Nineveh and Greek colonies which had extended to the north of Asia Minor to the Sea of Marmora. Thus he reached that pool of murky water which was situated to the West of that country. About Cyrus’ conquests in the East the Historians’ History of the World (vol. 2, under Cyrus) says:
How far to the East Cyrus extended his dominion we do not know, but it is probable that all the countries to the East which are mentioned in the older inscriptions of Darius as in subjection or rebellion were already subject in the time of Cyrus. In this case Chorasmia (Kharezm, the modern Khiva) and Sogdiana (Samarkand and Bukhara) belonged to him. He doubtless ruled also over a large portion of modern Afghanistan.
The following extract also from the Historians’ History of the World (under Cyrus) throws further light on the vast range of the conquests of Cyrus in both the West and the East.
But Cyrus finding, in like manner, the nations of Asia independent and setting out with a little army of Persians, obtained the dominion over the Medes by their own choice, and over the Hyrcanians in a similar manner; he subdued the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, both the Phrygians, the Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians and Babylonians; he had under his rule the Bactrians, Indians and Cilicians as well the Sacians, Paphlagonians and Magadidians and many other nations of whom we cannot enumerate even the names. He had dominion over the Greeks that were settled in Asia and going down to the sea over the Cyprians and Egyptians. These nations he ruled though they spoke neither the same language with himself nor with one another; yet he was able to extend the fear of himself over so great a part of the world, that he astonished all and no one attempted anything against him… without a struggle the greatest empires, the two conquerors of Nineveh, surrendered to him both themselves and their own kings in chains, as had been done to none other; even Tyre, that proud and mighty city, unconquered and unconquerable, with whose lion-courage his predecessor and his successor, Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander alike, wrestled so fiercely and so long, did homage to him of her own free will. Above all, the little people of the Jews hailed him at the waters of Babylon as they had done no mortal before or since, as the victor and rescuer, the liberator and saviour.
The fourth notable feature of Dhul-Qarnain referred to in the Quran is that after his conquests he turned his attention to a midway region. Here lived a half savage people who were the target of constant attacks by Gog and Magog and he built a wall to stop these inroads. Now in order fully to understand and appreciate this Quranic passage it is necessary to know who Gog and Magog were. About these people the Bible says:
Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophecy against him, and say, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: and I will turn thee about and put hooks into thy jaws…Persia, Cush and Put with them (Ezekiel 38:2-6).
This shows that according to the Bible, which is our first and main source of information about Gog and Magog, Russia, Moscow and Tobolsk which are all situated in northern regions were the homeland of these people.
History supports this Biblical account about Gog and Magog. Magog is mentioned in Genesis 10:2 as the second son of Japheth, between Gomer and Madai. Gomer representing the Cimmerian who lived to the east of Asia Minor and Madai the Medes, Magog must be a people located east of the Cimmerian and west of the Medes. But in the list of nations (Gen. 10) the term connotes rather the complex of Barbarian peoples dwelling at the extreme north and north-east of the geographical survey covered by the chapter…In Ezek. 39:6 Magog occurs as the name of a northern people, the leader of whom is Gog and in Revelation Gog and Magog are considered as a comprehensive term for the powers of evil. Josephus identified them with the Scythians, a name which among classical writers stands for a number of unknown ferocious tribes. According to Jerome Magog was situated beyond the Caucasus, near the Caspian Sea. This also is the same northern region where the Scythians lived. Herodotus indicates that these nomads (Scythians) came through the natural gate between the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, the pass of Darband (Jew. Enc., under Gog and Magog & Historians’ History of the World, vol. 2, p. 582).
Now as quoted above from the Bible, Gog and Magog had conquered Persia and it is a well-known fact of history that "Persia fell into the hands of the Scythians or Median Emperor who ruled Ecbatana from whom it was delivered by Cyrus the Great" (Historians’ History of the World, vol. 2, p.589).
So it seems quite clear that the Scythians or Gog and Magog occupied territories to the north and north-east of the Black Sea and that they came from these territories through the pass of Darband and invaded and conquered and ruled over the Persians and that Cyrus had defeated them and delivered the Persians from their clutches.
As to the last point about Dhul-Qarnain—that he built a strong wall as a barrier against the inroads of Gog and Magog—we find that exactly at the place which according to Herodotus was the pass through which the Scythians made raids upon Persia stood a wall, the famous wall of Derbent. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (under Derbent) refers to this wall as follows:
Derbent or Darband, a town of Persia, Caucasia, in the province of Daghestan, on the western shore of the Caspian…And to the south lies the seaward extremity of the Caucasian wall, 50 miles long otherwise known as Alexander’s wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate or the Caspian Gate. This, when entire, had a height of 29 feet and a thickness of about 10 feet, and with its iron gates and numerous watch-towers formed a veritable defence of the Persian Frontier.
This extract shows that there existed a wall which served as a barrier against, and protected Persia from, the attacks of the Scythians in the north. It is generally believed that this was built by Alexander the Great but this popular belief is against proven facts of history. Alexander defeated Darius in the summer of 330 B.C., but this defeat did not give him possession of the whole of Persia. Without pausing to take rest he proceeded to subdue the whole country, but had hurriedly to come back to quell a revolt in his rear. After this he marched on to Kabul, where he had to face another revolt in his army and it was only in the winter of 329 B.C., that he could come to India. He finished all this journey in such haste that some historians have doubted whether it could have been accomplished in such a short time. Anyhow, it is admitted that he fought his way to India and did not stop anywhere. From India he returned in 324 B.C. to Persia, where he had again to face a revolt in his army. After subduing it he started for home and died on the way in June, 323 B.C. (Enc. Brit., 14th edition, vol. 1, pp. 569, 570). These facts show that his military expeditions were like a whirlwind and he conquered a large part of the world in a very short time. Amidst these whirlwind expeditions he could not give attention to any vast project such as the building of a large wall of the nature of that under discussion. The popular notion that Alexander had built this wall seems to have arisen from the fact that Muslim commentators of the Quran mistook Dhul-Qarnain for Alexander.
But if Alexander did not build this wall it does not prove that Cyrus built it. We are not in possession of quite incontestable and conclusive historical evidence to show that Cyrus did build this wall. Our conclusion that he was its builder is based only on the following circumstantial evidence:
(a) Darius about whom Cyrus had seen a vision that his wings would overshadow Europe and Asia ascended the Persian throne after the death of the son of Cyrus. In order to break the power of the Scythians Darius passed through Greece and attacked them prom across Europe. It is inconceivable that Darius should have undertaken such a long, arduous and roundabout journey to attack these people from across south-east Europe when they lived very near him in the north. The inevitable conclusion is that the existence of a huge wall which only Cyrus before him could have built had made it impossible for him to cross over to the other side with a large force. Nor was it possible for him to demolish it or take his army safely through its gates. So in order to fulfil his mission the only possible and wise cause open to Darius was to attack the Scythians from the side of Europe.
(b) If there existed no impassable barrier of the nature of that under discussion it is inconceivable that, wise and far-seeing strategist as he was, Darius should have adopted a circuitous route of thousands of miles across Europe to attack the Scythians, his own country exposed to their attacks from across the border.
(c) The fact that before the time of Cyrus the Scythians made constant and uninterrupted raids on Persia but after his conquests these raids completely ceased, leads to the very probable conclusion that he must have set up a barrier which effectively checked these attacks, and that the barrier must be the famous wall at Derbent, mistakenly known as Alexander’s wall. (close)
اِنَّا مَکَّنَّا لَہٗ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ وَ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ مِنۡ کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ سَبَبًا ﴿ۙ۸۵﴾
إِنَّا مَكَّنَّا لَهُۥ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَءَاتَيۡنَٰهُ مِن كُلِّ شَيۡءٖ سَبَبٗا
a. 12:22, 57. (close)
1720. See Ezra, 1:1, 2; Isa., 45:1-3 & Historians’ History of the World. (close)
a. 12:22, 57. (close)
It has been made clear in the note on Dhul-Qarnain that Cyrus was blessed with every kind of means for his great conquests and that God Himself directed all his ways and had given him all the kingdoms of the earth (Isaiah 45:13 & Ezra 1:2).
The words انامکنا له فی الارض signify that the rise of Cyrus to power took place under exceptional circumstances.
The words کل شیء (everything) mean everything necessary for the accomplishment of his task. (close)
فَاَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا ﴿۸۶﴾
حَتّٰۤی اِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ الشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَہَا تَغۡرُبُ فِیۡ عَیۡنٍ حَمِئَۃٍ وَّ وَجَدَ عِنۡدَہَا قَوۡمًا ۬ؕ قُلۡنَا یٰذَا الۡقَرۡنَیۡنِ اِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تُعَذِّبَ وَ اِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تَتَّخِذَ فِیۡہِمۡ حُسۡنًا ﴿۸۷﴾
حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ ٱلشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَهَا تَغۡرُبُ فِي عَيۡنٍ حَمِئَةٖ وَوَجَدَ عِندَهَا قَوۡمٗاۖ قُلۡنَا يَٰذَا ٱلۡقَرۡنَيۡنِ إِمَّآ أَن تُعَذِّبَ وَإِمَّآ أَن تَتَّخِذَ فِيهِمۡ حُسۡنٗا
1721. The words, the setting-place of the sun, signify the westernmost parts of Cyrus’s Empire or the north-western boundary of Asia Minor and refer to the Black Sea, because it formed the north-western boundary of his Empire. The verse refers to the expedition which Cyrus undertook against his enemies in the West (Enc. Brit. & Historians’ History of the World, under "Cyrus"). (close)
2124. Important Words:
عین حمئة (pool of murky water) حمئة is derived from حما. They say حما البئر i.e. he cleansed the well of its black, fetid mud. حمئت البئر means, the well had in it black mud in abundance. حمئی العین means, a man of evil eye who injures with his eye him whom he sees and admires. The words عین حمئة mean, a well or a spring or pool foul with black, fetid mud (Lane). See also 15:29.
The words مغرب الشمس i.e. the place where the sun set; signify the westernmost parts of Cyrus’ Empire or the north-western boundary of Asia Minor and refer to the Black Sea because it formed the north-western boundary of the Empire of Cyrus. The verse refers to the expedition which Cyrus undertook against his enemies in the west. "Soon after the conquest of the Median empire Cyrus was attacked by a coalition of the other powers of the East-Babylon, Egypt and Lydia, joined by Sparta, the greatest military power of Greece. In the spring of 546 Croesus of Lydia began the attack and advanced into Cappadocia, while the other powers were still gathering their troops. But Cyrus anticipated them; he defeated Croesus and followed him to his capital. In the autumn of 546 Sardis was taken and the Lydian kingdom became a province of the Persians… During the next few years the Persian army suppressed a rebellion of the Lydian. The King of Cilicia voluntarily acknowledged the Persian supremacy "(Enc. Brit., & Historians’ History of the World, under Cyrus).
The words, "he found it (the sun) setting in a spring of murky water," signify that it is not a small pool to which they refer. The waters referred to are so extensive that if one were to take his stand on the shore at the time of sunset, the sun would appear to be setting in the sea. (close)
قَالَ اَمَّا مَنۡ ظَلَمَ فَسَوۡفَ نُعَذِّبُہٗ ثُمَّ یُرَدُّ اِلٰی رَبِّہٖ فَیُعَذِّبُہٗ عَذَابًا نُّکۡرًا ﴿۸۸﴾
قَالَ أَمَّا مَن ظَلَمَ فَسَوۡفَ نُعَذِّبُهُۥ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِۦ فَيُعَذِّبُهُۥ عَذَابٗا نُّكۡرٗا
b. 7:166. (close)
1722. Cyrus believed in Life after death. He was a follower of Zoroaster and of all religions, second only to Islam, Zoroastrianism has laid the greatest stress on Life after death. 'There can be no doubt that Cyrus and his Persian followers were faithful believers in the pure doctrine of Zoroaster, and disdainfully regarded foreign cults' (Jew. Enc., vol. 4, p. 404). (close)
a. 7:166. (close)
The words, then shall he be brought back to his Lord, indicate that Cyrus believed in life after death. He was a follower of Zoroaster and of all religions, second only to Islam, Zoroastrianism has laid the greatest stress on life after death. "There can be no doubt that Cyrus and his Persians, like Darius at a later period, were faithful believers in the pure doctrine of Zoroaster, and disdainfully regarded foreign cults" (Jew. Enc., vol. 4, p. 404). (close)