Silver Lining

Food for thought

The Story of Thul-Qarnayn in Cave (Al Kahf) chapter: Reform

by Amr Khaled

Translated by: The English Convoy – Dar al-Tarjama

Who is Thul-Qarnayn?

He is a man who traveled all over the globe with his team of scientists. The key to his personality lies in two things: the first is related to the worldly life and the second is related to faith. The worldly life part is about his passion to discover the unknown and the faith part is about being good to people and helping them to improve. Thul-Qarnayn used his passion of discovering the unknown to reform the earth.

His story came in Surat[1] Al-Kahf immediately after the story of Musa (AS)[2] (Moses) and Al-Khedr. Allah[3] (SWT)[4] says what can be translated as, “Say, “I will soon recite to you a mention of him.” (TMQ, 18:83). [5]

Allah (SWT) did not say anything about Thul-Qarnayn’s birth nor any details about his personal life. HE only told us about his universal power which he directed to do good. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Surely We established him in the earth, and We brought him means to (accomplish) everything.” (TMQ, 18:84).

Thul-Qarnayn and Ambition:

Something strange is noticed: Why was he mentioned in the holy Qur’an by the name of “Thul-Qarnayn”? Is it because he reached the two furthest sides of the sun (the sunset and sunrise)? Or is it because he controlled the two aspects of civilization (the materialistic and the spiritual) which is a deeper meaning? Only a rare few control both aspects of civilization and Thul-Qarnayn had them both; the knowledge and the ability to direct it for the good of earth. He controlled the earth through using the means he had (hard work, engineering, geography, medicine, history, sciences, languages, architecture and military equipment), not by being lazy and relying on others.

Thul-Qarnayn’s Up-bringing:

Thul-Qarnayn had worked on his ambition day and night, but the question is how did he become such a hero? We can find the answer in the following three points:

1. Thul-Qarnayn is the product of a possible 300 years of an entire generation’s work. A work that has started with learning, such as the story of Musa and Al-Khidr, and a nation with a mission, that had determination, power and knowledge and finally it produced Thul-Qarnayn. He, therefore, did not become so great all by himself. Hence, we should start planting the seeds that could produce the next Thul-Qarnayn in our ummah (Muslim nation).

2. Thul-Qarnayn started with a dream, his dream involved the whole earth. His ambition was not restricted by places. Allah (SWT) did not describe where Thul-Qarnayn had traveled geographically; HE told us that he has reached the furthest point on earth, both to the east and to the west. Why not start dreaming ourselves?

3. Thul-Qarnayn had a set of values and ethics with which he was able to achieve all of his glory. This set of values includes (the value of work; the value of knowledge; the value of clean-hands; the value of ambition; the value of giving; the value of making others happy; the value of professionalism as shown in building the dam and finally the value of justice and hating injustice and passiveness. Thul-Qarnayn was qualified enough to reign.

Trust in Allah and Using Means:

Thul-Qarnayn is mentioned in more than 20 ayahs[6] in the Noble Qur’an. Does Allah (SWT) love him that much? Moreover, the companions of the Prophet (SAWS)[7] have heard those ayahs in Makkah and they were able to do what Thul-Qarnayn had done, within 25 years, generation after generation. They understood the whole concept and the values therein. In addition, this story came immediately after the story of Al-khidr who was talking about the supernatural and the spiritual, because a balancing story of using means must follow.

The Journeys of Thul-Qarnayn:

…We will talk about the first journey of Thul-Qarnayn. It is said that he went to Yemen towards the place where the sun sets. Imagine the huge military forces that traveled with him, together with engineers, doctors, geography scientists and linguists.

Sunset, to anyone, is the place where the sun sets whether he was in front of a sea or a mountain, but Thul-Qarnayn has actually reached the furtherst point on earth to the west guided by his geography scientists. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, (The western part of the then known world) he found it setting in a muddy spring” (TMQ: 18:86). There he has found a civilized people who had money but, unfortunately, were unjust. Thul-Qarnayn found in that land, as well, many oppressed farmers who had no rights, as the rich and the powerful took everything away. At first when he arrived, the farmers thought he came to take away their bounties. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “We said, “O Thulqarnayn, either you will torment (them) or you will take to yourself towards them a fair (way).” (TMQ, 18:86). This was a test for Thul-Qarnayn after becoming a global power. What would he do? Thul-Qarnayn established a new constitution and did not punish who has previously committed a sin. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “He said, “As for him who did injustice, we will eventually torment him; thereafter he will be turned back to his Lord; then He will torment him with a highly maleficent torment.” (TMQ, 18:87). He enacted deterrent punishments, and there was no chaos or favors. He encouraged self-restrain among the people. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “And as for him who believes and does righteousness, then he will have as recompense the fairest (reward), and we soon will say to him, of our command, Ease.” (TMQ, 18:88).

Thus, Thul-Qarnayn had spread justice in that land. He did not leave until the new constitution was firmly established, after which he walked millions of kilometers towards sunrise.

Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Until, when be reached the rising of the sun, he found it rising upon a people for whom We had not made a screen there from.” (TMQ, 18:90).

Those people lived in a natural disaster without even clothes to protect them from the sun. They suffered from draught and had no water, just like some poor countries in Africa nowadays where there are no trees, plants or water. Their problem was that they have succumbed to this disaster and accepted it as their fate. They have forgotten that digging well and rivers and land reclamation can be their fate as well.

In the first journey, justice was needed while in the second developmental reform was needed. Thul-Qarnayn had undertaken the best achievement which has benefited even us until today; building the dam to protect us from Gog and Magog.

Thul-Qarnayn has then reached a vast land situated between two mountains in the northern part of the world. Maybe it was in the Soviet Union, Georgia or China, nobody knows. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Until, when he reached between the two barriers, he found close to them a people who almost did not comprehend speech.” (TMQ, 18:93). There he found people of new nationalities, people who could hardly speak out of fear, for when he arrived, they were in a calamity, where their children were killed and their crops were burnt and stolen. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “They said, “O Thulqarnayn! Surely Yaejuj and Meajuj (Gog and Magog) are corruptors in the earth; so shall we make for you a tribute on condition that you make a barrier between us and them?” (Literally: between us and between them)” (TMQ, 18: 94). It was clear that they know him very well and that his fame has become global at that time. They were believers but Gog and Magog are two tribes whose aim is to steal these people’s bounties and to massacre them. They repeated that annually then would go back to their land.

These people were rich as they offered Thul-Qarnayn money to build a dam in order to protect them. They knew very well that building the dam was the solution. They had many natural resources as well, for Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Bring me ingots of iron.” (TMQ. 18:96). In addition, they had workers and manpower. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, ““Blow!” Until, when he made it a fire, he said, “Bring me, that I may pour out molten brass on it.” (TMQ, 18:96). What was missing with these people? Their land was full of oil, they had youth, they had ideas and wealth but the willpower was missing. The first story was about justice, the second about despair and the third was about willpower. They did not want to make a move despite the fact that some of them die every day. They just wanted to sit and wait for the savior.

Thul-Qarnayn rejected taking money for building the dam. Allah says what can be translated as, “so help me with (your) power” (TMQ, 18:95). If he had built that dam without their help, hundreds of other people would come to attack them. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “so help me with (your) power, so that I will make up a rampart between you and between them.” (TMQ, 18:95). He then started to gather straight blocks of iron. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Bring me ingots of iron.” (TMQ, 18:96). Thousands of workers had participated in that national project and built something greater than the pyramid itself. They have lifted and adjusted the iron in place, as he had an unusual scientific power. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Until, when he had leveled up between the two cliffs, he said, “Blow!” Until, when he made it a fire, he said, “Bring me, that I may pour out molten brass on it.” (TMQ. 18:96). Thul-Qarnayn had ordered them to heat the iron, and to bring it to him when it became red as he would then pour the melted copper over the iron. When the melted copper would spread through the iron, it would solidify and become so smooth that nobody can climb on it.

This is the definition of teamwork. Thul-Qarnayn has undertaken three tasks while they have undertaken three tasks. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Bring me ingots of iron.” Until, when he had leveled up between the two cliffs, he said, “Blow!” Until, when he made it a fire, he said, “Bring me, that I may pour out molten brass on it.” (TMQ, 18:96). Gog and Magog came after building the dam shouting and yelling while Thul-Qarnayn was waiting on the other side with his army. This means that he had stayed with these people for almost a year. Why did he not fight them then? It is because it is better to protect the people without war if possible. Heroism is not always about war.

Gog and Magog were not able neither to climb the dam nor to destroy it. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “So, in no way were they able to surmount it, and in no way were they able to bore it.” (TMQ, 18:97). Thul-Qarnayn then made his last speech and attributed all the glory to Allah. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “He said, “This is a mercy from my Lord. Then when the promise of my Lord comes, He will make it pounded (into dust); and the promise of my Lord has (always) been true.” (TMQ, 18:98).

Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) told us that each day Gog and Magog would try to dig into this dam but they would not be able to until the Day of Judgment, where the dam would be opened for them to destroy the human race. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Till, when Yaejuj and Maejuj (Gog and Magog) are opened up, and they press down from every slope, (i.e., broken themselves into sects)” (TMQ, 21:96).

I don not know where they are on earth nor why the satellites could not see them, but I do believe in our Noble Qur’an and this would be one of the signs of the Day of Judgment. I suggest telling the story of Thul-Qarnayn to our 7-8 years old children, may be someone in this generation would be like him.

———————-

Footnotes:

[1] Surat= A chapter; the Qur’an is comprised of 114 surahs.

[2] AS= Alayhe as-Salam [All Peace of Allah be upon him].

[3] Allah = The word Allah is the Arabic term for God. Although the use of the word “Allah” is most often associated with Islam, it is not used exclusively by Muslims; Arab Christians and Arabic-speaking Jews also use it to refer to the One God. The Arabic word expresses the unique characteristics of the One God more precisely than the English term. Whereas the word “Allah” has no plural form in Arabic, the English form does. Allah is the God worshipped by all Prophets, from Adam to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

[4]SWT= Subhanahu wa Ta’ala (Glorified and exalted Be He)

[5]TMQ=Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an. This translation is for the realized meaning, so far, of the stated (Surah:Ayah) of the Qur’an. Reading the translated meaning of the Qur’an can never replace reading it in Arabic, the language in which it was revealed.

[6] Ayah= A verse in the Qur’an.

[7] SAWS= Salla Allah alayhe Wa Salam [All Prayers and Peace of Allah be upon him].

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8 responses to “The Story of Thul-Qarnayn in Cave (Al Kahf) chapter: Reform

  1. superman4ever March 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    MashAllah, I liked this post so very much. 😀 So much! Dhul-Qarnayn’s always interested me, I was doing some reading…last year, I believe…into his identity and I just love the whole debate behind it! 😀

    I don’t think it’s Alexander the Great (no way!). Darius I could be a possibility, if you look at the bible (Isaiah 42-43), there is some significant resemblance there. Cyrus is another good guess. But NOT Alexander or Xerxes, like some have stated.

    Some say it’s Imam Ali (AS) but the evidence to that was a little sketchy for me.

    Surah 18 has a LOT of fantastic things in it, another is the story of “Seven Sleepers” I wrote a blog on it (2 months ago), but didn’t post it…it’s only halfway done. I should finish it, Inshallah soon!

    I LOVE Surah Al-Kahf, OOHHH WEEE, I LOVE this Surah! Because it is a confirmation to ALL people of the book of the absolute truth that is Islam, through Rasulullah! The Musrikeen, along with certain people of the book decided to test Prophet Muhammad with 3 questions that were unknown to the Hijaz at the time (except to the Jews). 1. Who are the seven sleepers? 2. What is the real story of Khidr? 3. Who is Dhul-Qarnayn? “Only a real prophet of God would know the true answer”, they said.

    Guess what happened the very next day! 😀

    Didn’t mean to geek out on you like that, but I LOVE this stuff!

  2. realistic bird March 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Masha’Allah 3alek akhi, do you remember all the books you read?

    No character of history known to us actually stood to what thul qarnian did, Allahu ‘3lam.

    Yes it is an amazing surah, I was thinking of putting all the stories in it then linking them all to a post about the surah itself and its general meaning, insha’Allah.

    Awaiting your post! 😀

    No problem bro I’m obsessed with the stories in the Qur’an too. 🙂

    Wasalaam

  3. superman4ever March 16, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Oh yeah, I just refer to him as Dhul-Qarnayn’s but the speculation is fun. If you ever go to some of the Shia chats (they’re the best ones) and just sit back and watch the brothers and sisters fight back and forth between “Alexander”, “Darius” “Imam Ali”, “Unknown”, etc. It’s just fun and very enlightening! 😀

    I eat this stuff up! 😀 Just like the Muqattaat (“Alif. Lam. Mim.” for Al Baqarah) debates. Oh, those are sooooo fun.

  4. realistic bird March 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    I’m been to some but haven’t had the chance to see that 😆

    Ya3teek al3afyeh, if you find some interesting topics about this send it my way please, thanks. 😀

  5. Danah April 23, 2009 at 1:35 am

    Masha Allah. Ummm I noticed that in this(below) paragraph, you spelled Gog as God. Big difference. Other than that, great job!! I truly benefited from this paper, and I’m sure many others have as well.
    Thul-Qarnayn has then reached a vast land situated between two mountains in the northern part of the world. Maybe it was in the Soviet Union, Georgia or China, nobody knows. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “Until, when he reached between the two barriers, he found close to them a people who almost did not comprehend speech.” (TMQ, 18:93). There he found people of new nationalities, people who could hardly speak out of fear, for when he arrived, they were in a calamity, where their children were killed and their crops were burnt and stolen. Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “They said, “O Thulqarnayn! Surely Yaejuj and Meajuj (God and Magog) are corruptors in the earth; so shall we make for you a tribute on condition that you make a barrier between us and them?” (Literally: between us and between them)” (TMQ, 18: 94). It was clear that they know him very well and that his fame has become global at that time. They were believers but Gog and Magog are two tribes whose aim is to steal these people’s bounties and to massacre them. They repeated that annually then would go back to their land.

  6. realistic bird April 23, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Salaam,

    Oops! I didn’t notice it before, thanks Danah 😀 the article was translated from Arabic on Amr Khaled’s site so mistakes happen . Jazaki Allah khier.

  7. iqbal August 13, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    SubhanAllah a very good commentary. I have done Tafseer of this surah many times and from different sources, but different approach is presented here. The conclusions drawn about the three journeys was really good. JazakAllahokhairan

  8. Hemed May 30, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    The sheikh is good but doesnt know anything about Africa

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