Dhul-Qarnayn is the subject of the last narrative in Surah Al Kahf. This narrative, along with the narrative of the People of the Cave, was brought to light in response to the Jews of Mecca’s attempts to discredit Rasulullah SAW. Their academics questioned Rasulullah SAW by providing him with specific key words and requesting him to recount these events in full to demonstrate that he was, in fact, a Prophet. These stories were only known to the religious elite among them. These stories weren’t known to the Mekkah people at that time and weren’t a part of their traditions because they didn’t have a Jewish or Christian background. Rasulullah SAW could only have provided them with the information if Allah had revealed the Story to him (by Angel Jibril A.S.)
Rasulullah SAW was requested to explain these instances; however, he left out the phrase “Insha Allah” (God willing) and instead invited the questioners to come back the next day. Although it was a small error on his side, Allah quickly chastised him for it. Jibril AS would frequently reveal revelations to Muhammad SAW in response to challenges from unbelievers or situations that required divine guidance to resolve. When this happened, Jibril AS would typically provide the solution quickly—if not on the same day as the challenge, then shortly thereafter. But in this instance, day after day went by and Jibril AS remained unrealized.
As time went on, rumors spread that Rasulullah SAW was unable to meet the challenge posed by the Jews. This was a test from Allah, as well as a reprimanding for Rasulullah SAW for not stating “Insha Allah” before committing.
The Qur’an does, in fact, mention this reminder:
And never say of anything, “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,” Except [when adding], “If Allah wills.” And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct.”
(Al Qur’an; 18:24)
Dhul-Qarnayn: Who was he?
But eventually, Allah gave Rasulullah SAW the solutions, which are recorded in Surah Al Kahf, the Qur’an’s eighteenth chapter.
Who is Dhul-Qarnayn, exactly? The most common interpretation of Dhul-Qarnayn is that it alludes to either Alexander the Great of Macedonia or Iskandar Dhul-Qarnayn. The historical facts, however, are incongruous, and furthermore, Dhul-Qarnayn was a devout Muslim while Alexander the Great of Macedonia was not. Numerous hypotheses exist regarding this man’s identity and time period of existence. The precise identity of Dhul-Qarnayn, however, is not mentioned in the Qur’an or Hadith, and Allah did not give us the information because He knows it to be wise. Similar to many other stories in the Qur’an, Allah only gives us the information that is absolutely necessary; if additional information is not revealed, it is irrelevant to our quest for iman and we should stop asking questions or debating it.
The fact that Dhul-Qarnayn was a man given by Allah with a variety of skills and talents, including military prowess, the capacity to manage kingdoms, and in-depth practical knowledge on a wide range of life issues, is recognized. He was also a devout and steadfast Muslim who spent his days traveling from one place to another in order to establish justice in the land and relieve human suffering. He frequently thought about the signs of Allah.
Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way. So he followed a way.
(Al Qur’an 18:84 – 18:85)
In his lifetime, Dhul-Qarnayn traveled a great deal. Although it is acknowledged that Allah only disclosed a portion of this history to us, it is said that he dominated the planet from east to west. As a result, we only mention information that has been confirmed by reliable sources and only report what has been revealed in the Qur’an.
On one of his journeys, he ended up in the West, where he saw the sun setting in what appeared to be a spring of murky mud. He found an area here where people were subject to oppression.
Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allah said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness.”
(Al Qur’an 18:86)
Dhul-Qarnayn then entered the community and guided its residents toward the right road and ways of living in accordance with the Almighty’s laws. In addition to punishing tyrants, criminals, and evildoers, he helped the poor and oppressed until justice was established in the nation and freed the community from its oppression.
“As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment. But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we will speak to him from our command with ease.”
Once he had finished his work, he and his army continued on their voyage. One day, as the sun was rising, they came across people who were ignorant and backward, living in the open with no shelter from the sun.
Then he followed a way. Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had not made against it any shield.
(Al Qur’an 18:90)
He taught the locals what they needed to accomplish. He taught them the necessary trades, such as agriculture and carpentry, and shared and passed his wisdom to them before continuing on his quest.
Thus. And We had encompassed [all] that he had in knowledge.
(Al Qur’an 18:91)
The most amazing portion of his adventure was when he encountered a curious society that was so far away that he could hardly speak their language.
Then he followed a way. Until, when he reached [a pass] between two mountains, he found beside them a people who could hardly understand [his] speech.
(Al Qur’an 18:92 – 18:93)
They said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed (Ya’juj) Gog and Magog (Ma’juj) are [great] corrupters in the land. So may we assign for you an expenditure that you might make between us and them a barrier?”
(Al Qur’an 18:94)
Dhul Qarnayn helped the people by building a barrier made of iron between the two mountains which prevented the passage for Yajaj and Majuj and it still remains intact to this day. Every day, Yajuj and Majuj dig the wall and at the end of the day, they say “We will do the rest tomorrow”. However they never say “InshaAllah”, thus every next day they find the wall as new as it was before. One Day, they will say “InshAllah” complete the task and get out of the wall. Those days will be The End of Days. Read the rest of the story of Yajuj and Majuj here.