Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Kahf: 18:91-100

18:91 Thus [We had made them, and thus he left them]; and We did encompass with Our knowledge all that he had in mind.


i.e., the easternmost point of his expedition (similar to the expression “the setting of the sun” in verse 86).

18:92 And once again he chose the right means (to achieve a right end].


This is Razi’s interpretation of the isolated expression kadhalika (“thus” or “thus it was”) occurring here. It obviously relates to the primitive, natural state of those people who needed no clothes to protect them from the sun, and to the (implied) fact that Dhu’l-Qarnayn left them as he had found them, being mindful not to upset their mode of life and thus to cause them misery.

18:93 [And he marched on] till, when he reached [a place] between the two mountain-barriers, he found beneath them a people who could scarcely understand a word [of his language].


Lit., “all that was with him” – i.e., his resolve not to “corrupt [or “change”] God’s creation” (cf. the second half of my note 141 on 4:119) – which, I believe, is a further ethical lesson to be derived from this parable.

18:94 They said: “O thou Two-Horned One! Behold, Gog and Magog are spoiling this land. May we, then, pay unto thee a tribute on the understanding that thou wilt erects a barrier between us and them?


This is generally assumed to be the Caucasus. However, since neither the Qur’an nor any authentic Tradition says anything about the location of these “two mountain-barriers” or the people who lived there, we can safely dismiss all the speculations advanced by the commentators on this score as irrelevant, the more so as the story of Dhu l-Qarnayn aims at no more than the illustration of certain ethical principles in a parabolic manner.

18:95 He answered: “That wherein my Sustainer has so securely established me is better [than anything that you could give me]; hence, do but help me with [your labor’s] strength, [and] I shall erect a rampart between you and them!


This is the form in which these names (in Arabic, Yajuj and Majuj) have achieved currency in all European languages on the basis of certain vague references to them in the Bible (Genesis x, 2, I Chronicles i, 5, Ezekiel xxxviii, 2 and xxxix, 6, Revelation of St. John xx, 8). Most of the post-classical commentators identify these tribes with the Mongols and Tatars (see note 100 below).

18:96 Bring me ingots of iron!” Then, after he had [piled up the iron and] filled the gap between the two mountainsides, he said: “[Light a fire and] ply your bellows!” At length, when he had made it [glow like] fire, he commanded: “Bring me molten copper which I may pour upon it.”


It is generally assumed that the phrase “that wherein my Sustainer has so securely established me (makkanni)” refers to the power and wealth bestowed on him; but it is much more probable – and certainly more consistent with the ethical tenor of the whole parable of Dhu’l-Qarnayn – that it refers to God’s guidance rather than to worldly possessions.

18:97 And thus [the rampart was built, and] their enemies were unable to scale it, and neither were they able to pierce it.


Lit., “Blow!

18:98) Said [the King] “This is a mercy from my Sustainer! Yet when the time appointed by my Sustainer shall come, He will make this [rampart] level with the ground: and my Sustainer’s promise always comes true!”


Lit., “they”.

18:99 And on that Day We shall [call forth all mankind and] leave them to surge like waves [that dash] against one another; and the trumpet [of judgment] will be blown, and We shall gather them all together.


Lit., “my Sustainer’s promise”.

18:100 And on that Day We shall place hell, for all to see, before those who denied the truth.


Some of the classical commentators (e.g., Tabari) regard this as a prediction of a definite, historic event: namely, the future break-through of the savage tribes of “Gog and Magog”, who are conceived of as identical with the Mongols and Tatars (see note 95 above). This “identification” is mainly based on a well-authenticated Tradition – recorded by Ibn Hanbal, Bukhari, and Muslim – which tells us that the Apostle of God had a prophetic dream to which he referred, on awakening, with an exclamation of distress: “There is no deity save God! Woe unto the Arabs from a misfortune that is approaching: a little gap has been opened today in the rampart of Gog and Magog!” Ever since the late Middle Ages, Muslims have been inclined to discern in this dream a prediction of the great Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century, which destroyed the Abbasid Empire and, thus, the political power of the Arabs. However, the mention, in verses 99-101 of this surah, of “the Day” – i.e., the Day of Judgment – in connection with “Gog and Magog” shows that “the time appointed by my Sustainer” relates to the coming of the Last Hour when all works of man will be destroyed. But since none of the Qur’anic references to the “approach” or the “nearness” of the Last Hour has anything to do with the human concept of time, it is possible to accept both of the above interpretations as equally valid in the sense that the “coming of the Last Hour” comprises an indefinite – and, in human terms, perhaps even an immensely long span of time, and that the break-through of the godless forces of “Gog and Magog” was to be one of the signs of its approach. And, finally, it is most logical to assume (especially on the basis of 21:96-97) that the terms Yajuj and Majuj are purely allegorical, applying not to any specific tribes or beings but to a series of social catastrophes which would cause complete destruction of man’s civilization before the coming of the Last Hour.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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