Prophet Dhul-Qarnayn (Peace be upon him)

They ask thee concerning Dhu al Qarnayn. Say 'I will rehearse to you something of his story. Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends. (al-Kahf, 83-84)

 

The Ruler of the Earth

 

It is doubtful whether Hz. Dhul-Qarnayn was a prophet or a saint. However, his story is narrated in the Quran.

Dhul-Qarnayn lived during the time of Hz. Ibrahim and took lessons from Hz. Khidr. He was the king of Yemen. The reason why he is referred to as Alexander in tafsir books is that one of his names was Alexander. He has no relation with Alexander the Great, who lived in three hundred BC. It is also stated in tafsir books that the Dhul-Qarnayn Wall is the Great Wall of China. According to the statement of the Quran, Dhul-Qarnayn conquered all of Africa and reached the shores of the Atlantic Ocean; he watched the sun set over the sea.1

Dhul-Qarnayn is a nickname. The word lexically means "the owner of two qarns". Its main meanings are horn and century. It also means the forelock of a man, the earlock of a woman, the side of the sun disk and the leader of a nation.   

Therefore, it is not known which one of the meanings above is referred to with the name Dhul-Qarnayn. Some tafsir scholars say he was given the nickname because he had two locks of hair on his head2 and according to others, because he had two horns decorated with jewels on his head3. It is unanimously agreed that this person was given the name Dhul-Qarnayn because he ruled the east and west of the earth.4

The strongest evidence showing that Dhul-Qarnayn was from Yemen is the fact that names starting with Dhi and Dhu are common in Yemen. There were kings of Yemen called “Dhi-Nuwas, Dhun-Nun, Dhul-Manar, Dhul-Yazan”.

 

Was he a prophet or not?

Although the name Dhul-Qarnayn is mentioned in the Quran, it is disputable whether he was a prophet or not.

In a narration from Hz. Ali, it is stated that Dhul-Qarnayn is neither a king nor a prophet but a righteous person.5

Hamdi Yazır and Mehmet Vehbi hold the view that Dhul-Qarnayn is a prophet acting upon the form of address 'O Dhul-Qarnayn!' in the following verse: “O Dhul-Qarnayn! (Thou hast authority) either to punish them, or to treat them with, kindness.”6 Hamdi Yazır says, “This statement shows it clearly that Dhul-Qarnayn is a prophet.7 M. Vehbi says, “God Almighty states in the verse that He addressed Dhul-Qarnayn. This address of God Almighty's is through revelation. Since revelation is related to prophets, this verse indicates that Dhul-Qarnayn is a prophet.”

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi indicates that he is a saint king rather than a prophet by saying, “Dhul-Qarnayn is one of the kings of Yemen; he lived in the same age as Hz. Ibrahim and took lessons from Hz. Khidr.”8

 

Dhul-Qarnayn in the Quran

When the Prophet (pbuh) conveyed the message of Islam to the people of Makkah, he sometimes narrated them the stories of the previous prophets and kings. A polytheist called Nadr b. Harith, who was interested in history, wanted to prevent the effect of what the Prophet (pbuh) narrated and said to them, “I will tell you better stories than his."

Once, this ferocious polytheist went to Madinah with Utba bin Muayt and asked the Jews in Madinah who knew about the previous prophets three difficult questions and learned the answers from them. Then, they returned to Makkah. 

His aim was to ask the Prophet (pbuh) these questions and to put him in a difficult position in the presence of the people.

When they returned to Makkah, they asked the Prophet (pbuh) these three questions:
 

1. Who are the People of the Cave (Ashab al-Kahf)? What is their story?

2.What is the story of Dhul-Qarnayn, who travelled in the east and west of the world?

3. What is the real nature of the spirit?

According to a narration, the chapter of al-Kahf was revealed and the answers to these questions were given. The translation of the verses of the Quran that mention  Dhul-Qarnayn is as follows:

"They ask thee concerning Dhu al Qarnayn. Say 'I will rehearse to you something of his story.' Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends. One (such) way he followed; Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it set in a spring of murky water: near it he found a People: We said: 'O Dhu al Qarnayn! (thou hast authority) either to punish them, or to treat them with, kindness.' He said: 'Whoever doth wrong, him shall we punish; then shall he be sent back to his Lord; and He will punish him with a punishment unheard-of (before). But whoever believes, and works righteousness he shall have a goodly reward, and easy will be his task as we order it by our command.' Then followed he (another) way. Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had provided no covering protection against the sun. (He left them) as they were: We completely understood what was before him. Then followed he (another) way, Until, when he reached (a tract) between two mountains, he found, beneath them a people who scarcely understood a word. They said: 'O Dhu al Qarnayn! The Gog and Magog (people) do great mischief on earth: shall we then render thee tribute in order that thou mightest erect a barrier between us and them?' He said: '(The power) in which my Lord has established me is better (than tribute): help me therefore with strength (and labour): I will erect a strong barrier between you and them: Bring me blocks of iron.' At length when he had filled up the space between the two steep mountain― sides, he said 'Blow (with your bellows).' Then when he had made it (red) as fire he said: 'Bring me, that I may pour over it molten lead.' Thus were they made powerless to scale it or to dig through it. He said: 'This is a mercy from my Lord: but when the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will make it into dust; and the promise of My Lord is true.'"9

 

FOOTNOTES

1 Kur’an-ı Kerim ve Açıklamalı Meali, 302-303.

2 Ömer Nasuhi Bilmen, Kur’an-ı Kerim Türkçe Meal-i Alisi ve Tefsiri, p. 4:1994.

3 M. Vehbi, Hülasatü’l Beyan, 8: 3165.

4 M. Hamdi Yazır, ibid. 4:3275.

5 Tajrid Translation, 9:99.

6 al-Kahf, 86.

7 M. Hamdi Yazır, ibid. 4:3284.

8 Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Lem’alar, p. 104.

9 al-Kahf, 83-98.

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