Where is the place that the sun sets and rises mentioned in the chapter of al-Kahf?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The verse mentioned in the question is as follows:

"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." (al-Kahf, 18/86)

- The Quran addresses human beings; and the majority of human beings are common people. It is the necessity of rhetoric to address people based on their intelligence and knowledge. What common people understand from the setting and rising of the sun is as follows: "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west."

- One of the issues the Quran wants to teach here is that the king called Dhu al-Qarnayn first travelled to the west and that the last point he reached is, as far as the human minds sees through his eyes, is the place where the sun sets. 

His second travel is to the east:

"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." (al-Kahf, 18/89-90) It is mentioned in verse 89 and 90.

The phrases mentioned as the places where the sun rises and sets are the places of real rising and setting; they are based on the eyes of Dhu al-Qarnayn or human mind.

- Badiuzzaman Said Nursi explains the phrase "he found the sun set in a spring of murky water" in the verse as follows:

"Set in a spring of murky water: Dhu'l-Qarnayn saw the sun setting in the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, which appeared like a boiling, muddy spring, or in the fiery, smoking crater of a volcano. That is, in the outward view, the Atlantic appeared to Dhu'l-Qarnayn in the distance as the large pool of a spring surrounded by a swamp which in the intense heat of summer was steaming and vaporizing; he saw the sun's apparent setting in a part of it. Or he saw the sun, the eye of the skies, being hidden in a new, fiery crater at the summit of a volcano, which was spewing out rocks, earth, and lava. (Lem'alar (Flashes), 107)

Yes, the All-Wise Qur'an's miraculously eloquent expression teaches many matters with this sentence. Firstly, by explaining that Dhu'l-Qarnayn's journey to the west coincided with the intense heat of summer, the area of a swamp, the time of the setting of the sun, and the time of a volcanic eruption, it alludes to many instructive matters, like the complete conquest of Africa. It is well-known that the sun's motion is apparent, indicating the hidden movement of the earth and giving news of it. What it intended is not the actual setting of the sun. Also the spring is a metaphor. From the distance a large sea appears like a small pool. (Lem'alar (Flashes), 107)

According to Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, a description based on the viewpoint of Dhul-Qarnayn is made on the one hand and the heavenly description of the Quran is made on the other hand. That is, when it is looked from above/the viewpoint of the Quran, the huge Atlantic Ocean looks like a muddy spring. He puts it as follows:   

"In Short: Terming the Atlantic Ocean a muddy spring indicates that Dhu'l-Qarnayn saw that huge ocean as a spring due to the distance. But because the Qur'an sees everything from close to, it did not see what Dhu'l-Qarnayn saw, which was a sort of illusion. Indeed, since the Qur'an comes from the heavens and looks to them, it sees the earth sometimes as an arena, sometimes as a palace, sometimes as a cradle, and sometimes as a page. Thus, its calling the vast misty, vaporous Atlantic Ocean a spring shows its great elevatedness." (Lem'alar (Flashes), 108)

- To sum up, the expressions of the Quran meaning the sun rises in the east and sets in the west simplify the issue so that common people can understand it based on their feelings, manners and thoughts. They do not indicate the truth; they are metaphorical expressions aiming to make human mind understand it.

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