In the course of giving a lesson from history and a warning for the future the Qur'an mentioned a great personality and a powerful nation in Sura 18. The great personality is called Zul-Qarnain, and the powerful nation is called Gog and Magog.
According to the above Qur'anic passage Zul-Qarnain built a huge structure from iron and lead to stop the multitudes of Gog and Magog from coming out to cause havoc and destruction to their nearest neighoubers.
This structure must have been gigantic in size, for was built between two mountains. It was very strong that the multitude of Gog and Magog were unable to dig through it or to climb it. Thus the numerous millions of Gog and Magog were locked behind this structure until God's appointed time before the Day of Resurrection as the following Qur'anic verse confirms:
So there is a time in the future where the millions of Gog and Magog will be let through the barrier that Zul-Qarnain built and they will cause a lot of destruction to the mankind.
Both Sahih Muslim and Bukhari mentioned Gog and Magog:
Narrated Zainab bint Jahsh:
That one day Allah's Apostle entered upon her in a state of fear and said, "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah! Woe to the Arabs from the Great evil that has approached (them). Today a hole has been opened in the dam of Gog and Magog like this." The Prophet made a circle with his index finger and thumb.
And the following:
This hadith has been narrated on the authority of Jabir with the same chain of transmitters but with the addition that Gog and Magog would walk until they would reach the mountain of al-Khamar and it is a mountain of Bait-ul-Maqdis and they would say: We have killed those who are upon the earth. Let us now kill those who are in the sky and they would throw their arrows towards the sky and the arrows would return to them besmeared with blood.
And the following Hadith was mentioned in the course of certain warnings about the Dajjal and the promise of the appearing of Jesus before the Last Hour:
We can see from the above Hadiths that the people of Gog and Magog do exist right now, that they will be let loose before the Resurrection Day and that the number of the army of Gog and Magog must be so extremely large that they drank all the water of the lake of Tiberias in one go. From all the above the barrier that Zul-Qarnain had built must be of gigantic proportions to keep these people to this day.
With so many references to that strong and huge barrier Muslim explorers began looking for it.
Ibn Kathir informs us in his commentary that:
Ibn Khurdabih (846 A.D.) gives the following account of Sallaam's expedition, who was sent to report on the Iron Gate by Khalif Wathiq.
After some time journeying, Sallaam came to a "lofty mountain on which was a fortress. And the rampart which Dhu'l-Qarnain built is in a broad opening between two mountains, the breadth of which is two hundred cubits [300ft or 100m]. That was the road through which they (Gog & Magog) issued and spread over the earth. And he dug the foundation of it to the depth of 30 cubits, and built it of iron and copper until it reached to the surface of the ground. Then he raised two side pillars near to the mountains on both sides of the opening 25 cubits broad, and 50 cubits high, which projected at the base to ten cubits beyond the gate. The while was built with iron bricks, covered with copper, each a cubit and a half by a cubit and a half, and four finger breadth high. There was an iron lintel 120 cubits long and 5 cubits broad, which rested on each end on the pillars, projecting 10 cubits beyond them. Above the lentel was a structure of iron covered with copper to the top of the mountains. The height of the structure extending as far as the eye could reach, about 60 cubits above the lentels. Above it were iron pinnacles, each having as the side, two horns bent towards each other. The length of each pinnacle was five cubits and the breadth four. There were 37 pinnacles upon the structure. Then the gate had two doors which lowered, each 50 cubits broad by 75 cubits high, and 5 cubits thick. The upright of the doors turned on pivots upon a level with the lintels, and no air could penetrate either by the gate, or from the mountains. The whole being built as in one piece. On the gate was a bolt 7 cubits long and a fathom round which two men could not draw. The height of the bolt from the ground was 25 cubits. Five cubits above the bolt was a lock longer than the bolt, the two staples of which were each 2 cubits long. To the lock a key was hung a cubit and a half long with 12 wards, each ward like the pestle of a mortar. The key was 4 spans round and was suspended from a chain 8 cubits long and 4 spans round which was riveted to the gate. The ring to which the chain was attached was like the ring of a ballista. The threshold of the gate was 10 cubits broad, with a length of 100 cubits, excluding the space under the two pillars, the visible part of which was 5 cubits. ... In one of the two fortresses, were the builders implements, with which the rampart had been built, consisting of iron cauldrons, and iron ladles. On each trivet, 4 cauldrons like those in which soap is boiled (could be placed).
There was also the remainder of the iron bricks which were sticking together with rust.
Sallaam says: "I said to those of the fortress which were present, 'Has anything at all of this rampart been damaged?' They answered 'Nothing except this crack.' Now the crack was in breadth as thin as a thread. I said 'Do you put anything in it?' They replied 'No! For the thickness of the rampart is 5 cubits which are equal each to one and a half Iraqian cubits'. Sallaam said: "So I approached, and taking my knife out of my boot, I scraped in the fissure and got out as much as half a drachm, and tied it up in a cloth to show it to Al-Wathiq bi-'llah. At the top of the right door of the rampart was written in iron characters in the ancient language "But when the promise of my Lord shall come to pass, He shall turn it to dust and the promise of my Lord is true".
Was this the gate that was mentioned in the Qur'an? Was this gate sufficient to block the hoards of Gog and Magog? Sallaam single handed with his knife managed to scrape out as much as half a drachm with his little knife. Could not the multitudes of Gog and Magog dig the whole thing out of existence in one day? The Qur'anic description of the structure is that it is so strong and impregnable that they can not even dig it or scale it.
Yusuf Ali mocks the brains of his readers in the following words:
Notice that Yusuf Ali says "There is no iron gate there now". Whatever happened to this massive structure that is mentioned in the Qur'an and the Hadith and was seen by an army of Muslims and it was at least made of two doors each 50 cubits broad by 75 cubits high, and 5 cubits thick? And what of the Qur'anic verse (Q. 21:96-97) that says that the gate will remain till the time of the end, just before the Last Day?
More radically we have to ask whether there ever was a dam and a gate that enclosed the people of Gog and Magog behind the mountains at any time.
Blocking a gap between two mountains is huge task. Such a structure would have been by far larger than the greatest of all the pyramids. Had the Qur'an spoken of the pyramids, no questions would have be raised. Most people have seen a movie, a photo, or even a documentary showing the pyramids. However, when the Qur'an speaks of such a huge and massive structure that blocked the way of the millions of Gog and Magog, all that Yusuf Ali can provide us with in way of evidence is the testimony of people from days gone by and the huge gate itself has gone with the wind.
Can you imagine anyone giving as the only evidence for the existence of these pyramids a traveller's claims to have seen them in the seventh century although there is not even a trace left of those pyramids now?
Had there been a dam and an iron gate as described by the Qur'an, that site would attract millions of people to see. And with the imprisoned people of Gog and Magog behind them, that would have been also a constant physical reminder of the coming judgement of God and the Last Day as it was written in the Qur'an:
So where did the story of this dam and the iron gate and Gog and Magog come from?
The story came from a legend, a myth that has no historical reality, called the "Romance of Alexander". Telling these kinds of legends was a popular pastime of ancient people. It is equivalent to movies nowadays.
Other versions have sprung up since then. Here is one version of those legends. From Carl Muller's edition of the "Pseudo-Callisthenes", in Cod. B (III, cap. 29 ed. Didot, p. 112 seq.) the report about Gog and Magog appears as follows:
There are many versions of these legends, and it was only natural for people to look for this monumental dam and gate. The following sums up the disappointment and the folly for such endeavours:
"The gate itself had wandered from the Caspian Gates to the pass of Dariel, from the pass of Dariel to the pass of Derbend, as well as to the far north; nay, it had travelled even as far as remote eastern or north-eastern Asia, gathering in strength and increasing in size as it went, and actually carrying the mountains of Caspia with it. Then, as the full light of modern day come on, the Alexander Romance ceased to be regarded as history, and with it Alexander's Gate passed into the realm of fairyland."'
Dear reader, forget about the legends for the time being. Suppose there were no legends and that the Qur'an did not borrow the story from a legend.
The facts are this: The Qur'an mentioned a huge impregnable structure that will last to the end of times, but this structure is no where to be found. It does not exist and did not exist. The absence of this colossal structure brings to question the validity of the Qur'an.
God gave us eyes to see. He placed two of them, not in the head of another so that this other person might see for us, but God placed our eyes in our own heads so that we could see for ourselves. Likewise He gave us a brain to think, He placed it in our own heads, not in the head of another person, so that he might do the thinking for us. So let us use our own eyes and our own brains to find the truth for ourselves. God will not judge us according to what others saw and thought but He will judge us according to what we saw and what we thought.
Dear reader, do you think that a dam and a gate of any size will stop any nation from scaling up the surrounding mountains? Primitive people have been climbing mountains since the dawn of civilisation. Besides, with satellites we have mapped out every inch of planet earth. Where are these millions that are locked up behind the mountains? The whole story as mentioned in the Qur'an does not fit the simple facts of life. It indeed belongs to the realm of fairyland.
That does not mean there is no God and no day of judgement. On the contrary, there is a faithful God that can be trusted and a day of judgement coming. You can read about the true God and His true mercy in the Book called the Bible. The Book that God sent before the Qur'an.
The Qur'an tells us that Zul-Qarnain shut in Gog and Magog behind the gate he built and that they will not be able to get out until the end time. What is the geography of the world that enabled Alexander to shut these nations behind one gate? How could Zul-Qarnain with one gate shut in those nations?
The answer comes from the legends. In description of the mountain that enclosed Gog and Magog the legend tells us:
And he had it in his mind to make there a great gate. His mind was full of spiritual thoughts, while taking advise from the old men, the dwellers in the land. He looked at the mountain which encircled the whole world...
The king said, "Where have the hosts [of Gog and Magog] come forth to plunder the land and all the world from of old?" They show him a place in the middle of the mountains, a narrow pass which had been constructed by God. The king looked upon the narrow pass with wonderment and, saw that the mountain extended and was terrible in strength on all sides. Above it he saw a river of blood flowing down.
So there is a mountain that surrounds the whole earth with a little gap in it. But then there are the sea that surrounds the whole world after the mountain. When Zul-Qarnain closed the gap with his gate Gog and Magog are thus shut in between the sea and the mountain. The Legend gave Gog and Magog the best piece of real estate in the whole world. This shows some erroneous knowledge with the geography of the earth on the part of the Qur'an, and that Mohammad was not inspired by God in writing this sura.
The Qur'an tells us that the gate Zul-Qarnain built will remain closed until the end time just before the "promise of my Lord comes to pass". The commentators agreed that the "promise of my Lord" is the day of Resurrection.
Until the Gog and Magog (people) are let through (their barrier), and they swiftly swarm from every hill. Then will the True Promise draw nigh (of fulfilment). Then behold! The eyes of the Unbelievers will fixedly Stare in horror: "Ah! Woe to us! we were indeed heedless of this; nay we truly did wrong!" (Q. 21:96-97; Yusuf Ali's translation)
According to the Qur'an near the resurrection day the gate will be turned to dust and Gog and Magog will be let loose.
Where did that concept come from?
In the Discourse Composed by Mar Jacob upon Alexander we read:
... The earth shall quake and this door which thou hast made be opened ... and anger with fierce wrath shall rise up on mankind and the earth ... shall be laid waste ... And the nations that is within this gate shall be roused up, and also the host of Agog and the peoples of Magog shall be gathered together. These peoples, the fiercest of all creatures."
The parallels between the story of Zul-Qarnain and the Legend concerning Alexander the Great are too numerous they point to one conclusion: The story concerning Zul-Qarnain in the Qur'an has come from the Legends concerning Alexander the Great.
1. Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 6931.
2. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 88, Number 249.
3. Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 7016.
4. Sahih Muslim, Book 40, Number 7015.
5. Ibn Kathir, commenting on Q. 18:92-96.
6. C.E. Wilson "The Wall of Alexander Against Gog and Magog; and the Expedition Sent out To Find it by the Khaliph Wathiq, in 842 A.D." Hirth Anniversary Volume, Asia Major, London: Probsthain and Co, 1922, pp. 593-595.
7. The Holy Qur'an, Translation and Commentary by Yusuf Ali, Appendix 7, page 762 (1983).
8. Iskandarnamah - A Persian Medieval Alexander-Romance, Translated by Minoo D. Southgate, Columbia University Press, New York, 1978. p201.
9. C.E. Wilson "The Wall of Alexander Against Gog and Magog; and the Expedition Sent out To Find it by the Khaliph Wathiq, in 842 A.D." Hirth Anniversary Volume, Asia Major, London: Probsthain and Co, 1922, pp. 577-579.
10. Alexander's Gate, Gog and Magog, and the enclosed nations, Andrew Runni Anderson, the Medieval Accademy of America, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1932, pp.103,104. 11. "A Discource Composed by Mar Jacob upon Alexander, the Believing King, and upon the Gate which he made against Gog and Magog", In The History of Alexander the Great Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes. Translated by E.A. W. Budge, 1889, pp.177-178.
12. "A Discource Composed by Mar Jacob upon Alexander, the Believing King, and upon the Gate which he made against Gog and Magog", In The History of Alexander the Great Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes. Translated by E.A. W. Budge, 1889, pp.166-168.
13. "A Discource Composed by Mar Jacob upon Alexander, the Believing King, and upon the Gate which he made against Gog and Magog", In The History of Alexander the Great Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes. Translated by E.A. W. Budge, 1889, p.186.
14. "A Discource Composed by Mar Jacob upon Alexander, the Believing King, and upon the Gate which he made against Gog and Magog", In The History of Alexander the Great Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes. Translated by E.A. W. Budge, 1889, p.188.
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