answer. Nor has one yet been found, after more than 1,300 years search on the part of
the 'Ulama of Islam.
In Surah xviii. 82-98 we find an account of Dhu'l Qarnain. Ibn Hisham 1 and
Al Baizawi identify him with Alexander the Great of Macedon. Al Baizawi writes thus 2:
"Dhu'l Qarnain, that is to say, Alexander the Greek, King of Persia and Greece, and
it is said of the East and of the West, and therefore was he named Dhu'l Qarnain: or
because he supported the two horns of the world, its East and its West; and it is said,
because in his time two generations of men came to an end: and it is said he had two
horns, that is, two locks of hair: and it is said his crown had two horns. And it is
probable that he was given that title because of his bravery, as a heroic leader is called
the Ram, as if he butted his adversaries. And there is a difference of opinion regarding
his being a prophet, with agreement concerning his belief and his soundness."
Human life must have been extremely short in those days, if Alexander lived for two
generations, for he was only 33 years old when he died after a drunken debauch at Babylon
in 323 B.C. Instead of being a prophets or even a believer in the One True God, he was an
idolater, and he actually claimed to be the son of the Egyptian god Amun. He certainly did
not see the sun set "in a miry fount"
عَيْنِ حَمِيٌةٍ Surah xviii. 84), or, if we adopt
the reading of Ibn 'Amir and Hamzah and Al Kasa'i and Abu Bakr,4 "in a hot
عَيْنٍ حَامِيَةٍ), for we know that the sun does not go round the earth, as the writer of the
verse evidently fancied it did, to set in any spot of the kind. Nor did the Alexander whom
we know from true history, as distinguished from fable, build a wall of iron and brass
between two mountains (Surah xviii. 95).
Yet Al Baizawi and other Muslim writers are doubtless right in saying that Alexander is
the person to whom the Qur'an gives the title of Dhu'l Qarnain. The comparison with a ram
explains how the title arose. In Dan. viii. 3, 4, we are told of a ram with two horns
which pushed westward and southward and northward, and which none could resist. Evidently
the person who composed this Surah had heard of this ram, and thought it represented
Alexander, who is mentioned in the same chapter. But in this he was not correct, for Dan.
viii. 20, tells us that the two-horned ram denoted the united Median and Persian Empires,
whereas in the same chapter the Macedonian monarch is referred to as the notable horn
between the eyes of the he-goat which overthrew the ram, that is to say, which conquered
the whole of the Persian Empire (Dan. viii. 5-7, 21). The use of the word "ram"
(كبش) in Arabic with the meaning of "heroic leader" (as Al Baizawi says) caused
this confusion in the mind of the person who gave this title of Dhu'l Qarnain in the
Qur'an to Alexander the Great. What the Qur'an says about Alexander can be tested, because
he lived in the full light of history. It is well known that the celebrated philosopher
Aristotle was his tutor. Arrian, Quintus Curtius and other historians of repute have
written the history of Alexander's exploits, and regarding them there is no uncertainty.
When learned men therefore find the Qur'an so very inaccurate in regard to this king,
whose history is known, they not unnaturally hesitate to accept as valuable and even as
reliable the statements of the Qur'an about other matters of past history.
The Qur'an states that Pharaoh's wife adopted Moses (Surah xxviii. 8), whereas
Moses himself in the Torah says that he was adopted by Pharaoh's daughter (Exod.
ii. 5-10). In several places in the Qur'an we are told that Haman
(هامان) was closely
associated with Pharaoh, and was in his service;1 but