And in one go, they will, when set free, drink all the water of the
lake of Tiberias
“Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy”. (Q. 4:82)
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.
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 Zul-Qarnain! The Gog and Magog (people) do great mischief on earth: Shall we then render thee tribute in order that thou mightiest 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. (Q. 18:92-98, Yusuf Ali)
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:
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)
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 Hudhayfah ibn Usayd Ghifari: Allah's Apostle (peace_be_upon_him) came to us all of a sudden as we were (busy in a discussion). He said: What do you discuss about? (the Companions) said: We are discussing about the Last Hour. Thereupon he said: It will not come until you see ten signs before and (in this connection) he made a mention of the smoke, Dajjal, the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the descent of Jesus son of Mary (Allah be pleased with him), The Gog and Magog, and landslides in three places, one in the East, one in the West and one in Arabia at the end of which fire would burn forth from the Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly.
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:
Narrated An-Nawwas ibn Sam'an: ..Then a people whom Allah had protected will come to Jesus, son of Mary, and he will wipe their faces and inform them of their ranks in
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:
Khalif al-Wathiq sent some of his princess with an army so that they might find the dam (the barrier) and look at it, and describe it to him when they come back. They went from country to country and from kingdom to kingdom until they reached it. They saw that it was built from iron and copper, with a great gate in it with huge locks. They also saw the rest of the [iron] bricks and the work in a tower there. They also found guards from neighbouring countries and that the dam is very high and could not be climbed nor the mountains next to it. The army went back to their country and the expedition lasted more than two years during which they saw horrific and strange things.
Ibn Khurdabih (846 A.D.) gives the following account of Sallaam's expedition, who was sent to report on the
" Sallaam's interpreter related to me that when Al-Wathiq bi-'llah dreamt that the wall built by Dhu'l-Qarnain between us and Gog & Magog was opened, and he sought a man to send out to the place, in order to gain news of it, Ashnas said "There is no-one here except Sallaam's interpreter who is fitted for the business, and Salaam spoke 30 languages. So, says Sallaam, Wathiq summoned me and said "I wish you to go out to the rampart that you may actually see it and bring me news of it."
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:
"We now come to the iron gate which corresponds exactly to the Qur'anic description, and has the best claim to be connected with Alexander's story. It is near another Derbend in Central Asia, Hissar District, about 150 miles south east of
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:
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)
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.
" The episode of the building of the gate against Gog and Magog is found in the Christian legend concerning Alexander, and in the poetic version of Jacob of Serugh which was written not later than A.D. 521. The Koran was written over a century after this version".
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:
" I found there the part is introduced into a letter from Alexander to his mother... I found there many people who ate flesh of human beings and drank their blood like water; since they did not bury their dead, but ate them up. And seeing people so wicked, and fearing that by this manner of feeding they would pollute the earth with their vile depravity, I petitioned the exalted Deity, and proceeding forcibly against them, I put the majority of them to the sword, and brought their land under subjection. From all sides arose loud complaints of them from the highest to the lowest. Hearing that Alexander the King of the Macedonians had come thither, they said, "He will kill all, lay waste our towns and overwhelm them". So taking to flight they followed one another, one people pressing upon another and all driving one another to flight. Of these there were twenty-two kings, and I pursued them with my troops until they entrenched themselves in the two great mountains which are called "The Breasts of the North". There is no other outlet or inlet in these great mountains since they reach in height above the clouds of the heavens, and the mountains stretch so far that they are as two walls right and left towards the north to the Great Sea, which is .... and the land of darkness. And I thought of all means of depriving them of the outlet through the great mountains into which they had driven. Now the inlet between the great mountains was 46 Royal ells. Again, with all my heart I petitioned the exalted Deity, and he heard my prayer. And the exalted Deity commanded the two mountains and they moved and approached each other to a distance of twelve ells, and there I made .... copper gates 12 ells broad, and 60 ells high, and smeared them over within and without with ... so that neither fire nor iron, nor any other means should be able to loosen the copper; since fire was put out against it, and iron was shattered. Within these gates, I made another construction of stones, each of which was eleven ells broad, 20 ells high, and 60 ells thick. And having done this I finished the construction by putting mixed tin and lead over the stones, and smearing .... over the whole, so that no one might be able to do anything against the gates. I called them the Caspian Gates. Twenty and Two Kings did I shut up therein."
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:
`Since people began exploring the world they looked for Alexander's gate. Professor Andrew Runni Anderson had this to say about Alexander's gate:
" 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.
Had it been from other than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy. (Q. 4:82)
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:
The old men say, "Look, my lord the king, and see a wonder, this mountain which God has set as a great boundary." King Alexander the son of Philip said, "How far is the extent of this mountain?" The old men say, "Beyond
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.
And: When the question went forth from him [Alexander] to the chiefs, they said to him, "Master, the terrible seas which surround the world will not allow thee to go over and see the land [of Darkness]." The king marvelled at what he heard from his subjects, and he began to speak to his hosts like a wise man. The king said, "Have you been and seen the seas which according to what ye say, surround the whole earth?" They say to him, "Master, within these terrible seas is the fetid sea, which of truth is full of quacking." ... And they went and came and drew near to the border of the fetid sea, and they departed by reason of its stench, they fled away from its noise.
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.
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. (Q. 18:98; Yusuf Ali)
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)
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 Lord spake by the hand of the angel, [saying] "I will magnify thee more than all the kings and governors in all the world. This great gate which thou hast made in this land shall be closed until the end of times cometh. Jeremiah also prophesied concerning it. ... The gate of the north shall be opened on the day of the end of the world, and on that day shall evil go forth on the wicked.
... 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,
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,
10. Alexander's Gate, Gog and Magog, and the enclosed nations, Andrew Runni Anderson, the Medieval Accademy of America,
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.