English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 18: Al-Kahf — The Cave (Revealed at Makkah: 12 sections, 110 verses)

Section 11 (Verses 18:83–18:101): Dhu-l-qarnain and Gog and Magog


وَ یَسۡـَٔلُوۡنَکَ عَنۡ ذِی الۡقَرۡنَیۡنِ ؕ قُلۡ سَاَتۡلُوۡا عَلَیۡکُمۡ مِّنۡہُ ذِکۡرًا ﴿ؕ۸۳﴾

18:83 And they ask you about Dhu-l-qarnain.1 Say: I will recite to you an account of him.

اِنَّا مَکَّنَّا لَہٗ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ وَ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ مِنۡ کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ سَبَبًا ﴿ۙ۸۴﴾

18:84 Truly We established him (with power) in the land and granted him means of access to everything;

فَاَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا ﴿۸۵﴾

18:85 so he followed a course.

حَتّٰۤی اِذَا بَلَغَ مَغۡرِبَ الشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَہَا تَغۡرُبُ فِیۡ عَیۡنٍ حَمِئَۃٍ وَّ وَجَدَ عِنۡدَہَا قَوۡمًا ۬ؕ قُلۡنَا یٰذَا الۡقَرۡنَیۡنِ اِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تُعَذِّبَ وَ اِمَّاۤ اَنۡ تَتَّخِذَ فِیۡہِمۡ حُسۡنًا ﴿۸۶﴾

18:86 Until, when he reached the setting-place of the sun,2 he found it going down into a black sea,3 and found by it a people. We said: O Dhu-l-qarnain, either punish them or do them a benefit.

قَالَ اَمَّا مَنۡ ظَلَمَ فَسَوۡفَ نُعَذِّبُہٗ ثُمَّ یُرَدُّ اِلٰی رَبِّہٖ فَیُعَذِّبُہٗ عَذَابًا نُّکۡرًا ﴿۸۷﴾

18:87 He said: As for him who is unjust, we shall punish him, then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with an exemplary punishment.

وَ اَمَّا مَنۡ اٰمَنَ وَ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَہٗ جَزَآءَۨ الۡحُسۡنٰی ۚ وَ سَنَقُوۡلُ لَہٗ مِنۡ اَمۡرِنَا یُسۡرًا ﴿ؕ۸۸﴾

18:88 And as for him who believes and does good, for him is a good reward, and We shall speak to him an easy word of Our command.4

ثُمَّ اَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا ﴿۸۹﴾

18:89 Then he followed a course.

حَتّٰۤی اِذَا بَلَغَ مَطۡلِعَ الشَّمۡسِ وَجَدَہَا تَطۡلُعُ عَلٰی قَوۡمٍ لَّمۡ نَجۡعَلۡ لَّہُمۡ مِّنۡ دُوۡنِہَا سِتۡرًا ﴿ۙ۹۰﴾

18:90 Until, when he reached (the land of) the rising sun, he found it rising on a people to whom We had given no shelter from it5

کَذٰلِکَ ؕ وَ قَدۡ اَحَطۡنَا بِمَا لَدَیۡہِ خُبۡرًا ﴿۹۱﴾

18:91 so it was. And We had full knowledge of what he had.

ثُمَّ اَتۡبَعَ سَبَبًا ﴿۹۲﴾

18:92 Then he followed a course.

حَتّٰۤی اِذَا بَلَغَ بَیۡنَ السَّدَّیۡنِ وَجَدَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِہِمَا قَوۡمًا ۙ لَّا یَکَادُوۡنَ یَفۡقَہُوۡنَ قَوۡلًا ﴿۹۳﴾

18:93 Until, when he reached (a place) between the two mountains, he found on that side of them a people who could hardly understand a word.6

قَالُوۡا یٰذَاالۡقَرۡنَیۡنِ اِنَّ یَاۡجُوۡجَ وَ مَاۡجُوۡجَ مُفۡسِدُوۡنَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ فَہَلۡ نَجۡعَلُ لَکَ خَرۡجًا عَلٰۤی اَنۡ تَجۡعَلَ بَیۡنَنَا وَ بَیۡنَہُمۡ سَدًّا ﴿۹۴﴾

18:94 They said: Dhu-l-qarnain, Gog and Magog do mischief in the land. May we then pay you tribute on condition that you raise a barrier between us and them?7

قَالَ مَا مَکَّنِّیۡ فِیۡہِ رَبِّیۡ خَیۡرٌ فَاَعِیۡنُوۡنِیۡ بِقُوَّۃٍ اَجۡعَلۡ بَیۡنَکُمۡ وَ بَیۡنَہُمۡ رَدۡمًا ﴿ۙ۹۵﴾

18:95 He said: The power with which my Lord has established me is better, so if only you help me with strength (of men), I will make a fortified barrier between you and them:

اٰتُوۡنِیۡ زُبَرَ الۡحَدِیۡدِ ؕ حَتّٰۤی اِذَا سَاوٰی بَیۡنَ الصَّدَفَیۡنِ قَالَ انۡفُخُوۡا ؕ حَتّٰۤی اِذَا جَعَلَہٗ نَارًا ۙ قَالَ اٰتُوۡنِیۡۤ اُفۡرِغۡ عَلَیۡہِ قِطۡرًا ﴿ؕ۹۶﴾

18:96 Bring me blocks of iron.8 At length, when he had filled up the space between the two mountain sides, he said, Blow. Till, when he had made it (as) fire, he said: Bring me molten brass to pour over it.

فَمَا اسۡطَاعُوۡۤا اَنۡ یَّظۡہَرُوۡہُ وَ مَا اسۡتَطَاعُوۡا لَہٗ نَقۡبًا ﴿۹۷﴾

18:97 So they were not able to scale it, nor could they make a hole in it.

قَالَ ہٰذَا رَحۡمَۃٌ مِّنۡ رَّبِّیۡ ۚ فَاِذَا جَآءَ وَعۡدُ رَبِّیۡ جَعَلَہٗ دَکَّآءَ ۚ وَ کَانَ وَعۡدُ رَبِّیۡ حَقًّا ﴿ؕ۹۸﴾

18:98 He said: This is a mercy from my Lord, but when the promise of my Lord comes to pass He will crumble it, and the promise of my Lord is ever true.9

وَ تَرَکۡنَا بَعۡضَہُمۡ یَوۡمَئِذٍ یَّمُوۡجُ فِیۡ بَعۡضٍ وَّ نُفِخَ فِی الصُّوۡرِ فَجَمَعۡنٰہُمۡ جَمۡعًا ﴿ۙ۹۹﴾

18:99 And on that day We shall let some of them surge against others and the trumpet will be blown, then We shall gather them all together,10

وَّ عَرَضۡنَا جَہَنَّمَ یَوۡمَئِذٍ لِّلۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ عَرۡضَۨا ﴿۱۰۰﴾ۙ

18:100 and We shall bring forth hell, exposed to view, on that day before the disbelievers,11

الَّذِیۡنَ کَانَتۡ اَعۡیُنُہُمۡ فِیۡ غِطَـآءٍ عَنۡ ذِکۡرِیۡ وَ کَانُوۡا لَا یَسۡتَطِیۡعُوۡنَ سَمۡعًا ﴿۱۰۱﴾٪

18:101 whose eyes were under a cover from My Reminder, and they could not bear to hear.12


  1. Dhu-l-qarnain literally means the two-horned one, or one belonging to two generations or two centuries. The reference here seems to be to the two-horned ram of Daniel’s vision (Daniel, 8:3), which he interpreted as the King­doms of Media and Persia, which were combined into a single kingdom under one ruler, Cyrus, who is erroneously called Darius in the Bible (Encyclopedia Biblica and Jewish Encyclopedia, Art. ‘Darius’). The reference in Daniel’s vision is, how­ever, not to Cyrus but to Darius I Hystaspes (521-485 B.C.), “who allowed the Jews to rebuild their temple… His liberality towards the Jews is in complete accord with what we know otherwise of his general policy in religious matters towards the subject nations” (Enc. Biblica, ‘Darius’). The reference in the Quran in the history of Dhu-l-qarnain is to Darius I: “Darius was the organizer of the Persian Empire. His conquests served to round off the boundaries of his realm in Armenia, the Caucasus, and India, and along the Turanian steppes and the highlands of Central Asia” (Jewish Enc., ‘Darius I’). The following remarks in the Encyclopaedia Britannica strengthen this view: “Darius in his inscriptions appears as a fervent believer in the true religion of Zoroaster. But he was also a great statesman and organizer. The time of conquests had come to an end; the wars which Darius undertook, like those of Augustus, only served the purpose of gaining strong natural frontiers for the empire and keeping down the barbarous tribes on its borders. Thus Darius subjugated the wild nations of the Pontic and Armenian mountains, and extended the Persian domi­nion to the Caucasus; for the same reason he fought against the Sacae and other Turanian tribes”. The references to Darius being a fervent believer in the true religion of Zoroaster, to his subduing the barbarous tribes on the borders, to his gaining strong natural frontiers for the empire, and to his fighting against the Sacae clearly point him out as the Dhu-l-qarnain of the Quran.
  2. This signifies the western-most point of his empire.
  3. The place referred to is no other than the Black Sea, as, Armenia being within the Kingdom of Persia, the Black Sea formed the northwestern boun­dary of the empire.
  4. Being a true follower of Zoroaster, the well-known Persian prophet, Darius seems to have invited these tribes to his religion.
  5. Darius goes first westward to the Black Sea (v. 85–86). Then he undertakes an eastward journey — the land of the rising sun. The description of the people found here, a people who had no shelter from the sun, is a description of the barbarous aboriginal tribes on the shores of the Caspian.
  6. The three journeys alluded to seem to have been undertaken with the object of strengthening the frontiers of the empire, the most important of these being that spoken of here, the part of the frontier between the Caspian and the Black Seas, where the Caucasus afforded a natural protection against the attacks of the Scythians. The two mountains are the mountains of Armenia and Azar­bai­jan. The people settling there spoke a different language and could not understand the Iranian language.
  7. In the Bible, Ezekiel 38:2 contains the words: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and pro­phesy against him”. North of the Caucasus we find two rivers bearing the names of Tobol and Moskva, on the latter of which is situated the ancient city of Moscow, and on the former the more recent town of Tobolsk. It seems almost certain that these two rivers received their names from the two tribes of Ezekiel 38:2, the Tubal and Meshech, and then gave their names to the two above-mentioned cities. This view is in accordance with the opinion of ancient writers like Josephus, who settle the Magog north of the Caucasus. Thus the name Magog stands for tribes which occupied territories to the north and north-east of the Black Sea, tribes which gave their names directly or indirectly to the towns of Tobolsk and Moscow. Another point worth considering is the presence of the gigantic effigies of Gog and Magog in Guildhall, London, which can be traced to a very early period in English history. This makes it probable that the Angles or the Saxons had in very ancient times some connection with the Scythians or other tribes living north of the Caucasus or the Black Sea. It may be deduced from this that the ancestors of the present Teutonic and Slav races, the main nations of eastern and western Europe respectively, are the Gog and Magog spoken of in the Quran, both these races originating from the same land. The next statement, that the tribes found by Darius between Azerbaijan and the Armenian mountains were constantly harassed by their northern neighbours, the Scythians, is also borne out by history. “About 512 Darius undertook a war against the Scythians … The purpose of this war can only have been to attack the nomadic Turanian tribes in the rear, and thus to secure peace on the northern fron­tier of the empire” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art. ‘Darius’). The barrier referred to in this and the following verses is the famous wall at Derbent, on the western shore of the Caspian, which had iron gates and numerous watch-towers for defence. Its name, Alexander’s wall, is a misnomer due to the mistake made by Muslim historians in supposing Dhu-l-qarnain to be Alexander.
  8. The blocks of iron were needed for the iron gates in the wall.
  9. From the historical narration of the past, the subject is now changed to the future. Gog and Magog are described as two nations, and after describing the history of these nations, whose depredations on peaceful nations were brought to an end by Darius, we are now told that Gog and Magog will again be let loose in the latter days. In fact, this is clearly foretold in another chapter of the same period: “when Gog and Magog are let loose and they sally forth from every ele­vated place” (21:96). The crumbling of the wall which withheld Gog and Magog for a time is thus explained by the Quran itself as the letting loose of Gog and Magog. Just as the building of the wall indicated the confinement of Gog and Magog to their own territorial bounds, the crumbling of the wall means that they will at some future time be let loose and will then dominate the whole world. This domination is spoken of in the Hadith in various ways. According to one hadith, “No one will have the power to fight against them” (Sahih Muslim, 52:20). According to another, “they will drink the water of the whole world” (Kanaz al-‘Ummāl, vol. 7, p. 2157). As shown earlier, the ancestors of Gog and Magog are the Slav and Teutonic races, and in the world-domination of Gog and Magog is thus clearly hinted the domination of the European nations over the whole world, and the prophecy has thus found fulfilment in our days.
  10. A mighty conflict of nations is clearly spoken of here, and the words no doubt refer to some catastrophe like that which is predicted in the Gospels in the words: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew, 24:7–8). The Quran makes it clear that the reference in nation rising against nation is to the great European conflicts of modern times. Gog and Magog, or the European nations, having subdued the whole world, could not agree on the division of the spoils, and they are rushing at one another’s throats, and the whole world being subject to them, their struggle has assumed the form of a world conflict. But if the first part of the verse speaks of the destruction due to these wars, the second part raises a great hope. A mighty Revolution will come about. That is what is meant by the blowing of the trumpet. The revolution would unite them; it would drive them to one common faith. Material benefits having turned man into the enemy of man, a spiritual awakening will, we are told, be brought about which will change the world entirely. Instead of cutting one another’s throats people will learn to love one another, and they will all be but one nation. There is a broad enough hint here at the nation of Islam, for there is but one faith, the faith of Islam, which has been able to weld diverse people into one whole. The day of peace for this world will dawn with the dawning of the idea on the mind of man that there is only a single nation, the human nation, that lives on this earth: “Mankind is a single nation” (2:213).
  11. These words complete the picture of the great conflict spoken of in the previous verse. It describes the severity of the conflict, which will reduce the world to a veritable hell. There was hell raging on this earth in World War 2. What a World War 3 may bring, no one can say.
  12. The reason is given in these words why these disasters will be brought on man: These are people whose eyes are under a cover from My Remin­der. In fact, they are so estranged from God that they cannot even bear to hear His Reminder. So thoroughly have lust and greed engrossed the civilized world!