Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quran and Islam on Alexander the Great

The Islamic religious and literature sources are another undeniable testimony of the Greek identity of the ancient Macedonians.

Dhul-Qarnayn (English: The two-horned) features prominently in the Quran, the sacred scripture of Muslims. The story of Dhul-Qarnayn appears in sixteen verses of the Quran, specifically verses 18:83-98 of Surah Al-Kahf ("The Cave").

The story of Dhul-Qarnayn (in English "The Two-Horned One"), mentioned in the Quran, is in fact a reference to Alexander the Great.

Dhul-Qarnayn is regarded by some Muslims as a prophet, while other say that he was "a friend of God". The Quran indicates that the people (at least rabbis) during Muhammad's time, already knew tales of a person of great power by the name of Dhul-Qarnayn. There have been many different cultural depictions of Alexander the Great since antiquity, including references in the Bible (Daniel, book of Maccabees).

Historically, Muslim scholars have endorsed the identification of Dhul-Qarnayn with Alexander the Great. The earliest identification between Alexander and Dhul-Qarnayn was made by the Muslim hagiographer Ibn Hisham in the Sira literature. This identification with Alexander is also endorsed by Islamic tafsir (exegesis) literature dating from the fifteenth century.

The Quran describes the story about Dhul-Qarnayn building a great gate near the "rising place of the Sun" between two mountains, in order to enclose the nations of Gog and Magog who "do great mischief in the earth".

In the Quran, Dhul-Qarnayn encloses the Gog and Magog horde behind a mighty gate between two mountains, preventing the Gog and Magog from invading the Earth. In Islamic eschatology, on the Day of Judgement Gog and Magog will destroy this gate, allowing them to ravage the Earth. [Quran 18:98 and 21: 96-97]

12th century map by the Muslim scholar Al-Idrisi (south-up). "Yajooj" and "Majooj" appear in Arabic script on the bottom-left edge of the Eurasian landmass, enclosed within dark mountains, at a location corresponding roughly to Mongolia. This is reference to the story of Dhul-Qarnayn in the Qur'an.

Alexander the Great was an immensely popular figure in the classical and post-classical cultures of the Mediterranean and Middle East. Almost immediately after his death a body of legend began to accumulate about his exploits and life which, over the centuries, became increasingly fantastic as well as allegorical.

Collectively this tradition is called the "Alexander Romance". The Alexander romance was composed in Greek at Alexandria, probably in the 3rd century A.D. The Christianized peoples of the Near East, inheritors of both the Hellenic as well as Judaic strands of the Alexander Romance, further theologized Alexander until in some stories he was depicted as a saint.

Elements of Alexander romance were combined with certain Biblical legends. For example, Syriac versions combined the Gates of Alexander legend with the legend of Gog and Magog from the Book of Revelation.

Christian legends speak of the Caspian Gates (Gates of Alexander), also known as Alexander's wall, built by Alexander the Great in the Caucasus mountains. Several variations of the legend can be found.

In the story, Alexander the Great built a gate of iron between two mountains, at the end of the Earth, to prevent the armies of Gog and Magog from ravaging the plains. In the Syriac version of the Christian legends, Alexander the Great encloses the Gog and Magog horde behind a mighty gate between two mountains, preventing the Gog and Magog from invading the Earth.

In addition, it is written in the Christian legend that in the end of times, God will cause the Gate of Gog and Magog to be destroyed, allowing the Gog and Magog horde to ravage the Earth.

A Persian painting from the 16th century illustrating the building of the wall

The earliest mention of Dhul-Qarnayn, outside the Quran, is found in the works of the earliest Muslim historian and hagiographer, Ibn Ishaq, which form the main corpus of the Sira literature.

Ibn Ishaq's original work is lost, but it has been almost completely incorporated in Ibn Hisham, another early Muslim historian. Ibn Hisham collected Ibn Ishaq's Sira and added his notes to it.

In regards to Dhul-Qarnayn, Ibn Hisham noted:
"Dhu al-Qarnayn is Alexander the Greek, the king of Persia and Greece, or the king of the east and the west, for because of this he was called Dhul-Qarnayn [meaning, 'the two-horned one']..."

Aristotelian Muslim philosophers, such as al-Farabi, Avicenna, and al-Kindi enthusiastically embraced the concept of Dhul-Qarnayn being an ancient Greek king. They stylized Dhul-Qarnayn as a Greek philosopher king.

Author: SPARTANsenator7

The page of the Koran which refers to Alexander the Great (Zul Carnein). From Koranion, a Greek translation edited by Marianna I. Latsis.

Surah 18: Al-Kahf (The Cave)
Ayats 83-90

Verse 83: They ask thee concerning Dhu al Qarnayn. Say "I will rehearse to you something of his story."

Verse 84: Verily We established his power on earth, and We gave him the ways and the means to all ends.

Verse 85: One (such) way he followed,

Verse 86: 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."

Verse 87: He said: "Whoever doth wrong, him shall we punish; then shall he be sent back to his Lord; and He will punish him with a punishment unheard-of (before).

Verse 88: "But whoever believes, and works righteousness he shall have a goodly reward, and easy will be his task as we order it by our command."

Verse 89: Then followed he (another) way.

Verse 90: 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.

(Translation by Yusuf Ali)


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