‘Dhul-Qarnayn’ means the one of two horns, and is a reference to an individual in the 18th chapter of the Holy Quran. He is described as being firmly established in the land, meaning a powerful ruler, and having been granted “a way to everything” (Surah 18:84). Some people mistakenly believe that Dhul-Qarnayn refers to Alexander ‘the Great’, but in fact, upon closer inspection of the matter, it becomes clear that Dhul-Qarnayn was the ruler of Media and Persia, perhaps Cyrus the Great, and Allah knows best. The reason I say this is because it was the Jews or their rabbis who asked the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ about Dhul-Qarnayn, or the Two-Horned One, as a test to know whether he ﷺ was a true prophet of God. In answer to their query, Allah Most High revealed passages in the 18th chapter of the Holy Quran explaining the affair of the Two-Horned One. The description given matches closely what is related about a two-horned ram in the Book of Daniel which, according to that text, was shown to the seer Daniel in a vision. It is written therein that the Angel Gabriel then explained its meaning to Daniel: “The ram that you saw, the one with the horns, represents the kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:20). Although the Holy Quran describes the ‘Two-Horned One’ as a single individual and not a set of kings, the two horns, according to the Jewish exegete Rashi, are “symbolizing the kingdom of Persia and Media.” The Holy Quran then goes on to describe three specific journeys of Dhul-Qarnayn, which, not coincidentally, matches what the Book of Daniel says: “I saw the ram goring westward, northward, and southward, and no beasts could stand before it, and no one could save [anyone] from its hand, and it did according to its will, and it grew (Daniel 8:4). Hence, the charging of the two-horned ram in three different directions corresponds to the three “ways” that Dhul-Qarnayn follows according to the Quranic narration. The Hebrew Bible speaks highly of Cyrus, King of Persia, in 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Isaiah and Daniel. God refers to Cyrus as His Annointed or ‘Messiah’ (Isaiah 45:1). Allah says about Dhul-Qarnayn:
إِنَّا مَكَّنَّا لَهُ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ سَبَبًا۞
Indeed, We established him in the earth and We gave him, of every thing, a way.
Matching the description of King Cyrus in the Hebrew Bible: “I arroused him with righteousness, and all his ways I will straighten out” (Isaiah 45:13), “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth’” (2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2) Now historically Cyrus was indeed a great conquerer, having founded the Achaemenid Empire, subduing all of the previously civilized states and kingdoms of the Near East. Below is a map of the areas that came under the control of Cyrus the Great:
Notice the fact that the conquests of Cyrus extended into the north into the Caucasus, and the regions around the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. It is in that region where Allah Most High, speaking of a third great movement of Dhul-Qarnayn, mentions his encounter with Ya’juj wa Ma’juj, or ‘Gog and Magog’. I have written extensively on the subject of Gog and Magog on this blog, but the historical conquests of Cyrus the Great reveal the fact that these people known as Gog and Magog must have been nations or tribes that were inhabiting the area north of the northernmost conquests of Cyrus. Now regarding the barrier that was erected by Dhul-Qarnayn to prevent the forces of Gog and Magog from penetrating beyond it, the Holy Quran mentions it being built at a pass between two (natural) barriers, perhaps a pass between two mountains. There, Dhul-Qarnayn encountered a people who could hardly understand his language. Hence these were perhaps a people who did not speak an Iranian language, since Cyrus the Great spoke Old Persian, belonging to that language family. Perhaps they were a Caucasian people speaking a language indigenous to the Caucasus. These people asked Dhul-Qarnayn, a mighty king and conquerer, to protect them from Gog and Magog, who were evidently creating trouble for them, by building a barrier between them. It is my view that Gog and Magog are Turkic or Mongolic peoples who were harrassing and raiding these Caucasian people somewhere in the Caucasus. So Dhul-Qarnayn built a barrier containing iron to prevent the forces of Gog and Magog penetrating through the pass, and strong enough to prevent them from tearing it down. Nevertheless, the Holy Quran states that the wall will crumble and be leveled, and on that day the forces of Gog and Magog shall surge forth like waves. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once saw in a vision that a hole had been made in the barrier, alarming him greatly. This proves that the barrier was already demolished in the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ though some Ulama claim that whatever progress Gog and Magog make in penetrating the barrier is immediately sealed up again and so the barrier still stands till this day. However, the answer to this argument is that if that was the case why was the Prophet ﷺ so alarmed after seeing the vision? His wife and mother of the believers, Zaynab bint Jahsh, narrates that the Prophet’s ﷺ face became red after seeing the vision, and that he was proclaiming La ilaha illa Allah out of alarm. He also stated:
وَيْلٌ لِلْعَرَبِ مِنْ شَرٍّ قَدِ اقْتَرَبَ
“Woe to the Arabs because of an evil that has come near!”
Now the question arises, if the barrier still stands today, and Gog and Magog have not as of yet emerged, then why was the Prophet so alarmed, and why did he say that the Arabs are in danger because of an evil, the evil of Gog and Magog, which has drawn near. It has been some fifteen centuries since the Prophet ﷺ passed away and these Ulama still think that the barrier remains and Gog and Magog have not, as of yet, emerged?! The fact of the matter is that the Arabs themselves, when they encountered the fierce Khazars, considered them as Gog and Magog. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ passed away in 632 CE while the Khazar state began forming in 630 CE, verifying the vision of the Prophet ﷺ. And as the Holy Quran states, the emergence of Gog and Magog is likened to surging waves, surging over one another, as they are not one group of people, but several, having a common origin, but attacking the Arabs in succession. So beginning with the Khazars in the 7th century and then culminating with the Golden Horde (Mongols) in the 13th century, led by the evil Genghis Khan. The Mongols wreacked havoc upon the Muslim lands, specifically in the east, including Iran, and under the evil Hulagu, they conquered and devastated Baghdad in 1258, bringing an absolute end to the Abbasid dynasty.