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Holy Koran

One of the most beautiful and poetic passages about Alexander the Great is found in the Holy Koran. The Koran refers to Alexander as Dhul-Qarnain (also spelled Zhul-Qarnain or Zulkarnein), meaning 'The Lord with the Horns'. To appreciate this passage, you might like to have a basic idea of the structure of the Koran.

The Koran (or Quran) means 'The Recital'. The words of the Koran are the words of Allah (God) revealed to Mohammed through the angel Gabriel. Mohammed (570-632 AD) retold these revelations in public speeches, which were in turn recorded by scribes. This collection of speeches make up the 114 chapters or 'suras'.

Most suras refer to persons known to both Jews and Christians as well as Muslims: the stories of Adam, Abraham, Moses and many other prophets. Only sporadically a story is entirely retold. Most texts start with a brief reference, then concentrate on the interpretation: the final explanation of the story in God's own words. So the texts basically run: If people question you about Moses, tell them... ; When they ask you about Jesus, tell them... . It is clear that all of these stories were very well known to Mohammed's audience. There was just no need to retell them. It was the explanation which mattered.

The same is the case with Alexander. In the sura 'The Cave' the Koran reads: "They will ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say: I will give you an account of him." Thus, the Koran treats Alexander the Great in the same way as it treats Noah, Jesus, King Solomon and others.

What follows is an account - of roughly 300 words - which explains the nature of Alexander. In essence it is stressed that Alexander was an instrument in the hands of Allah. God deliberately bestowed him with great powers and the means to achieve everything.

First Alexander traveled west until he saw the sun setting in a pool of black mud. There, on Allah's command, he punished the wicked inhabitants and rewarded the righteous. Next he traveled east until he found peoples who were constantly exposed to the flaming rays of the sun. They recieved the same treatment by Alexander's hands.

Finally Alexander traveled to the land of the Two Mountains. The backward peoples of this region were harrassed by Gog and Magog: the forces of chaos and destruction. Between the Two Mountains Alexander built a wall of iron blocks, joining the blocks with molten copper or brass. Gog and Magog were not able to scale the wall nor could they destroy it.

The sura ends with the statement that Alexander's wall, which protects mankind against its foes, will continue to exist until the Day of Resurrection, when Allah will level it to dust.

(Though the identification of Dhul-Qarnain with Alexander the Great is supported by most mainstream Muslim scholars, other scholars might support very different viewpoints. It is also said Dhul-Qarnain actually refers to the Persian King Cyrus the Great, or to the legendary Babylonian King Gilgamesh.)

You might want to check: Legends (Gog & Magog).

The Koran (Penguin Classics) by N. J. Dawood (Translator). Buy from or

Written by nick

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