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Dhul Qarnayn, may Allah raise his rank, was a great Yemeni king as well as a pious man (waliyy). Allah gave him many extra-ordinary matters, and his story was mentioned in the Qur’an.

His name was as-Sa^b bin al-Hareth according to some scholars. Others said his name was as-Sa^b bin Dhi Mara’ed. He was the most famous among the Yemeni kings called the Tababi^ah of that era.

One of his grandsons recited a poem about him saying;

My grandfather Dhul Qarnayn was an undefeated Muslim king.
He traveled from East to West ganing a reign over all the lands
as was granted to him by Allah, the generous Lord.

Muslim scholars mentioned that Dhul Qarnayn’s minister was Prophet al-Khader who led his army. Dhul Qarnayn also met with Prophets Ibrahim and Isma^il, peace be upon them, when he traveled on foot from Yemen to honorable Makkah to perform Hajj. When Prophet Ibrahim learned of his arrival he greeted him, made du^a for him, and gave him general advice and guidance. While in Hijaz (1) Dhul Qarnayn circumambulated the Ka^bah and slaughtered animals in the company of both Prophets Ibrahim and Isma^il. He was offered a horse to ride but out of respect Dhul Qarnayn said, "I will not mount a horse in the land of Prophet Ibrahim."  Prophet Ibrahim then gave him the good news that Allah had ordered the wind to carry him wherever he wished.

 

Dhul Qarnayn was granted many remarkable matters, among them was a long life and victory. Allah also gave him the knowledge of different landmarks and features of the earth. As a result, he conquered many cities and ruled lands ranging from the east to the west. Dhul Qarnayn mastered different languages, he could communicate with the people he ruled in their native language. Dhul Qarnayn was kind and compassionate and wise as he ruled. The inhabitants of the land he entered embraced Islam and were safe and prosperous; while those that refused were dishonored and shamed.

Illumination and darkness were also under Dhul Qarnayn’s command, by the will of Allah. If he traveled at night the path ahead of him would illuminate while the path behind him would remain dark. Sometimes darkness would be used as a weapon against enemies who attempted to fight him. Darkness would engulf them from all sides until they retreated. The darkness was used another time when one day he decided to travel west to the land where the sun sets.He found a nation living there. They were murderers and unjust people who spread misguidance. He gave them a choice between extreme punishment in this world and more punishment in the hereafter, or believing in God, performing good deeds and reaping the reward in the garden of Eden. Dhul Qarnayn stayed with them for a period of time spreading guidance and goodness.

After being near the place closer to where the sun sets, Dhul Qarnyan aspired to visit the place closer to where the sun rises. Making his way there, he reached a vast empty plain with no construction, mountains, or trees. There he found strange people. When the sun rose they would escape its intense heat by hiding in burrows they had dug, or diving underwater. They would emerge again after the sun had set.

At one time an army of soldiers came to this land and set up camp near these people. Concered for their visitors, residents advised them not to stay on lamd in time for the sun to rise." Stubbornly, the army replied, "We will not leave before the sun rises." As they observed the area around them they saw many skeleton bones. When they asked about the bones, the resident tribe told them, "These are the skeleton bones of another army who died when the sun rose over them sometime ago." Hearing this news and seeing the evidence, the army quickly fled.

Dhul Qarnayn witnessed this strange matter and continued on his way conquering reigning over every land he entered, supported by the victory that Allah granted him. Eventually, he reached a valley between two giant mountains. In this valley lived another strange tribe whose language was barely identifiable. Their neighbors were a wicked, malicious, a deviant group of people, Gog and Magog.

When the tribe in the valley realized that Dhul Qarnayn was a strong king with might and vigor they sought his help. He had years of experience, a vast kingdom, and numerous aides, so they asked him to build a barrier to separate them from their evil neighbors. Dhul Qarnayn agreed to their request. They offered to pay him for this service, but Dhul Qarnayn refused saying, “What Allah has bestowed upon me and given me is better than what you offer. I only ask that you help me with the labor and machinery needed to build this partition.”

As per his request, they brought him large iron slabs; each one weighing a qintar. He placed these iron blocks between the two mountains, one on top of the other. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to the peak. He then surrounded the iron sheets with charcoal and wood and started a fire. He gave orders to keep the flames strong and blow on it to intensify its temperature. The fire caused the iron blocks to melt. Then he poured melted copper mixed with lead on top of the iron; this made a solid, smooth barrier that extended from the valley to the top of the mountains. It reached a height of 250 dhira^ (equivalent to 125 meter). This barrier was difficult to climb because it was smooth and had no protrusions. It had no holes and was very difficult to break through.

When Dhul Qaryan completed building the barrier he said, “Allah facilitated this for us, by His mercy. When the Day of Judgment is near, this wall will be destroyed.” Thus, Dhul Qarnayn imprisoned Gog and Magog behind this barrier. Prophet Muhammad informed us that the people of Gog and Magog live long and do not die until they give birth to 1000 or more children. They will eventually breakthrough the iron partition and emerge with a huge population.

Everyday since that time, the people of Gog and Magog try to break through the barrier but fail. One day in the near future, closer to the approach of the Day of Judgement and after a long strenuous day of trying to break through, they say, “Tomorrow we will continue.” However, they come back the next day only to find the small hole that they opened was resealed. They do this everyday, until one day they say, “Tomorrow we will continue by the will of Allah." When they come back the next day they will find the hole from the previous day still open and from there they will continue digging through the barrier until they emerge. Their appearance will be one of the major signs that indicate the nearing of the Day of Judgement. May Allah protect us from its terrors and awes.

Dhul Qarnyan lived for hundreds of years, helping those in need, teaching and ruling according to Islam and ruling fairly. He lived his life preparing for the hereafter and died armed with good deeds and piety.

(1) Hijaz: a blessed area that includes Makkah, Madinah, and Jeddah.