Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
Yusuf Ali’s Translation of this Chapter.
Muhammad Asad’s Translation of this Chapter.
Their commentaries can only be read in verse by verse view
PAGE 303 Arabic Qur’an.
1. Our Reading today is about Thul Qarneyn: ‘the Two-horned one’ - or ‘He of the Two Generations,’ – or ‘He of the Two Peaks’… an unidentified personality, as explained in Asad’s comments on Verse 83 (read them in full).
Yusuf Ali also alludes to ‘popular’ opinion,’ but as we can see, that historical identity is not only false, but is the exact ‘elaboration’ by which we get side-tracked and DEVIATE from the GIST of the lesson!
In the first community he encountered, when ‘commanded’ to take decisive action, he established a system where people would be repaid in like for their actions, leaving full recompense to their Lord in the Hereafter. I find that Asad’s statement summarizes the gist of this parable when he says, “the story aims at no more than the illustration of certain ethical principles in a parabolic manner.”
‘Ethical Principles’ concerning WHOM?
Concerning those who, with their ADVANCED CAPABILITIES, TRAVERSE INTO OTHER LANDS.
Think, dear Reader. How would our world be today, if those with advanced capabilities had traversed into other lands, and had then dealt with the indigenous populations as Thul Qarneyn had done? But let us not digress!
Do read Asad’s important commentary (mentioning the freedom of will, and the responsibility of governments to choose their course of action according to what is in the greatest good of the community).
2. Verses 90- 91- 92 tell us of Thul Qarneyn’s next encounter (with a community to the east), which seems to have lived in a barren land, unprotected from the sun. In this encounter he did not offer (nor was he asked) for any input. So he simply let them be.
3. Verses 93- 94- 95- 96- 97 relate to his third encounter, with a community who asked for his help against an entity who was ‘spoiling the land.’ This entity was called ‘Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj.’
Yusuf Ali sees them as ‘wild tribes’ living in the vicinity of skilled and industrious people, but this does not compute with the linguistic definition, or the likelihood that Thul Qarneyn would have dealt with them as he dealt with the first community he encountered. Furthermore, he was not asked for any other solutions than a ‘barricadeردما-.’ Think: no matter how high a barricade between two mountains, humans on the other side could still scale the mountains or the barricade in between.
It is not the identity of this ‘destructive’ entity that is most baffling, but the fact that, throughout the years, most people have repeated what previous generations have said about this issue, relying on mythology, folklore and Biblical narratives. Check it out in Wikipedia. It’s truly amazing how the narrative has spiced up through time!
What, or who are they?
I don’t think it changes the gist of the story to know who or what they are, but it is important to know what they are not.
Firstly, ‘Ya’jooj and Ma’jooj’ are NOT two entities but one single entity which is described by its actions, as seen in all verb references to them (which do not show ‘muthanna’ duality).
Secondly, as we see in our 1000 year old Lexicon, the two root verbs ‘ajjaأج-’[i] and ‘majjaمج-’ [ii] are quite descriptive:
· ‘Ajja’ is related to either the sound of hissing, or to extreme heat, or saltiness.
· ‘Majja’ is related either to disorder or regurgitation.
Another action which defines them is ‘swelling, or surging’ as mentioned in Verse 100 (‘swell’ amongst/against each other -‘yamoojيموج-’), and there is future reference to them in HQ 21:95-96, where the verse says that 'it' shall be ‘opened’ or ‘released,’ ('IT' not 'they,' indicating a phenomenon).
Also bear in mind that salinity (the salty sea) is referred to in the Qur’an as ‘ujaajأجاج- ’ and waves are ‘mawjموج-.’
If we tried to understand this phenomenon without preconception, we would not think of them being ‘people,’ but rather of an entity that surges, is related to disruption, extreme heat/ saltiness, and perhaps a hissing sound. With only these definitions one cannot be certain, but I am inclined to see it is a natural phenomenon (which incorporates all the connotations of the two words ‘ajja’ and ‘majja’). Whether this includes the threat of fire and of liquid, of volcanic gases, of sea-serpents- God knows best. But we must reflect on how superstitious people must have been thousands of years ago, and how much a part of their existence it was to transform powerful natural phenomena into the ‘supernatural.’
(Actually, someone mentioned to me that I should check out the ‘dragon’ myth, which was born out of people’s fear and respect for volcanoes and serpents. This mythology has a presence worldwide, and many different civilizations -Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian etc..- speak of a great personality traversing danger on a serpent-like ship).
Mythology is a good example of the human brain’s ‘deviance’ from reality as generation after generation narrates what once was, to their ancestors, a true, historic occurrence. Mythology is based on a perception of real events, which is why humanity shares so many common myths.
PAGE 304 Arabic Qur’an.
4. Verse 98 shows us the demeanor and faith of Thul Qarneyn, who seems to have been a Prophet. Like other Prophets, peace upon them all, he was sent to raise the level of Human Awareness and Advancement. The Qur’an neither indicates his being a ‘conqueror,’ nor travelling with an army, although he seems to have had company (these details may have come from the ‘Alexander the Great’ theory).
Thul Qarneyn seems to have established (in the first community) a ‘legal’ system, and in another, taught them how to melt iron-ore (which they seem to have been familiar with), to provide a barrier against a recurrent threat. In the second community he may simply have done nothing, which was of greatest benefit to them, and in itself, is today worth a thousand words!
5. Verses 99- 100- 101- 102 describe the final days on earth, and Hell being displayed for the Deniers. Well-explained except for the term ‘nufikha fis-Soor’ (نفخ في الصور)- which was translated Biblically as: ‘when the trumpet sounded.’
Because the Qur’an is in Arabic, when we speak Arabic, we will say the correct Qur'anic words and only think of the wrong concept. When we speak English however, our thinking will influence our translation, and OUR concepts and images will be delivered to the Reader INSTEAD of the original:
· ‘Nafakha’ means ‘to swell, to rise,’ as in the ‘rising day,’ and the ‘nafkha’ of spring, when the earth swells and grasses shoot up. It is related to acceleration, as in ‘blowing on’ flames to accelerate burning.
· ‘Ssoor’ is not a commonly used noun, which is why some think its roots are in ‘sayara’ صير denoting 'becoming' as in صار and the ‘final destination, مصير’ while others think the roots are in ‘sawara ’ صور, denoting ‘physical manifestation,’
Together, this term describes the closing stage of Life on earth, when it ‘accelerates’ in its journey of 'becoming' ... towards finality!
6. Verses 103- 104- 105- 106 are eye-openers, asking us.. and telling us.. who the Persons of Greatest Loss are:
The Persons of Greatest Loss are those whose efforts go astray and vanish into this immediate life, even as they are imagining themselves to be doing well! Having spent their entire lives Denying their Lord’s Signs and their Meeting Him, all their work will ultimately collapse, to the result that they shall end up being Insignificant at the time of Resurrection, with Hell as their reward for Denial and for ridiculing God’s Signs and Messengers.
7. The final verses in the Chapter of the Cave (109- 110) direct the Messenger Muhammad, peace upon him, to tell everyone about his Lord’s Words/ Truths (God’s ‘words’ are the actual manifestation of Truths, see 10:82).
Also, about himself as a distinctive human, to whom God imparts information (wahiوحي- ).
This chapter ends with the most valuable advice for those who anticipate meeting their Lord!
Our next Reading is from HQ 19:1-26- the beautiful Chapter of Mary!
Peace unto all!
[i] (أجّ) فلها أصلان: الحَفيف، والشدّة إمّا حرّاً وإمّا ملوحة.
[ii] (مج) كلمتانِ إحداهما تخليطٌ في شيء، والثانية رَمْيٌ للشيء بسرعة.
فالأولى المجمجة: تخليطٌ فيما يُكتَب. ومَجمَجَ في أخباره: لم يَشْفِ ولم يُفصِح.
والأخرى مَجَّ الشرابَ من فيه: رمى به. والشَّراب مُجَاج العِنَب. والمَطَر مُجَاج المُزْن. والعسل مُجاج النَّحْل. وهو هرِم ماجٌّ: يمجُّ ريقَه ولا يستطيع أن يَحبسه من كِبره. ومن باب السرعة أمَجَّ في البلاد إمجاجاً: ذهب. وأمَجَّ الرّجُل: أسرَعَ في عَدْوِه