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Dhu l-Qarnayn

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Dhu l-Qarnayn (Arabic: ذوالقَرنَین) is the title of a character mentioned in the Qur'an. There are basic disagreements in Islamic sources about his identity, the historical period in which he lived, and the details of his life. According to an old belief, he is the same as Alexander the Great (reign: 356BC-323BC). Thus, information about Dhu l-Qarnayn in Islamic and Iranian sources is derived from historical sources and myths about Alexander.

In recent periods, some people identified Dhu l-Qarnayn with Cyrus the Great (reign: 530BC-590BC). The identity of Gog and Magog and the specification of the geographical location of the dam constructed by Dhu l-Qarnayn to obstruct Gog and Magog are key to the identification of Dhu l-Qarnayn.

Detailed discussions and serious disagreements among Muslim scholars were fueled by the brief mysterious reply of the Prophet Muhammad (s) to inquirers about Dhu l-Qarnayn and the curiosity of Muslims about the details of the story, and in particular, the identity of Dhu l-Qarnayn himself. The greatest source of concern for Muslim scholars was the identification of Dhu l-Qarnayn with Alexander the Great whose character led to different and even contradictory views about Dhu l-Qarnayn.

Literal Meaning

According to the best-known meaning of the word, "qarn", in Arabic (that is, horn), Dhu al-Qarnayn means: a person who has two horns. However, given other meanings of "qarn" such as hair, the crown or upper part of the head, the peripheries of the sun, a period of time equal to 30 or 80 years, and people of a period, and given the person to whom the title applies, different reasons have been offered for why the person in question is called "Dhu l-Qarnayn". A lexicological and philological examination of the word, "qarn", in Semitic languages shows that in Akkadian, Hebrew, and Syriac languages, the word has almost the same meaning as it has in Arabic, that is, horn. In fact, in all these languages it implies power and glory. In English, too, the word, "horn", is rooted in the Latin "cornu" which seems similar to the word, "qarn".

In Holy Texts

The issue of "Dhu l-Qarnayn" in the Islamic culture originates from the Qur'an. The name appears three times in the Qur'an. Before that, in a dream by the prophet Danial, a ram with two horns appears which is referred to in Hebrew as "קרנים" (qarnim). In Arabic poems before the emergence of Islam, "Dhu l-Qarnayn" was used to refer to some kings of Yemen and al-Hirah. For example, Mundhir b. Ma' al-Sama' al-Lakhmi was called "Dhu l-Qarnayn".

The rather short Quranic account of the story of Dhu l-Qarnayn is a mysterious story of the Qur'an appearing after two other mysterious stories in Sura al-Kahf: the story of the