large sea appears to be a small pool. It is most meaningful and apt according to the mysteries of eloquence1 to liken a sea appearing beyond swamps with mists and vapours rising from it due to the heat to a muddy spring, with word ‘ayn, which in Arabic means both spring, and sun, and eye. It appeared like that to Dhu’l-Qarnayn because of the distance. So too, the Qur’an comes from the sublime throne and commands the heavenly bodies, so its heavenly address stating that the subjugated sun, which performs the duty of a lamp in this guesthouse of the Most Merciful One, is hidden in a dominical spring like the Atlantic Ocean, is fitting for its loftiness and sublimity; with its miraculous style it shows the sea to be a hot spring and steaming eye. And that is how is appears to heavenly eyes.
I n S h o r t : The use of the term “a muddy spring” for the Atlantic Ocean indicates that Dhu’l-Qarnayn saw that huge ocean as a spring due to the distance. But because the Qur’an sees everything from close to, it did not see what Dhu’l-Qarnayn saw, which was a sort of illusion. Indeed, since the Qur’an comes from the heavens and looks to them, it sometimes sees the earth as an arena, sometimes as a palace, sometimes as a cradle, and sometimes as a page. So its calling the vast misty, vaporous Atlantic Ocean a spring shows its lofty sublimity.
YOUR SECOND QUESTION
Where is the barrier of Dhu’l-Qarnayn? Who were Gog and Magog?
T h e A n s w e r : Long ago I wrote a treatise about this question and it silenced the atheists. I do not have it with me now, and my memory is not working and helping me. Also, this question is discussed briefly in the Third Branch of the Twenty-Fourth Word. We shall therefore only indicate very briefly two or three points about it, as follows:
According to explanations given by investigative scholars, and as indicated by the title Dhu’l-Qarnayn, names beginning with the suffix Dhu, like Dhu’l-Yazan, were used by the kings of Yemen, so this Dhu’l-Qarnayn was not Alexander the Great. He was one of the kings of Yemen2 who lived at the time of Abraham (UWP)3 and received instruction from
In accordance with the mysteries of rhetoric the word “spring” (‘ayn) in “in a spring of murky water” makes a subtle allusion, as follows: after gazing on the beauty of divine mercy on the face of the earth, the eye of the sun in the face of the sky – and after beholding divine tremendousness above, the eye of the sea in the earth – these two eyes close one within the other, and the eyes on the earth close also. Thus, with one miraculous word the Qur’an recalls this, and alludes to eyes resting from their duties.
See, Abu Su’ud, Tafsir Abi Su’ud, v, 239-40; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, vi, 385; al-Alusi, Ruh al-Ma’ani, xvi, 27.
See, al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, xi, 47; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an, i, 180; iii, 101; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, vi, 382; al-Faqihi, Ahbar Makka, iii, 221.