Verses from Surah Al-Kahf (92-98)

[92] Then again he followed a course.

[93] Until, when he reached between the two barriers,113 he found beside them a people who hardly understood a word.114


113. Although according to Ibn ‘Abbas the allusion by the two barriers is to the mountain ranges of Armenia and Azerbaijan (Ibn Jarir), there is no hadith to this effect.

114. That is, they did not understand Dhu al-Qarnayn’s language (Ibn Jarir).

[94] They said, ‘O Dhu al-Qarnayn. Ya’juj and Ma’juj cause chaos in the land.115 So, shall we offer you tribute on the understanding that you erect a barrier between us and them?’ 


115. The Qur’an did not speak of these people but at two places. The second instance being (21: 96), “And they will descend from every elevation.” Hadith literature gives us quite some details. They are as follows.

Ya’juj and Ma’juj

Ibn Kathir writes: They have not been identified, but are definitely sons of Adam. A hadith of Sunan al-Kubra of Nasa’i says, “Ya’juj and Ma’juj have women with whom they have intercourse as they wish, have trees that they cross-pollinate as they wish, and, one of their men does not die but leaves a thousand or more behind him.”

Where are they now? This is also not certain. However, many scholars have thought that they are somewhere behind the Caucuses region of Central Asia. A hadith runs like this: “Allah will address Adam. He will say, ‘Here I am O Lord.’ He will say, ‘Separate out those of the Fire.’ He will ask, ‘Who are those of the Fire?” He will reply, ‘Nine hundred and ninety-nine from every thousand to the Fire, and one to Paradise.’ It is then that that when a child will turn grey (will become old) and every pregnant will suffer miscarriage.’ [The Companions were frightened]. They asked in anguish, ‘Who that one will be from amongst us meant for Paradise?’ He replied, “Do not worry, you will be like one against a thousand of the Ya’juj and Ma’juj. Then he added, ‘Among you will be two communities that will not come to a thing but will overwhelm it: Ya’juj and Ma’juj.”

The first part of the hadith (up to ‘who that one will be ..’) is in Bukhari, but the latter part is from Abu Ya`la’s Musnad which, according to Husayn Saleem, is weak.

In any case, wherever they are now, they are behind a barrier unable to breach it. Ibn ‘Abbas is reported by Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn abi Hatim and Hakim (who declared the report Sahih), as saying that although sons of Adam, they will measure in height no more than the span of a hand or two. The tallest of them will measure maybe three hand spans (Shawkani).

The above is not a hadith (Au.).

hadith (in Ahmed, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, declared Sahih by Albani: S. Ibrahim) says, “They make a hole in the barrier everyday, until they are almost able to see sunlight through it. Their overseer tells them, ‘Enough for today. Tomorrow we shall open it.’ But when they come back the next day, they find it plugged more strongly; until, when the time comes for their release, and Allah wishes to release them against the people, they will dig and are almost able to see the sunlight. Their overseer says, ‘Let us return, tomorrow we shall open it, Allah willing.’ Thus he leaves it to Allah’s will. Then they return to it, and it is like they left it the previous day. They will complete the digging and come out against the people.”

Ibn Hajr has shown that the hadith has good narrators.

Ibn al-‘Arabiyy has pointed out that their saying, “If Allah wills” demonstrates that Prophets would have been raised among them but could have been rejected except for a few of them (leaving behind practices such as saying “If Allah wills”).

After quoting Ibn al-Arabiyy, Mufti Shafi` adds that some scholars think that the opening in the barrier referred to above could be symbolical. In fact, it is possible that the barrier has already been rendered severely weak, to come down completely anytime. It has also been conjectured that a party of them might have already been let loose, who could be, at the moment, a civilized people. At some time in future the rest of the great mass will be released. As for how is it that explorers have not been able to find the barrier? The answer is, Some Muslim historians have mentioned that a delegation sent by the Abbasids three hundred years after the Prophet actually saw it. But they have nothing in evidence, and therefore Qur’anic verse cannot be said to be definitely referring to it. Sheikh Anwar Shah Kashmiri, the Indian Sheikh al-Hadith, has suggested that perhaps the barrier got hidden within newly appearing mountain ranges.

According to some reports, they will breach the barrier only after ‘Isa b. Maryam will have finished off Dajjal. He will be told, “I am releasing a creation that no one can withstand.” So ‘Isa (asws) will take his followers and withdraw to Mount Tur. Ya’juj and Ma’juj will raid the people and subdue them all. They will drink off waters of the earth until some of them will pass by a lake and drink off its water leaving it dry. Someone passing by after them will say, ‘Once there used to be a lake here.’ People will withdraw into their cities and forts taking away their flock with them. When they run out of provision, a bull’s head will be worth a hundred Dinar. Ya’juj and Ma’juj will shoot an arrow or one of their weapons towards the sky. It will come back laced with blood. They will say, ‘We have subdued those on the earth and those in the heaven.’ The people will finally complain to ‘Isa of their hardship. He will pray to Allah who will release an insect (bacteria?) into their necks, which will kill them all. They will lie motionless in the fields.” According to another report in Ibn Jarir, “Muslims will say, ‘Will not someone risk his life for us and find out what happened to them?’ So one of them will volunteer to go, but quite sure that he will lose his life. He will find them all dead, piled up, one upon another. He will cry out, ‘O Muslims! Rejoice. Allah has delivered you from their evil.’ So the Muslims will come out with their cattle. And their cattle will have nothing but their flesh to feed on. And, by Allah, they will fatten on their flesh, like they never fattened on grass ever before.” According to other reports, people will go to ‘Isa to complain of the stink of their corpses. He will pray to Allah. He will send huge birds whose necks will be similar to camel’s neck. They will pick up their corpses and dump them away.

Some narratives say that heavy rains will follow and the lands will be rendered clean. Allah will then command the earth to throw out its produce. It will, and in those times a pomegranate will be so large as to suffice a group of people. A goat’s milk will be enough for a whole family. That situation of plenty will prevail for forty years. Then Allah will send a wind that will cause some kind of sickness to the believers and they will all die. Thereafter, the worst of creatures will remain in the land who will intercourse in the streets. It is upon them that the Hour will be called.

The above combines more than one report. A hadith in the Sahihayn says, “The Prophet woke up from a sleep with his face flushed red. He said, ‘There is no deity but Allah. Woe unto the Arabs from the evil that has drawn nigh. Today, a hole has been made in the barrier against Ya’juj and Ma’juj the size of this.’ He made a sign with his thumb and index finger. (Zaynab bint Jahsh the reporter says she asked him), ‘Messenger of Allah, shall we be destroyed while there are good men among us?’ He replied, ‘Yes, when the wicked are overwhelming’” (Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Shawkani, Shafi`).

[95] He replied, ‘That over which my Lord has empowered me is better. Help me merely with some (man-)power and I shall erect a rampart116 between you and them.


116. The textual “radm” is used for a barrier, but something stronger than a mere “sadd” (Ibn Jarir).

Qurtubi points out that this verse helps derive the rule that those men whose evil is feared can be imprisoned. It can be also be deduced that providing safety to the people is the responsibility of a government. Further, the government should not levy taxes when not required. Although offered, Dhu al-Qarnayn refused tribute, but only sought what he was short of, i.e., manpower.

[96] Bring me sheets of iron.’117 At length, when he had filled the (space between the) two cliffs, he said, ‘Blow.’ Until, when he had made it red hot he said, ‘Bring me, that I may pour over it molten copper.’118


117. “Zubar” is used both for pieces of iron as well as for sheets, and Dhu al-Qarnayn might have used both sheets as well as ingots. It is also likely that he would have first got rocks placed and then covered the wall with iron (Au.).

118. Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak and others have understood “qitr” as meaning molten copper (Ibn Jarir). Some others have said it is lead (Qurtubi and others).

If it involves copper or brass, the process of welding the iron sheets together is technically known as brazing and it is the strongest way of joining two pieces of steel, having an advantage of strength over the simpler iron to iron welding (Au.).

[97] There! Neither they had the power to scale it, nor able to drill through.

[98] He said, ‘This is by the mercy of my Lord. But when my Lord’s promise comes to pass,119 He will make it level. Surely, my Lord’s promise is ever true.’120


119. “When my Lord’s promise comes to pass” – when will that be? The prevailing opinion is that, “when the Lord’s command to release Ya’juj and Ma’juj is pronounced.”

120. Ibn Mas`ud reported the Prophet: “I met Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa the night I was raised up. They were discussing the Hour. Ibrahim was asked about it. He said, ‘I know nothing about it.’ Then Musa was asked. He too said he knew nothing about it. Then ‘Isa was asked. He said, ‘No one knows when the Hour will be struck. But my Lord has told me about things that will happen, without telling me when. He told me that Dajjal will appear. He will send me down to him. When he sees me, he will start dissolving like lead. Until, even rocks and trees will call out, “O Muslim, here is an unbeliever. Come and kill him.” Thus they will be destroyed and the people will return to their native lands. But then Ya’juj and Ma’juj will confront them, descending from every elevation. They will not pass by anything but eat it off and will not pass by any water but drink it off. So the people will come to me complaining of them. I will supplicate to Allah. He will destroy them until the earth will stink because of them. Then rains will come down and floods will carry their bodies to the seas. Then the mountains will be brought down, until the earth will be like a piece of leather spread out. This is my Lord’s promise to me. At that moment the world will be like a pregnant female that has completed the period of pregnancy so that people do not know when it will give birth, by evening or morning’” (Ibn Jarir).

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