Qur'an & Science Problem:

The place of Sun rise and Sun set

Till, when he [the traveller Zul-qarnain] reached
the setting-place of the sun,
he found it going down into a muddy spring, ...
-- Sura Sura 18:86

Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun,
he found it rising on a people
for whom We had appointed no shelter from it.
-- Sura Sura 18:90

First: It is scientifically proven that the sun does not go down in a muddy spring.

Second: This seems to presuppose a flat earth, otherwise how can there be an extreme point in the West or in the East? It does not say, he went as far as possible on land in these directions and then observed the sun-rise or sun-set while standing at this shore. A sunrise there would be basically just the same as at any other place on this earth, at land or sea. It would still look as if it is setting "far away". It does say, that he reached THE PLACE where the sun sets and in his second journey the place where it rises.

See also the thorough discussion of this issue in Islam and the Setting of the Sun.

Furthermore: Yusuf Ali in his commentary reports that Zul-qarnain is thought to be Alexander the Great. And so does the "Concise Dictionary of Islam." Looking at verses 98-101, this would make Alexander the Great a Muslim -- 1000 years before Muhammad. Yet that is for sure not true. The history does not relate that Alexander the Great had any other religion than the pagan Greeks he came from and ruled over. This is historically blatantly false.

Many more details about this historical issue are available in the articles on Zul-Qarnain, his gate, and the place of sunset.

Muslim Response by Randy Desmond
Date: Thurs, 13 Mar 1997

I looked in the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, "Towards Understanding the Qur'an" by Mawdudi, a small translation by two muslims whose names I have forgotten (but their translation reflects some famous tafsirs and sources of ahadith), and, lastly, my (new) Arabic dictionary. I found that Mawdudi's tafsir and the Arabic dictionary to be the most comprehensive in giving information about this subject matter (second, of course, to just plain reading the Qur'an).

Those verses are talking from Dhul-Qarnayn's perspective of where the sun set/rose. Dhul-Qarnayn found the sun setting in a murky spring, and Dhul-Qarnayn found the sun rising on a certain people. Allah gives His factual descriptions BEFORE describing how Dhul-Qarnayn found where/when the sun was setting/rising.

Until (Hattaa) as (idhaa) he reached (balagha) the place or time of sunset/west
(maghriba)... (18:86)

As (idhaa) he reached (balagha) the rise/time of rising [of
celestial bodies]/break [of day] (maTli`a)... (18:90)

To further explain: just like Morocco is called Al-Maghrib (the West) and we have a prayer at sunset time called maghrib (the "a" on the end of the word in the verse is a vowel denoting accusative grammatical case) and maghrib is used today even today to mean the direction west.

The key here is that Dhul-Qarnayn found the sun setting in a murky spring. The verse is very explicite in showing that the setting of the sun (and the rising) are from Dhul-Qarnayn's perspective.

Knowing this information, we can understand the description of where the sun set and rose (from Dhul-Qarnayn's perspective) to be simply human descriptions of the areas (both westerly and easterly) of Dhul-Qarnayn's reign.

I hope that clears it up.

As for Dhul-Qarnayn being Alexander the Great, that is only speculation at best. So don't jump on accusing the Qur'an of what it does not say. Some scholars say it was Alexander the Great, but some scholars may be wrong sometimes too. They are not prophets. Muslims are warned not to follow blindly. We are taught to seek knowledge and correct our brothers if they do wrong. Know this, at best the answer to the question of who is the personage of Dhul-Qarnayn is simply speculation. Having said that, I know some scholars say it was King Cyrus, the Persian Emperor, who is described in the Book of Ezra as a God-fearing king who liberates the Israelites because he is such a God-fearing individual. (source: Mawdudi's "Towards understanding the Qur'an") Additionally, Mawdudi writes, "Nevertheless, the information available to date does not enable us to form a definitive opinion concerning Dhul-Qarnayn's identity." God knows best.

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