Muzaffar Iqbal and Csaba Okvath

Dhūl-Qarnayn (lit. “the possessor of two horns”), is mentioned in Sūrat al-Kahf (Q 18:83-98). The Dhūl-Qarnayn passage opens abruptly with direct reference to a question about him posed to the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace (and they ask you about Dhūl-Qarnayn). It follows two other passages recounting past events of great importance—the story of the People of the Cave (ahl al-kahf) (Q 18:9-26) and the encounter of Prophet Mūsa with “one of Our slaves, unto whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us (see Khiḍr) (Q 18:60-82).

His Mention

Dhūl-Qarnayn is mentioned in the following passage:

And they ask you about Dhūl-Qarnayn. Say, “I shall recite to you an account of him.” Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him [means] to have everything [he needed]. So he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunset, he found it setting into a spring of dark mud, and found a people near it. We said, “O Dhūl-Qarnayn, either punish them or deal with them in a good manner.” He said, “As for him who does wrong, we shall punish him, then he will be sent back to his Lord, and He will punish him with a severe punishment. As for the one who believes and acts righteously, he will have the best as reward, and we shall speak to him mildly in our affairs.” Then he followed a course until when he reached the point of sunrise, he found it rising over a people for whom We did not make any shelter against it. Thus it was, and Our knowledge fully comprehends whatever he had. Thereafter he followed a course until when he reached between the two mountains he found a people who could hardly understand anything he said. They said, “O Dhūl-Qarnayn, these are Yaʾjūj and Maʾjūj, corrupters on the earth. We shall pay you tribute on condition that you set a barrier between us and them.” He said, “That wherein my Lord has established me is better [than your tribute]. Do but help me with strength [of men], and I shall set between you and them a rampart. Bring to me sheets of iron,” till, when he had leveled up [the gap] between the cliffs, he said, “Blow!” till, when he had made it [like] fire, he said, “Bring me molten copper to pour thereon.” And thus [the rampart was built, and] their enemies were unable to scale it, nor were they able to pierce it. He said, “This is a mercy from my Sustainer! Yet when the time appointed by my Sustainer shall come, He will make this [rampart] level with the ground: and my Sustainer’s promise always comes true!” (Q 18:83-98)

The lack of enough biographical details in the passage and the absence of sound Prophetic hadiths about Dhūl-Qarnayn have resulted in divergent exegetical and historiographical identifications, as well as a rich tradition of literary references. Unless otherwise noted, all exegetical references in this article are to Q 18:83-98.

Context of Revelation

Commentators refer to various occasions of revelation for this passage, each hinging on the subject of the verb in its first verse (And they ask you about Dhūl-Qarnayn…).

Al-Bukhārī (194-256/810-870) cites Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), may Allah be pleased with him and his father, as saying that when the erudite rabbi ʿAbd Allāh b. Salām entered Islam, certain Jews went to him and said, “Prophethood cannot be among the Arabs (i.e., the gentiles), but your companion (i.e., the Prophet) might be a [Divinely-sanctioned] king.” They then went to the Prophet and asked him about Dhūl-Qarnayn as a test of the truth of his claim to prophethood (al-Bukhārī, al-Tārīkh al-kabīr 1:225).

The early historiographer Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150/767) reports, from the eminent Follower (tābiʿī) ʿIkrima (d. 107/725) through unnamed teachers, that the verse refers to one of three questions posed by Makkan polytheists to the Prophet to test his veracity after they consulted the Jewish rabbis by sending two envoys, Naḍr b. Ḥārith and ʿUqba b. Abī Muʿayṭ, to the Jews of Yathrib for advice on how to assess the Prophet’s claim to prophethood. The rabbis there told the envoys to ask him about the People of the Cave, Dhūl-Qarnayn, and the Spirit (al-rūḥ) (Ibn Isḥāq, Sīra 1:202). The Qurʾānic response to these questions is found in Q 18:9-26, Q 18:83-98, and Q 17:85, respectively.

Al-Ṭabarī’s (224-310/839-923) account of the passage’s revelation omits mention of the Makkan polytheists altogether, instead attributing the question to certain “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitāb)(Tafsīr). Ibn Abī Ḥātim (d. 327/939) quotes al-Suddī (d. 127/745) as saying, “The Jews said to the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, ‘O Muḥammad, you mention Ibrāhīm, Mūsā, ʿĪsā, and other prophets because you have heard about them from us, but tell us about a prophet whom Allah has mentioned in the Torah only once.’ He asked, ‘Who is he?’ They said, ‘Dhūl-Qarnayn.’ He said, ‘I have not received anything about him.’ The Jews left delighted, thinking they had prevailed, but had barely reached the door when Jibrīl came with the verses And they ask you about Dhūl-Qarnayn…” (Ibn Abī Ḥātim, Tafsīr).

Ibn ʿAṭiyya (480-546/1087-1151) notes generally that “the exegetes differ about who asked the question” (Muḥarrar). The Andalusian exegete Abū Ḥayyān (d. 745/1344) writes that, while it may have involved a Qurayshite intermediary, these variant accounts agree that the question originated among some Jewish scholars of Yathrib (Baḥr).

His Cognomen

The title Dhūl-Qarnayn comprises the possessive particle dhū and the dual noun qarnayn (sing. qarn). Qarn bears the meanings of an obtrusion (hence “horns”), the summit of a mountain, the first rays of the rising sun, and a generation (e.g., its usage in Q 6:6: …how many generations We destroyed before them…) and hence a number of years, qarīn being one’s peer in a generation (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs;,sub q-r-n).

 In the exegetical literature, the title Dhūl-Qarnayn (“possessor of two horns”) is understood in both literal and metaphorical senses. The Successor Wahb b. Munabbih (d. ca.109/728) reports that even the People of the Book differ as to the origin of the cognomen. In his encyclopedic commentary, al-Ṭabarī cites four possible reasons as to why Dhūl-Qarnayn is known by this title: (i) he died from a blow to the head, but Allah resurrected him whereupon he once again died from such a blow—an interpretation attributed to ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib; (ii) he was the king of Rome and Persia, thus possessor of two large empires; (iii) he had two horn-like growths on his head, this and the preceding interpretation being attributed to Wahb b. Munabbih; and (iv) both sides of his head were made of copper (Tafsīr)—this last opinion is a “far-fetched interpretation,” according to Burhān al-Dīn al-Kirmānī (d. 505/1110) (Gharāʾib 1:676). Ibn al-Jawzī (510-597/ca.1116-1201) adds from al-Anbārī (d. 577/1181) that he was called “possessor of two horns” because the Roman and the Persian empires (both under his sway) were elevated at their outer reaches, thus forming topographical prominences or “horns”. Ibn al-Jawzī (Zād) notes six more possible reasons: (v) he was given the name by his people after relating a dream in which he ascended to the heavens and held the sun through its two rays; (vi) he travelled to the furthest points of sunrise and sunset; (vii) he was descended from noble lineages through both his maternal and paternal lines; (viii) he outlived two generations (qarnayn) of his time; (ix) he travelled in both light and darkness; and (x) his hair was braided into two plaits (kānat lahu ghadīratāni). Several of these opinions are noted by commentators earlier and later than al-Jawzī, including al-Zamakhsharī (467-538/ca.1074-1143), Ibn ʿAṭiyya (d. 546/ca.1151), and al-Khāzin (678-741/1279-1340). Al-Zamakhsharī adds that Dhūl-Qarnayn was so called because of his wartime bravery (li-shujāʿatih) in that he removed others from his path, as it were, with “horns” (Kashshāf; also cited by Rāzī, Tafsīr).

Was he a Prophet?

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, was asked about the prophethood of Dhūl-Qarnayn and replied, as reported by Abū Hurayra (d. 57/681), “I do not know if Dhūl-Qarnayn was a prophet or not” (Ḥākim, Mustadrak, Tafsīr 2:488 §3682, classed ṣaḥīḥ on par with the standards of Bukhārī and Muslim; also included in Bayhaqī, Sunan 8:570 §17595; Abū Dāwūd, Sunan 4:218 §4674, although this last source considers ʿUzayr, not Dhūl-Qarnayn). Based on the Qurʾānic description of Dhūl-Qarnayn, exegetes agree that he ruled a large kingdom justly; he travelled to the furthest reaches of the earth in three directions (east, west, north); he was granted extraordinary knowledge (such that he was able to construct a rampart from sheets of iron and molten copper); and he was a believer in One God Who communicated to him His commands by way of revelation (although the modality of this revelation, whether it implies his prophethood or merely an inspiration as granted the mother of Mūsā in Q 7:24, is variously understood).

The argument for his prophethood rests on the direct address in Q 18:66, We said: O Dhūl-Qarnayn. Abū Ḥayyān (d. 745/1344) comments that “the apparent sense (ẓāhir) of We said (qulnā) is that Allah revealed to him through an angel; it is also said that He spoke to him directly, without the agency of an angel, as He addressed Mūsā, upon him peace. In either case, he would be a prophet” (Baḥr). Some of the early scholars who consider him a prophet include ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr b. al-Āṣ,  al-Ḍaḥḥāk b. Muzāḥim, and al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (cf. Samarqandī, Baḥr; Māturīdī, Taʾwīlāt; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-bārī, qawl Allāh taʿālā wa yasʾalūnaka ʿan Dhīl-qarnayn ilā qawlihi sababa). 

Those who do not consider him a prophet include ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (13bh-40/609-660), Ibn ʿAbbās (3bh-68/619-688), and “a group of Companions” (per al-Samarqandī, Baḥr). Both Abū Jaʿfar al-Naḥḥās (d. 338/ca.950) and al-Maqdisī (569-643/1174-1245) cite ʿAlī’s descriptive account about him: “He was neither a prophet nor an angel. He was a righteous man who loved Allah and whom Allah loved; he was sincere with Allah and Allah granted him sincere counsel,” and he received the title due to the mortal blows he received on either side of his head (see above) (Maʿānī, calling this the strongest report concerning Dhūl-Qarnayn; al-Aḥādīth al-mukhtāra 2:175; cf. Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-bārī 6:383, who called the narration sound). Ibn Zayd said, “I have not heard any sound source calling Dhūl-Qarnayn a prophet; he was a warner (nadhīr)” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 25:1). This position understands the Divine speech mentioned in the verse either to have been sent to a prophet of the time, who in turn advised Dhūl-Qarnayn; or to have been not revelation proper but inspiration (ilhām) (the latter position is strongly supported by Baghawī, Tafsīr and Ibn Kathīr, Bidāya 2:122; cf. al-Kirmānī, Gharāʾib 1:678).


Three historical persons have been identified with the Qurʾānic Dhūl-Qarnayn: (i) a king named al-Iskandar (Alexander) sometimes equated with Alexander III (“the Great”) of Macedon (356-323 BC), founder of Alexandria; (ii) a Yemeni Ḥimyarī king by the name of al-Ṣaʿab b. Marāthid b. al-Ḥārith; and (iii) the Persian emperor Cyrus (600 or 576-530 BCE). One of the first to identify him as the former was Wahb b. Munabbih, who said, “Dhūl-Qarnayn was a Roman, the only son of an elderly woman, and his name was al-Iskandar (Alexander)” (Ṭabarī, Tafsīr). This identification is reported by the historians Ibn Isḥāq (80-150/699-767), Ibn Hishām (d. 217/833), as well as by a host of exegetes, most of whom mention it among other possibilities; others mention only his name (Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Muḥarrar; Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbī, al-Tashīl; Makkī, Hidāya; Baghawī and Qurṭubī, Tafsīrs). Al-Rāzī is emphatic in his arguments, but hesitant in identifying him as Alexander on doctrinal grounds. He states that there are variant opinions, but reasons that Dhūl-Qarnayn is none other than Alexander, son of Philip, the Greek (al-Iskandar b. Fīlibūs al-Yūnānī), because

the Qurʾān mentions that he was a man whose dominion stretched to the furthest reaches of the west, as evidenced in His saying until he reached the setting-place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring (Q 18:86); and whose dominion also stretched to the furthest reaches of the east, as evidenced in His saying until he reached the rising-place of the sun (Q 18:90); and whose dominion also stretched to the furthest reaches of the north, as evidenced by [the widely held belief] that Yaʾjūj and Maʾjūj are Turkic peoples living far to the north, and as evidenced by [the plausible notion] that the rampart mentioned in the Qurʾān is also known, from works of historiography, to have been constructed in the far north. Hence this person is named Dhūl-Qarnayn in the Qurʾān, whose kingdom extended to the furthest reaches of west and east—comprising the entire inhabited region of the earth—and indeed, such a vast kingdom is extraordinary and noteworthy, so that [its memory] abides and does not vanish. It is well-known from the works of historiography that such a king, whose kingdom stretched to the far corners, was none other than Alexander. This is so because when his father died, he consolidated the Greek kingdoms… (Tafsīr)

Al-Rāzī concludes that this position is “most apparently probable,” because “the like of this great king must be known to the world, and the [only historical figure] who is known to have had a kingdom of such greatness was Alexander; therefore, the person intended by ‘Dhūl-Qarnayn’ must be none other than him.” Yet al-Rāzī observes that identifying Dhūl-Qarnayn with the Macedonian ruler “is highly problematic” (anna fīhi ishkālan qawiyyan) on doctrinal grounds: “He was a student of the philosopher Aristotle and was an adherent of his school of thought; for him to be honored by Allah Most High would entail adjudging Aristotle’s school of thought to be true, which is quite impossible—and Allah knows best” (Tafsīr).

A large number of exegetes, historians, and hadith masters, before and after al-Rāzī, emphatically reject this identification. Al-Bukhārī situates Dhūl-Qarnayn before Ibrāhīm, upon him peace, in his Book of Traditions of the Prophets (Kitāb aḥādīṭh al-Anbīyāʾ)—doing so, writes Ibn Ḥajar (773-852/1371-1449), to “reject the opinion of those who identify Dhūl-Qarnayn with the Greek Alexander.” Ibn Ḥajar also notes that while al-Rāzī holds Dhūl-Qarnayn to have been a prophet, it is well-known that the Greek Alexander was a disbeliever (kāfir) (Fatḥ al-bārī, bāb qawl-Llāh taʿālā wa yasʾalūnaka ʿan dhīl-qarnayn ilā qawlihi sababā). Other authorities, including al-Suhaylī (508-581/1114-1185), say there were two figures named Alexander: one of them adjudicated in a dispute about seven wells of Syria brought to him by the Prophet Ibrāhīm, and another lived closer to the time of Prophet ʿĪsā (Jesus), upon them both peace (al-Suhaylī, al-Taʿrīf p. 26; al-Balansī, Ṣilat al-jamʿ 2:183; Qurṭubī, Tafsīr; al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal wal-niḥal 2:196). Ibn Ḥajar concludes his lengthy discussion of the question as follows:

The fact that [al-Bukhārī] placed Dhūl-Qarnayn before Ibrāhīm, upon him peace, indicates the weakness of the position of those who identify him with the Greek Alexander; for the time in which Alexander lived was not far from that of ʿĪsā, peace be upon him, whereas more than two thousand years separate Ibrāhīm and ʿĪsā, upon them peace. It seems, then, that the later Alexander was given the cognomen “Dhūl-Qarnayn” because of his resemblance to the earlier one, in the expansiveness of his kingdom and his having overpowered a great many different nations, or perhaps because when he defeated the Persians and killed their king, the two vast kingdoms of the Greeks and the Persians became subject to his administration, and he was thus named “He of the two horns.” The truth is that the individual whose story Allah tells in the Qurʾān must be the earlier of the two, and there are several aspects supporting their distinctness. The first is what I have just mentioned. Dhūl-Qarnayn’s having preceded [Alexander] is demonstrated by the narration related by al-Fākihī from ʿUbayd ibn ʿUmayr, one of the great Followers, that Dhūl-Qarnayn went on Hajj on foot, and that Ibrāhīm, upon him be peace, heard about him and came to meet him; and from ʿAṭāʾ on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās, that Dhūl-Qarnayn entered the Sanctified Mosque (al-masjid al-ḥarām), greeted Ibrāhīm and shook his hand—indeed, it is said that he was the first person ever to shake hands; and the report from ʿUthmān Ibn Sāj, that Dhūl-Qarnayn requested Ibrāhīm to supplicate for him, and Ibrāhīm responded, “How can I, when you have spoiled my well?” He said, “I did not order this!” That is, some of his soldiers infected it unbeknown to him. (Fatḥ al-bārī 6:382-383)

Others who reject Dhūl-Qarnayn’s identification with Alexander include Ibn ʿAṭiyya, Ibn Kathīr, and al-ʿAynī (cf. Muḥarrar and TafsīrʿUmdat al-qārī 15:233). The Yemeni historian Nishwān al-Ḥimyarī (d. 573/1178) emphatically rejects any such association: “I have not seen any scholar who doubts that the Dhūl-Qarnayn mentioned in the Qurʾān and Arab poetry—known to the Arabs as one who sets things right (muṣliḥ) and as a builder (miʿmār)—is someone other than Alexander, and much before his time” (Mulūk Ḥimyar p. 105). Ibn Taymiyya (661-728/1263-1328) vehemently asserts that Alexander “was never given the cognomen of Dhūl-Qarnayn, is not mentioned in the Qurʾān, and did not reach the land of the Turks, nor did he build the rampart [mentioned in the Qurʾān]. He only reached the land of the Persians; and whoever thinks that Aristotle was the vizier of the Dhūl-Qarnayn mentioned in the Qurʾān is committing grave error, which shows that he has no knowledge of that [Greek] nation’s religion or times” (al-Jawāb al-ṣaḥīḥ 1:346). Al-Zabīdī (1145-1205/1732-1790) notes, “Dhūl-Qarnayn mentioned in the Qurʾān is Alexander, but not the one whose vizier (wazīr) was Aristotle, as Ibn Taymiyya has pointed out in his Kitāb al-Furqān” (Itḥāf 8:5).

The identification of the Qurʾānic Dhūl-Qarnayn with the Ḥimyarī king al-Ṣaʿab b. Marāthid b. al-Ḥārith is based on reports from the Companions and is also supported by pre-Islamic Arab poetry. The historiographers Ibn Hishām (d. ca.218/833) and al-Ḥimyarī report that when Ibn ʿAbbās was asked, “Who is Dhūl-Qarnayn?” He replied, “He was from [the people of] Ḥimyar; [his name] is al-Ṣaʿab b. Dhī-Marāthid; Allah had established him on earth and granted him means to do everything; he reached the eastern and western extremes of the earth and constructed the rampart against Yaʾjūj and Maʾjūj.” Then he was asked, “Then what of Alexander the Greek?” He replied, “Alexander the Greek was a righteous and wise man who erected two towers by the Sea of Ifrīqis, one in the land of Babylon, and the other to the west of it in the land of Armenia….” A similar opinion is cited from the Companion ʿAmr b. al-ʿĀṣ (30bh-63/592-682). Pre-Islamic poetry adduced in the argument identifying Dhūl-Qarnayn with a Ḥimyarī king includes couplets by Imruʾ al-Qays, Qays b. Sāiʿda al-Ayādī, al-Rabīʿ al-Ḍabaʿ (or al-Dabʿ), and others (al-Tījān p. 119-136; Mulūk ḥimyar p. 107-111). Supporting the view that the Qurʾānic Dhūl-Qarnayn was an Arab, Ibn Ḥajar also cites a verse of the Companion al-Nuʿmān b. Bashīr al-Anṣārī (d. 75/694), the first child to be born among the Anṣār after the Hijra: “Who can seek rivalry with us? We are an honored nation; among us is Dhūl-Qarnayn, and Ḥātim as well!” (Fatḥ al-bārī, bāb qawl Allāh taʿālā wa yasʾalūnaka ʿan dhīl-qarnayn ilā qawlihi sababā).

Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (362-440/973-1048) also favors identification of the Qurʾānic Dhūl-Qarnayn with the Ḥimyarī kings, giving two possible names: al-Ṣaʿab as above, citing Ibn Durayd’s Kitāb al-Wishāḥ, and Abū Karib Shammar Yurʿish b. Ifrīqīs, “who reached the extremities of the earth to east and west, who conquered the north and the south, who subjected people to his rule, and about whom the Yemenite poet Asʿad b. ʿAmr b. Rabīʿa b. Mālik bragged:

Before me, Dhūl-Qarnayn was a Muslim

the great king on earth, subservient to none.

He traversed the east and the west

seeking means to rule from the Noble Lord

So he saw the place of sunset at twilight—

the warm, dark muddy place.

Before him, Bilqīs was my aunt;

her kingdom ended due to the hoopoe.

And this [second] is the closest to truth among these opinions, because the adhwāʾ were Yemenites, not from any other part of the world, and it is they whose names contain [the possessive particle] dhū” (al-Āthār al-bāqiya p. 40-41).

Ibn Khaldūn (d. 808/1406) disagrees with this identification, calling it a rationally inconceivable position based on fabricated reports, for the Ḥimyarī kings are not known to have conquered lands beyond Arabia, let alone Rome and Persia (Tārīkh 1:70). However, the Egyptian historian al-Maqrīzī (766-845/1365-1441) supports it (al-Mawāʿiẓ 1:285), as does the later exegete al-Ālūsī (d. 1270/1854), who cites the Ottoman historian Kâtib Çelebi (Muṣṭafā b. ʿAbd Allāh Ḥājjī Khalīfa, 1609-1657): “The question [about Dhūl-Qarnayn] was asked by the Jews as a test, and [asking about] something as a test presupposes that one ask about something obscure and little-known” (Rūḥ).

Some twentieth-century scholars have identified Dhūl-Qarnayn with the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. The Indian exegete Abū al-Kalām Āzād (1888-1958) is one of the most forceful proponents of this view. Abū al-Aʿlā Mawdūdī (1903-1979) also considers this “the most likely identification” (Tafhīm), as does the renowned Shīʿī exegete Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabaṭabāʾī (1903-1981) (Mīzān). In his extensive commentary on the Dhūl-Qarnayn passage, Āzād systematically lays down essential criteria and then adduces proofs for his theory to show how Cyrus meets them. As per the Qurʾānic descriptions, Dhūl-Qarnayn must (i) have been familiar to the Jews in the time of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and associated in some sense with ‘two horns’; (ii) to have been a ruler who conquered extensive territories to the East and West and then to the North and South; (iii) to have constructed a wall across mountainous territory to protect a land from peoples known as Gog and Magog; and (iv) to have been both a just ruler and a monotheist. Regarding the first, Āzād states that Dhūl-Qarnayn is recognized by Jews as their liberator from captivity, and is mentioned four times in the Bible (Isaiah 44 and 45) as a Messiah; also, according to the Bible (Daniel 8:20), the Jewish prophet Daniel saw in a vision a two-horned ram charging towards the west, north, and south, and this Baʾal Haqqarānayim (the Hebrew equivalent of Dhūl-Qarnayn) was explained by the archangel Gibriel (see Jibrīl) as representing the unified kingdoms of Media and Persia, parts of Cyrus’s empire. He adduces as proof a statue of Cyrus, unearthed by archeologists at Pasargadae near Shiraz, with two wings and a two-horned crown. Secondly, the conquests of Cyrus extended westwards to Ionia (western Asia Minor) and Syria, eastwards to Turkistān, and northwards to Caucasia. Thirdly, although there are various explanations of the ethnic identities of Gog and Magog and of those who could barely comprehend speech (Q 18:93), all are agreed that they are likely to have inhabited northern regions of the world then known to the Arabs (or the Iranians); and Muslim and other sources have located the great fortified wall of Dhūl-Qarnayn in Daghestan, between Derbent and Darʾyal—and the exploratory missions sent by at least two caliphs which found it (ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, Allah be well-pleased with him, and later the ʿAbbāsid caliph, al-Wāthiq) are described by al-Ṭabarī (Tārīkh), Ibn Kathīr (Bidāya), and the geographer Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī (Buldān). Fourthly, besides the Biblical passages referred to, Cyrus has been praised for his just and wise rule in sources that corroborate the claims made by the emperor himself in the famous Cyrus Cylinder—and especially for having respected the religions and ways of the upright among the peoples he conquered (cf. the account of Dhūl-Qarnayn in Q 18:86-91). Lastly, Āzād proposes that since it is historically well-known that Cyrus was a follower of Zoroaster, “the faith of Zoroaster must have been identical to that attributed to Dhūl-Qarnayn in the Qurʾān and the association of fire worship with his name was a later development which manifested itself in the wake of a revival of the early Magian beliefs” (Tarjumān).


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See also

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