Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the end of this series. Please fasten your seat belts and make sure your seats are in the upright position. On behalf of the cabin crew, I would like to thank you for taking this journey with us and hope to see you here again soon.
Okay fine, I use humor to hide my true feelings, and today I have a tiny heartache because I’m really going to miss talking about Surat Al-Kahf. On a lighter note, while researching the final story, which is about a king named ‘Dhul-Qarnayn’ (the man of the two horns), I found out that a possible reason for his title is his hairdo: two ponytails that looked like horns (that cheered me up honestly!) [See Dr. Yasir Qadhi’s lecture on Surat Al Kahf].
Others say it’s because he reached the two ‘horns’ of the sun, east and west. In fact, there are many interpretations of his title and Allah knows best which the true one is. It’s his fascinating story that concerns us most since we are asked to read it every single Friday for the rest of our lives.
Dhul-Qarnayn was a legendary righteous king whom Allah had given immense power. He used his gift to travel around the globe, encountering on his journey a number of different nations whom he helped reform. One of his greatest achievements is building a dam to protect the entire world from the terror of two monster tribes named Gog and Magog, whose penetration through that solid wall will be one of the ten major signs of Judgment Day. His story ends abruptly, but what I know is that Allah mentioned Dhul-Qarnayn’s story in about 16 holy verses from the Qur’an for us to learn something crucial. So here it goes.
Dreams Are the Seeds of Power: Embrace Them
“Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way. So he followed a way.” [Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verses 84-85].
Now, this is just a speculation on my part so please don’t quote me on it. I can’t help but imagine this amazing king’s childhood and in my mind there was an incident that went something like this:
“Mommy, when I grow up I’m going to change the world!”
“That’s so sweet, honey. Now finish your vegetables please!”
“I mean it! My dream is to go on the most magnificent adventure of all time. I want to travel around the world and change it to the better…”
“I am so proud of you my son! You are destined for greatness. Never give up on that beautiful dream.”
Perhaps that wasn’t the exact conversation but one thing I’m sure of is that this worldwide journey did not happen by chance. Once Allah gave him the means and the power, Dhul-Qarnayn did not waste any time. He used his passion for adventures to help people left and right, and followed his dreams. It’s that kind of aspiration that can conquer the unimaginable! This is what legendary leaders are made out of: heroic missions, a consuming passion and a dream too big for the human mind to absorb.
So tell me, how do you react to your children’s ‘unrealistic’ dreams? More importantly, which of your ambitions make you jump out of bed in the morning? Dhul-Qarnayn’s story is both an inspiration for those who have a goal, and a big slap on the face for those who don’t. If your dream falls short of pursuing the impossible for the sake of Allah , then, well, have a nice boring life! The ultimate dream is not tangled within this life, it’s to reach the highest heavens and by God, don’t let anything stop you from working hard to get there. That’s what makes Muslims so special: we have an end in mind.
Justice Is the Essence of Power: Establish It
“Indeed We established him upon the earth, and We gave him to everything a way. So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allah said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness.” He said, “As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment. But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we will speak to him from our command with ease.” [Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verses 84-88]
Dhul-Qarnayn’s first visit mentioned in the Qur’an was to a group of people living in the far west. His massively gigantic army and the features of his superiority were simply indescribable.
The word ‘everything’ in the first ayah above leaves me speechless. This king was, by far, the most powerful man on earth! So what did he do when he first arrived? You’d think he would confiscate the city’s treasures and set his military generals up in fancy castles. He would have a huge ceremony and command the big heads to bow to him just to show them who is boss! Surprisingly, the only demonstration of his power came in the form of establishing justice and enforcing a new constitution that treated everyone the same. No matter what your status was, if you did good you’d be rewarded and if you did wrong you’d be punished. Clear and simple.
Anyone who ever became successful like a president or any other authority figure started the path with a big dream, but without fairness and integrity, no one can withhold power for long. Once your dream of having children of your own comes true, if you don’t treat them justly, that dream will turn into a nightmare when you lose your kids’ love and respect. Reaching a higher rank requires taking consistent steps towards success, and the most eminent one of those is justice.
Abu Musa reported: the Messenger of Allah said:
“It is out of reverence to Allah in respecting an aged Muslim, and the one who commits the Qur’an to memory and does not exaggerate pronouncing its letters nor forgets it after memorizing, and to respect the just ruler.” [Abu Dawud]
Yet, which of today’s leaders truly deserve our respect?
When There’s a ‘Will’ There Is a Way
“Then he followed a way. Until, when he reached [a pass] between two mountains, he found beside them a people who could hardly understand [his] speech. They said, “O Dhul-Qarnayn, indeed Gog and Magog are [great] corrupters in the land. So may we assign for you an expenditure that you might make between us and them a barrier?” He said, “That in which my Lord has established me is better [than what you offer], but assist me with strength; I will make between you and them a dam. Bring me sheets of iron” – until, when he had leveled [them] between the two mountain walls, he said, “Blow [with bellows],” until when he had made it [like] fire, he said, “Bring me, that I may pour over it molten copper.” So Gog and Magog were unable to pass over it, nor were they able [to effect] in it any penetration.” [Qur’an: Chapter 18, Verses 92-97]
On another trip, Dhul-Qarnayn came in contact with a terrified nation where he was offered payment in return for protection from the tribes of Gog and Magog, who were relentlessly corrupting their land. This king’s reputation and global power had obviously exceeded him, for these people knew him by name. Being the honorable person he is, Dhul-Qarnayn refused to take their money to build the huge wall and asked to be aided by their manpower instead. Now these people knew exactly what needed to be done, they were rich, strong and capable, they had solutions, natural resources and workers, and even though they were dying every day, they did nothing about it. What they lacked was the will and determination, two things we need to instill in ourselves and our children if we ever hope for a brighter future.
Every Minute Counts
Dhul-Qarnayn urged the people in the above story to work and literally saved the world, putting most of today’s leaders to shame. How is this king’s story not making the blood race in our veins? How are we still snuggling on our couches all day watching TV and eating chips when each and every one of us is an authority figure somewhere, whether at work or at home or even at school? I swear to Allah , there is NO time for free time! So tell me, are your dreams big enough?
With even minimum knowledge of the one-eyed Dajjal (Anti-Christ) you’ll easily figure out that the stage is already being set for his arrival. The wrong has become so normal that people are ashamed of doing what’s right. We’ve become so self-centered to the point that the closest relationships we have are not with our families but with our iPhones, iPods and iPads, the keyword being ‘I’ or ‘eye’, whichever way you want to look at it. This hideous being will come to test our faith, blind us with wealth, confuse us with his knowledge and assume power over the whole world, starting with taking control of our own minds. Instead of making every minute count, we are counting the minutes till the day is over. We are wasting precious time that we will NEVER get back!
Yes, this sounds like a reprimanding lecture, but we are all in the same boat here, myself included. How do we get out of this rut? I’m glad you asked.
You and Me: We Can Make a Difference
- Revolve your life around a dream that pleases Allah and lifts up this beautiful ummah. Don’t be scared. Dream BIG!
- As you take each step forward remember to stay humble, for that’s the only way you’ll ever learn and succeed.
- Hold on to your principles and your faith, because no matter how common wrong has become, it still doesn’t make it right.
- Fight for justice. Speak up and make a difference.
- Step out into this world with a zest that will overwhelm people around you. Take pride in applying our beloved Prophet’s advice and show the world how truly amazing you are.
To all the Muslims around the world: this is the final wake-up call. Dream the most enchantingly marvelous dreams and then wake up and be the proud powerful leaders you are meant to be.
Guide and lead the way. You can do it, I know you can.
What’s your big dream? Please share your thoughts below!