The Qur’ān mentions Yājūj and Mājūj (Gog and Magog) as corruptors and that Dhūl-Qarnayn asked the people who had complained of their corruption to appoint him to build them a barrier and said that God would make this barrier a source of devastation when He so commands.


THE NARRATORS OF THE ISRĀ’ĪLIYYĀT[1] took advantage of this verse to fabricate superstitions to plant in the minds of the naïve out of a desire to appear as scholars. Myths emerged that Gog and Magog were still alive behind the barrier and that every day they were digging away at it and that a hole in the barrier the size of a finger had already been opened. When Gog and Magog finish digging they will say ‘If God so wills’ as if they were believers. Thereupon they will sweep across the earth fighting, but God will set upon them naghaf[2].

All these superstitions and others like them they turned into hadiths attributed to the Prophet.[3] They invented a story about someone termed Sallām al-Tarjumān finding the barrier during the time of the caliph Al-Mu‘taṣim. But God always exposes such lies and superstitions, and it turns out that the source of this is Jewish interpolations into the Tanakh.

Yājūj and Mājūj appear in the Qur’ān at two places. The first is at Sūrat al-Kahf verses 94-99:

They said: O Dhūl-Qarnayn! Lo! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may we pay thee tribute on condition that thou set a barrier between us and them?

He said: That wherein my Lord hath established me is better (than your tribute). Do but help me with strength (of men), I will set between you and them a bank.

Give me pieces of iron – till, when he had levelled up (the gap) between the cliffs, he said: Blow! – till, when he had made it a fire, he said: Bring me molten copper to pour thereon.

So they were not able to scale it nor could they make a hole in it.

He said: This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord cometh to pass, He will lay it low, for the promise of my Lord is true.

And on that day We will leave a part of them in conflict with another part, and the trumpet will be blown, so We will gather them all together.

The second passage is at Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ verses 96-101:

Until, when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they hasten out of every mound,

And the true promise shall draw nigh, then lo! the eyes of those who disbelieved shall be fixedly open: O woe to us! surely we were m a state of heedlessness as to this; nay, we were unjust.

Surely you and what you worship besides Allah are the firewood of hell; to it you shall come.

If these had been gods they would not have come thither, but all will abide therein.

For them therein shall be groaning and therein they shall not hear.

Surely (as for) those for whom the good has already gone forth from Us, they shall be kept far off from it.

In these two passages Gog and Magog are described as corrupters in the land, and Dhūl-Qarnayn is described as refusing to take tribute from those who asked him to build the barrier between them and Gog and Magog. But he told them that there will come a day determined by God when this barrier will be destroyed leaving not a trace, according to the second passage quoted. Thus the triumph of Gog and Magog will be on a day when the eyesight of those who disbelieve will glaze over because that which God had promised was now coming to pass.

This is the entirety of the tale in the Qur’ān. The Almighty will raise up all human beings – including Gog and Magog – from their graves on the Day of Resurrection, as indicated by the verse:

Until, when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they hasten out of every mound,

That is, their graves will be opened up them and will hasten from them alive. The term ‘hasten’ (yansilūn) appears only twice in the Qur’ān:  the first time being here in Sūrat al-Anbiyā’ and the second time in Sūrat Yā Sīn verses 51-52:

And the trumpet shall be blown, when lo ! from their graves they shall hasten on to their Lord. Crying: Woe upon us! Who hath raised us from our place of sleep? This is that which the Beneficent did promise, and the messengers spoke truth.

Those who hasten from their graves are those throughout history who have denied the Resurrection. The purpose of sending Gog and Magog before the Resurrection is to torture them and punish them with the horrors of earthquakes and destruction on earth, and along with it the destruction of the barrier. For when the promise of my Lord cometh to pass (the Resurrection) He will lay it low, for the promise of my Lord is true. And, according to Sūrat al-Fajr verse 21: Nay! when the earth is made to crumble to pieces, crumbling, crumbling, the barrier will be destroyed along with the mountains in which it is sited, during the first phase of the Day of Resurrection.

In his work Al-Durr al-Manthūr (5/673) al-Suyūṭī says the following:

Al-Ṭustī narrated how Nāfi‘ ibn al-Azraq asked Ibn ‘Abbās on this: “Tell me about His saying: and they hasten out of every mound.” He replied: “They rise up from the bowels of the earth from every side.” He then asked: “Do the Arabs know this? “He replied: “Yes, have you not heard the saying that runs:  ‘As for their day, it will be a bad one’”?

In his commentary al-Ṭabarī (18/532) citing Ibn Wahb, says:

Ibn Zayd said concerning His saying Until, when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they hasten out of every mound : “This is the commencement of the Day of Resurrection”.

Al-Tha‘labī in his commentary gives the following:

Others have said: “He means all of creation, that is, that they all emerge from their graves and crowd together at the place of Resurrection. This is indicated by Mujāhid’s reading jadath for ḥadab in the verse, to give: and they hasten out of every tomb, as per the words elsewhere of the Almighty: when lo ! from their graves they shall hasten on to their Lord.

In the commentary of Ibn ‘Atiyya (542) we have:

One group said that what is meant by the word they is ‘all of the world’, a definition of rthe Resurrection from the grave. Ibn Mas‘ūd’s reading out of every tomb supports this interpretation.

Al-Razi (606) states in his work Mafātīḥ al-Ghayb:

Mujāhid said that it is a metaphor for all those who have mental responsibility, that is, that they emerge from their graves from every place, and they crowd together at the place of the Reckoning.

(To be continued in Part Two)

[1] In the field of hadith the term Isrā’īliyyāt (‘Israelisms’) refers to narratives assumed to have been taken over from earlier Jewish folklore. The term can also be extended to cover the genre of qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyā’ (‘Tales of the Prophets’). Originally simply descriptive, the term Isrā’īliyyāt later took on a negative connotation, so that Muslim scholars forbade the transmission of hadith that were considered to be of such foreign origin, and associated them with pernicious intent.

[2] Al-Naghaf are said to be worms that are in the noses of camels and sheep.

[3] The hold of the story remains as strong as ever, with Islamist sites insisting on the physical reality of the barrier and of the giants. On this see the article on Yājūj and Mājūj in Islam Q&A. (Ed.)

Main image: Building a wall against Yājūj and Mājūj, in a 16th century Persian miniature from the Falnama (‘Book of Divinations’) of Ja ‘far al-Sadiq made for Shah Tahmasp I (r. 1524-76).