Critique of Kevin van Bladel’s “THE ALEXANDER LEGEND IN THE QUR’AN 18:83–102”

A very good article on Dhul Qarnayn and the alleged Syriac source of the story in the Qur’an.

 بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

by Abdullah al-Finlandi


While I have already written regarding Dhu al-Qarnayn and the Alexander Romances and the proposed influence of the Syriac Legend Concerning Alexander on Quran, I recently came across a moderate-size article by one Kevin van Bladel in a journal called “The Quran in its historical context” (2008) called “THE ALEXANDER LEGEND IN THE QUR’AN (sic) 18:83–102″  [1]. After reading the article and not finding any Muslim or orientalist critique available I decided to offer a short critique of my own as the thesis overlooks some very important points.

The journal as a whole seems to have the agenda of proving natural origins for the Quran and its text. Nearly all of the articles inside it concentrate on the Quran either borrowing from existing sources and even a thesis that argues that the Quran was a work of multiple individuals. This is upsetting…

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4 thoughts on “Critique of Kevin van Bladel’s “THE ALEXANDER LEGEND IN THE QUR’AN 18:83–102”

  1. Salamun Alaikum,

    Muddy spring: Siwa Oasis (westernmost place Alexander visited; Darius as well?)

    People in the east with no covering: naked Gymnosophists in India, Taxila (Alexander and Darius definitely saw them)

    People with a mountain pass and strange language: Caucasian people? (No evidence for Alexander; at least Darius had some issues with the Scythians and he included Caucasia somehow into his kingdom)

    Mountain pass: Darial Gorge?

    Gog and Magog: Scythians?

    Dhul Qarnayn: Alexander or Darius?

    Also read the inscriptions of Darius at, he always praises Ahura Mazda, i.e. the Wise Lord (Dhul Qarnayns my Lord?)

    Unfortunately, this brilliant article is widely neglected and in German (you have to use a translator, otherwise ask me), but this brother wrote a very good analysis

    God {swt} knows best.


    • Addendum: The syriac legend mentions neither a water spring (global deadly Oceanus!) nor naked people (people and animals hiding from the suns heat!). What is easier now? Local spring-> Global fetid sea + naked and homeless people (ascetics) -> fleeing (homeless) people or vice versa?

      But one question remains: How the syriac author did get this quranic elements and why?

      And: How on earth such specific informations like Siwa or the Gymnosophists did reach the Hijaz?

      And regarding Gog and Magog: Could it be that Gog and Magog is not a real name of a real nation, but rather a Topos the Quran makes use of for an marauding nation? Like Scythians? Or even Mongols (One of the 10 great signs?)? I know, there’s this very popular Hadith attributed to Nawwas ibn Samaan (ra), but there’s something about it, I’ll mention it the other time inshAllah.

      Now: What do you think?


      • I agree that there are some differences between the Syriac legend and the Qur’an that cannot be waved away. I am not sure about your other inquiries though.

        I can’t access your link as I dont know German.


      • Might you explain your uncertanity regarding the identification of the muddy+warm spring/naked+homeless people with the Siwa Oasis/Gymnosophists? i think it is more than likely.

        Also, the classical authors mention a sun(!) spring in Ammonium(Siwa), and that its water becomes hot when it gets dark (sunset!!!warm spring!!!).

        As I know, you’e also interested in Bible Studies. Then you probably know that Ezekiel mentions a person(!) called Gog from the country Magog. ‘Gog and Magog’ is a later development. The Assyrians called the king of Lydia, Gyges, as Gugu. It’s no coincidence the author calls Gog as the chief of Tubal and Meshech, both places in Asia Minor. Gog may refer rather to the dynasty of the Mermnads, for during Ezekiels time it was Alyattes who conquered Phyrgia(Meshech!). Though tubal was still a territory of the Medes, the author probably had just limited geographical knowledge about Asia Minor. This is the most convincing hypothesis on Gog and Magog. That’ why I think the Quran uses it as a Topos.

        Again, the issue with the Ahadith mentioning them: I can point out some problems of the nature of these.

        God {swt} knows best.


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