The importance of the discipline of Eschatology within Islam is clearly demonstrated by the fact that two of the five questions of the ‘Gabriel Hadith’ concerned the Last Day and its Signs.
The learned scholar, Shaykh Imran Husain, has proposed the idea that Gog and Magog have already been released from behind the barrier built by Dhul Qarnayn, by the permission of Allah the Majestic and Exalted. In fact, he argues convincingly in his book, ‘Gog and Magog in the Modern Age’, that the barrier was breached during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) himself, thus fulfilling the command of Allah the Exalted, “When the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will bring it down.”
Shaykh Imran has suggested that Allamah Muhammad Iqbal may have been the first Muslim scholar to conclude that Gog and Magog have already been released. However, the present author has found that a very prominent scholar of the last century, Imam Anwar Shah Kashmiri, also took the stance that the Barrier of Dhul Qarnayn had been breached during the lifetime of the Prophet (upon him be peace and mercy) and that Gog and Magog have already been released. I have included a translation of the relevant passages from his masterpiece, Faydul Bari, commentary on Saheeh al Bukhari, in Appendix B for the readers’ benefit. The writing of Imam Anwar Shah on this subject adds credibility to the theory of Shaykh Imran, and throws the considerable weight of the Imam’s renowned scholarship behind the interpretations of Quranic verses regarding Gog and Magog that Shaykh Imran has given.
Shaykh Imran has made a strong case in support of his theory. It is not within the scope of this article to elucidate the details of his argument, but as this article builds upon his work, I would respectfully request my learned readers not to dismiss Shaykh Imran’s theory out of hand, and take the time to read his book. However, I will briefly summarise some of the Shaykh’s main ideas, at the risk of not doing justice to them. My aim in this article is to build upon his idea that Gog and Magog were released during the lifetime of the Prophet (upon him be peace), as indicated in the saheeh hadith:
عن زينب بنت جحش رضي الله عنها أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم دخل عليها فزعا يقول لا إله إلا الله ويل للعرب من شر اقترب فتح اليوم من ردم يأجوج ومأجوج مثل هذه . وحلق بإصبعه الإبهام والتي تليها قالت زينب بنت جحش فقلت يا رسول الله أنهلك وفينا الصالحون قال نعم إذا كثر الخبث
“Zaynab Bint Jahsh said that the Prophet (upon him be peace and mercy) came to her in a state of fear, and said, ‘There is no god but Allah. Woe to the Arabs from an evil that has come close. Today a breach has occurred in the Barrier of Gog and Magog, like this’, and he made a circle with his finger and thumb. Zaynab Bint Jahsh said: I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Would we be destroyed while there are good people amongst us?’ He said, ‘Yes, if the bad becomes much’ ” [al-Bukhari]
This particular hadith is narrated by multiple saheeh chains of transmission. At least four separate chains occur in ‘Saheeh al-Bukhari’ alone from prominent Companions. Thus, this hadith is from the strongest possible category of transmitted reports.
An authentic hadith in ‘Saheeh Muslim’ states that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will send forth the armies of Gog and Magog to fight against Prophet Jesus and his followers. Allah will say, “I have sent forth some of my slaves whom no-one has the ability to fight” [Muslim]. They will spread over the Earth causing destruction everywhere until Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will destroy them with heavenly punishment, and save Prophet Jesus and the Muslims with him. As Imam Anwar Shah Kashmiri and Shaykh Imran have shown, this narration does not mean that Gog and Magog cannot be released prior to this time. Imam Anwar Shah states that they were released during the lifetime of the Prophet (upon him be peace), as the first hadith indicates, and they manifest again and again until their final and most severe manifestation is at the time of Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace). He likens this to the appearance of the deviant sect, the Kharijites, who came forth generation after generation.
Both Imam Anwar Shah and Shaykh Imran show that the hadith of the descent of Jesus does not mean that the Barrier of Gog and Magog has to remain erect until that time. Nor does it mean that Gog and Magog could not have been released prior to the descent of Prophet Jesus.
However, a hadith which appears to contradict this opinion is found in ‘Jami` al-Tirmidhi’, in which Gog and Magog are described as “digging through the Barrier until they almost breach it”, but each time they return to continue their work, they find it blocked up again, and thus it continues until Allah wishes to release them. Regarding this hadith of Tirmidhi, Imam Anwar Shah states:
“this contradicts that which is in the saheeh, [that the Prophet (upon him be peace and mercy) said] that the Barrier was breached during his time, ‘like this’ (making a circle with his thumb and finger)….as well as the fact that Ibn Katheer deems this narration weak, and says that Abu Hurayrah at times attributes it to the Prophet (upon him be peace) and at times to Ka`b. Wujdani agrees that it is not from the Prophet (upon him be peace) and actually from Ka`b himself.”
The second main theory put forward by Shaykh Imran is that, according to him, the Quran had informed us that the Jewish people would not return to the Holy Land until Gog and Magog had been released. Shaykh Imran gives a remarkable interpretation of the following ayahs of Quran regarding Gog and Magog:
وحرام على قرية أهلكناها أنهم لا يرجعون. حتى إذا فتحت يأجوج ومأجوج وهم من كل حدب ينسلون
“And there is prohibition upon [the people of] a city which We have destroyed that they will [ever] return
Until when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they, from every elevation, descend.”
Here, Shaykh Imran has identified the city mentioned in this ayah as the city of Jerusalem, and thus shown that the Jewish people will never return to the Holy City until Gog and Magog are released. That the ‘city’ (qaryah) mentioned in this ayah is Jerusalem is supported by various lines of evidence, expounded by the respected Shaykh, including the fact that the word ‘qaryah’ is used elsewhere in the Quran to refer to Jerusalem as well. Thus, the creation of the state of Israel was an indication that Gog and Magog had already been released. We must say, at this stage: ‘Allah knows best’.
In short, the interpretation of these ayahs would be:
“There is a ban on a town (i.e. Jerusalem) which we destroyed (and whose people were then expelled) that they (i.e. the people of the town) can never return (to reclaim that town as their own) until Gog and Magog are released and they spread out in all directions (thus taking control of the world while establishing the Gog and Magog world-order).”
Both Imam Anwar Shah and Shaykh Imran Husain have suggested that Gog and Magog are from amongst the European (including Russian) people. If we accept both points, the next question is as to the identity of these dangerous tribes that were released during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be mercy and peace), and the location of the Barrier of Dhul Qarnayn. This is where the author will differ from the view of the respected Shaykh, who has tentatively identified the tribes of Gog and Magog with the Khazar people of the Caucasus region in Central Asia. Others, such as Ahmad Thompson, have also implicated the Khazars as the original Gog and Magog people. However, the present author will argue that the case of the Khazar people does not fit in well with the information that we have concerning Gog and Magog in the Quran and Hadith literature, and that there is another people with a history that does fit in an uncanny way with the authentic Islamic sources. These people were the Vikings.
Weaknesses in identifying the Khazars as Gog and Magog.
I will not elaborate this point extensively as it will surely be clear to most people who delve into the history of the Khazar people that they do not fit the profile of Gog and Magog given in the revelatory sources except in some random characteristics.
The idea that the barrier of Dhul Qarnayn was situated in the Caucasus region came into Muslim thought through the influence of Jewish and Christian sources. Long before Islam, Jewish and Christian tradition had built a legend around the figure of Alexander the Great and identified him with the Biblical prophet who had been given dominion over the ends of the Earth and had built the great barrier to contain the tribes of Gog and Magog. The great wall of Alexander was thought to lie somewhere in the Caucasus region according to legend.
It is clear that these ideas were introduced into Muslim eschatological theory, as they have no basis in authentic revelation. Many Muslim scholars were not averse to taking ‘knowledge’ from the ‘Isra’eeliyaat’ or Jewish sources, although other scholars warned against this practice. Consequently, we find many books of tafsir identifying Dhul Qarnayn as Alexander the Great. Modern historical knowledge about Alexander, however, refutes the idea that he was a prophet or righteous man who believed in the One God.
Reasons against the Khazar people being Gog and Magog
1. The Quran describes that Gog and Magog were trapped behind the barrier and could not scale it or breach it. When they would be released, they would overrun the Earth. It is clear that the Khazar people were not trapped behind a barrier from all other people, either before the time of the Prophet (upon him be peace) or after. They were a nation of people whose relations with surrounding people are historically documented from prior to the final Prophecy.
2. It seems inaccurate to say that the Khazars stopped the Muslim armies from entry to Europe. There were clearly other routes into Europe from the Islamic Caliphate, including across the Mediterranean; it is well known that Islamic rule was established in Spain for centuries. Therefore, to say that the Khazars prevented Muslim expansion into Europe is to overstate their impact.
3. The Khazar people were from Central Asia, and thus surrounded by other ethnic groups and civilisations with whom they had extensive discourse. There is no suggestion that they were a people who were blocked off from the surrounding peoples of the world by natural or physical barriers.
History of the North Men, the Vikings
One of the genuine great mysteries about this period is why the Vikings emerged when they did. What made them suddenly want to raid and ultimately colonise in the way that they did?
– Prof Helena Hamerow, in ‘Lost Worlds: The Vikings’
Not long after the coming of the Final Prophet (upon him be peace) in Arabia, far away in the Northern depths of the Earth an eruption took place. This was the eruption of the Viking people from their homes in the chilled most northern regions of Europe upon the surrounding lands of Western Europe. This eruption resulted in what is now known as the ‘Viking Age’. I say ‘Northern depths’ of the Earth because, don’t forget, the traditional way of viewing the Earth was always with the North at the bottom. Only as Euro-Viking civilisation gained ascendancy over the Southern world was the map turned upside-down, a clear symbol of Northern hegemony and ascendancy.
About 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and mercy) revealed that a breach had occurred in the barrier holding back the tribes of Gog and Magog, the first Viking ships landed off the Northumbrian coast of Britain and laid waste to a monastery nearby. A people previously unknown to history had made their dramatic entry into the story of the European continent. From then on, the outpouring of Viking hordes, from the Scandinavian peninsula, continued for countless generations, terrorizing the people of surrounding lands.
For almost three hundred years, the Christian countries of Northern and Western Europe in particular were at the mercy of the Viking hordes, whose ships dominated the seas as pirates, invaders, plunderers, looters and mercenaries.
According to Roesdahl (1998):
“Never before or since have Scandinavians played so great a role abroad…[They] moved early from Limerick in the west to the Volga in the east, from Greenland in the north to Spain in the south. They appeared in many guises: as pirates, traders, extortioners of tribute, mercenaries, conquerors, rulers, warlords, emigrating farmers, explorers and colonisers of uninhabited regions…but what were the causes of this immense wave of outward activity?”
Historians have been unable to answer this puzzling question. Why did the Vikings pour out from their homeland at this particular juncture in history? Population pressure and the development of their famous longboats are two explanations that have been suggested, but neither is supported by historical evidence [Farrell, 1982]. According to historian, Kendrick, the Viking expansion was a huge outpouring of Northern peoples on such a scale that a “special explanation” is called for. [Farrell, 1982: p.1] In fact, Farrell, in his book ‘The Vikings’, goes so far as to say: “we can never hope to understand that activity or its causes fully”.
Unless of course we knew that, prior to this outpouring, a new people had been released from beyond the Northern mountains of the Scandinavian peninsula, who had previously been cut off from the rest of the population by impassable barriers. Once these new people, characterised by warlike, brutal activity, had established themselves on the peninsula itself, they looked to further lands for domination. From the other inhabitants of the peninsula upon whom they descended with aggressive force, they discovered the technology to build the ships for which they would become famous. Within a few generations, these unruly people were ready to embark on their voyages of plunder and conquest across the icy seas. They spread in all directions. Their motivation was, above all, greed and a lust for wealth.
Following the first attacks against England, the learned Alcuin of York wrote letters to King Ethelred of Northumbria:
“Lo, it is nearly 350 years that we and our fathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race…”
By 795, the Vikings had moved around Scotland, via the Isle of Iona, and reached Ireland. Iceland was settled in 870, Greenland in 985, and they had reached the shores of America by 1000. The East coast of the Baltic was settled even before the westward movements: by the 9th century, several parts of Russia and the South coast of the Baltic were settled by Viking invaders. Viking colonisers established the first Russian dynasty in Novgorod and Kiev, which became known as the Rus Empire. In 809, in mainland Europe, Charlemagne was planning an expedition against the Viking chief, Godfred. In 826, a pirate fleet of 13 ships was repulsed trying to attack Flanders. However, they raided the South of France and “seized great booty”. In 844, they were even making inroads into Spain. Seville was initially captured, but the Muslim imperial army soon put them to flight.
The cleric, Dudo, in Normandy [approx. 1020 CE] wrote of the Vikings:
“…these people who insolently abandon themselves to excessive indulgence, live in outrageous union with many women and there in shameless and unlawful intercourse breed innumerable progeny. Once they have grown up, the young quarrel violently with their fathers and grandfathers, or with each other, about property…”
Many Skaldic poems and rune stones claim that ‘honour’ and ‘loot’ were the main driving forces for the Viking expansion. Vikings first sought easy money, and then in time trading bases and land to dominate and inhabit [Roesdahl].
They were willing to do what was necessary to acquire wealth and property. Many adopted the Christian faith for pragmatic purposes and in order to establish their domination over the conquered people. Viking chiefs were granted regions by mouths of great rivers in exchange for protecting against pirates and becoming Christian.
One contemporary observer at the time wrote: “A deed which deserves every abhorrence that people who had brought evil on to Christians were placed in charge of Christian countries and people and of Christ’s church…”
By the ninth century, the Viking raids continued to increase – the tide could not be stopped. In Ireland, plundering escalated dramatically. In 845, Paris was conquered and looted. Around this time, the monk Ermentarius wrote in despair:
“The number of ships grows. The endless stream of Vikings never ceases to increase. Everywhere Christians are the victims of massacres, burnings, plunderings. The Vikings conquer all in their path and no one resists them. They seize Beardeux, Pergeux, Limoges…Toulouse. Angiers, Tours, and Oreleans are annihilated and an innumerable fleet sails up the Seine and the evil grows in the whole region.”
The sheer numbers of the Vikings was colossal, to the extent that some historians have dismissed reports in documentary sources as exaggerated. For example, the Viking King Horik, in 845, is reported to have sailed at the head of six hundred ships, each ship carrying fifty men. Priest Abbo relates that the Viking army outside Paris was 40,000 while defenders of city were only 200. Even Roesdahl, sceptical of such estimations, has to admit that the “armies that conquered the whole of England at beginning of the eleventh century were obviously huge.”
By the beginning of the tenth century, their invasions of mainland Europe had come to an end as the Franks and Germans finally managed to put up effective resistance against them. However, the Vikings remained firmly entrenched in the powerful region of Normandy in Northern France.
The other region that came firmly under Northmen domination and colonisation during the Viking Age was the archipelago known as the British Isles. In Britain and Ireland, the Northmen established themselves as nowhere else. Successive waves of invaders plundered, looted and often settled these lands. Between 1018 and 1042 (excluding a five year period), England and Denmark were ruled by one Viking King.
Further south, in Normandy, the Viking rulers soon adopted French names and titles, and re-styled as ‘Normans’ [from: ‘North men’], they proceeded to spread their domination over other regions. In 1066, William of Normandy invaded England and established Norman rule. Normans also occupied Southern Italy and Sicily and established their hegemony there. In Sicily, the Norman rulers, under the influence of the neighbouring Islamic civilisation, actually established one of the most enlightened kingdoms of medieval Europe. But this was the exception rather than the rule.
Christopher Walker identifies the rise of the Normans as a major factor in the start of the Crusades. He states, in his refreshingly even-handed book, ‘Islam and the West’:
“Within Europe a number of elements changed the prevalent attitude from peaceful pilgrimage to violent conquest of the Holy Land. The first was the coming of the Normans. This people, originally from Scandinavia, had within two generations remodelled itself as a dominant force within the society of Europe. They were assertive, dictatorial, controlling and militant, though sometimes content to act as mercenaries. They liked social hierarchies. If they could not be dominant they were content with submission; with a tendency towards warfare, they seem not to have rated equality highly. … But they were greater agents for change, perhaps as a result of their instincts for violence and hierarchy. They made their militant cause popular by gaining, where necessary the blessing of the pope, but were unafraid of excommunication. They used the papacy as they saw fit and the papacy made use of them. When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, his army was led by a knight carrying a papal banner emblazoned with a red cross; the invasion of England thus took on the appearance of a crusade before the Crusades. In dating the capture of Jerusalem (‘the event preferable to all events’), Foulcher of Chartres makes a point of indicating that it occurred twelve years after the death of William, King of England.”
Those readers who are familiar with the theory of Shaykh Imran Husain regarding Gog and Magog and the return of the Jews to Jerusalem will understand the implications of this important insight into the role of the Normans (ie. the Northmen) in the emergence of the Crusades.
But just as dramatically as the Vikings burst unto the European stage, they seem to disappear again from the pages of history. The English today refer to themselves as ‘Anglo-Saxon’, for example, not Viking or Norman. The reason for this apparent disappearance of Viking ancestry is simple. Wherever the Vikings settled, finding themselves amongst more ‘civilised’ people, they were keen to assimilate so as to add legitimacy to their claims of lordship and kingship. The word ‘Viking’ from vikingr, literally means ‘pirating’. The Vikings who settled in Normandy, for example, soon rid themselves of their ignoble past, took on French names and styled themselves after the French nobility, initially proclaiming themselves as ‘Counts’, and later as ‘Dukes’. Throughout Europe the term ‘Viking’ had become synonymous with piracy, barbarianism, and evil. It was the very opposite of decency, civilisation and virtue. It is no wonder that the Northern settlers were keen to rid themselves of their criminal history as they entered more civilised societies.
‘Anglo-Saxon’ is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century CE. However, as we have seen, the Anglo-Saxon people were themselves conquered a few centuries later by successive waves of Vikings and their descendants, the Normans. Therefore, the designation of English people today as ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is not historically robust as it disregards the heavy genetic mix of the Viking hordes. Following the Norman conquest in 1066, the Anglo-Saxon nobility were either exiled or joined the ranks of the peasantry. It has been estimated that only about 8 per cent of the land was under Anglo-Saxon control by 1087. Until today, the British monarchy and aristocracy descend from Viking bloodlines, but, unsurprisingly, prefer to refer to their ancestry as ‘Anglo-Saxon’. The truth is that all British monarchs since William the Conqueror have been direct descendants of the Vikings.
But the prophecy that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will give Gog and Magog such power that “no-one can fight against” was not destined to be fulfilled during the Viking Age. It was to be the European descendants of the Vikings who would fulfil this prophecy. This power would be given to them many generations later, by Allah ta`ala, through the discoveries of science and military technology in the Modern Age.
The descendants of the Vikings in England continued in their forefathers’ footsteps, sending out ships in all directions to search for lands to exploit and colonise. The so-called ‘Voyages of Discovery’ were no more than a continuation of the Viking excursions of the early Middle Ages. The criminal piracy of the Vikings was sanctioned at the state level in England, and going under the new, glamorised term, ‘privateering’, the descendants of the Norman-Vikings continued their criminal excursions of looting and plundering. Thus the Elizabethan Age in English history is also known as the ‘Age of Privateering’. This despicable, criminal activity continued later into the European colonial period. The ‘gunboat diplomacy’ that colonial Europe became notorious for mirrors the unscrupulous, militant greed of Northman piracy. European colonialism was a natural progression of the Viking project.
The first spark of the flame that would eventually end in a today’s white world order was the release of a barbaric, heathen people from their ancient prison beyond the North-Western mountains of Scandinavia where they had remained cut off from the rest of humanity for untold ages. The great Prophet, Dhul Qarnain, had banished them across the mountains with his invincible armies by the power of Allah, and there they had remained, unable to breach the barrier erected by Dhul Qarnain, and surrounded on all sides by impassable mountains, great ice sheets and unchartered seas. Following their release during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace), they first moved out to invade and colonise the Scandinavian peninsula. Soon after, they began to pour out of Scandinavia and the centuries of terrorization, exploitation and occupation of surrounding European lands that characterised the ‘Viking Age’ commenced. Once firmly established in the power centres of Europe, especially the British Isles, the Viking genes turned in bloody terror towards the Holy Land, leading to the Crusades, which, for generations to come, would loom large in Western European imagination. The rest is history.
It is beyond the scope of this article, but it would be an interesting study to trace the extent of Viking gene dominance in European aristocracy. The royal families of Europe were extensively interrelated, and we have seen that the British monarchy and aristocracy are directly descended from Northmen ancestors. I also suspect that if someone were to trace the roots of the key instigators and executors of the Spanish Inquisition, he or she would find Viking/Norman blood. That’s just a suspicion.
Ancient History of Norway
The Quran mentions that Dhul Qarnayn – a righteous man, probably a prophet – was given immense power by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. He travelled first to the Easternmost end of the Earth and then to the furthest West and was given dominion over the peoples of both. Next, the Quran says he travelled again but does not mention which direction. The classical commentaries suggest that direction was North [Tafsir al-Razi, al-Kahf: 92]. The Caucasus region is North but clearly not the furthest North. It makes sense, considering his previous movements, that he travelled to the furthest Northern point, although the Quran is not explicit in this. The land of Norway is in fact possibly the most Northern hospitable region of the Earth. Most lands on the same degree of latitude, such as Alaska, Siberia and Greenland, are far colder and difficult to inhabit, but due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, Norway has a relatively moderate climate.
We know with a high degree of certainty that human beings first inhabited Scandinavia around 10,000 years ago. We know this because prior to that, the area was covered in ice. As the ice sheets receded at the beginning of our current interglacial period, pioneer settlements began to appear.
The Northern-Western region of Norway is separated from the rest of the Scandinavian peninsula by great mountain ranges. It is my suggestion that somewhere along these mountain ranges, Dhul Qarnayn’s armies drove back the troublesome tribes of Gog and Magog and built the great barrier described in the Quran, perhaps of a miraculous nature – we do not know. Gwyn Jones describes Norway as “that long, narrow, sea-and-mountain-boundaried, northward-running, eel-stripe of a country” [Jones: p.34] and “that upturned Keel of mountains running South from Finnmark almost to Staranger…made vast areas of Eastern and Western Scandinavia almost inaccessible to each other throughout the Middle Ages” [Jones: p.59]. The Norwegian mountains constitute a particularly hostile barrier to human settlement due to the fact that, with just a small increase in altitude, the moderating effect of the Gulf Stream is rapidly lost, and the climate reverts to intolerable Siberian levels.
The Quran tells us that when Dhul Qarnayn came to the land of Gog and Magog, he found another people living there who complained to him that they were being terrorized by Gog and Magog, and requested his help. According to archaeological evidence, Scandinavia has been inhabited by two distinct groups of people from earliest times. Archaeologists refer to the group beyond the mountains as the Komsa culture and the people of the southern and eastern areas as the Fosna culture due to differences in the patterns of archaeological remains. Jesch writes:
“The Scandinavian peninsula in early medieval times, as well as today, was ethnically and culturally a dual region, with a Saami minority speaking a language of the Uralian group, and a majority Germanic group. The Saami were the northern group, while the Germanic ethnic group inhabited the Southern regions of modern-day Sweden.” [Jesch: p.9]
Interestingly, latest forms of genetic analysis have revealed that the Saami people, who still inhabit Northern areas of the peninsula, have a large genetic separation from other Europeans:
“analysis of classic chromosomal marker variation have demonstrated that the genetic differences between the Saami and other European peoples are significantly larger than between any other pair of European peoples…
The Saami are regarded as extreme genetic outliers among European populations.”
[Tambets et al, 2004].
This significant finding indicates that these people have remained separated from the rest of European peoples for an extensive period of time. This also fits with our theory that the Gog and Magog people were contained for hundreds, probably thousands of years, in the land behind the Norwegian mountains.
At the beginning of the medieval period, during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be mercy and peace), the Barrier was broken and they were able to cross the mountains. They descended upon the Germanic peoples who populated along the Swedish coast and uprooted them. Jesch describes the archaeological phenomena that give evidence for this. She states that something significant happened to the Germanic population during the period of late 6th to 7th century [ie around, or soon after, the time of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace)], which she calls ‘the Change’ [Jesch: p.15]. Prior to this ‘change’, the Scandinavian farming societies lived and farmed peacefully with an economic system based on redistribution. But then “the extensive farming system…was abandoned and the cultural landscape slowly changed”. When the previous farming economy collapsed, “a large number of families left their homes. What happened to them and their animals? All we know is that in many regions the farms were never rebuilt and people never returned to their homeland and ancestral graves.” In other words, around about the same time as the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and mercy) informed members of his household in Arabia that a breach had today occurred in the barrier of Gog and Magog, there is evidence of the peaceful agrarian society of southern Scandinavia being uprooted and dispossessed. Upheaval was taking place in the Northernmost region of the Earth. A “different landscape” emerged on the Scandinavian peninsula. According to Jesch [p.18]:
“the landscape that emerged around 700 CE was different. The houses of the settlements were smaller, the byre had room for fewer animals, and only special people were buried under mounds. An intensified agriculture…had taken the place of the former extensive system. Fewer animals were kept and stalled through the winter months…new families came into power…emergence of memorial forms and a stratum of landholders who strived to acquire as much land as possible is characteristic…”
In short, a new economic and political reality had emerged. This is explainable by an invasion from beyond the mountains.
Viking cheiftan, Hthor, told King Alfred of Wessex in 890CE that he was from further North than all the Northmen, ie from the land beyond the mountains. Gwyn Jones mentions that the Viking chief Offa (Olithere) said that:
”he lived farthest North of all the Norwegians. He lived in the North of the country alongside the Norwegian sea. He said though that the land extended a very long way North from there, but all of it is uninhabited except that in a few places here and there Lapps make their camps” [Jones:p. 158].
Ifsaad, Corruption and Destruction
One of the chief characteristics of the Gog and Magog people mentioned in the Quran is that they ‘cause corruption/destruction [fasaad] in the Earth’. They are ‘mufsidoon’, people who cause fasaad (‘fasaad’ includes all types of corruption, ruination and disorder). The form of the word, ‘mufsidoon’, is in the active participle category which implies that it is an abiding characteristic of these people, not a temporary one. In other words, one of the core characteristics of the Gog and Magog people is this aspect of causing fasaad. Hopefully, the reader will have gained enough insight from what has already been said to recognise this aspect in the Vikings and their descendants. One may validly argue that the Vikings have not been unique in this regard, and many other historical people have shown equally violent and warlike activity, for example the Huns or the Mongols to name a couple. The first reply to such an objection would be that the presence of other people who have the attribute of ifsaad is not excluded by affirming this attribute to Gog and Magog. In other words, it does not necessarily mean others cannot share in this attribute.
However, I would venture to suggest that the information we have regarding the Viking people reveals an exceptionally corrupt, ifsaadi nature. Of course, historical reports, especially by enemies, can be exaggerated for all sorts of reasons. Interestingly, a Muslim traveller and writer by the name of Ibn Fadhlan met a group of Northmen on his travels and wrote about them. He was not impressed:
“they are the filthiest of Allah’s creatures. They do not wash after defecating or urinating, nor after sexual intercourse, and they do not wash after eating. They are like wayward donkeys.” [Roesdahl: p. 34].
Ibn Fadhlan also noted: “they all washed themselves in the same tub of water, and they made no attempt to seek privacy when they lay with their female slaves.” Ibn Fadhlan also mentions: “a man will have sexual intercourse with his slave girl while his companion looks on. Sometimes whole groups will come together in this fashion, each in the presence of the others.” [Jones: p. 164]. Several of Ibn Fadhlan’s observations of the Northmen regarding burial practices have been confirmed by archaeological evidence. Ibn Fadhlan’s descriptions, moreover, correlate with European accounts cited above. The cleric Dudo wrote of them, “Once they have grown up, the young quarrel violently with their fathers and grandfathers, or with each other, about property…”
I would suggest that two of the characteristics mentioned here, namely of having public sexual relations and fighting one’s own parents, are such immoral, undignified and dishonourable actions as to be found rarely amongst other peoples, even barbarian types, such as the Mongols or Huns. Most societies have respected their elders, especially one’s own parents; and acts of intimacy, by human nature, are kept private. It seems, in fact, that these people lacked the basic qualities that distinguish the human being from animals, who seek only to satisfy their natural appetites. Have there been other people in history that have descended to this level of depravity?
A fascinating aspect of the Viking people was their system of government, if one can call it such. They were the first western Europeans to have a ‘democratic’ system. There would be a public assembly of all landowning freemen, known, bizarrely, simply as ‘the Thing’, which was “the cornerstone of democracy and authority” in the Viking Age. Each district had its own Thing which met once or twice a year. Its function was to be a forum where matters of local importance could be debated. Kings were elected, new laws were discussed, disputes over property were resolved, and violent crime and theft were adjudicated upon. Above the district assembly was the regional Thing. The Vikings exported this form of government to many of their colonies overseas [Chartrand et al, p. 27].
Is it possible that the ‘Thing’ of the Vikings is the true cultural precursor to modern European democratic systems, rather than the democracy of Ancient Greece as if often imagined? Once again, are we observing the historical, perhaps unconscious, attempt by Europeans, embarrassed by the Viking roots of their democratic systems, to gloss over their true heritage and connect their cultural history to ancient Greco-Roman civilisation instead? It is far more reassuring to trace one’s traditions to the great historic civilisations of Greece and Rome than to the piratical hordes of the Vikings, a people without ancestry, history or civilisation. Surely, it is no coincidence that Britain, the primary colony of the Viking hordes, was the first country to later develop ‘democratic’ institutions.
A core feature of ‘democracy’, and this explains why it appealed to the Viking mentality, is that it is essentially a denial of any higher moral authority. The people themselves decide their own rules and laws. Thus, nothing and nobody can prevent the people from doing what they want to do. It is a system which rejects revealed guidance and Divinely-ordained constraints upon human behaviour. It safeguards the freedom of the human creature to pursue any activity he finds desirable as long as there is approval from the collective. The Viking rejected authority, he felt no inclination to bow to God or king. This inherent rebelliousness, known as baghy in Arabic, is one of his defining characteristics.
The Quran mentions that when Dhul Qarnayn arrived at the land of Gog and Magog, he found a people who could “barely understand a sentence” [al-Kahf: 93]. It is not clear whether this refers to the Gog and Magog or the people who sought help from Dhul Qarnayn. I do not know if it is related but historians do mention that the language of the Vikings, Old Norse, was an almost incomprehensible tongue even to the speakers themselves. One author states:
“Beyond doubt then, the Skaldic verse is our most valid and genuine literary data on the heathen or Viking age. On the other hand, much of it is so complicated and abstruse that it cannot be understood today, even by experts. Indeed, it is doubtful if some of the verses were completely understood by the poet’s contemporaries…Their more formal and elaborate verses could not be composed, appreciated, or understood without an arduous and consciously acquired technical education. A part of their technique involved the extravagant use of the implied simile, the kenning—that is, whenever possible, the Skald refrained from calling a being or thing by its ordinary name and instead invented a name (or used an already established invention) that displayed his intimate knowledge of the mythology”.
Vikings, in popular culture at least, tend to be depicted with the characteristic horned helmets. Is it a coincidence that Gog and Magog were banished behind the barrier by Dhul Qarnayn, which means, literally, ‘the Possessor of Two Horns’? Historians say that there is no real evidence of Vikings wearing bi-horned helmets, but there is some evidence of them using such helmets in some of their pagan rituals. Is it possible that these people, trapped for thousands of years apart from the rest of humanity, incorporated into their mythology the legend of an ancient time when a man, a ‘Possessor of Two Horns’, had banished them into their icy prison where they were destined to remain until the Last Days?
“From the oldest times has Dovrefjell been the border region between the northern and southern parts of Norway, and the road over the mountain was well known. The expression “til Dovre faller” (‘until the Dovre mountains fall apart’ ie until the end of the world) is widely used in Norwegian.
The Time Issue
Shaykh Imran Husain has made a convincing case that within the European people, and their North American progeny, are the Gog and Magog people prophesized in the Quran. The ‘New World Order’ is the World Order of Gog and Magog. Indeed, it seems they have been given such a power that no-one is able to defeat except Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala Himself. The object of this article has been to show that it was the Vikings that were the precise Gog and Magog entity that were released and infiltrated the European peoples. The Vikings and their descendants are the Gog-Magogian element within European civilisation.
One may reasonably ask how it is possible that the Vikings could have been Gog and Magog when they emerged over a thousand years ago, and the hadiths mention that Gog and Magog will fight Prophet Jesus (upon him be peace) when he returns to this world near the end of Time. How is it possible that the prophecies regarding Gog and Magog come to be fulfilled over forty generations after they first emerge? Does this make any sense? Is there even any trace of the original Gog and Magog people left after so many centuries of interbreeding and mixing of genes with other peoples?
With regard to the passing of many generations since their first release, the Quran provides us with another example of such a phenomenon and proves that a people may still be considered intimately related to distant forebears. The Prophets Abraham and Ishmael prayed to Allah to make from their progeny “a believing nation”, and to “raise a prophet from amongst them”. This supplication was fulfilled thousands of years later when the Final Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and mercy) was sent to the Arabs and the whole of Mankind. This indicates that the passing of many generations does not preclude a progeny from intimate association with their forefathers, in the Quranic paradigm.
The other interesting observation in this regard concerns one of the ayahs of Quran which mention the Gog and Magog, namely:
“And there is prohibition upon [the people of] a city which We have destroyed that they will [ever] return
Until when Gog and Magog are let loose, and they, from every elevation, descend.”
The word used here to describe the movement of Gog and Magog from every elevation [ie every place (think world order)], is ‘yansiloon’, translated as ‘descend’ in the translation above. Others have translated it as ‘swiftly swarm’. The word ‘yansiloon’ is profound in our context, as it is derived from the root, nasl, which means, literally, ‘progeny’. The idea of ‘yansiloon’, ‘to descend’, is derived from the descent of the baby out of the mother’s womb. Here, a clue to support our theory of the coming forth of Gog and Magog as an emergence over many generations lies in the ayah itself, but Allah knows best. To close, we can quote a powerful verse penned by the great Indian Muslim scholar and poet, Muhammad Iqbal, who wrote
With cleverness/wisdom and prudence this uproar (chaos) cannot be delayed
Because “Wa Qad Kuntum Bihi Tasta’jilun”
Gog and Magog all have been released
The Muslim eye will see the meaning of ‘Yansilun’
It is possible that Iqbal had taken this idea from Imam Anwar Shah, and Allah knows best. Could it be that the words, ‘from every elevated place’, predict the use of air travel? The armies of Gog and Magog descending from the skies? And Allah knows best.
We seek refuge with Him from all evil, deviation, misguidance and corruption. And we ask Him to enter us amongst His believing slaves. May peace and mercy be upon the Final Messenger and his family and Companions and all those who follow in their footsteps until the Last Day. And finally, all praise is to Allah the Creator and Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.
In dire need of his Lord the Exalted and Majestic,
Ridhwan ibn Muhammad Saleem
19 Muharram 1433/15 December 2011
West London School of Islamic Studies