Alexander Adalah Zulkarnain: Who Cares?
Thursday, 23rd September, 2010 § 42 Comments
I first knew about Muhammad Alexander (real name Wisno Sasongko) when I read his first book, Yakjuj & Makjuj: Bencana Dari Sebalik Gunung (Gog & Magog: Disaster From Beyond the Mountains). It was an interesting piece of speculative history. In Islam, Gog & Magog are the a race of people who will come near the end of time to create havoc and disaster. In fact, their appearance is one of the signs of the end of days, according to Islamic tradition.
Also according to Islamic tradition, a legendary warrior-king named Zulkarnain trapped Gog & Magog behind a dam of iron and bronze. Many have theorised who Zulkarnain really was in history (Zulkarnain wasn’t his name but his title which means, “The Two-Horned Man) . The most famous theory is that he was Alexander the Great or Alexander of Macedonia. I for one have no idea myself but Muhammad Alexander is convinced that Alexander of Macedon was Zulkarnain mentioned in the Quran. Which is why he wrote the book Alexander Adalah Zulkarnain (Alexander Was Zulkarnain). I was excited to read this book. I’ve read another book written by a Malaysian who speculated that Zulkarnain could have been Cyrus the Great. I wanted to see if Muhammad Alexander could refute this claim and convince me of his own theories.
Boy, was I disappointed.
Instead of writing an entire thesis of why I didn’t like the book, I’ll give it in point forms instead. Quick and to the point which was what Muhammad Alexander should have done:
It isn’t objective – When you call your book Alexander Was Zulkarnain, it’s pretty clear where you stand on the issue. It is difficult, then, for the reader to be presented with other contrary opinions because the author has decided that only his opinion is the correct one and everyone else’s is swept away or simply ignored.
Hearsay evidence is presented as fact and a less than professional way of presenting his arguments – Muhammad Alexander tends to ignore other previous authors on the subject whom he does not agree with simply by stating, “This author was wrong…” or “that author was confused…”
Square pegs are forced into round slots just to legitimise his argument that Alexander was Zulkarnain. For example, Muhammad suggests that Socrates the ancient Greek philosopher was actually Luqman Al-Hakim! To those who don’t know (and I’m guessing a lot of you don’t), Luqman Al-Hakim was a wise man who has an entire chapter in the Quran named after him. It has been agreed by Islamic scholars that Luqman was not a Prophet but a holy man who was rewarded with wisdom by God.
Now, Muhammad Alexander suggests in his book that Socrates was Luqman based on the fact that Socrates died by swallowing poison.
Yeah, I know. I rolled my eyes as well.
His line of argument was that no wise man or great teacher in history has ever been ordered to die by poison except Socrates. What has this got to do with Luqman? Well, Muhammad argues that in Arabic, laqman means ‘to swallow’. Therefore, a wise man whose name in Arabic means ‘to swallow’ could be (because Muhammad himself isn’t sure, he admits) Socrates the Greek philosopher because he died by swallowing poison. What’s the connection with Alexander? Well, Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle who taught the young Alexander. Since Muhammad is convinced Alexander the Great was Zulkarnain who believed in One God and not an idol worshiper, it would not be proper for Alexander to be taught by scholars who were idol worshipers themselves. His teacher and the teachers who taught his teacher had to believe in One God as well. Ergo, Socrates must have been the wise Luqman Al-Hakim in the Quran.
See what I mean about pushing square pegs into round slots?
I don’t know whether or not Socrates was a Muslim (anyone who believes in the unity of God is by definition of the word, a Muslim) and really, I don’t care but Muhammad’s clunky way and damn-all attitude in presenting his argument in order to fit his view that Alexander the Great was Zulkarnain in the Quran just turns me off.
Another example is when he refutes the common perception among Western historians that Alexander the Great was a homosexual. Muhammad simply sweeps all that away by stating that Alexander the Great had children and that proves he was not gay. And that was it! It is not whether Alexander was gay or not that I have a problem with but the way Muhammad challenges that allegation. He merely states that the man had children and then he (Muhammad) moved onto other things.
As someone mentioned to me recently, if I do not believe Alexander the Great was Zulkarnain of the Quran does that mean I believe that Alexander was a homosexual? Of course not! I’m just not prepared to accept Muhammad’s line of argument because his line of argument is weak and less than convincing. How can anyone be convinced when the argument is, “He was not homosexual because he had children. There, see? That proves everything.” Erm, no. No, it doesn’t.
Using the Christian Bible to strengthen his argument – Throughout his book, Muhammad uses excerpts from the Bible, usually the New Testament, to show the contradictions and mistakes in the Bible itself. As a Muslim myself I have no problems in agreeing with Muhammad in this matter. We believe that the Gospels revealed to Christ are not the Gospels that are around today. The original is gone, subverted through the ages. The Gospels today are no longer the ‘real’ ones and therefore cannot be regarded as the Word of God. Fine, no problems there.
The problem arises when Muhammad uses the same Bible to prove his case (page 19, PTS edition). Now wait a minute. If you have decided and argued that a particular source of information is unreliable, how then can you use the same source to help strengthen your case when it suits you? If you say a witness is a liar, can you then use the testimony of that same witness?
The blatant hypocrisy astounds me.
Dry prose – This book started as an academic thesis and anything academic has to be dryly written, right? It’s like a rule or something. Plus, I was reading the translated version. It was originally written in Indonesian. If something was written as dry as the Gobi desert and coupled with unconvincing arguments, the chances of me siding with the author is between slim to none.
I still don’t know who Zulkarnaian really was but you know what? Who cares? Not knowing who he was in history will not affect a Muslim’s faith either way. If I believe Alexander was Zulkarnain, fine. If I don’t, that’s fine too. If I believe Zulkarnain was someone who was not notable in known history, well, guess what? THAT’S FINE AS WELL!
But if you want to convince me of your views then please, please, please write an interesting book with very good arguments and not filled with sweeping statements and presenting flimsy evidence as fact, mmmkay?
Alexander Adalah Zulkarnain. Do not buy.