The problem seems to have arisen due to an
erroneous translation of the said verses. A correct translation is:
He [Dhu’l-Qarnayn] made ready his resources, until he
reached the place where the sun sets. He found it as if it was setting in a
spring of murky water. (18:85-6)
The setting of the sun in murky waters is a figurative
portrayal. When one is standing on the shores where the sun sets, the scene is
very much like what the verse says. It seems as if the sun is setting in murky
waters. The style adopted by the Qur’ān indicates that Dhu’l-Qarnayn had
conquered all the known parts of the West at that time. He had reached the end
of the known land territory and now only the expanse of water remained beyond
it. It must be appreciated that the language of the Qur’ān is highly literary
and it often employs figurative styles and constructions to convey its meanings.
If one does not have a literary taste, he fails to grasp the delicacy and
elegance of such styles.