And (remember) Isma’il, Idris, and Zul-kifl, all (men) of constancy and patience;
Dhu al Kifl would literally mean “possessor of, or
giving, a double requital or portion”; or else, “one who
used a cloak of double thickness,” that being one of the
meanings of Kifl.
The Commentators differ in opinion as to who is meant,
why the title is applied to him, and the point of his being
grouped with Isma’il and Idris for constancy and
I think the best suggestion is that afforded by
Karsten Niebuhr in his Reisebeschreibung nach
Arabian, Copenhagen, 1778, ii. 264-266, as quoted
in the Encyclopaedia of Islam under “Dhul-Kifl”.
He visited Meshad ‘All in ‘Iraq, and also the little
town called Kefil, midway between Najaf and Hilla
(Babylon). Kefil, he says, is the Arabic form of
Ezekiel. The shrine of Ezekiel was there, and the
Jews came to it on pilgrimage.
If we accept “Dhul al Kifl” to be not an epithet, but
an Arabicised form of “Ezekiel”, it fits the context,
Ezekiel was a prophet in Israel who was carried
away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar after his
second attack on Jerusalem (about B.C. 599). His
Book is included in the English Bible (Old
Testament). He was chained and bound, and put
into prison, and for a time he was dumb (Ezekiel,
He bore all with patience and constancy, and
continued to reprove boldly the evils in Israel.
In a burning passage he denounces false leaders in
words which are eternally true: “Woe be to the
shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves!
Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat
the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill
them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The
diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have
ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye
bound up that which was broken …… etc. (Ezekiel,
Dhu al Kifl is again mentioned in 38:48 along with
Isma’il and Elisha.
Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Translation and Commentary of the Quran. (surah 21 verse 85). Quran Arabic with English Translation & Commentary (Tafsir) by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Free Download (quran4u.com)