The Owners of the Elephant

The Owners of the Elephant
The Year of the Elephant: April 20, 571 AD

“Have you (O Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam)) not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant? [The elephant army which came from Yemen under the command of Abrahah Al-Ashram intending to destroy the Ka’bah at Makkah]. Did He not make their plot go astray? And sent against them birds, in flocks, Striking them with stones of Sijjil. And made them like an empty field of stalks (of which the corn has been eaten up by cattle).” [Surah al-Fil, 105:1-5]

“The Owners of the Elephant” refers to the army of Abrahah ibn Al-Ashram Al-Habashi, who became ruler of Yemen after the demise of Yusuf Dhu-Nuwas.

In the year 571 (of the Christian calendar), the same year in which the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) was born, Abrahah led his army towards the inviolable city of Makkah with the intention of destroying the Kaaba. He wanted the Arabs to stop performing the pilgrimage to Makkah, and to instead perform pilgrimage to the Al-Qullais church, which he had built in San’a.

As the army marched forward, a huge elephant remained at the front of it. One narration mentions that when Abrahah was preparing to enter Makkah, the elephant knelt down, refusing to move, it wouldn’t budge. When they turned it away from Makkah and made it face Ash-Sham, it began to race forward. Then they turned it towards Yemen, and it did the same. But whenever they tried to turn it towards Makkah, it wouldn’t move.

On this way to Makkah, Abrahah usurped the wealth of many Arabs. Among the wealth he stole, were camels that belonged to ‘Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim, the grandfather of the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam). ‘Abdul-Muttalib presented himself before Abrahah and demanded that he return his wealth back to him.

Abrahah was somewhat taken aback by his words, and so he said, “You speak to me about 200 camels that I took from you, yet you care nothing for the House (the Kaaba), which represents your religion and the religion of your fathers! I have come to destroy it, yet you say nothing to me about that!”

‘Abdul-Muttalib said, “indeed, I am the lord of these camels, and indeed, the House has a Lord Who will prevent you from (harming) it.”

Then Allah Subhanahu ta’ala sent many flocks of birds, birds with stones of Sijjil (stony, hard clay). They pelted the soldiers of Abrahah with them, and the army then became like an empty field of stalks of which corn has been eaten up by cattle.

There was a traitor Abu Righal who guided the enemy to Makkah. His grave is at Mughmmus on the way to Ta’if. It is said that even today the Arabs pelt stones at his grave.

– At-Tafisr Al-Munir; 30/404
– Safwatut-Tafasir; 3/604
– Al-Qamus Al-Islami; 1/121

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