Allah Ta’ala Ta’ala says,

“Did you not see how you Lord dealt with the owners of the elephants? Did He not bring their plans to failure? And He sent against them flocks of birds. Which pelted them with stones of baked clay. And He made them like eaten fodder.” (Surah Fil)

Abraha, the viceroy of Negus the king of Abyssinia, decided to build an imposing cathedral in San’a (Yemen) in order to divert the Arabs’ pilgrimage from Makkah to Yemen. As a Christian, he could not accept the Ka’bah as the great national shrine which attracted pilgrims from almost every Arabian clan. He wanted his new cathedral to replace the Ka’bah as the most adored place in the region. He decorated it with gold, silver and precious stones. He then announced that people should worship in it instead of at the Ka’bah. The Arabs, however, preferred the Ka’bah and would not accept this new cathedral. Some dare-devils from amongst them retaliated against this idea by defecating in the cathedral. When Abraha heard about this he was enraged and took an oath that he would not rest until he destroyed the Ka’bah. Abraha set forth towards Makkah at the head of a powerful army which included a large number of elephants. Some of these elephants were so huge that none similar to them had been seen before. His idea was to tie chains to the pillars of the Ka’bah and then use the elephants to break it down by making them charge in the opposite direction. The Quraish knew that they could never face such an army and took to the hills surrounding Makkah to save themselves and their families. They left the protection of the Ka’bah in the hands of Allah Ta’ala.

Abraha on the other hand was preparing to attack the Ka’bah. Nufail ibn Habeeb, the leader of the Arab tribe of Khath’am had previously tried to stop Abraha, but his army was defeated and Nufail was taken captive. Nufail now came forward and catching the ear of Abraha’s huge elephant said to it, “Return from where you have come because you are now in a city of safety.” Hearing this, it sat down. Abraha now decided to lead his elephant forward, but it would not move. The elephant handlers tried their utmost to get it to walk but it refused.

It was then beaten severely but to no avail. An iron rod was pierced through its trunk but this also did not help. When they changed its direction to face Yemen and then Syria it began to walk, but when they again tried to get it to walk towards Makkah, it sat down.

At a place called Muhassar his army was suddenly attacked by flocks of birds carrying stones in their beaks and claws. Such force did Allah Ta’ala place in each stone that it penetrated through the body of its assigned target. The entire army was struck and fled. Many, including Abraha, died a painful death. Most of the elephants in the army fled and some were killed by the pebbles. (Ma’aariful Qur’aan)

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