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The year of the Elephant

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    Posted: 21 April 2005 at 2:53pm

Auzubillahi minash shaitan ir rajeem,

Bismillah ir rahman ir rahim,

Birth of Muhammad (SAW) - The year of the Elephant

Over fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was born to `Abdullah and Amina. He was born in Makkah, the famed town of the Arabian Peninsula. According to the local calendar, it was Monday, 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal, 571 (there are, however, some differences with the dates, although this date is widely accepted by most people) of the Christian Era (C.E.). This year is also known as the Year of the Elephant.

The Year of the Elephant was celebrated in Arabian history. It was known as the Year of the Elephant because that year, Abraha, the vice-regent of Ethiopia in Yemen attacked Makkah with an elephant with the intention of destroying the Ka`bah. Abraha had made a grand temple in Sana`a. He wanted to divert all the attention from the Ka`bah to his Cathedral. When the Arabs heard of this, they were angered, and a man if the tribe of Kinanah secretly defiled the church one night.

When Abraha heard of this, he was enraged, and immediately began planning an attack on the Ka`bah. He assembled a huge army, which was to be lead by himself, on the back of an elephant. On the way to Makkah, some tribes attacked Abraha's army, but were easily defeated, and one of their chiefs, Nufayl was captured. As a ransom for his life, he was told to guide the army to Makkah.

When Abraha reached Ta'if, it's inhabitants rushed out to meet the army, afraid that Abraha might mistake their temple of al-Lat is the Ka`bah and destroy it. They told Abraha that he had not yet reached his destination and offered him a guide, which Abraha accepted. However, the guide died at a place called Mughammis, about two miles south of Makkah, and was buried there. From Mughammis, Abraha first sent a detachment of horse to the outskirts of Makkah. They plundered the inhabitants there and sent everything back to Abraha. This included 200 camels that belonged to `Abdul Muttalib. Abraha then sent a messenger to Makkah with the message that the Abyssinian army had not come for war, but only to destroy the Ka`bah, and if bloodshed was to be avoided, the inhabitants of Makkah should to send their leader to the Abyssinian camp. Although Makkah had no leader after division of responsibilities between the two clans, `Abdul Muttalib was considered the greatest authority n Makkah. Therefore, `Abdul Muttalib and one of his sons went to the Abyssinian camp. When Abraha saw him, he was so impressed by his appearance, he rose from his seat to greet him. He sat beside him on the carpet and asked the interpreter to inquire if he had any favor to ask. `Abdul Muttalib replied that he wanted that his camels be returned to him. This answer surprised Abraha, and said he was disappointed that the camels meant more to `Abdul Muttalib than his religion. `Abdul Muttalib replied: "I am the lord of the camel, and the temple likewise has a Lord who will defend it." "He cannot defend it from me," replied Abraha. "We shall see," said `Abdul Muttalib, "But give me my camels." The camels were returned.

`Abdul Muttalib went back, and along with the other Makkans, prayed to Allah (SWT) to help them and to protect the Ka`bah. He then advised the  Makkans to take safety on the hills surrounding the city. The next day, Abraha and his army go ready to march towards Makkah. The elephant was to lead the army from the front. However, Nufayl, the reluctant guide, had learnt some of the words used to command the elephant, and when Unays (keeper of the elephant) was unaware, he commanded the elephant to kneel. When Unays saw this happening, he ordered it to get up. But Nufayl's command had coincided with a command more powerful the any man's -- Allah (SWT)'s command. They beat the elephant with iron bars, poked hooks in his belly, but the elephant would just not move. Finally, they decided to first march toward Yemen then turn back. At this, the Elephant rose immediately, but no sooner were they facing Makkah that the elephant once again knelt.

This was a clear sign for Abraha to turn back, but he was blinded by his personal ambition. It was too late now. Above, a great wave of darkness swept over them from the direction of the sea. The air above their heads, as high as they could see was full of birds. These birds moved like swifts, each carrying three pebbles, one in its mouth and one between the claws of each foot. The birds pelted the army of Abraha with these pebbles, piercing even their coats of armor. Each pebble killed the man it struck, and the flesh began to rot. The plan was a complete disaster. Abraha's army was routed. Some men survived including the elephant. Thus, Makkah and the Holy Ka`bah were saved by Allah (SWT). This incident gave the Makkan's more respect than before. They came to be known as "the people of God".

The same year, one of the greatest event of history took place. During Abraha's attack on the Ka'bah, `Abdullah, son of `Abdul Muttalib, was away on  a trade journey. On his way back to Makkah, he stopped over in Yathrib. There he fell ill. The caravan returned to Madinah without him. `Abdul Muttalib sent his son Harith to Yathrib to accompany his brother home. But when Harith got to Yathrib, there was great grief among his family, for `Abdullah had passed away. The grief in Makkah was even greater when Harith returned. Amina was left a widow, and the only consolation for her was her unborn child. She was aware of the intense light within her. One day she heard a voice say to her:" You carry in your womb the lord of this people, and when he is born, say: "I place him beneath the protection of the One, from the evil of every envier"; then name him Muhammad." Some weeks later, the child was born, and named Muhammad. `Abdul Muttalib took the baby to the Holy Ka'bah, and thanked God for this gift. A few days later, `Abdul Muttalib held a feast. When everyone had eaten, he brought out his grandson and told them he had named him Muhammad. A man asked in surprise why he had named him Muhammad, for this name had never been used to name a person before. `Abdul Muttalib replied: "I wanted Allah to praise him in Heaven and I wanted people to praise him on Earth."


1. Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant?

2. Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray?

3. And He sent against them Flights of Birds,

4. Striking them with stones of baked clay.

5. Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw, (of which the corn) has been eaten up.


<font color=purple>Wanu nazzilu minal Qurani ma huwa

Shafaa un wa rahmatun lil mo'mineena

wa la yaziduzzalimeena illa khasara.
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