“Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the people of the elephants? Did he not bring their plan to naught? And He sent against them swarms of birds which smote them with stones of baked clay, and made them like straw eaten up (by cattle).”
(Al-Qur’an – 105:1-5)
This sūrah of the Holy Qur’an refers to an incident that took place only 50 days before the birth of the Holy Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him). Though the address here is directed apparently to the Holy Messenger, its real addressees are not only the Quraish but all the people of Arabia, who were well aware of the incident. In and around Makkah and in the vast country of Arabia, from Makkah to Yemen, there were many such people still living, who had witnessed with their own eyes the event of the destruction of the people of the elephant, for they had continually heard it described by the eye-witnesses themselves so that they had become so certain of it as though they had seen it with their own eyes.
Here the sūrah does not give any detail as to who were the people of the elephants, wherefrom they had come and what was the object of their march, for all these things were well known among the people of the time.
History however bears witness that Abrahah, the Christian ruler of the Abyssinian kingdom of Yemen, led an expedition to Makkah with 60,000 troops. He was fired with the resolve to destroy the Ka’abah. His army had also brought along some elephants. When Abrahah reached a place that lies between Muzdalifah and Minā, there suddenly appeared swarms of birds carrying stones in their beaks and claws, which they pelted upon the Abyssinian army. Anyone who was hit by these stones soon started to rot, his flesh would start falling away from his bones. Thus the whole army was destroyed. This incident was well known in Arabia. At the time of the revelation of this sūrah there were still thousands of people in Makkah who had personally witnessed this incident. The Arabs accepted that the destruction of the “people of the elephants” was by God’s will and power.