Introduction of Al-Fil
(Revealed before Hijrah)
As its subject matter shows the Surah is among the earliest Surahs revealed at Mecca. The title of the Surah is taken from the expression اصحاب الفیل (Fellows of the Elephant), occurring in the first verse, Abraha’s army being so called because of one or more elephants with them. The Surah refers to the invasion of Mecca by Abraha Ashram, the viceroy in Yemen of the Christian King of Abyssinia, who came with the object of destroying the Ka‘bah.
Dhu Nuwas, the Jewish Himyar ruler of Yemen had put 20,000 Christians to death in cold blood. The Kaiser of Rome had ordered the Negus, King of Abyssinia, which then formed part of the Roman Empire, to avenge this cruel act of Dhu Nuwas. The Negus sent Abraha to Yemen. He defeated the Himyar ruler and Yemen became part of the Abyssinian dominion and Abraha was appointed its viceroy. In order to curry favour with the Negus and to break the unity of the Arabs or, as tradition goes, to stem the apprehended tide of Arab nationalism under a great Prophet whose appearance was eagerly awaited and was expected to take place very soon, and in order also to divert the attention of the Arabs from the Ka‘bah, and to preach and disseminate Christianity in Arabia, Abraha built a church at Sana’, the capital of Yemen. When, however, he failed to cajole or intimidate the Arabs into accepting the church at Sana’ in place of the Ka‘bah as their central place of worship, he was stung with rage, and being intoxicated with his great military power he marched on Mecca with an army of 20,000 strong in order to raze the Ka‘bah to the ground. Arriving at a place, a few miles from Mecca, he sent for the leaders of the Quraish in order to negotiate with them about the fate of the Ka‘bah. The Quraish deputation, led by the venerable ‘Abdul-Muttalib, grandfather of the Holy Prophet, met Abraha who treated ‘Abdul-Muttalib with great honour. But to Abraha’s great surprise, ‘Abdul-Muttalib, instead of beseeching that the Ka‘bah be spared, only requested that his two hundred camels which Abraha’s men had seized be restored. ‘Abdul-Muttalib on being told by Abraha that he had not expected such a paltry request from him, poured out the anguish of his heart and expressed his firm faith in the invulnerability of the Ka‘bah in the words: انی أنا رب الابل و ان للبیت ربا یمنعه i.e. I am the master of the camels and the Ka‘bah has a Master who will protect it" (Al-Kamil, vol. 1). The negotiations, however, broke down and finding that they were too weak to offer effective resistance to Abraha, ‘Abdul-Muttalib advised his compatriots to repair to the surrounding hills. Before leaving the city, ‘Abdul-Muttalib, holding the skirts of the Ka‘bah, prayed in the following words full of extreme pathos:
لا ھم ان المرء یمنع رحله فامنع حلالک
لا یغلبن صلیبھم و محالھم غدوا محالک
i.e. just as a man protects his house and property from plunder, so do Thou o Lord, defend Thine own House and suffer not the Cross to triumph over the Ka‘bah ("Tarikh Al-Kamil," by Ibn Athir, vol. 1, p. 156 & Muir). Abraha’s army had hardly moved when the Divine scourge overtook them. "A pestilential distemper," says Muir, "had shown itself in the camp of Abraha. It broke out with deadly pustules and blains and was probably an aggravated form of smallpox. In confusion and dismay the army commenced retreat. Abandoned by their guides, they perished among the valleys, and a flood swept multitudes into the sea. Scarcely any recovered who had once been smitten by it and Abraha himself, a mass of malignant and putrid sores, died miserably on his return to Sana’." It is to this incident particularly that the Surah refers. The fact that the disease which destroyed Abraha’s army was smallpox in a virulently epidemic form is supported by the great historian Ibn Ishaq. He quotes ‘A’ishah as saying that she saw two blind beggars in Mecca and on enquiring who they were, she was told that they were the drivers of Abraha’s elephant. (Durr-e-Manthur)
یہ ابتدائی مکی سورت ہے اور بسم اللہ سمیت اس کی چھ آیات ہیں۔
دنیاوی قوموں کی ترقی آخر اس نقطۂ عروج پر ختم ہوگی کہ وہ ساری عظیم طاقتیں اسلام کو نیست و نابود کرنے کے درپے ہوچکی ہوں گی۔ قرآن کریم ماضی کا ایک واقعہ بیان کرتے ہوئے فرماتا ہے کہ اس سے پہلے بھی اُمُّ الْقُرٰی یعنی مکہ کو بڑی بڑی ظاہری حشمت والی قوموں نے تباہ کرنے کی کوشش کی تھی۔ وہ اصحاب الفیل یعنی بڑے بڑے ہاتھیوں والے تھے لیکن پیشتر اس سے کہ وہ ان بڑے بڑے ہاتھیوں پر مکہ تک پہنچتے، ان پر ابابیل نے جو سمندری چٹانوں کی کھوہوں میں گھر بناتی ہیں، ایسے کنکر برسائے جن میں چیچک کے جراثیم تھے اور ساری فوج میں وہ خوفناک بیماری پھیل گئی اور آناً فاناً وہ ایسی لاشوں کے ڈھیر ہوگئے جیسے کھایا ہوا بُھوسا ہو۔ ان کے جسموں کو مُردار خور پرندے پٹک پٹک کر زمین پر مارتے تھے۔ پس آئندہ بھی اگر کسی قوم نے طاقت کے بِرتے پر اسلام کی یا مکہ کی بے حرمتی کا اور تباہی کا ارادہ کیا تو وہ بھی اسی طرح تباہ کردی جائے گی۔
بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ﴿۱﴾
بِسۡمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
a. 1:1. (close)
a. See 1:1. (close)
اَلَمۡ تَرَ کَیۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّکَ بِاَصۡحٰبِ الۡفِیۡلِ ؕ﴿۲﴾
أَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصۡحَٰبِ ٱلۡفِيلِ
3436. Abrahah, the viceroy in Yemen of the Negus, marched on Mecca with a large army in 570 A.D., the year of the Holy Prophet’s birth, in order to destroy the Ka‘bah. He had a number of elephants with him. A plague or epidemic of the nature of smallpox, completely destroyed his army and their rotting bodies were eaten up by swarms of birds. See Introduction to the Surah. (close)
This verse refers to Abraha, who marched on Mecca with a large army in 570 A.D., the year of the Holy Prophet’s birth, in order to destroy the Ka‘bah. The Holy Prophet’s birth taking place in the year of Abraha’s attack on the Ka‘bah and the utter destruction of his army implied a Divine hint that because the great Prophet for whose sake the Ka‘bah had been built and who was to preach the Last Heavenly Message from there was about to be born, it militated against God’s eternal plan that it should suffer destruction at the hands of an arch-infidel. Abraha had a number of elephants with him. They were destroyed by a plague or epidemic, of the nature of smallpox, and their rotting bodies were eaten up by swarms of birds. For a detailed account of this incident see Introduction.
The expression کیف فعل refers more to the dreadfulness of the scourge which destroyed Abraha’s army than to the manner of their destruction. (close)
اَلَمۡ یَجۡعَلۡ کَیۡدَہُمۡ فِیۡ تَضۡلِیۡلٍ ۙ﴿۳﴾
أَلَمۡ يَجۡعَلۡ كَيۡدَهُمۡ فِي تَضۡلِيلٖ
b. 27:51, 52. (close)
b. 27: 51-52. (close)
How Abraha was foiled in his design is writ large on the pages of history. (close)
وَّ اَرۡسَلَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ طَیۡرًا اَبَابِیۡلَ ۙ﴿۴﴾
وَأَرۡسَلَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ طَيۡرًا أَبَابِيلَ
3437. According to some authorities Ababil is the plural of Ibbaul which means, a separate or distinct portion of a number of birds or horses or camels following one another. The words, Tairan Ababil, means, birds in separate flocks or bevies, or birds in companies from this or that quarter, or following one another, flock after flock (Lane). (close)
4844. Important Words:
أبابیل (swarms): the word is said to have no singular. According to some its singular is أبول which means, a separate or distinct portion of a number of birds or horses or camels following one another. أبابیل signifies, according to some, a company in a state of dispersion, or dispersed companies following one another, or distinct or separate companies like camels. They say جاءت ابلک أبابیل i.e. thy camels came in distinct or separate companies. طیر أبابیل means, birds in separate flocks or bevies, or birds in companies from this or that quarter, or following one another, flock after flock (Lane & Aqrab).
See Introduction. (close)
تَرۡمِیۡہِمۡ بِحِجَارَۃٍ مِّنۡ سِجِّیۡلٍ ۪ۙ﴿۵﴾
تَرۡمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٖ مِّن سِجِّيلٖ
3438. Swarms of birds feasted themselves upon dead bodies of the invaders, striking the severed pieces against stones, as birds generally do when eating the small and severed pieces of the dead body of an animal; the particle ba meaning ‘ala, i.e. upon or against (Lane). (close)
4845. Important Words:
ب (against). Among a variety meanings, this particle is syn. with علی meaning, over, upon, at, or against. An Arab poet says:
أ رب یبول الثعلبان برأسه
لقد ھان من بالت علیه الثعالب
i.e. how can he be رب (Lord) upon whose head jackals make water and how base he is (Al-Yawaqit wal-Jawahir, vol. 1).
In the Quran we have منھم من ان تأمنه بدینار i.e. "of them is he that if thou give him charge over a dinar (3:76)."
Swarms of birds feasted themselves upon dead bodies of the invaders, striking the severed pieces against stones, as birds generally do when eating the small and severed pieces of the dead body of an animal. (close)
فَجَعَلَہُمۡ کَعَصۡفٍ مَّاۡکُوۡلٍ ٪﴿۶﴾
فَجَعَلَهُمۡ كَعَصۡفٖ مَّأۡكُولِۭ