The second event was that of Abraha As-Sabah Al-Habashi, the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) viceroy in Yemen. He had seen that the Arabs made their pilgrimage to Al-Ka‘bah so he built a large church in San‘a in order to attract the Arab pilgrims to it to the exclusion of Makkah. A man from Kinana tribe understood this move, therefore he entered the church stealthily at night and besmeared its front wall with excrement. When Abraha knew of that, he got very angry and led a great army – of sixty thousand warriors – to demolish Al-Ka‘bah.
He chose the biggest elephant for himself. His army included nine or thirteen elephants. He continued marching until he reached a place called Al-Magmas. There, he mobilized his army, prepared his elephants and got ready to enter Makkah. When he reached Muhassar Valley, between Muzdalifah and Mina, the elephant knelt down and refused to go forward.
Whenever they directed it northwards, southwards or eastwards, the elephant moved quickly but when directed westwards towards Al-Ka‘bah, it knelt down. Meanwhile, Allah loosed upon them birds in flights, hurling against them stones of baked clay and made them like green blades devoured. These birds were very much like swallows and sparrows, each carrying three stones; one in its peak and two in its claws. The stones hit Abraha’s men and cut their limbs and killed them.
A large number of Abraha’s soldiers were killed in this way and the others fled at random and died everywhere. Abraha himself had an infection that had his fingertips amputated. When he reached San‘a he was in a miserable state and died soon after.
The Quraishites on their part had fled for their lives to the hillocks and mountain tops. When the enemy had been thus routed, they returned home safely. [Ibn Hisham 1/43-56; Tafheem 6/462-469]
The Event of the Elephant took place in the month of Al-Muharram, fifty or fifty five days before the birth of Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] which corresponded to late February or early March 571 A.D. It was a gift from Allah to His Prophet and his family. It could actually be regarded as a Divine auspicious precursor of the light to come and accompany the advent of the Prophet and his family. By contrast, Jerusalem had suffered under the yoke of the atrocities of Allah’s enemies. Here we can recall Bukhtanassar in B.C. 587 and the Romans in 70 A.D. Al-Ka‘bah, by Divine Grace, never came under the hold of the Christians – the Muslims of that time – although Makkah was populated by polytheists.
News of the Elephant Event reached the most distant corners of the then civilized world. Abyssinia (Ethiopia) maintained strong ties with the Romans, while the Persians on the other hand, were on the vigil with respect to any strategic changes that were looming on the socio- political horizon, and soon came to occupy Yemen. Incidentally, the Roman and Persian Empires stood for the powerful civilized world at that time. The Elephant Raid Event riveted the world’s attention to the sacredness of Allah’s House, and showed that this House had been chosen by Allah for its holiness. It followed then if any of its people claimed Prophethood, it would be congruous with the outcome of the Elephant Event, and would provide a justifiable explanation for the ulterior
Divine Wisdom that lay behind backing polytheists against Christians in a manner that transcended the cause-and-effect formula.