Safeguarding The Ka’aba
“The house has a god committed to its protection” – Abdul Muttalib 570 AD
This article sheds some light on chapter 105, otherwise known as ‘surat Al feel’ ( Arabic for elephant) which is one of those short chapters at the end of the Quran. Being short, Muslims learn to read those chapters by heart so they can use them in their daily prayers. The entire chapter is dedicated to an event that allegedly took place in Arabia around 570 AD, the same birth year of Mohammed. This sura is another salient example that when the Muslims read the Quran, their brains automatically shut down.
The background story of ‘surat al feel’, is also known to all Muslims. In short: Yemen was a territory of the Empire of Abyssinia and was governed by a Christian leader called ‘Abraha’. Being a devoted Christian, Abraha was disappointed to see that most Arab tribes did not convert to Christianity and continued to practice their pagan religions and perform pilgrimage to that cube-shaped house in Mecca called ‘Ka’aba’, which was stuffed with hundreds of statues called ‘Asnam’. To deter the Arabs from such a pagan practice, Abraha built a large church in Yemen and invited the Arabs to worship god in that church. However, the Arabs continued their pagan practices and ignored the church.
Frustrated by the Arabs’ response, Abraha decided to demolish the idols stuffed Ka’aba. He organized an army to carry out the task. Strangely, the army included an elephant as Arabia is not a habitat for elephants. The army set a camp outside Mecca, which had a chief named Abdul Muttalib, who became Mohammed’s grand father only a few weeks later. The story goes that Abdul Muttalib asked to meet Abraha in his camp. Abraha obliged and treated Abdul Muttalib with all respect, at least initially, and asked him what were his demands. Abdul Muttalib demanded the release of his camels, which were confiscated by the army. Abraha was disgusted by the request and said to Abdul Muttalib: “ What a disgraceful request; I thought you came to negotiate something for your people in order to save the Ka’aba”. Abdul Muttaleb’s reply was “the house (Ka’aba) has a god to protect it”.
To normal people, Abdul Muttalib was a selfish coward who cared about his camels more than about his tribe. However, The Muslims do not see it that way; in fact the cowardice and selfishness part of the story is completely outside their field of vision. On reading the story, the Muslims’ minds centre of attention is on Abdul Muttaleb’s reply to Abraha, which reflected a good faith in Allah. They are so impressed that the reply became well known words of wisdom in the Arabic language! Allah did not disappoint Abdul Muttalib as Abraha’s army was attacked by waves after waves of birds carrying in their peaks hot killer stones. Some claim the stones were sourced from hell. The army suffered of heavy losses and was forced to retreat and the Ka’aba, with all its collection of idols, was saved. Recently, a Saudi person claimed that he found one of those ‘sijeel’ stones, as the Quran described them, ready with two drawings on it, one for a bird and another for an elephant. Subhana Allah!
The story is nice except that none of the details can be verified. It looks as if Allah may have over reacted to Abraha’s threat because the army did not even reach Mecca. But to those who may plan to inflict any damage to the Ka’aba, the message was clear: “think again”. And that was the lesson to learn from the ‘al Feel’ incident – Allah is committed to the protection of his house. Consequently, the Muslims are confident that Allah would not allow his house to be harmed in anyway. They believe that Allah would react in anger and annihilate those who may plot something against the Ka’aba, America and Israel included. The fact that the Ka’aba is still standing safe is a living reminder that Allah will protect his house in the future as he always did in the past.
If Muslims read history with open minds, they may learn something else from ‘al Feel’ incident. They may notice that Allah sided by the Kuffar against the Christians, who were the people of the book. That fact defies the Islamic logic and principles. When the incident was over, it was the Kuffar who were jubilant because Allah saved their Asnam!
The story of ‘As-habul feel’(the people of the elephant) is mentioned in all Islamic tafseer and history books. It portrays Abraha as a devoted Christian whose mission was to destroy the icon of paganism- that massive collection of Asnam ( idols) housed inside that cube shaped building in Mecca. Actually, he was a kind of ‘Christian jihadist’ who intended to do precisely what Mohammed did after conquering Mecca. Why did Allah destroy Abraha, but sided by Mohammed when he did the same a few decades later? Was he a pagan god who converted to Islam?
There was nothing extraordinary in Allah’s intervention in ‘al Feel’ conflict; that particular god is known to interfere in human conflicts. The Muslims know that Allah often sides by them when they are at war. They also know that when he doesn’t (which is often the case) that it is because they have not been implementing Islam in a proper way. The Quran reported that Allah deployed three thousands of his angels to fight alongside the Muslim army in the battle of ‘Badr’ in 624 AD. The Muslim army won the battle decisively, thanks to the angels’ battalion.
The house was not protected
The Ka’aba is Allah’s house on earth, which he owned for thousands of years. It was designed and built by his friend, Ibrahim. We do not know how Allah protected that house before the year 570 AD, but we know that the property needed some kind of protection all the time because it was badly abused in various ways. If you don’t like snakes, just imagine how would you feel if somebody brings hundreds of them to your house. Allah hates ‘Asnam’ (idols) more than anything, it is his phobia, yet the pagans desecrated his own house by keeping in it hundreds of all kinds of Asnam! It cannot get more offending than that.
Did Allah do anything about it other than turning a blind eye? History is silent in that area but apparently no actions were taken.
Most Muslims believe that after what happened to ‘As-habul Feel’ nobody dared to attack the Ka’aba to avoid a similar fate. To those Muslims, I present the following collection of incidents. Obviously, Abraha was not the last person to destroy the Ka’aba, others were far more successful.
- The Umayyad Army at the time of Caliph. Yazid Ibn Moaweya destroyed the Ka’aba in the year 683 AD after bombarding it with catapult. The wood structure within the building caught fire as a result of the bombarding, and the building collapsed. As a result of fire, the black stone was broken into three pieces. The Umayyad army, ruled from Damascus, succeeded in capturing both cities of Mecca and Madina. The army did not encounter any arial attacks from birds and returned to Damascus safely.
- In 692/693 AD (74 Hijra) Al Hajaj ibn Yousef, with the approval of Caliph Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan, attacked Mecca and pounded the Ka’aba with catapult causing its destruction. Al Hajaj and his army returned to their bases safely and victorious without encountering any aerial attacks.
- In 930 AD, during Hajj time, Mecca was attacked by a radical group called the Qarmatians ( pronounced “Qaramitah” in Arabic. They were initially based in Bahrain). They killed a large number of the pilgrims and dumped them in the Zamzam Well, and looted the black stone. It took the Muslims 20 years to recover the stone, which was found in Eastern Arabia. That said, nobody actually can be sure if the recovered stone was the real one. The Qarmatians carried out mass murders on a massive scale against innocent pilgrims and destroyed the Ka’aba. They managed to return to their basis in Eastern Arabia safely and, again, without encountering any aerial attacks.
- Over the years, the Kaaba was also subjected to abuse by mother nature, through floods and fire, without any protection from Allah. The Ka’aba suffered badly of floods and caught fire before Mohammed claimed to be a prophet. It is claimed that Mohammed helped in positioning the black stone when the Quraish rebuilt the structure. Again, In 1039 the walls of Kaaba collapsed as a result of heavy rain and floods.