The Arabs before Islam had a calendar and were able to count the months and days, but they did not number their years; instead, they would give each year a name based on some special event which happened during that year. The year that the Prophet Muhammad saw was born was known as the 'Year of the Elephant' because of the story which follows.
An Abyssinian Christian general named Abraha was ruling Yemen at that time. He was irritated by the fact that so many pilgrims went to visit Makkah every year, taking all their business and trade there. He decided to build a big church in San'a, believing that people would come to visit it instead, and then Yemen would increase in wealth and importance. However, after he had invested a lot of time, money and effort into making a huge cathedral, the pilgrims continued to visit Makkah. He then decided to destroy the Ka'bah and marched on Makkah with an army of some 60,000 men and several elephants, which had never been seen in Makkah before.
The army was too great for the inhabitants of Makkah to resist. The only thing they could do was to try to save themselves by hiding in the mountains and caves around Makkah, leaving the city and the Ka'bah unprotected. The leader of the Quraysh at that time was Abdul Muttalib, the Prophet's own grandfather. When the army advanced near Makkah they captured many animals belonging to the Quraysh including 200 of Abdul Mutallib's camels, for which he went to meet with Abraha to ask that they be returned to him. Abraha was surprised that he came to ask for his camels but said nothing about the great Ka'bah, but Abdul Muttalib answered: "I am the owner of my camels and I ask you to return them. The House has its own owner, and He will defend it." The rest of the Quraysh joined with Abdul Muttalib in praying to Allah, Lord of the Ka'bah, to save His House.
The first miracle which happened was that the head elephant refused to fight in the war. Then Allah destroyed the army with a flock of birds whih attacked them with stones of clay which made them bleed heavily; their wounds became infected with pus, and they died in a very short time. The Ka'bah and Makkah were left unharmed.
Why was Allah reminding the Quraysh of this story?
The coming of the army with the elephants was a recent event in history of Makkans; there were many men alive at the time of this revelation who still remembered the year of the Elephant- who had run into hills to escape, had gazed in wonder at the elephants, and had seen the dead bodies of the soldiers of Abraha lying in the outskirts of Makkah. The Makkans had been sensible enough at that time to pray only to Allah for His protection, and some had even gone back to the worship of only One God for a number of years afterwards.
Why, then, should they reject the miracle and message of the Quran now - only 40 years later? How dare they oppose His Messenger (PBUH) and risk arousing the anger of the Lord of the Worlds, Who had so easily destroyed Abraha and his army?
Surah al-Fil (105: The Elephant)
In the name of Allah, the Kindest and Most Merciful One..
1. Have you not seen how your Lord handled the people of the elephant?
2. Did He not make their plans go all wrong?
3. - and send against them flocks of birds
4. hurling against them stones of baked clay,
5. and made them become like dry grass, eaten up?
ii)http://www.quranexplorer.com/quran/ , go to Surah al-Fil
Video recitation by Mishary Rashid al-Afasy at --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd77ZsUiEy0