Sura 105 of the Quran  
The Elephant

Arabic text · English translation

Classification Meccan
Position Juzʼ 30
Number of verses 5
Number of words 23
Number of letters 96

Sūrat al-Fīl (Arabic: سورة الفيل, "The Elephant") is the 105th chapter (sura) of the Quran. It is a Meccan sura consisting of 5 verses. The surah is written in the interrogative form.

Asbab al-nuzul

Asbab al-nuzul (occasions or circumstances of revelation) is a secondary genre of Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir) directed at establishing the context in which specific verses of the Qur'an were revealed. Though of some use in reconstructing the Qur'an's historicity, asbab is by nature an exegetical rather than a historiographical genre, and as such usually associates the verses it explicates with general situations rather than specific events.Taking its name from the mention of the "Army of the Elephant"' in the first verse, this surah alludes to the Abyssinian campaign against Mecca in the year 570 of the Christian era. Abrahah, the Christian viceroy of the Yemen (which at that time was ruled by the Abyssinians), erected a great cathedral at Sana'a, hoping thus to divert the annual Arabian pilgrimage from the Meccan sanctuary, the Kabah, to the new church. When this hope remained unfulfilled, he determined to destroy the Kabah; and so he set out against Mecca at the head of a large army, which included a number of war elephants as well, and thus represented something hitherto unknown and utterly astounding to the Arabs: hence the designation of that year, by contemporaries as well as historians of later generations, as "the Year of the Elephant". Abrahah's army was totally destroyed on its march [1][2] - by an extremely huge flock of martin swallow birds (ababil) that dropped tiny stones onto them and turned them to ashes.[3] - and Abrahah himself died on his return to Sana.[4]

The Arabs describe the year in which this event took place as the Year of the Elephant, and in the same year Muhammad was born. The traditionists and historians almost unanimously state that the event of the people of the elephant had occurred in Muharram and the Holy Prophet was born in Rabi' al-awwal. A majority of them states that he took birth 50 days after the event of the elephant.[5]

Period of revelation

Surahs in the Qur'an are not arranged in the chronological order of revelation[6] because order of wahy or chronological order of revelation is not a part of Quran. Prophet Muhammad told his followers sahaba the placement in Quranic order of every Wahy revealed along with the original text of Quran.[7] Wm Theodore de Bary, an East Asian studies expert, describes that "The final process of collection and codification of the Quran text was guided by one over-arching principle: God's words must not in any way be distorted or sullied by human intervention. For this reason, no serious attempt, apparently, was made to edit the numerous revelations, organize them into thematic units, or present them in chronological order ...".[8][9] Surat Al-Qalam is a Meccan sura[10] and meccan suras are chronologically earlier suras that were revealed to Muhammad at Mecca before the hijrah to Medina in 622 CE. They are typically shorter, with relatively short ayat, and mostly come near the end of the Qur'an's 114 surahs. Most of the surahs containing muqatta'at are Meccan. Henceforth apart from traditions, this surah qualifies to be Meccan typically. Most of the mufassirun[11] say that this is unanimously[12] a Meccan sura; and if it is studied against its historical background it appears that it must have been sent down in the very earliest stage at Makkah.[13]

Principal Subject

The principal subject of the surah is a specific historic event. The year of Muhammad's birth is identified as 'the Year of the Elephant', when Mecca was attacked by Abraha accompanied by an elephant. Quranic exegetes interpreted that God saved the Meccans from this force by sending a swarm of birds that pelted the invaders with clay stones and destroyed them.[14][15] The army of Abraha destroyed for attacking the Kaabah[16] is a reminder and an example that Allah can save His house (Al-Ka'bah) by destroying an army of 60,000 with elephants, through a flock of birds.[17][18] The origin of the word sijjīl (i.e. Lava stone from Volcanic eruption) in verse 4 has the etymology proposed as Persian sang and gil ('stone' and 'clay'), or Aramaic sgyl ('smooth altar stone').[19] In the Quran 'sijjīl' occurs in two other verses: 11:82 and 15:74.

Theme of the surah

There are almost 7 divisions in the entire Qur'an according to Themes.[20][21] The final of these 7 sections starts from surah Al-Mulk [surah number 67] to surah Al-Nas [surah number 114].[22] This final part [last 7th of the Quran] focuses on; sources of Reflection, People, their final scenes they will face on Judgment Day and Hellfire and Paradise in general[23] and Admonition to the Quraysh about their fate in the Herein and the Hereafter if they deny the prophet Muhammad, specifically.[24] In this Surah, Allah's punishment which was inflicted on the people of the elephant is referred to and described very briefly because it was an event of recent occurrence, and everyone in Makkah and Arabia was fully aware of it. That's why the Arabs believed that the Ka'bah was protected in this invasion, not by any god or goddess, but by Allah Almighty Himself. Then Allah alone was invoked by the Qureysh chiefs for help, and for quite a few years the people of Qureysh, having been impressed by this event, had worshiped none but Allah. Therefore, there was no need to mention the details in Surah Al-Feel, but only a reference to it was enough.[25] Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (b. 1951), a well-known Pakistani Muslim theologian, Quran scholar and exegete, and educationist, explains the theme of Surah al-Fil is to inform the Quraysh that the God – Who routed His enemies in this manner before them – will also not spare them now that they too have shown enmity to Him. They will also be devastated in a similar manner.[26]

Coherence with adjacent surahs

The idea of textual relation between the verses of a chapter has been discussed under various titles such as nazm and munasabah in non-English literature and coherence, text relations, intertextuality, and unity in English literature. Hamiduddin Farahi, an Islamic scholar of the Indian subcontinent, is known for his work on the concept of nazm, or coherence, in the Quran. Fakhruddin al-Razi (died 1209 CE), Zarkashi (died 1392) and several other classical as well as contemporary Quranic scholars have contributed to the studies.[27][28][29]

Connection with previous surah

This Surah Al-Fil and the next one Quraysh both form a pair with regard to their subject-matter according to almost all of Quranic Scholars.[30][31][32] In surahs Al-Qaria (No. 101) to Al-Humaza (No. 104), it is pointed to the Quraysh that they have remained so possessed with the love of wealth and children that they have grossly failed to fulfill the rights of Allah as well as their own fellow beings. In spite of this, they still claim to be the heirs of Abraham and Ishmael and the custodians of the Baytullah built by them.[33]

Connection with next surah

The first surah in the current pair(105 & 106) warns the Quraysh, with reference to the Incident of the Elephant, to fear God, while the second surah urges them to keep in mind the favours they enjoy, because of the Baytullah and consequently to give up rebelliousness against God and worship Him only. In this particular surah and its dual counterpart, Surah Quraysh which succeeds it, they are cautioned that they have been blessed with peace and sustenance, not because of their own efforts or because they were entitled to them, but because of the Prophet Abraham's invocation and the blessings of the House which he built. Therefore, instead of showing vanity, it is their obligation to worship the Lord of this House, who fed them in hunger and secured them against every kind of danger.[34] In this surah 105, the Quraysh are reminded of a significant event of their history: the Almighty had helped them decidedly in combating the forces ofAbrahah, who attacked the Baytullah with a sixty thousand strong army to demolish it. It was not easy for the Quraysh to face such a big army in the open, whose vanguard consisted of elephants. They had therefore sought refuge in the nearby mountains and had defended the holy land by hurling stones at the advancing enemy. This defense was indeed very frail and feeble, but the Almighty transformed it into a powerful outburst which totally destroyed the enemy, and their dead bodies were feasted upon by kites, vultures and crows.

Hadith about surah Al-Fil

Tafsir is the Arabic word for exegesis, usually of the Qur'an. A Quranic tafsir will often explain content and provide places and times, not contained in Quranic verses, as well as give the different views and opinions of scholars on the verse. The first and foremost exegesis/tafsir of the Qur'an is found in hadith of Prophet Muhammad.[35] Although scholars including ibn Taymiyyah claim that Muhammad has commented on the whole of the Qur'an, others including Ghazali cite the limited amount of narratives, thus indicating that he has commented only on a portion of the Qur'an.[36] Ḥadīth (حديث) is literally "speech"; recorded saying or tradition of Muhammad validated by isnad; with Sirah Rasul Allah these comprise the sunnah and reveal shariah. According to the Prophet's wife Aishah,[37][38] the life of Prophet Muhammad was practical implementation of Qur'an.[39][40][41] Therefore, higher count of hadith elevates the importance of the surah from a certain perspective. This surah holds special esteem in hadith, due to historical context which can be observed by the related narratives.


  1. Ibn Hisham
  2. Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi I/1, 55 f
  3. The Message of The Qur'an The Hundred-Fifth Surah Al-Fil (The Elephant) Note#2
  4. Muhammad AsadThe Message of The Qur'an 1980
  5. "105. Surah Al Fil (The Elephant) - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an".
  6. Robinson, Neal (2003). Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text (PDF). Georgetown University Press. pp. 25–97. ISBN 1-58901-024-8.
  7. Israr Ahmed – Bayan-ul-Quran – Introduction
  8. Approaches to the Asian Classics, Irene Bloom, Wm Theodore de Bary, Columbia University Press, 1990, p. 65 ISBN 0-231-07005-5, 9780231070058
  9. Eastern Canons.
  10. Quran Verses in Chronological Order
  11. 1 2 Abul A'la Maududi-Tafhim-ul-Quran
  12. 1 2 Tafsir Ibn Kathir
  13. Chronological Order of Quranic Surahs, by Kevin P. Edgecomb.
  14. Leaman, ed. by Oliver (2008). The Qur'an : an encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1.
  15. Mir, Mustansir (2005). "Elephants, Birds of Prey, and Heaps of Pebbles: Farāhī's Interpretation of Sūrat al-Fīl". Journal of Qur'anic Studies. 7 (1): 33–47. doi:10.3366/jqs.2005.7.1.33.
  16. George Sale
  17. Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik (translator), Al-Qur'an, the Guidance for Mankind - English with Arabic Text (Hardcover) ISBN 0-911119-80-9
  18. Muhammad Asad, Al-Qur'an translation, The Message of the Qur'an, First Hardback, 1980, Dar Al-Andalus, Gibraltar, ISBN 1-904510-00-0
  19. Rippin, Andrew (editor) (2007). The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 137–138. ISBN 1-4051-7844-2
  20. Abdul Nasir Jangda - Tafsir lectures - Bayyinah Institute, 2300 Valley View ln. Suite 500 Irving, TX 75062
  21. Tadabbur-i-Quran#Contents
  24. Esposito, John, ed. (2003), "Islahi, Amin Ahsan", The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-512558-4
  27. El-Awa, Salwa (2005). Textual Relations in Qur'an: Relevance, Coherence and Structure. Routledge. ISBN 1-134-22747-7.
  28. Mir, Mustansir (1986). Coherence in the Qur'an : a study of Islahi's concept of nazm in Tadabbur-i Qur'an. American Trust Publications. ISBN 0-89259-065-3.
  29. Hamiduddin Farahi, translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi (2008). Exordium to coherence in the Quran : an English translation of Fātiḥah Niẓām al-Qurʼān (1st ed.). Lahore: al-Mawrid. ISBN 969-8799-57-5.
  30. Dr.Israr Ahmed
  31. Muhammad Asad
  32. Nouman Ali Khan
  33. "Articles - Al-Mawrid".
  34. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
  35. Şatibi, El-muvafakat
  36. Muhsin Demirci, Tefsir Usulü, 120
  37. Reference  : Sunan Abi Dawud 1342 In-book reference  : Book 5, Hadith 93 English translation  : Book 5, Hadith 1337
  38. Al-Adab Al-Mufrad » Dealings with people and good character - كتاب English reference  : Book 14, Hadith 308 Arabic reference  : Book 1, Hadith 308
  39. Sahih Al- Jami' AI-Saghir, No.4811
  40. Sunan Ibn Majah 2333 In-book reference  : Book 13, Hadith 26 English translation  : Vol. 3, Book 13, Hadith 2333
  41. Grade : Sahih (Darussalam) Reference  : Sunan an-Nasa'i 1601 In-book reference  : Book 20, Hadith 4 English translation  : Vol. 2, Book 20, Hadith 1602
  42. Jami' at-Tirmidhi - Chapters on Virtues - Grade : Sahih (Darussalam) English reference  : Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3619 Arabic reference  : Book 49, Hadith 3979
  43. Sahih Bukhari 2731, 2732 In-book reference: Book 54, Hadith 19 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 3, Book 50, Hadith 891 (deprecated numbering scheme)
  44. Sunan Abu Dawood 2765 In-book reference: Book 15, Hadith 289 English translation: Book 14, Hadith 2759
  45. Sahih Muslim 1355 a In-book reference: Book 15, Hadith 509 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 7, Hadith 3142 (deprecated numbering scheme) Report Error | Share
  46. Sahih Bukhari 112 In-book reference: Book 3, Hadith 54 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 1, Book 3, Hadith 112 (deprecated numbering scheme)
  47. Bulugh al-Maram 739 In-book reference: Book 6, Hadith 32 English translation: Book 6, Hadith 758
  48. Sunan Abu Dawood 2017 In-book reference: Book 11, Hadith 297 English translation: Book 10, Hadith 2012

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