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

۝[1] HAST thou not seen how thy LORD dealt with the masters of the elephant?
۝ Did he not make their treacherous design an occasion of drawing them into error;
۝ and send against them flocks of birds,
۝ which casts down upon them stones of baked clay;
۝ and render them like the leaves of corn eaten by cattle?[2]
Sura 105 of the Quran
The Elephant
PositionJuzʼ 30
No. of verses5
No. of words23
No. of letters96


Text and meaning

Text and transliteration

بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ۝
Bismi l-lāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm(i)
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَٰبِ ٱلْفِيلِ ۝١
¹ ’alam tara kayfa fa‘ala rab-buka bi’aṣḥābi l-fīl(i)
أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِى تَضْلِيلٍ ۝٢
² ’alam yaj’al kaydahum fī taḍlīl(in)
وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ ۝٣
³ Wa’arsala ‘alayhim ṭayran ’ababīl(a)
تَرْمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ ۝٤
Tarmīhim biḥijārati m-min sij-jīl(in)
فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَّأْكُولٍۭ ۝٥
Faja‘alahum ka‘aṣfi m-ma’kūl(in)

بِسۡمِ اِ۬للَّهِ اِ۬لرَّحۡمَٰنِ اِ۬لرَّحِيمِ ۝
Bismi l-lāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm(i)
أَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصۡحَٰبِ اِ۬لۡفِيلِ ۝١
¹ ’alam tara kayfa fa‘ala rab-buka bi’aṣḥābi l-fīl(i)
أَلَمۡ يَجۡعَلۡ كَيۡدَهُمۡ فِے تَضۡلِيلٍ ۝٢
² ’alam yaj’al kaydahum fī taḍlīl(in)
وَأَرۡسَلَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ طَيۡرًا اَبَابِيلَ ۝٣
³ Wa’arsala ‘alayhim ṭayran ababīl(a)
تَرۡمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ ۝٤
Tarmīhim biḥijārati m-min sij-jīl(in)
فَجَعَلَهُمۡ كَعَصۡفٍ مَّاكُولٍۭ ۝٥
Faja‘alahum ka‘aṣfi m-mākūl(in)


1 Have you (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant? [The elephant army which came from Yemen under the command of Abrahah Al-Ashram intending to destroy the Kaaba at Mecca].
2 Did He not make their plot go astray?
3 And sent against them birds, in flocks,
4 Striking them with stones of Sijjil.
5 And made them like an empty field of stalks (of which the corn has been eaten up by cattle).

Translation:Noble Quran,[4] 1999

1 Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant?
2 Did He not make their plan into misguidance?
3 And He sent against them birds in flocks,
4 Striking them with stones of hard clay,
5 And He made them like eaten straw.

Translation:Saheeh International,[5] 1997

1 Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant?
2 Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray?
3 And He sent against them Flights of Birds,
4 Striking them with stones of baked clay.
5 Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw, (of which the corn) has been eaten up.

Translation:Yusuf Ali,[6] 1934

1 Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant?
2 Did He not bring their stratagem to naught,
3 And send against them swarms of flying creatures,
4 Which pelted them with stones of baked clay,
5 And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)?

Translation:Pickthall,[7] 1930

Asbab al-nuzul

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 possibly in the year 552 CE. 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 was determined to destroy the Kabah; and so he set out against Mecca at the head of a large army, which included several 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 destroyed on its march [8][9] - by an extremely huge flock of martin swallow birds (ababil) that dropped tiny stones onto them and turned them to ashes.[10] - and Abrahah himself died on his return to Sana.[11]

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 Muhammad was born in Rabi' al-awwal. A majority of them states that he took birth 50 days after the event of the elephant.[12]

Period of revelation

Surahs in the Qur'an are not arranged in the chronological order of revelation[13] because order of wahy or chronological order of revelation is not a part of Quran. Muhammad told his followers sahaba the placement in Quranic order of every Wahy revealed along with the original text of Quran.[14] 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 ...".[15][16] Surat Al-Fil? is a Meccan sura[17] 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[18] say that this is unanimously[19] 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.[20]

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.[21][22] The army of Abraha destroyed for attacking the Kaabah[23] 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.[24][25] 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').[26] 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.[27][28] The final of these 7 sections starts from surah Al-Mulk [surah number 67] to surah Al-Nas [surah number 114].[29] 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[30] and Admonition to the Quraysh about their fate in the Herein and the Hereafter if they deny Muhammad, specifically.[31] In this Surah, God'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 is why the Arabs believed that the Ka'bah was protected in this invasion, not by any god or goddess, but by God Almighty Himself. Then God alone was invoked by the Quraysh chiefs for help, and for quite a few years the people of Quraysh, having been impressed by this event, had worshiped none but God. Therefore, there was no need to mention the details in Surah Al-Feel, but only a reference to it was enough.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34][35][36]

Connection with previous surahs

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 God as well as their fellow beings. Despite this, they still claim to be the heirs of Abraham and Ishmael and the custodians of the Baytullah (House of God) built by them.[37]

Connection with next surah

This Surah Al-Fil and the next one, Quraysh, form a pair about their subject-matter according to almost all of Quranic Scholars.[38][39][40] The first surah in the current pair(105 & 106) warns the Quraysh, about the Incident of the Elephant, to fear God, while the second surah urges them to keep in mind the favors 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 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.[41]

A hadith about Surah Al-Fil

Tafsir is the Arabic word for exegesis, usually of the Qur'an. A Quranic tafsir will often explain the 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 Muhammad.[42] 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.[43] 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 Muhammad's wife Aishah,[44][45] the life of Muhammad was practical implementation of Qur'an.[46][47][48] Therefore, a 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.

  • Narrated Al-Muttalib bin 'Abdullah bin Qais bin Makhramah: from his father, from his grandfather, that he said: "I and the Messenger of God, were born in the Year of the Elephant" - he said: "And Uthman ibn Affan asked Qubath bin Ashyam, the brother of Banu Ya'mar bin Laith - 'Are you greater (in age) or the Messenger of God?'" He said: "The Messenger of God is greater than me, but I have an earlier birthday." He said: "And I saw the defecation of the elephant turning green."[49]
  • The event took place at Muhassir by the Muhassab valley,[19] between Muzdalifah and Mina. According to the Sahih Muslim and Abu Dawood, in the description of Muhammad's The Farewell Pilgrimage that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq has related from his father, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir, and he from Jabir ibn Abd-Allah, he says that when Muhammed proceeded from Muzdalifah to Mina, he increased his speed in the valley of Muhassir. Imam Al-Nawawi has explained it saying that the incident of the people of the elephant had occurred there; therefore, the pilgrims have been enjoined to pass by quickly, for Muhassir is a tormented place. Imam Malik in Mu'atta has related that Muhammad said that "the whole of Muzdalifah is a fit place for staying but one should not stay in the valley of Muhassir".[18]
  • Narrated by Miswar bin Makhrama and Marwan I (whose narrations attest each other)[50] that: God's Messenger set out at the time of Treaty of Hudaybiyyah ... (at a place) The she-camel of the Prophet (ﷺ) sat down. The people tried their best to cause the she-camel to get up but in vain, so they said, "Al-Qaswa' (i.e. the she-camel's name) has become stubborn! Al-Qaswa' has become stubborn!" The Prophet said, "Al-Qaswa' has not become stubborn, for stubbornness is not her habit, but she was stopped by Him Who stopped the elephant." Then he said, "By the Name of Him in Whose Hands my soul is, if they (i.e. the Quraish infidels) ask me anything which will respect the ordinances of God, I will grant it to them." The Prophet then rebuked the she-camel and she got up. ...[51]
  • Narrated Abu Hureyrah that: "When God, the Exalted and Majestic, granted God's Messenger victory over Mecca (Conquest of Mecca), he stood before people and praised and extolled God and then said:[52] Verily God held back the elephants from Mecca and gave the domination of it to His Messenger and believers, and it (this territory) was not violable to anyone before me and it was made violable to me for an hour of a day, and it shall not be violable to anyone after me. So neither molest the game nor weed out thorns from it. And it is not lawful for anyone to pick up a thing dropped but one who makes a public announcement of it. And it a relative of anyone is killed he is entitled to opt for one of two things. Either he should be paid blood-money or he can take life as (a just retribution). ...[53][54][55]

See also


  1. Arabic script in Unicode symbol for a Quran verse, U+06DD, page 3, Proposal for additional Unicode characters
  2. "Surah Al-Feel Verse 1 | 105:1 الفيل - Quran O". Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  3. Wherry, Elwood Morris (1896). A Complete Index to Sale's Text, Preliminary Discourse, and Notes. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ", al-Fil (105), Muhsin Khan".
  5. ", al-Fil (105), Sahih International".
  6. ", al-Fil (105), Yusuf Ali".
  7. ", al-Fil (105), Pikhtall".
  8. Ibn Hisham
  9. Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi I/1, 55 f
  10. The Message of The Qur'an The Hundred-Fifth Surah Al-Fil (The Elephant) Note#2
  11. Muhammad AsadThe Message of The Qur'an 1980
  12. "105. Surah Al-Fil (The Elephant) - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an".
  13. Robinson, Neal (2003). Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text (PDF). Georgetown University Press. pp. 25–97. ISBN 978-1-58901-024-6.
  14. Israr Ahmed – Bayan-ul-Quran – Introduction
  15. Approaches to the Asian Classics, Irene Bloom, Wm Theodore de Bary, Columbia University Press, 1990, p. 65 ISBN 0-231-07005-5, 9780231070058
  16. Bary, William Theodore De; Bloom, Irene (1990). Eastern Canons. ISBN 9780231070058.
  17. Quran Verses in Chronological Order
  18. Abul A'la Maududi-Tafhim-ul-Quran
  19. Tafsir Ibn Kathir
  20. Chronological Order of Quranic Surahs Archived 2018-01-13 at the Wayback Machine, by Kevin P. Edgecomb.
  21. Leaman, Oliver, ed. (2008). The Qur'an : an encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-415-32639-1.
  22. 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. JSTOR 25728163.
  23. George Sale
  24. Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik (translator), Al-Qur'an, the Guidance for Mankind - English with Arabic Text (Hardcover) ISBN 0-911119-80-9
  25. Muhammad Asad, Al-Qur'an translation, The Message of the Qur'an, First Hardback, 1980, Dar Al-Andalus, Gibraltar, ISBN 1-904510-00-0
  26. Rippin, Andrew (editor) (2007). The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 137–138. ISBN 1-4051-7844-2
  27. Abdul Nasir Jangda - Tafsir lectures - Bayyinah Institute, 2300 Valley View ln. Suite 500 Irving, TX 75062
  28. Tadabbur-i-Quran#Contents
  29. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2015-12-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. "".
  31. Esposito, John, ed. (2003), "Islahi, Amin Ahsan", The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-512558-0
  32. "Surah 105. Al-Fil | Alim-Islamic Software for Quran and Hadith | Alim".
  33. "Monthly Renaissance - Content".
  34. El-Awa, Salwa (2005). Textual Relations in Qur'an: Relevance, Coherence and Structure. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-22747-1.
  35. 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 978-0-89259-065-0.
  36. 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 978-969-8799-57-1.
  37. "Articles - Al-Mawrid".
  38. Dr.Israr Ahmed
  39. Muhammad Asad
  40. Nouman Ali Khan
  41. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
  42. Şatibi, El-muvafakat
  43. Muhsin Demirci, Tefsir Usulü, 120
  44. Reference  : Sunan Abi Dawud 1342 In-book reference  : Book 5, Hadith 93 English translation  : Book 5, Hadith 1337
  45. Al-Adab Al-Mufrad » Dealings with people and good character - كتاب English reference  : Book 14, Hadith 308 Arabic reference  : Book 1, Hadith 308
  46. Sahih Al- Jami' AI-Saghir, No.4811
  47. Sunan Ibn Majah 2333 In-book reference  : Book 13, Hadith 26 English translation  : Vol. 3, Book 13, Hadith 2333
  48. Grade : Sahih (Darussalam) Reference  : Sunan an-Nasa'i 1601 In-book reference  : Book 20, Hadith 4 English translation  : Vol. 2, Book 20, Hadith 1602
  49. Jami' at-Tirmidhi - Chapters on Virtues - Grade : Sahih (Darussalam) English reference  : Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3619 Arabic reference  : Book 49, Hadith 3979
  50. 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)
  51. Sunan Abu Dawood 2765 In-book reference: Book 15, Hadith 289 English translation: Book 14, Hadith 2759
  52. 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
  53. Sahih Bukhari 112 In-book reference: Book 3, Hadith 54 USC-MSA web (English) reference: Vol. 1, Book 3, Hadith 112 (deprecated numbering scheme)
  54. Bulugh al-Maram 739 In-book reference: Book 6, Hadith 32 English translation: Book 6, Hadith 758
  55. Sunan Abu Dawood 2017 In-book reference: Book 11, Hadith 297 English translation: Book 10, Hadith 2012
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