Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Quranic Surat Alfeel: A Myth

Did you know that the Quranic Chapter of "The Elephant" or Sura Al-Fil, a Meccan Sura, is no more than a myth? It is a small Sura, composed of only five short verses. Here they are (Asad Translation):

105:1 ART THOU NOT aware of how thy Sustainer dealt with the Army of the elephant?

105:2 Did He not utterly confound their artful planning?

105:3 Thus, He let loose upon them great swarms of flying creatures

105:4 which smote them with stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained,

105:5 and caused them to become like a field of grain that has been eaten down to stubble

In University of Michigan website, the language is a bit simpler [Link]:

105.1] Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with the possessors of the elephant?

[105.2] Did He not cause their war to end in confusion,

[105.3] And send down (to prey) upon them birds in flocks,

[105.4] Casting against them stones of baked clay,

[105.5] So He rendered them like straw eaten up?

Here is Ibn Kathir's commentary on the Sura:

1. Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant) (2. Did He not make their plot go astray) (3. And He sent against them birds, in flocks (Ababil).) (4. Striking them with stones of Sijjil.) (5. And He made them like `Asf, Ma'kul.)

This is one of the favors Allah did for the Quraysh. He saved them from the People of the Elephant who had tried to tear down the Ka`bah and wipe out all traces of its existence. Allah destroyed them, defeated them, thwarted their plans, made their efforts in vain and sent them back routed. They were people who were Christians, and thus, their religion was closer to the True Religion (Islam) than the idolatry of the Quraysh. However, this was a means of giving a sign and preparing the way for the coming of the Messenger of Allah. For verily, he was born during that same year according to the most popular opinion. So the tongue of destiny was saying, "We will not help you, O people of Quraysh, because of any status you may have over the Ethiopians (Abyssinians). We are only helping you in order to defend the Ancient House (the Ka`bah), which We will honor, magnify, and venerate by sending the unlettered Prophet, Muhammad , the Finality of all Prophets.''

The Problem

There is only one problem. Elephants in Africa, including Ethiopia, were never domesticated and used by humans. By “Never”, I mean throughout history. I came to know this fact through talking with three Ethiopian university professors. True, elephants were and still are domesticated and used for labor in Southeast Asia, but never in Africa. Hence, Sura Alfeel is a myth. Its events never happened. Muhammad probably just used an old Arab folk-tale. The Ka’ba was sacred to a multiplicity of Arab tribes, and so it is very probable to have a story like that as a folk-story told by the old to the young. Humans have such stories of places they consider holy in many parts of the world. Most of those stories are probably myths or a mixture of myth and reality.

 

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Ibn Kamuna also contributes to FFI. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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Name: mhw
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 00:56:57 -0500

Comment

This may be a 'borrowed' story from Jewish legend. In the Maccabees (chapt 6 of I Mac) battle with the Syrian Greeks, the latter used elephants.


Name: all domesticated elephants r asian
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 02:43:10 -0500

Comment

all domesticated elephants r asian,since its written they were african or asian we can assume they were asian.so what creature / bird flew and threw stones ? no one knows,surely this is fake miracle of jehova/allah. if muhamed can visit 30 women in 1 nite surely elephats can survive harsh desert weather too. lol lol lol....there is no pig-dog but allah and muhamed is his poopoopimp.


Name: Shafee al-Zindig
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 02:50:05 -0500

Comment

You are so right Ibn Kammuna! This surah doesn't make sense and is full of childish fairy tales. So allah favours the pagan Arabs over the Christian Ethiopians. Very funny this, seeing that the so-called oppressed Muslims from Mecca later went to Christian Ethiopia to seek refuge from the pagan Arabs. And birds dropping stones on allah's enemies - this is too funny. I know birds drop bones on rocks to get at the sweet marrow, but this is just too weird.


Name: Anon
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 05:30:12 -0500

Comment

Mr Kammuna this surah is about a man named Abraha who was a ruler of Yemen who set out to destroy the Kaaba and divert pilgrims to a cathedral in Sana. Yemen is not Africa! Get your facts right!


Name: Gerd Mahler
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 05:36:55 -0500

Comment

Try [email protected] and you will find LOTS of mistaken facts in the Quran. It is well known that African elephanta have never been domidticated - though the Quran does not specify they were African. The birds with the stones are about as credible as Solomon's listening to the ants' coherent speach another place in the Quran (ants neither have the brain nor the organs to make real conversation). www.1000mistakes.com


Name: The problem ...
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 06:20:06 -0500

Comment

... is that African Elefants WERE in use by Hannibal during Punic War II. Here is the beef: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Forest_Elephant ------ However, of course I agree that birds never cast projectiles against war enemies and that the surah from the quran is way wrong.


Name: IK >>The Problem and to Anon
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 07:21:41 -0500

Comment

To THE PROBLEM:Thanks for your note. You may have a point here, just a slight probability.Please note that Wikipedia is speculating about those Elephants. But even so they are northern Elephants, not from Ethiopia, where the above elephants came from. One of those Elephants was very large. Hanniba'l's were probably a smaller species.I am only conveying the message that Ethiopians never domesticated elephants, as the above surat claims. So, while my claim about all elephants in Africa, present and distinct may have been wrong if Hanniba'ls came from there and were not local to the middle east of the time or came from another part of the world), Ethiopians never used elephants in war is still a valid claim-(From Wikipedia)The North African Elephant - the war elephants of Hannibal - was possibly a now-extinct fourth species or a subspecies of the African Forest Elephant (Loxodonta (cyclotis) pharaoensis[citation needed]) though it is more often allied with the African Bush Elephant; in any case, this population disappeared around the 1st or 2nd century CE. The disputed Pygmy Elephants of the Congo basin, often assumed to be a separate species (Loxodonta pumilio) by cryptozoologists, are probably Forest Elephants whose diminutive size and/or early maturity is due to environmental conditions (Debruyne et al. 2003).So, brother, I give your notes a slight probability of being the case, To:Dear Anon, please read the whole story in Ibn Kathir, you'll see that those Elephants (and Yemeni leaders) have originated in Ethiopia.Thanks for your note.


Name: qwer to Ibn Kammuna
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 10:40:05 -0500

Comment

Are there exist two version or interpretation of Q:105? 1) Ethiopians (Abyssinians). 2) Abrahah the Yemen ruler?


Name: to QWER from IK
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 11:24:21 -0500

Comment

Hello brother/Sister. The elephant(s) clearly came from Ethiopia. Here is the full story from Ibn Kathir Tafsir: A Summary of the Story of the People of the Elephant This is the story of the people of the Elephant, in brief, and summarized. It has already been mentioned in the story of the People of the Ditch that Dhu Nuas, the last king of Himyar, a polytheist -- was the one who ordered killing the People of the Ditch. They were Christians and their number was approximately twenty thousand. None of them except a man named Daws Dhu Tha`laban escaped. He fled to Ash-Sham where he sought protection from Caesar, the emperor of Ash-Sham, who was also a Christian. Caesar wrote to An-Najashi, the king of Ethiopia (Abyssinia), who was closer to the home of the man. An-Najashi sent two governors with him: Aryat and Abrahah bin As-Sabah Abu Yaksum, along with a great army. The army entered Yemen and began searching the houses and looting in search of the king of Himyar (Dhu Nuwas). Dhu Nuwas was eventually killed by drowning in the sea. Thus, the Ethiopians were free to rule Yemen, with Aryat and Abrahah as its governors. However, they continually disagreed about matters, attacked each other, fought each other and warred against each other, until one of them said to the other, "There is no need for our two armies to fight. Instead let us fight each other (in a duel) and the one who kills the other will be the ruler of Yemen.'' So the other accepted the challenge and they held a duel. Behind each man was a channel of water (to keep either from fleeing). Aryat gained the upper hand and struck Abrahah with his sword, splitting his nose and mouth, and slashing his face. But `Atawdah, Abrahah's guard, attacked Aryat and killed him. Thus, Abrahah returned wounded to Yemen where he was treated for his injuries and recovered. He thus became the commander of the Abyssinian army in Yemen. Then the king of Abyssinia, An-Najashi wrote to him, blaming him for what had happened (between him and Aryat) and threatened him, saying that he swore to tread on the soil of Yemen and cut off his forelock. Therefore, Abrahah sent a messenger with gifts and precious objects to An-Najashi to appease him and flatter him, and a sack containing soil from Yemen and a piece of hair cut from his forelock. He said in his letter to the king, "Let the king walk upon this soil and thus fulfill his oath, and this is my forelock hair that I send to you.'' When An-Najashi received this, he was pleased with Abrahah and gave him his approval. Then Abrahah wrote to An-Najashi saying that he would build a church for him in Yemen the like of which had never been built before. Thus, he began to build a huge church in San`a', tall and beautifully crafted and decorated on all sides. The Arabs called it Al-Qullays because of its great height, and because if one looked at it, his cap would be in danger of falling off as he tilted his head back. Then Abrahah Al-Ashram decided to force the Arabs to make their pilgrimage to this magnificent church, just as they had performed pilgrimage to the Ka`bah in Makkah. He announced this in his kingdom (Yemen), but it was rejected by the Arab tribes of `Adnan and Qahtan. The Quraysh were infuriated by it, so much so that one of them journeyed to the church and entered it one night. He then relieved himself in the church and ran away (escaping the people). When its custodians saw what he had done, they reported it to their king, Abrahah, saying; "One of the Quraysh has done this in anger over their House in whose place you have appointed this church.'' Upon hearing this, Abrahah swore to march to the House of Makkah (the Ka`bah) and destroy it stone by stone. Muqatil bin Sulayman mentioned that a group of young men from the Quraysh entered the church and started a fire in it on an extremely windy day. So the church caught on fire and collapsed to the ground. Due to this Abrahah prepared himself and set out with a huge and powerful army so that none might prevent him from carrying out his mission. He took along a great, powerful elephant that had a huge body the like of which had never been seen before. This elephant was called Mahmud and it was sent to Abrahah from An-Najashi, the king of Abyssinia, particularly for this expedition. It has also been said that he had eight other elephants with him; their number was also reported to be twelve, plus the large one, Mahmud -- and Allah knows best. Their intention was to use this big elephant to demolish the Ka`bah. They planned to do this by fastening chains to the pillars of the Ka`bah and placing the other ends around the neck of the elephant. Then they would make the elephant pull on them in order to tear down the walls of the Ka`bah all at one time. When the Arabs heard of Abrahah's expedition, they considered it an extremely grave matter. They held it to be an obligation upon them to defend the Sacred House and repel whoever intended a plot against it. Thus, the noblest man of the people of Yemen and the greatest of their chiefs set out to face him (Abrahah). His name was Dhu Nafr. He called his people, and whoever would respond to his call among the Arabs, to go to war against Abrahah and fight in defense of the Sacred House. He called the people to stop Abrahah's plan to demolish and tear down the Ka`bah. So the people responded to him and they entered into battle with Abrahah, but he defeated them. This was due to Allah's will and His intent to honor and venerate the Ka`bah.


Name: The Problem ... (II)
Date: Friday January 02, 2009
Time: 16:38:49 -0500

Comment

... is that it was perhaps not impossible but very, very unlikely. Elefants need much fresh water and they are not pepared to live in an environment like the arabian desert.


Name: NADEEMASLAM36
Date: Saturday January 03, 2009
Time: 06:59:05 -0500

Comment

dear ma khan i can explain this sorah its very simple no myth at all yes but for HATRED PEOPLE ITS MYTH like ur myth for me MA KHAN


Name:
Date: Saturday January 03, 2009
Time: 16:21:54 -0500

Comment

Mr. Nadeem, you don't even make sense in what you write. Would you try to clarify what you said please. As it is, I can't make any sense of your writing.


Name: mhw
Date: Saturday January 03, 2009
Time: 19:26:22 -0500

Comment

There is a good book on the history of elephants in warfare: War Elephants By John M. Kistler, Richard Lair Contributor Richard Lair Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 ISBN 0275987612, 9780275987619 While it is possible that Elephants were sent to Yeman from Ethiopia controlled territory, the problem with the Ibn Kathir Tafsir is that Elephants need lots and lots of water as "Mr The Problem" points out. It is a long way from Yeman to Mecca and the amount of water in wells, cisterns and oasis pools isn't enough to support much of an army. Thus, it would take something of a miracle for the elephants to make it to Mecca. Of course, miracles are big in Islam, but in this case, Allah would be doing a miracle for infidels who were trying to destroy one of his holy places. 333 pages


Name: NADEEMASLAM36
Date: Sunday January 04, 2009
Time: 00:28:32 -0500

Comment

MA KHANTALK WITH ME ON CONFERENCE CHAT ROOM I CHALLENGE YOU


Name: Jan Aage Rasmussen
Date: Sunday January 04, 2009
Time: 06:20:13 -0500

Comment

Actually there is not a problem: Hannibal 247 - 183 A.C. brought elephants from Carthago in North Africa to Italy in The Second Punic War. These elephants must have been african elephants.


Name: NADEEMASLAM36
Date: Sunday January 04, 2009
Time: 22:25:32 -0500

Comment

ALLAH CREATER OF HEAVEN N EARTH CAN DO ANYTHING U PPL R WITH VERY LOW PROFILE HARD FOR U TO UNDERSTAND BECAUSE HUMAN CANNOT SEE BEYOND THE WALL


Name: NADEEMASLAM36
Date: Monday January 05, 2009
Time: 04:17:33 -0500

Comment

SEE MAKHAN ITS PROVED UR MYTH URSELF U CANNOT UNDERSTAND MY SIMPLE LANGUAGE n good ur having money from ppl THATS UR MISSION RIGHT SNATCHING MONEY IN NAME OF DONATTION FOR UR ALCOHOL N WOMANISING


Name: Taif
Date: Tuesday January 06, 2009
Time: 03:21:26 -0500

Comment

"Muhammad probably just used an old Arab folk-tale. " I oppose here. As far as I know, the incident (told in the Surah) happened just 55 days before the birth of the prophet(PBUH). So,how can it be a old Arab folk-tale?! Obviously, lots of people of Arab Peninsula were alive when the verses of this Surah were declared by him. Did they object? Please, clarify this. Thank you.


Name: Shafee al-Zindig
Date: Tuesday January 06, 2009
Time: 05:13:29 -0500

Comment

Nadeemaslam36: You say "Allah can do anything". Just think about this for a minute and see if if makes sense. If Allah is a real god, can he do evil in this world? Can Allah make 2+2=5? No he can't, no matter how hard he tries. Naim: How sure are you that your prophet was born 55 days after this incident when none of your hadiths and sirats can even give the exact year or day or month he was born? Their guesses range from 3-5 years around the Year of the Elephant.If this story was not an Arab fairytale, why did the Meccans reject and mock his revelations as "mere tales of the ancients" Think about this. For your information we ex-Muslims also used to object to any criticism of Islam and fiercely defend it. We stopped when we realised that the moolas have been lying to us about everything about Muhammad,the Quran and the Hadiths. Nobody or any organization pays us to say such things. We only say it so that good people like you can see the truth for your selves and not repeat blindly what the lying moolas have told you. Salaams.


Name: Flex
Date: Friday January 09, 2009
Time: 02:43:11 -0500

Comment

yet more proof that Mohammed made the whole thing up himself, it's such a shame that it caught traction and is such a terrible influence on mankind, even today. So many generations mentally enslaved..spirits crushed by the joyless Islam.


Name: Machmoed elchalid
Date: Wednesday January 14, 2009
Time: 06:39:38 -0500

Comment

En toch gaat er iedereen vanuit dat de profeet Mohammed heeft bestaan terwijl dit nog maar de vraag is. Persoonlijk denk ik dat deze niet heeft bestaan (in ieder geval niet als profeet). Er is reeds wetenschappelijk bewezen dat er ten tijde van de vermeende profeet minimaal 3 missionarissen actief waren op het arabische schiereiland. Reden dat Koran niet consistent is met zowel inhoud als stijl is dan te verklaren. Juist dat er bij de samenstelling problemen zijn ontstaan en de zogenaamde 7 lezingen pleiten voor het niet bestaan van de profeet maar impliceert dat schriftelijke overlevering waarschijnlijker is dan een orale overlevering. Voorts betekent 7 lezingen dat niemand eigenlijk wist hoe hij het moest lezen. Dit voorgaande impliceert weer dat Jibriel nooit iets heeft gereciteerd aan de profeet en doordat er verschillen waren in mushafs impliceert het ook dat de koran een ontwikkeling heeft gekent die verder reikt dan de 23 jaar volgens orthodoxe visie. De profeet is pas om de hoek komen kijken aan halverwege de omyaden dynasty toen bekend werd dat veel onduidelijkheden waren bij mensen onderling. Om te zorgen dat allen met de neus één richting opkeken is de profeet opgevoerd zodat niemand aanspraak kon maken op opvolging of met nieuwe openbaringen kunnen komen en pas toen is de koran vastgelegd (vastlegging is toevallig ook de tijd dat de arabieren in de bekende wereld komen buiten het Arabische schiereiland en andere volkeren geen arabier zijnde moesten omvormen naar een islamitische staat maar ook als ideologische en politieke statement: het is God en niet ons wil). Is het toeval dat de arabieren op het moment dat ze de bekende wereld (buiten Hidjaz/arabische schiereiland) zouden veroveren, de profeet sterft. Is het Toeval dat Al Hira (arabisch koninkrijk (bufferstaat Byzantijnen en Perzen in Irak) dat in 622 (de vermeende Hijra wat trouwens in de geschiedenis nergens voorkomt, maar wel het jaar van de arabieren i.p.v. jaar van de moslims of uiteraard emigratie) Al Hira autonomie krijgt. De reden dat het woord moeslim of moeslimoen alleen in Medinensische verzen voorkomt is dan ook te verklaren en ook is dan te verklaren waarom deze arabieren uit Al Hira meer van oorlogsvoering afwisten dan de Hidjaz/Arabische schiereiland omdat deze een samensmelting was van culturen en religies en geloofsovertuigingen en bovendien ook nog een militair encampement was. Hier hebben de arabieren kennis opgedaan over religies en wetenschap en oorlogsvoering. Deze groep arabieren hebben getracht het Arabische schiereiland i.v.m. dreiging vanuit Byzantijnen en Perzen om een eventuele tegenoffensief voor te bereiden. Om een heel lang verhaal kort te maken: De profeet zoals die wordt voorgesteld heeft naar alle waarscheinlijkheid niet bestaan en is alles voortgekomen uit een groep muhajiroen (emigranten) die bewust waren van de oprukkende gevaren. Geen enkel bewijs uit de tijd van de profeet over de profeet of zijn metgezellen hebben we nu en hebben we nooit gehad. Gek dat 150 tot 300 jaar later ahadieth zijn verzonnen om 1. profeet te creeren en 2. koran van context te voorzien.


 
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