Abd Al-Muttalib - Lords, Birds and Elephants
Kaan Ya Makaan, Fee Qadeem Al-Zamaan…
There was a Place, in Times of Old…
Called Mecca where a man named Abd Al-Muttalib found himself facing quite a few problems. The biggest problem, of course, was the invasion of his homeland by Abraha, the new Christian viceroy of Yemen. Or so it seemed...
Abraha had been appointed as viceroy by the king of Al-Habasha (Abyssinia) who had recently conquered Yemen. Eager to leave a lasting impression, Abraha took the opportunity to try and convert the idol-worshipping Arabs into Christians. To this end, he built an imposing church, named Al-Qulais, and invited the Arabian tribes to direct their yearly pilgrimages to the new church rather than the Ka'aba which their ancestor, Ibrahim had built.
Unfortunately for Abraha, his church idea proved to be a great failure and was met with derision and disrespect from all sides. Meanwhile, the Arabian tribes blithely continued their yearly pilgrimages to Mecca and the ancient Ka'aba located there.
In a moment of anger and frustration, Abraha decided to march to Mecca and destroy the Ka'aba. He gathered his army, including several large African elephants, and marched north. Along the way, he fought and defeated several Arabian tribes who had sought to defend the Ka'aba by trying to stop the northward march of the fearsome army.
Eventually, Abraha and his men reached the outskirts of Mecca where they seized the herds of cattle belonging to the people of Mecca. In response, the people sent a delegation headed by Abd Al-Muttalib to meet with Abraha and negotiate for the safety of the Ka'aba, and the return of their cattle.
Abraha looked upon Abd Al-Muttalib, a regal and handsome man, with favor and treated him with respect. He sat Abd Al-Muttalib in state beside him and told his interpreter to ask Abd Al-Muttalib to name whatever he wanted and he would try to oblige him.
"Tell him," Abd Al-Muttalib said to the interpreter, "that he has seized two hundred of my camels."
Abraha sat back in disapproval as he listened to the translation. Then he told his interpreter, "Tell him: I liked you when I saw you but now that you have spoken to me, I no longer like you. You speak to me of two hundred camels I seized, and stay silent concerning the house I have come to destroy, one that is sacred to both your people and your religion?!"
Abd Al-Muttalib smiled benevolently at Abraha and said, "I am the lord of those camels. The House has a Lord who will protect it."
Displeased with Abd Al-Muttalib's philosophical reply, Abraha retorted, "He will not be able to protect it from me!"
"As you say," Abd Al-Muttalib said agreeably.
After further negotiation, Abraha returned the cattle he had seized and turned a deaf ear to any and all proposals that did not include him destroying the Ka'aba. Despairing of talking Abraha out of attacking the Ka'aba, the people of Mecca fled to the surrounding mountains and watched from the heights. They looked forward to the destruction they were sure would rain down on anyone arrogant enough to meddle with a house of God.
Eager to put an end to the Ka'aba, Abraha ordered that the great elephants he brought with him be driven straight at the Ka'aba. At the behest of their handlers, the well-trained elephants thundered obediently towards the ancient building. When they drew near to the humble house of God, the mighty elephants completely confounded everyone by kneeling down and obstinately refusing to move forward. The elephants' handlers desperately tried to force the great beasts up, but no amount of whipping or shouting could drive the elephants towards the simple cube-shaped building before them.
The people of Mecca stood on the surrounding mountain peaks and laughed at the antics of the invaders and their elephants. Whenever the elephants' handlers tried to move them in any direction except that of the Ka'aba, they would rise and march quickly forward but as soon as the elephants were urged towards the Ka'aba they knelt and balked. Abraha grew more and more incensed by the behavior of his elephants and he vented his spleen on their handlers to no avail, the elephants simply would not move towards the Ka'aba.
In the midst of his rage, Abraha became painfully aware of the ridiculous spectacle the balking elephants and their frustrated handlers presented. His own men had started to mutter that the elephants’ behavior meant that what they had come to do was a sacrilegious act, not a righteous one. Perhaps, they said to one another, they should leave. Displeased by these mutterings, Abraha decided to forego the spectacle of the elephants tearing down the Ka'aba. Instead, he simply ordered his men to march forward.
The mighty army obediently began marching towards the Ka'aba but was startled when the sound of many flapping wings rose in the air. Looking up, the unnerved men beheld a huge swarm of birds arrowing straight for them. Each fierce-looking bird carried three pebbles, one in its beak and one in each talon, as they winged their way directly over the army. The men turned in confusion and horror as the birds started dropping their pebbles and the soldiers around them started screaming and falling.
Abraha and the people of Mecca looked on in awe and shock as each bird dropped its burden and soldiers fell, wounded or dead, struck down by the pebbles that seemed to burn into their bodies. The small remnant of the once great army turned and fled past their frightened leader who did not escape unscathed. As he tried to retreat with his panicking men, Abraha felt one of the burning pebbles strike him. Despite frantic attempts to rid himself of the burning pebble, Abraha succumbed to his injury and died before he could reach Yemen again.
Meanwhile, Abd Al-Muttalib and the people of Mecca stayed on their mountaintops and watched as the few survivors of Abraha's army staggered away. The birds who had defeated the soldiers simply flitted over the mountains and disappeared into the distance.
When all was silence and peace again, the people of Mecca cleared the eerily silent field of battle and returned to their lives, deeply grateful that they had treated the ancient Ka'aba with the reverence and respect its Lord clearly expected.
*Written by Aisha Bilal © 2012. Care to read or leave Comments?
- Names, Translations and Aliases:
- Abd Al-Muttalib: عبد المطلب بن هاشم القرشي.
- Abd Al-Muttalib: عبد المطلب بن هاشم القرشي.