The respect and esteem which Makkah and the Holy house enjoyed suggested to some distant provinces in Arabia that they should construct Holy houses in order to attract some of the people away from Makkah. The Ghassanids built such a house at al Hirah and Abrahah al Ashram built another in Yemen.
Abraha was the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) viceroy in Yemen who built a magnificent cathedral in San’a, hoping thereby to make it supersede Makkah as the great place of pilgrimage for all Arabia. A man from the Kinana, akin to the Quraysh tribe, understood what Abraha was trying to achieve, and so, he entered the complex stealthily at night and smeared its front wall with excrement. When knowledge of the Arab’s insolent act reached Abraha, he led an army of sixty thousand warriors with a vow to raze the Ka’bah to the ground. His army included a number of elephants which he planned to use to trample his opponents.
Quraysh and other neighbouring tribes held a council of war, and decided that it was useless to try to resist the enemy. Under the advice of Abdul Muttalib, Quraysh withdrew to the mountain sides, informing the people that the Ka’bah had a Lord who would protect it.
When Abraha reached the Muhassar valley, between Muzdalifah and Mina, the elephant that he was riding knelt down and refused to proceed. They did everything they could to bring him to his feet; they even beat him about the head with iron rods, but he remained like a rock. It was then that Allah dealt with the elephant army under the command of Abrahah and ruined their plan. The western sky grew black, and a strange sound was heard; its volume increased as a great wave of darkness swept upon them from the direction of the sea, and above their heads, as high as they could see, was full of birds. He sent against them birds, in flocks, striking them with stones of Sijjeel with such velocity that they pierced even coats of mail. Every stone hit its mark and killed its man, for as soon as a body was struck its flesh began to rot. When the enemy had been thus routed, the Qurayshites returned home safely.
The Event of the Elephant took place in the month of Muharram, fifty or fifty five days before the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which corresponded to late February or early March 570 A.D.
Lessons and Wisdom
The old communal spirit of chivalry and honoring thy tribal member had become torn apart by the now flourishing market economy of Mecca, which depended upon ruthless competition, greed, and individual enterprise. The less successful clans felt that they were being pushed to the wall. Instead of sharing their wealth generously, people were hoarding their money and building private fortunes. They not only ignored the plight of poorer members of the tribe, but exploited the rights of orphans and widows, absorbing their inheritance into their own estates. In many respects the old ideals had been replaced by rampant individualism and such was the social background in which Muhammad ﷺ lived.
Why the Arabian Peninsula was Chosen as the Birthplace of Islam
Some of the distinguishing factors of the Arabs, as compared to the neighboring Byzantium, Persian, Greek and Indian nations, can be found in their customs, dispositions, and culture.
The Arabs possessed neither the luxuries of the Persians or their philosophy of hedonism which they could cast in the mould of religion. Nor did they have the military strength of the Byzantium to impose an imperialistic web of control onto others in their vicinity. Their disposition was much closer to the natural human disposition endowed by Allah into every human being. The perverted practices of incest, though common place amongst the elite in the neighboring superpowers, were not practiced in the deserts of Arabia. However, they lacked knowledge and so lived in the simple darkness of ignorance moving further away from Godly ways. They held on vociferously to values such as honor, generosity, and courage; without recourse to an established religion. To the heathen Arab, friendship and hostility were as a loan which he sought to repay with interest, and he prided himself on returning evil for evil, and looked down on any who acted otherwise as a weak nidering. As such, the Arabs had less corrupted moral compass than their neighbours and would have been somewhat more receptive to the Prophetic Call.
Geographical location may also be noted as a wisdom behind Arabia being chosen by Allah to send His last messenger to mankind. The Arabian Peninsula was positioned exactly between the two prevailing civilizations of that time: Persian and Byzantium. In years to come the Muslims would carry the torch of Islam further out to their neighbors and were strategically well positioned to do so.
These are some possible wisdoms but if Allah Willed He could have brought about the religion from any part of the world He Willed.
Polemical rebuttals particular to this year
This part of the timeline seeks to address some of the most commonly held criticisms and attacks levelled at the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
A series of short articles critically analysing these polemics begins from 595 CE and continues later in the following two eras: Makkan and Madinan Eras
Edicts and Rulings
The story of the elephant army of Abraha was narrated in the Quranic chapter al-Feel:
Do you not see what your Lord did with the Companions of the Elephant? Did He not bring all their schemes to nothing, unleashing upon them flock after flock of birds, bombarding them with stones of hard-baked clay making them like stripped wheat-stalks eaten bare?
The social injustices within the Meccan community was repeatedly addressed by the prophet through Quranic revelations. These verses exposed the oppression carried out by the elite and championed the rights of the weak, namely women and children. We find this in the Quranic chapter of al-Ma’un:
Have you seen him who denies the resurrection? He is the one who harshly rebuffs the orphan, and does not urge the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who do pray, and are forgetful of their prayer, those who show off and deny help to others.
The woeful condition of the Arabs before the advent of Islam was mentioned by Allah in the chapter al-Baqara in verse 192.
There is nothing wrong in seeking bounty from your Lord. When you pour down from Arafat, remember Allah at the Sacred Landmark. Remember Him because He has guided you, even though before this you were astray.
It is said that the Zamzam water is the best and noblest of all waters, the highest in status, the dearest to people, the most precious and valuable to them. It was dug by Jibreel and is the water with which Allah quenched the thirst of Ismaa’eel. The Prophet once said: “The best water on the face of the earth is the water of Zamzam; it is a kind of food and a healing from sickness”