Yemen is a country that neighbors Arabia. Just before the birth of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his household), the ruler of Yemen was a man called Abraha. When Abraha learnt that the Arabs looked upon the Holy Ka'ba with great honour, he decided to build a huge church in San'a in Yemen. When the church was built, he asked the Arabs to leave the Holy Ka'ba and come to his church instead.
The Arab tribes not only ignored this invitation, but one night a woman from the tribe of Bani Afqam even used the place as a toilet. In another incident, some Arab travellers sheltering in the church lit a fire to keep themselves warm and by mistake burnt the church down. As a result, Abraha was very angry and decided to destroy the Holy Ka'ba once and for all.
In 570 A.D. Abraha marched at the head of a huge army towards Makka. He camped outside Makka, and then sent a few of his people to capture the camels of the Makkans. Of the camels captured, around 200 belonged to Abdul Muttalib.
An officer from Abraha came to the Makkans, saying that he did not wish to hurt them but had come to demolish the Holy Ka'ba with his Elephant. Abdul Muttalib, the chief of the Quraish, said that they too did not want to fight Abraha. As for the Holy Ka'ba, it was the house of Allah and He would do whatever He pleased.
Abdul Muttalib then went with some of his sons to see Abraha. Abraha welcomed him with respect. He expected Abdul Muttalib to ask him not to destroy the Holy Ka'ba but instead Abdul Muttalib asked for the return of his camels. Abraha was surprised that Abdul Muttalib was talking about camels when the Holy Ka'ba itself was going to be destroyed.
In response to Abraha's remarks, Abdul Muttalib gave a famous reply, saying: "I am the owner of the camels. The House too has a Master who looks after it." On hearing this, Abraha shook his head and proudly replied: "There is none powerful enough to stop me."
On his return, Abdul Muttalib ordered the people to leave Makka and go to the hills for safety. He then prayed to Allah to protect them and the Holy Ka'ba from any harm.
The next morning Abraha prepared to march towards Makka. All of a sudden, a flock of birds appeared from the side of the sea, holding tiny stones in their claws and beaks. Each bird held three stones and they showered the stones on the army of Abraha in such a way that the Elephant and many men were soon dead. One of the stones hit Abraha on his head and he was so frightened that he ordered the remaining men in his army to retreat at once. Many of his men died on the way back and Abraha himself reached San'a with the flesh falling from his body and died a painful death. This dreadful and miraculous event is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in the following verses:
In the Name of Allah, the Most Kind, the Most Merciful
﴾Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the People of the Elephant? Did He not cause their plan to go astray? He sent down upon them flocks of birds, who showered them with stones of baked clay. So they became like straw eaten up by cattle.﴿
(Suratul Feel, 105:1-5)