Chapter Scripts

Surah Al-Fil 105:1-5

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.

105:1 Art thou not aware of how thy Sustainer dealt with the Army of the Elephant?

Explanation

Lit., “the companions (ashab) of the elephant” – see introductory note.

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

Explanation

Lit., “with stones of sijjil”. As explained in note 114 on 11:82, this latter term is synonymous with sijjil, which signifies “a writing” and, tropically, “something that has been decreed by God]”: hence, the phrase hijarah min sijjil is a metaphor for “stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained”, i.e., in God’s decree (Zamakhshari and Razi, with analogous comments on the same expression in 11:82). As already mentioned in the introductory note, the particular chastisement to which the above verse alludes seems to have been a sudden epidemic of extreme virulence: according to Waqidi and Muhammad ibn Ishaq – the latter as quoted by Ibn Hisham and Ibn Kathir – “this was the first time that spotted fever (hasbah) and smallpox (judari) appeared in the land of the Arabs”. It is interesting to note that the word hasbah – which, according to some authorities, signifies also typhus – primarily means “pelting [or smiting”] with stones” (Qamus). – As regards the noun ta’ir (of which tayr is the plural), we ought to remember that it denotes any “flying creature”, whether bird or insect (Taj al- ‘Arus). Neither the Qur’an nor any authentic Tradition offers us any evidence as to the nature of the “flying creatures” mentioned in the above verse; and since, on the other hand, all the “descriptions” indulged in by the commentators are purely imaginary, they need not be seriously considered. If the hypothesis of an epidemic is correct, the “flying creatures” – whether birds or insects – may well have been the carriers of the infection. One thing, however, is clear: whatever the nature of the doom that overtook the invading force, it was certainly miraculous in the true sense of this word – namely, in the sudden, totally unexpected rescue which it brought to the distressed people of Mecca.

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

Explanation

This passage is evidently continued in the next surah, which, according to some authorities, is part of the present one (see introductory note to surah 106).

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.

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