Ibn Ishaq said: When Allah the Almighty sent His Prophet Muhammad (SM), He reminded the Quraishites with His Grace and Favor bestowed on them through defeating the Abyssinians and defying them saying: Have you (O Muhammad (SM) not seen how your Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant? [The Elephant army which came from Yemen under the command of Abraha Al-Ashram intending to destroy the Ka'bah at Makkah]. Did He not make their plot go astray? And He sent against them birds, (Ababil) in flocks. Striking them with stones of Sijjil (baked clay). And He made them like (an empty field of) stalks (of which the corn has been eaten up by cattle).
Then, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Ishaq started to interpret this Surah and the next stated as follows: Ibn Hisham said: The word "Ababil" means "in flocks", though the Arabs never used that word before the Revelation of the Glorious Qur'an. But as for the word "Sijjil", I was told by Yunus An-Nahwi and Abu' Ubaidah that it was used by the Arabs to mean: solid and strong. Moreover, some interpreters claimed that this word was originally two in Persian, but the Arabs rendered them a single word that is "Sinj" and "lil". 'Sinj' means stone and lil' stands for clay and hard stones consist of these two materials, stone and clay. He added, “` Assf” stands for leaves. AI-Kasa'i said: I have heard some grammarians saying: "The singular form of 'Ababil' (flock) is ` Abil'. Besides, many of our early scholars said: ` Ababil' are flocks of birds gathering group after group from here and there.
Narrated 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them): Their beaks were like those of the birds and their legs were like those of the dogs. In addition, 'Ikrimah transmitted: their heads were like those of the lions and they came from the seaside and their color was green. Also, 'Ubaid Ibn 'Umair said: they were marine black birds, holding stones in their beaks and legs. 'Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) said also: they looked like the Phoenix, and the smallest stone they carried was equal to the head of a human being and other stones were equal to camels. The same view was held by Yunus Ibn Bakir after Ibn Ishaq. Some interpreters said: The stones were too small. Allah knows best!
Ibn Abu Hatim said: Abu Zar'ah told us on the authority of Muhammad Ibn 'Abdullah Ibn Abu Shaibah after Mu'awiyah after Al-A'mash after Abu Sufyan after 'Ubaid Ibn 'Umair saying: When Allah the Almighty wanted to destroy the owners of the elephant He sent against them birds in flocks from the seaside resembling hawks, each one of them carried three stones: one in his beak and two in his two legs. They flew over till they were directly above the .army, then they screamed and let go of the stones. The stones used to cut off or crack whom they hit from his head to his toes. In addition, Allah the Almighty sent a severe wind that hit the stones and added to their speed and strength, the matter that caused the majority of the army to perish.
Ibn Ishaq said as stated earlier that not all of them were hit by the stones. Rather, some of them managed to return to the Yemen and related to their people what had happened to them and to the whole army. And Abraha himself was hit with the stones and was carried till he reached the Yemen where he died, may Allah the Almighty damn him!
Narrated Ibn Ishaq saying: I was told by `Abdullah Ibn Abu Bakr after Samurah after 'A'ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) that she said: "I have seen the rider and stableman of the elephant at Mecca blind, crippled and asking the people to feed them up." However, it was mentioned earlier that the stableman was called Anis, but the rider was unidentified. Allah knows best!
In his Tafsir (interpretation), An-Naqqash mentioned that the flood carried away their dead bodies and threw them into the sea. At the same year of this great incident, Prophet Muhammad (SM) was born. Some scholars say that it took place two years' prior to his (Peace be upon him) birth.
Then, Ibn Ishaq cited the poetry the Arabs composed pertaining to that great incident in which Allah the Almighty made victorious His Sacred House which He wanted to grant honor, dignity, purification and respect through sending His Messenger Muhammad (SM) and the Legislation He sends with him. One of the fundamental pillars of this Legislation is the Prayer whose Qiblah direction would be made to the honorable Ka' bah. That which Allah the Almighty did to the owners of the elephant was never for the sake of the Quraishites themselves. As the Christians who were represented in the Abyssinians were really nearer to the Ka' bah than the polytheists of Quraish, but the victory was granted to the Sacred House itself in preparation for the advent of Prophet Muhammad (SM).
Added Ibn Ishaq and others: After the death of Abraha, the Abyssinians were ruled by his son, Yaksum, then by his brother, Masruq Ibn Abraha who was their last king.
The incident of the elephant took place in Al-Muharram, 882 according to the Roman Calendar. Following the death of Abraha and his succeeding two sons, the Abyssinian rule over the Yemen came to an end, the church built by Abraha was deserted. No one could even approach it for it was built over the burial place of two idols -that of Ku'aib and his wife. The two idols were made of wood, their height was about sixty cubits and they were touched with the jinn. For this very reason, no one could take the risk to come near the church or to take anything of its building or ornaments fearing the evils of the jinn. It stayed deserted till the time of the first Abbaside Caliph, As-Saffah whom the news of the riches found inside the church reached. He sent his ruler over the Yemen, Al-'Abbas Ibn Ar-Rabi' to destroy it and bring him all the precious objects he might find there.
Finally, one should raise his hands to Allah the Almighty and supplicate, saying: "0 Allah! All the Praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. And all the Praises are for You; You are the Keeper of the Heavens and the Earth. All the Praises are for You; You are the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and whatever is therein. You are the Truth, and Your Promise is the Truth, and Your Speech is the Truth, and meeting You is the Truth, and Paradise is the Truth and Hell (Fire) is the Truth and all the prophets are the Truth and the Hour is the Truth. 0 Allah! I surrender to You, and believe in You, and depend upon You, and repent to You, and in Your cause I fight and with Your orders I rule. So please forgive my past and future sins and those sins which I did in secret or in public. It is You Whom I worship, None has the right to be worshipped except You. "