Two hundred of these camels belonged to Abdul Muttalib the grandfather of Rasul’Allah (saw). Abdul Muttalib came out of Mecca to meet with Abraha and obviously you can’t just walk in and meet him, he was such an important figure. So Abdul Muttalib has to have some connections to get in, Abdul Muttalib happened to be a friend of Nufayl who was captured as a prisoner of war. Nufayl was carried with the army and he befriended, he became friends with the man called Unays. And this man Unays was such an important person in the army. He was the pilot of the elephant which was their most valuable piece of equipment. Nufayl now is very well connected, he knows Unays.
When Abdul Muttalib came to see Nufayl and told him “I want to meet with Abraha” Nufayl told him “Sure I’ll arrange for your meeting through my friend Unays”. Unays arranged a meeting with Abraha and Abdul Mutallab was welcomed by Abraha.
Abraha held him in high esteem
When Abdul Muttalib walked in and he Abdul Muttalib was described as being a man with a very strong presence. I mean by just seeing him a person becomes impressed. Abdul Muttalib went in, Abraha held him in high esteem even though they didn’t even talk yet. Now, the rules were that Abraha sits on a very high throne and people sit under his feet, if you come and have a meeting with Abraha then you’re sitting under the seat. Abraha when he saw Abdul Muttalib, he didn’t feel comfortable at all having Abdul Muttalib sit under him. But he cannot also allow Abdul Muttalib sit with him on the throne because nobody sit on the throne except he. Instead what he did, he came down from his throne and sat with Abdul Muttalib on the floor.
He told the interpreter to ask Abdul Muttalib “What does he need?”. Abdul Muttalib straight ahead told the interpreter “Abraha has taken possession of 200 of my camels. I want them back”
He was taken back by the respond of Abdul Muttalib
Abraha responded and said “When I saw you I had so much respect for you but I’ve lost it all. I’m coming to destroy your honor and the honor of your fathers. I’m coming to destroy the centre of your livelihood. I’m coming to destroy Ka’bah and you’re asking me about camels!” Abdul Muttalib responded and said “I am the owner of the camels, so I am responsible for them and this house belongs to Allah and Allah will protect it. I’m here to ask for what is under my authority, my responsibility”.
Abraha said “Give him back his camels”. Abdul Muttalib went back to Mecca and he told the people of Mecca, “Do not fight, withdraw out of Mecca”. Abdul Muttalib gave them clear instructions “We’re not going to fight Abraha, we’re going to leave”. They all went up to the mountains and Abdul Muttalib was the last one to leave but before he left, he was hanging on the clothes of Ka’bah or the handle of the door of a Ka’bah. He was praying to Allah subhana wa tala to protect his house, after that he left. Then all of them evacuated, everyone evacuated from Mecca.
Abraha has now issued his instructions to march forth but the elephant refused to move. They turned the elephants to a different direction, he would stand up from running and they turned him towards the direction of Mecca, he would sit down.
How come? A miracle from Allah.
It is said in the story that this man Nufayl, who was a prisoner of war. He released himself from his chains and he jumped to the ear of the elephants, he said to the elephant “This is the house of Allah. Do not attack it”. Then he ran away. But whether that was the reason or not, the elephants refused to march in the direction of Al Ka’bah. They would beat it, they started poking it with their spears and the elephants was bleeding yet refused to move. Eventually they decided they’re going to have to leave the elephants.
They made their move forward, Allah (swt) sent them an army. No one knows the soldiers of Allah. Anything can be a soldier of Allah. Water which is the source of life can be a soldier of Allah, water is what killed the tyrant Firoun (pharoah). Wind is a soldier of Allah, Allah (swt) says no one knows His soldiers but He.
Allah (swt) sent an army of birds, every birds carrying with it missiles that were sent on the army of Abraha. The birds destroyed them all, they were all killed.
This event was a recorded in Surah Al fil.
Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant?
Did He not make their plan into misguidance?
And He sent against them birds in flocks,
Striking them with stones of hard clay,
And He made them like eaten straw.
Quran – Chapter 105
These are the events up to the year in which Rasul’Allah (saw) was born, Rasul’Allah (saw) was born in the year of the elephant.