Historically, Kaaba has witnessed attacks several times. Many armies have tried to conquer Makkah and led their armies there. Every time Allah Almighty has protected it from the evil. The most famous attack on Kaaba was done by Abraha and his army. The story of Ababeel is described in the Holy Quran at great length in Surah Al-Fil according to which the people of elephant tried to attack Makkah and destroy Kaaba but Allah (SWT) dealt with them and indeed He is the sole protector of this sacred place. The year in which this incident took place is referred to as Aam Al-Feel, the Year of Elephant by the people of Arab. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born fifty days after the incident.
The Attack of Abraha on Kaaba
Makkah was attacked by Abraha, the king of Yemen and Ethiopia who was a Christian. He had thought of building a church similar to the Kaaba in San’a and wanted the Arabs to perform the pilgrimage there instead of Makkah, with the intention of diverting trade to Yemen. Abraha built the church but the Arabs refused to come for pilgrimage in San’a which infuriated him. He took an oath to invade Makkah and demolish the Kaaba, leading his army to the Sacred Land.
The army consisted of many elephants led by the personal elephant of Abraha, Mahmood, who was the most gigantic of them. Abraha and his army attacked Makkah Mukarramah and seized all its animals including the camels of Abdul Muttalib (RA), the grandfather of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). Abdul Muttalib was the leader of the people of Makkah and the custodian of Kaaba. He was a strong and authoritative man who approached Abraha and asked him to return his camels. Abraha was surprised and said, “I have come here to destroy the Kaabah which is very holy to you and your ancestors yet you do not discuss anything about that, and instead, you are asking me for your camels!” Abdul Muttalib replied, “I am the owner of my camels, therefore I am asking for them, and the owner of the Holy Kaabah will defend it. I have nothing to worry about that.” Abraha returned his camels after which he asked Quraish to leave Makkah and take shelter in the mountains and its valleys. Abdul Muttalib held to the gate of Kaaba and made Du’a after which he also climbed the mountain with his people.
How ‘Ababeel’ Protected Kaaba When It Was Attacked?
Abraha was ready to attack Kaaba next day in the morning but a strange thing happened. The elephants were unable to stand and the biggest elephant ‘Mahmood’ did not walk towards Kaaba. He would walk towards any other direction except Kaaba. When people turn him towards the direction of Kaaba, he would sit and not move. Allah (SWT) sent a flock of birds, “Ababeel” from the ocean who came carrying gravels with them, two in their claws and one in the beak. Ababeel began to throw the stones on Abraha’s army ferociously and his army was forced to step back and run away. These small stones were the stones of Allah’s torment that pierced through their bodies and fell on the ground. Each stone was engraved with the name of its target. The entire army of Abraha was destroyed within a small fraction of time and the Holy Kaaba was protected.