My mom handed me a Quran with the translation. I was only a kid, but she told me to read the translation of Surah Al Fil. She said it was powerful in its meaning. I read it not knowing what it was about. I couldn’t comprehend why I was reading about Elephants and birds.
“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.” (Surah Al Fil 105:1-5)
Then I grew up, and I came into my own in Islam. Most people have those Shahada moments, moments in your life where you reevaluate your life and you have to conclude and make the decision to submit on your own. No parents telling you to pray, or read Quran, but you choosing that Islam is the life that you want to live, Allah is Allah and the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wasalam is your guide. Like in Surah Az Zumar “And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped.” (39:54). The word for submit here is Asleemoo. Some commentaries point out that this is for people who are already Muslim, meaning they have already submitted, but its about submitting further. I went through various Shahada moments or Submission moments in my life that shaped my whole being. We cherish those moments because in those moments we increase in certainty in Allah and we look out into the Heavens and the Earth and know this is it, Allah is real and Islam is the way I choose to live. Radheetu billahi rabban, wa bil islaami deenan, wa bi Muhammadin (sallallahu aleyhi wa sallam) nabbiyan. I am pleased with Allah as my Lord, Islam as my way of life and with Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as my Prophet.
Now after over a decade, some of Surah Al Fil’s light and opening unravels itself into my life. I go back to that memory and realize how far I’ve come since I was that kid not having a clue as to why my mother wanted me to read about a Surah about Elephants and Birds. Surah Al Fil is like epic film where you have to imagine the context and the visuals that occured. Imagine that frightening army raised by Abraha, with War Elephants (Fil) marching to Mecca. The ground shakes and quivers along with your hearts. This is the end. We’re going to be destroyed in this sacred city we call home. Abraha, conjured something unimaginable with him. This is a desert town, where people make a sacred pilgrimage because of a cube. He despised the Kaaba and his hatred translated into him funding and gathering an army larger than anyone had ever seen in this desert. Creatures I had only heard about in stories. He seems invincible, he’s right outside the city ready to destroy the Kaaba. The cities inhabitants are helpless. But then something much more spectacular occurs. Suddenly the sky was covered and blacks out. An army of birds cover the sun and the sky. The sky goes black and suddenly the encroaching Army falls to ground. Small baked stones are dropped from their feet and the invincible army falls to their feet. Allahu Akbar, Allah is greater. A moment of pure amazement and awe, where there is no doubt that there is no God but Allah.
Surah Al Fil type of moments occur in our lives all of the time. But we have to keep our eyes and ears open because “life is not a journey to finding God, it is a journey of realization that He was with us all along.”
When my mom handed me that Quran over a decade ago, I didn’t have my eyes and ears open yet, but she gave it regardless hoping some good would come from her efforts. She handed me the same Quran later in my life, as I went back to college. Alhamdulillah, All praise and Thanks is due to God. So when the next Surah Al Fil moments occurred in my life, I was ready for them and my eyes were wide open ready to receive the beautiful gift that they were.
Keeping my eyes and ears open, and most importantly my heart. I hope you do too.
May Allah give my mother the reward for bringing me into this life and raising me, and May she also receive the reward for pointing me towards the gates of Jannat. May Allah grant her and our family the highest jannah, Jannat al Firdous, near our Beloved Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasalam. Ameen.