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Abu Lahad and The Elephant

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

In Ashland Oregon, right after I got stumped by the Elephant again, I picked up a book called "Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources" by Martin Lings. Within a century or so of Muhammad's death, a number of historians had codified biographies of Muhammad collectively referred to as sīra. This book is basically a summary of the broader sīra literature. It feels–to me–a lot like some of the early parts of the New Testament that I've read about Jesus. Or at least, maybe its the stories outside of the New Testament that have sprung up.

Clarification about al-Masadd and Abu Lahab

Anyway, when I was blogging about Abu Lahab, it felt wrong, specifically the bit about familial relationships. The footnotes told me that Muhammad had been raised by his uncle, Abd al-Uzza b. Abd ul-Muttalib and his wife Jumayl. I dutifully repeated this.

Wrong.

Maybe Muhammad spent some time in their household, but according to Ling's book Muhammad was raised by his grandfather Abd ul-Muttalib after his mother died when he was just a few years old, and the subsequently by his uncle Abu Talib after Abd ul-Muttalib passed away.

Anyway, doesn't change the story of Abd ul-Uzza and Jumayl's opposition, but it does confuse me as to the "why" of the footnotes in that one edition of the Qur'an.

The Elephant

Ling's book also explains the Elephant. It wasn't a story from Muhammad's time as I thought. It dates to the time of Abd ul-Mutallib, Muhammad's paternal grandfather. Apparently, a Yemeni deputy to the Abyssinian king decided to build a new temple to wrest away the lucrative pilgrimage business from Mecca and the Quraysh. After building the temple in Sana'a, the deputy took an army to raze the Ka'bah in Mecca, and that army was led by a single war elephant that was supposed to terrify and trample on the Qurayshi forces.

When the army arrived, the elephant just sat down and refused to advance, even when tortured. The elephant would get up and move as long as it was in a direction away from Mecca. But not forward.

Then, a flock of seagulls that would put Alfred Hitchock to shame blackened the sky and dropped pebbles (three per bird) from their months that moved with such force they pierced armor and organs, decimating the Yemeni army and driving them home in disarray.

Having recently watched the first half of Henry IV Part I (we skipped out on the 2nd half–we were tired from a long drive from Eugene which included our rental car breaking down in Rice Hill), I can but wonder if an Arab Jack Falstaff was an officer in the Abyssianian Army who told the exaggerated story of the Abyssianian defeat. Hal and Ned Poins would have burst their spleens and died of laughter.

Al-Fil: Elephants again!?

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Seest thou not how thy Lord dealt with the Companions of the Elephant?
Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray?
And He sent against them Flights of Birds,
Striking them with stones of baked clay.
Then did He make them like an empty field of stalks and straw (of with the corn) has been eaten up
.

I got nothing. I'm guessing there was a battle where the Quraysh got some elephants and used them against the Muslims? Got trounced? Dunno.