Year of the elephant

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The year of the elephant ( Arabic عام الفيل, DMG ʿāmm al-fīl ) was a reference point of the calendar in pre-Islamic Arabia , which is named after the war elephant that the South Arabian ruler Abraha carried with him during a failed campaign against Mecca or in the northern regions of Arabia. According to Islamic tradition, the war elephant is said to have kneeled down when it reached Meccan territory and refused to advance. Only when the elephant's head was turned sideways did it move on. Then flocks of birds came to Abābīl and pelted the army with stones. All the troops were killed.

According to a rock inscription in Central Arabia, the event is dated to the year 552, according to other sources to the year 547. The campaign of Abraham is mentioned in the Koran in sura 105 “The elephant”, but without mentioning the ruler by name. Up until the Fijar Wars, dated to the early 590s, the "Year of the Elephant" was used in Arabia to date events.

According to the traditional Islamic view, the year of the elephant was also the year of birth of the prophet Mohammed . This view is based on the statement of a certain Qays ibn Machrama, who claimed to be born with Mohammed in the same year, namely the year of the elephant. However, it is difficult to reconcile it with the rest of the life of Muhammad. In early Islamic historiography there were other dates of Muhammad's year of birth. At-Tabarī quotes the historian and genealogist Ibn al-Kalbī (d. 819) with the statement that Mohammed was born in the 42nd year after Chosrau I. Anuschirwan came to power. According to this, Mohammed was born in 573.

supporting documents

  1. On dating issues see: Lawrence I. Conrad: Abraha and Muhammad. Some observations apropos of chronology and literary topoi in the early Arabic historical tradition . In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS), 50 (1987), pp. 225-240; MJ Kister: The Campaign of Ḥulubān . In: Le Museon 78 (1965), pp. 425-436; Ella Landau-Tessaron: Sayf Ibn ʿUmar in Medieval and Modern Scholarship . In: Der Islam 67 (1990), p. 12
  2. See Tilman Nagel: Mohammed. Life and legend . Munich 2008. p. 52.
  3. Cf. al-Azraqī: Kitāb Aḫbār Makka . Ed. F. Desert field. Leipzig 1859. p. 102.
  4. See The History of al-Ṭabarī , Vol. 5: The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen. Translated and annotated by CE Bosworth. Albany 1999. p. 268.
  5. Cf. al-Ṭabarī 268 and Hartmut Bobzin : Mohammed . Munich 2000, p. 41.