Abraha al-Ashram

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Islamic tradition credits Abraha al-Ashram (أبرهة الأشرم) with a military expedition against the Quraysh of Mecca in an invasion of Hejaz in 570 CE, known as the Year of the Elephant. The tafsir (exegesis) of the surat al-Fil states that he perished.

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An imagined illustration of Abraha, marching towards Meccafor the destruction of Kaba. He was an Aksumite army general, then the viceroy of southern Arabia for the Kingdom of Aksum, and later declared himself an independent King of Himyar. Abraha ruled much of present-day Arabia and Yemen from at least 531–547 CE to 555–565 CE.

Notable Events

circa 560 CE

Construction of al-Qalis
The church of Abraha or al-Qalisa was constructed from green, yellow, white and black stone which was brought from an older castle located at Ma'rib. Leading to the church was a marble staircase, while the door was made of bronze or copper. The church combined three separate architectural elements known as bayt, iwan and qubbah. Iwan and qubbah, consisted of mosaic ornamentation of floral motives and gold star for the former, and polychrome mosaic crosses, silver and gold for the latter.

circa 570 CE

Invasion of Arabia
An imagined illustation of Makkah (Mecca, مَـكَّـة) at the time of Abraha's invasion. The episode of Abraha's advent on Mecca is most likely to have happened during the time of Abd al-Muttalib (عبد المطلب), grand father of prophet Muhammad. The lead elephant of Abraha's army, known as 'Mahmud' (مَـحْـمُـوْد), is said to have stopped at the boundary around Mecca, and refused to enter.

circa 570 CE

al-Muhassar Valley
Wadi Muhassar (وادي محسر), the stage of destruction, where Abraha's army was decimated by Ababīl (أبابيل) birds. Wadi Muhassar is a narrow pathway between Mina and Muzdalifah. Today the area is located close to the 4th ring road between Mina and Muzdalifah. A tradition (from Jabir ibn 'Abdullah) relates to prophet Muhammad, and Omar ibn al-Khattab hurrying through this valley. Total length of this area is about two kilometers.

circa 570 CE

Mention in the Quran
An imaginary picture of the invasion, retreating army of Abraha. According to the Qur'an (exegesis), Abraha prepared to enter Mecca, a dark cloud of birds appeared. The birds, sent by God, carried brimstone and bombarded Abraha's army, and killed him and his army. This is the theme mentioned in the Qur'an, Chapter 105 "al-Feel".

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