Surah Fil

Surah Fil

Table of Contents

Surah al-Fil, meaning the elephant, narrates with only 5 verses and 23 words the very well-known historical account of the army of Abraha with a number of elephants proceeding to attack the house of Ka’ba. It took place in the year when Muhammad (S) was born. It is the 105th surah of the Quran. Surah al-Fil is in Juz’ 30 of the noble Quran and was revealed in the city of Mecca.

Facts about Surah Fil

Surah al-Fil, also called “Sura A-lam Tara”, is surah number 105 of the glorious Quran with 5 verses and 23 words in Juz’ 30. Being revealed in Mecca, it reminds the polytheists of an incident which occurred not long back in the history of Mecca, where God protected the holy house of Ka’ba against the attack of Abraha and his army of elephants. It is to serve as a lesson for oppressors of all times that no matter how powerful and influential they assume they are, God turns their treacherous plan go astray with seemingly small weapons.

105 Surah no.

Juz’ 30 Place

Makki Makki/Madani

19 Order of revelation

5 No. of verses

23 No. of words

97 No. of letters


Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Fil


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful

أَ لَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحابِ الْفيلِ ﴿1﴾

Have you not regarded how your Lord dealt with the Men of the Elephant?

أَ لَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ في‏ تَضْليلٍ ﴿2﴾

Did He not make their stratagems go awry,

وَ أَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْراً أَبابيلَ ﴿3﴾

and send against them flocks of birds

تَرْميهِمْ بِحِجارَةٍ مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ ﴿4﴾

pelting them with stones of shale,

فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَأْكُولٍ ﴿5﴾

thus making them like chewed-up straw?

In this article you will read about:

Benefits of reciting surah al-Fil

Imam Sadiq (as) is quoted saying,

‘He who recites surah al-Fil in his obligatory prayers, on Qiyamah, the creatures of the universe testify that he was among those who prayed; then a voice is heard saying that I approve your claim, hence have my servant enter heaven without reckoning. He is among those whom God loves him and his acts.

A noteworthy point here is that one would be entitled to such immense reward and blessing who recites surah al-Fil, contemplates on it and acts upon the instructions and teaching of the luminous verses.  

Here are a number of other benefits for reciting surah al-Fil. One who recites this surah will be saved from:

  1. The enemy,
  2. Getting drowned in water and
  3. The deformation of the face.

Abraha, the commander of the army of elephants

Abraha (also spelled Abreha), was a Christian ruler over Saba’, a kingdom of the ancient Yemen, who made a marble cathedral in Sanaa for the purpose of pilgrimage. He knew that the house of Ka’ba attracted many pilgrims on a yearly basis, hence, led a military expedition towards the north against Mecca to destroy Ka’ba with his army so that his magnificent cathedral would turn into the sole source of religious attraction for all. According to historical accounts, there were about 8 to 10 elephants in the army for the purpose of bringing more fear into the hearts of the people of Mecca.

Among the acts of Abraha once in Mecca was sealing two hundred camels which belonged to Abdul Mutallib.

Abdul Muttalib’s reaction to Abraha

Abraha sends a dispatch inviting Abdul Muttalib, the paternal grandfather of Muhammad who was the supreme chief of Mecca, a key holder of Ka’ba and a servant of the pilgrims, to meet him and discuss matters.

When Abraha meets Abdul Muttalib he is astounded by his handsome appearance, hence, his respects him and sits besides him on the ground. Abraha asks for Abdul Muttalib’s request to which he only demands his camels back. Abraha tells him that he disappointed him with such a trivial request. He says, ‘I have come to destroy your esteemed house of worship, yet you request your personal possessions back.

Abdul-Muṭṭalib replies, “I can only talk about that which belongs to me. This house too has an owner. The Owner of this House is its Defender, and I am sure He will save it from the attack of the adversaries. Hearing this, Abraha becomes enraged and returns his 200 camels.

Abraha’s plan goes astray

أَ لَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ في‏ تَضْليلٍ ﴿2﴾

Did He not make their stratagems go awry,

وَ أَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْراً أَبابيلَ ﴿3﴾

and send against them flocks of birds

تَرْميهِمْ بِحِجارَةٍ مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ ﴿4﴾

pelting them with stones of shale,

فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَأْكُولٍ ﴿5﴾

thus making them like chewed-up straw?

It is reported that a flock of birds flew towards the army and threw the stones they were carrying with themselves, killing the soldiers and turning their bodies into chewed-up straw. That same years, being called the year of the elephant or ‘Am al-Fil (عام الفیل) marks the birthday of Muhammad (S).

No matter how powerful, cunning and skillful the non-believing people, God has shown in different verses of the Quran that His power exceeds all.

Occasion of revelation of Surah Fil

Imam Sajjad (AS) is reported as saying about the occasion of revelation of surah al-Fil:

Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, Abutalib asked Muhammad, ‘have you been sent as a messenger for all people or only your own people?’

The prophet (S) replied, ‘no, I have been sent for all people including the black and white, Arabs and non-Arabs. I invite even the inhabitants of the mountains and the seas to this faith. I invite the people of Persia and Rome to Islam.’

The words of prophet Muhammad (S) reached the Quraysh and astounded them. They said to Abutalib, ‘Have you not heard what your nephew has said? We swear to God that if the people of Persia and Rome hear these words, they will take us away from our land. That is where God revealed verse 57 of surah Qasas:

وَقَالُوا إِن نَّتَّبِعِ الْهُدَىٰ مَعَكَ نُتَخَطَّفْ مِنْ أَرْضِنَا ۚ أَوَلَمْ نُمَكِّن لَّهُمْ حَرَمًا آمِنًا يُجْبَىٰ إِلَيْهِ ثَمَرَاتُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ رِّزْقًا مِّن لَّدُنَّا وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿57﴾

They say, ‘If we follow the guidance with you, we will be forced out of our territory.’ Did We not establish a secure sanctuary for them where fruits of all kinds are brought as a provision from Us? But most of them do not know.

The non-believers also said that if they accepted Islam, the Persians and Romans would demolish Ka’ba into pieces. Surah al-Fil was then revealed, reminding them of the total annihilation of Abraha and his powerful army:

أَ لَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحابِ الْفيلِ ﴿1﴾

Have you not regarded how your Lord dealt with the Men of the Elephant?

Reciting surah Fil in prayers

Based on the narrations of the progeny of the noble prophet (S) and the rulings of Islamic scholars, one should not recite two surahs after surah Fatihatul Kitab in one’s obligatory prayers unless one chooses to recite surah Duha who then has to also recite surah Inshirah’. The other surah which has to be accompanied by another surah is surah ‘al-Fil which has to go together with surah Quraish, as each of the two pairs are considered one surah.

Reward of reciting surah Fil

Imam Sadiq (as) is quoted saying,

‘He who recites surah al-Fil in his obligatory prayers, on Qiyamah, the creatures of the universe testify that he was among those who prayed; then a voice is heard saying that I approve your claim, hence have my servant enter heaven without reckoning. He is among those whom God loves him and his acts.

A noteworthy point here is that one would be entitled to such immense reward and blessing who recites surah al-Fil, contemplates on it and acts upon the instructions and teaching of the luminous verses.

Benefits of reciting surah Fil

The narrations have mentioned a number of benefits for reciting surah al-Fil. One who recites this surah will be saved from:

  1. The enemy,
  2. Getting drowned in water and
  3. The deformation of the face.
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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

8 Responses

  1. I remember when I was a child. I would think that Surah FIL is the baggiest chapter of the Holy Quran… good days

  2. Please pray for me and my family if you are reading this, we are in problems since a long time. May Allah have mercy on us and all Muslims. Ameen

    1. Assalam Alaykum. Shukran for your comment. We will always remember all our dear brothers and sisters in our prayers.

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