AL-ASHABU ‘L-FIL الشاب الفيل
“The Companions of the Elephant.” A term used in the Chapter of the Elephant, or the cvth Surah :- “Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not cause their stratagem to miscarry? And He sent against them birds in flocks small stones did they hurl down upon them, and he made them like stubble eaten down!”
This refers to the army of Abrahah, the Christian king of Abyssinia and Arabia Fe1ix, said to have been lost, in the year of Muhammad’s birth, in an expedition against Makkah for the purpose of destroying the Ka’bah. This army was cut off by small pox, and there is no doubt, as the Arabic word for small-pox also means “small stones,” in reference to the hard gravelly feeling of the pustules, what is the true interpretation of the fourth verse of this Surah, which, like many other poetical passages in the Qur’an, has formed the starting point for the most puerile and extravagant legends.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam