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How stones changed the course of history

“And when you threw, it was not you who threw; it was rather Allāh that threw” [1]

Stone-wielding Palestinians have become a symbol against the brutal illegal occupation. However, the practice of stone-throwing and stones and rocks themselves, have deep religious, cultural and historical resonance as we shall now explore.

Abraha and Makkah

An analogy can be drawn between the situation of the Palestinians and that of the people in Makkah before the advent of Islām; when the Christian Ethiopian king of Yemen, Abraha, launched an attack on the city and the Ka’ba in 571 C.E, the year of birth of blessed Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). Abraha had built a place of worship in Yemen and asked all Arabs to worship there, setting it up as a rival to the Kaʿba. But the Arabs refused to bow down. Their loyalty lay with the Kaʿba, built by Ibrāhīm (‘alayhis salam). Abraha gathered his army of men and elephants and marched towards Makkah and arrogantly claimed that no one could defend the Kaʿba from him.

The Sūrah Al-Fīl in the Glorious Qur’ān (‘Chapter of the Elephant’) relates this amazing event.[2] The Sūrah relates how an elephant was deployed in the assault together with the army but as they got to the outskirts of Makkah, the Elephant sat and refused to move. They tried everything to make the elephant stand again but in vain. They beat him, hurt him with weapons, but still the elephant refused to get up and march towards Makkah. Allāh reveals to us that it was at this point that He, jalla wa’āla sent His soldiers, birds loaded with stones, to repulse the attack.  Ibn Kathīr states that each bird held three stones – one in its beak and one in each of its claws. The birds dropped these stones on the army of Abraha, killing them. Abraha was hit with a stone as well. His people carried him and his wounded body began to tear apart by the time they reached Yemen. A side point here is that the destruction of the owners of the elephant was not for the sake of the Quraish themselves, but victory was granted to the Sacred House in preparation for the advent of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Today, we celebrate the heroism of stone throwing children. The imagery of the episode in the Qur’ān in Surah al-Fil is deployed here as an analogy where Israel and its allies are compared to the elephant herd, while the Palestinians are assimilated to the stone-throwing birds.

Ibrāhīm’s (ʿalayhi al-Salām) link with Rocks

There are two stories from the life of Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) where rocks played a significant role. The first of these is the story in relation to the Maqām (‘Station’) of Ibrāhīm, located near the Kaʿba. This place has a unique historical significance because of its relation with the construction of the Kaʿba, the house of Almighty Allāh.  Ibrāhīm used this stone block to stand on whilst building the Kaʿba with his son, Ismāʿīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām). With it, he was able to reach the upper parts of the house during the construction and so soft was the block of stone that the blessed footprint of Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) depressed into the stone, which are visible still today.

The analogy that can be derived from this story is that in the same way Allāh elevated Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) through the use of a rock, Allāh will continue to elevate the believers in Palestine with the throwing of their rocks above the ruins and ashes from beneath them inshāAllāh.

The other story relating to Ibrāhīm is that relating to the Jamarāt where there are three stone pillars which are pelted as a compulsory ritual of Ḥajj in emulation of the Prophet Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām). After being blessed with a son after many years without a child, Allāh had revealed to Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) in a dream that he was to sacrifice his son, Ismāʿīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and we know that the dreams of the Prophets are Wahy, revelation. So Ibrahim submitted to the will of Allāh and the skies and the earth witnessed that he tied his son and laid him down on a rock ready to sacrifice him. Now shaiṭān could not bear Ibrāhīm’s obedience and tried to distract him from his purpose by appearing in front of him three times. Each time, the shaiṭān made an effort to divert Ibrāhīm’s attention so Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) cast seven stones on him following the command of Jibrāīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām), on three different spots. This incident laid the basis of the ritual of stoning the devil that the ḥujjāj replicate to this very day.

The lesson that can be taken from this is that shaiṭān works wherever he finds weakness, doubt and despair; and he will come forward with justifications to persuade us to shun our duty, and it is therefore important that we and our brothers and sisters in Palestine pelt our inner fears and continue to stand firm against the shayāṭīn pelting them with the stones and rocks. How Allāh debases the occupying entity of Israel today is in that they are synonymous with the pillars in jamarat and, thereby, with shaiṭān.

David and Goliath

How many times have we heard today that the battle between Palestine and Isreal is one reminiscent of David and Goliath?

Banī Israīl committed many sins as a result of which Allāh sent them a tyrannous king who ill-treated them and spilled their blood, and set their enemies from outside against them as well, much like what we see with the situation of Muslims today.

After some time, came Prophet Shamwil (Samuel) (‘alayhis salam) among them to bring some relief. They asked his help in appointing a strong leader, a king under whose banner they could unite. But when Prophet Shamwil appointed for them a strong man, they wanted to reject him because of their arrogance in thinking they were from a better social class them him.

Tālūt (Saul) set about organising his army with strong faith and wisdom. He ordered that only men free from responsibilities should join. On route to facing their enemies, they continued to disobey Saul and drank from a river which he forbade them from doing so and, as such, they were dismissed and the army was smaller in number. Then when they sighted the enemy and they saw that their opponents appeared physically strong and were armed with better weapons, a great number of them fled leaving a very small army. The enemy forces were led by the mighty warrior, Jālūt (Goliath), known for his huge build and brute strength. Jālūt challenged any soldier from King Tālūt’s army to single combat as was the custom of battle in those days, but there was deadly silence among his soldiers. Then, to everyone’s surprise, a youth stepped forward. A roar of laughter echoed from the enemy’s side and even Tālūt’s men shook their heads. The young man was Dāwūd (ʿalayhi al-Salām). Although Tālūt was very impressed by the youth’s courage, he wanted a strong man to come forward. But on seeing Dāwūd’s insistence, and seeing that no one else was willing to come forward, King Tālūt said: “My brave soldier, if you are willing, then May Allāh guard you and grant you strength!”

Dāwūd collected a few pebbles and filled his leather pouch with them. He slung it over his shoulder next to his sling. With his wooden staff in hand, he began to walk towards the enemy. Jālūt laughed and goaded him and Dāwūd responded: “You may have armour, shield, and sword, but I face you in the name of Allāh and you will see today that it is not the sword that kills, but the will and power of Allāh!” Saying this, he took his sling and placed in it a pebble from his pouch. He swung and aimed it at Jālūt. The pebble shot from the whirling sling with the speed of an arrow and hit Jālūt’s head with great force. Blood gushed out and Jalut thumped to the ground, lifeless. When the rest of his men saw their mighty hero slain, they took to their heels. The Banī Israīl followed in hot pursuit, taking revenge for their years of suffering at the hands of their enemy, killing every soldier they could lay hands on.[3]

This is probably the one story above all others which captures the tale of the struggle of the stone-throwing Palestinians because today, like the Banī Israīl before them, they face a mighty tyrannical enemy. And how ironic it was that the believers then were the Banī Israīl and their enemies were the Fillistins and today, the believers are the Fillistins and their enemy are the Israelis. A vital lesson here in that Allāh does not place this Deen exclusively in the hands of any particular race or ethnic group and we are defined by our piety and, as Allāh says, if we are not fulfilling the role, He will replace us with another people [4] and this is what we see with the transferring of Īmān (belief) from Banī Israīl to those who were formerly disbelievers, the Fillistins.

Similarly, whilst today Israel pays lip service by carrying the ‘Star of David’ as their emblem, it is the believers – the Palestinians, who have actually inherited his legacy such that today there are hundreds of stone throwing little Dāwūd’s with their slings, ready to bring down the monster before them. Thus, whilst the Israelis claim to follow Dāwūd, they have indeed become his enemy and turned into Jālūt. The cowardice that was apparent in the army of Jālūt that day when they ran away is apparent today in the Zionist army; we see their fear and cowardice despite their military strength. This is well known with many even killing each other mistakenly out of paranoia.[5] Make no mistake, if Dāwūd (ʿalayhi al-Salām) were alive today, it would be Israel who would imprison him for throwing stones as is the crime for young Palestinian children, or they would collectively have punished his family as is commonly done, and/or they would have sought to kill him outright. We pray that the day soon comes where the stone lands on the head of the oppressive regime as it landed on the head of Jālūt, and with it brings down one of the most oppressive and unjust powers in the history of mankind.

Points to note:

We can see above that there is a rich history in Islām as to how an object, a stone/rock which many of us may consider insignificant, has played a significant role with the permission of Allāh in changing the status quo. The rock is a lifeless creature but through it Allāh has made miraculous events occur. Indeed, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:

“I know a stone in Makkah that used to salute (give salāms) to me before I received the revelation, I still know it now.”[6]

This is supported further from the the famous story of the well-known monk, Bahira who met the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) before prophethood when he travelled to Damascus to trade together with his uncle Abū Ṭālib and some of the Quraysh. They rested when they came near the church of Bahira the monk. Bahira, who was a hermit and did not mix with people, suddenly came out. He saw the Prophet among the caravan, and said: “He will be a prophet.” The Quraysh asked: “How do you know?” The holy monk replied: “I saw a small cloud over the caravan as you were coming. When you sat down, the cloud moved toward him and cast its shadow over him. I also saw trees and rocks prostrate themselves before him, which they do only before prophets.”[7]

It is therefore no surprise that Allāh is using these very objects as his soldiers as He has done before, this time through the hands of the believers in Palestine. It is no surprise either that these very objects will one day call out to the believers to come and eliminate the followers of Dajjāl who will be hiding behind them as prophesised by the Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to take place before the end of days.

Another irony is that these rocks which are used to mark graves, will one day signify the graves of these occupying oppressors – what an indictment that there simply will be no getting away from the rocks even in death.

Finally, whilst physically we can continue throwing rocks at the oppressive tyrants, the biggest change will come from real change ourselves and having good deeds to present in our duʿā’s as we learn from the story where three people who were stuck in a cave with the entrance blocked by a giant boulder (rock) which was only removed when each of the believers inside the cave presented their good deeds in their duʿā’ to ask Allāh to move the large boulder blocking them in.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] Qur’an 6:17

[2] Qur’an 105:1-5

[3] Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets

[4] Qur’an 47:38

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34602287 

[6] Muslim

[7] Tirmidhi

About Z A Rahman

Z.A Rahman is a community activist and a member of a large Mosque in the UK. He has a keen interest in politics and history, particularly Islamic history. He also enjoys traveling and has visited numerous countries in the Middle East and North Africa.


  1. Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakaatuhu.

    MashaaAllah, amazing analogies and a brilliant article!
    I was thinking if the learned author can relate the ayah 160 in Surah al A’raaf as well:

    And We divided them into twelve descendant tribes [as distinct] nations. And We inspired to Moses when his people implored him for water, “Strike with your staff the stone,” and there gushed forth from it twelve springs. Every people knew its watering place. And We shaded them with clouds and sent down upon them manna and quails, [saying], “Eat from the good things with which We have provided you.” And they wronged Us not, but they were [only] wronging themselves.” (7: 160)

    Jazakumulllaahu Khayra wa Baarakallaahu feekum.

  2. “And how ironic it was that the believers then were the Banī Israīl and their enemies were the Fillistins and today, the believers are the Fillistins and their enemy are the Israelis.”

    SubhanAllah! How ironic indeed.

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