¡ Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the masters of the elephant?
* Did He not make their scheming go astray,
1-2 Though elephant appears here in the singular, some say that Abrahah had eight or twelve elephants with his army (IK). According to the earliest histories, when commanded to approach Makkah, the elephant knelt and would not be moved, despite being beaten by the army. When turned in any other direction, it would rise and walk, but when turned toward Makkah, it would again kneel and refuse to move (IK; Ibn Isḥāq). The linguistic structure of the verse indicates that the story was well known to the Arabs. They are thus being asked how it is that, knowing the story of how God protected the Kaʿbah, they do not derive the proper lessons from it and believe in God
(Sh). That God made Abrahah’s scheming go astray alludes to the manner in which God allowed them to plan the entire expedition and carry it out to their own demise, since from a Quranic perspective God is the best of plotters (3:54; 8:30), and the scheming of the disbelievers is naught but astray (40:25).