Al-Quran Surah 105. Al-Fil, Ayah 4

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تَرْمِيهِمْ بِحِجَارَةٍ مِنْ سِجِّيلٍ


Asad : which smote them with stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained,2
Khattab :

that pelted them with stones of baked clay,

Malik : which pelted them with stones of baked clay,
Pickthall : Which pelted them with stones of baked clay
Yusuf Ali : Striking them with stones of baked clay. 6273
Transliteration : Tarmeehim bihijaratin min sijjeelin
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Asad   
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Asad 2 Lit., "with stones of sijjil". As explained in note [114] on 11:82, this latter term is synonymous with sijill, which signifies "a writing" and, tropically, "something that has been decreed [by God]": hence, the phrase hijarah min sijjil is a metaphor for "stone-hard blows of chastisement pre-ordained", i.e., in God's decree (Zamakhshari and Razi, with analogous comments on the same expression in 11:82). As already mentioned in the introductory note, the particular chastisement to which the above verse alludes seems to have been a sudden epidemic of extreme virulence: according to Waqidi and Muhammad ibn Ishaq - the latter as quoted by Ibn Hisham and Ibn Kathir - "this was the first time that spotted fever (hasbah) and smallpox (judari) appeared in the land of the Arabs". It is interesting to note that the word hasbah - which, according to some authorities, signifies also typhus - primarily means "pelting [or smiting"] with stones" (Qamus). - As regards the noun ta'ir (of which tayr is the plural), we ought to remember that it denotes any "flying creature", whether bird or insect (Taj al-'Arus). Neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition offers us any evidence as to the nature of the "flying creatures" mentioned in the above verse; and since, on the other hand, all the "descriptions" indulged in by the commentators are purely imaginary, they need not be seriously considered. If the hypothesis of an epidemic is correct, the "flying creatures" - whether birds or insects - may well have been the carriers of the infection. One thing, however, is clear: whatever the nature of the doom that overtook the invading force, it was certainly miraculous in the true sense of this word - namely, in the sudden, totally unexpected rescue which it brought to the distressed people of Mecca.

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Yusuf Ali   
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Yusuf Ali 6273 Sijjil: see n. 1579 to xi. 82. The word also occurs at xv. 74. Stones of baked clay, or hard as baked clay, are part of the miracle in the story.

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