According to tradition, the islands of the country were named by
a legendary people known as Redhin. They were said to have inhabited
the archipelago some time in the past. There is scant information
regarding these people, except for references made to them in oral
traditions and folklore. One thing is however certain, the archipelago
was in the past inhabited by various peoples, about whom nothing
is known today.
The Redhin were said to be large, fair haired and
light skinned people who had long noses. They were said to be skilled
masons, who built temples and shrines. They were also astronomers,
able to foretell events by observing the heavens. The Redhin were
master mariners, competent in both sailing and rowing. They worshipped
the sun and fire. They were known to be a peaceful people, who shunned
contact with others who inhabited the islands. They were known to
get violent when they performed their devotional rituals, in which
both men and women participated. Architecture attributed to these
ancient seafarers is evident in ruins scattered all over the archipelago.
KOIMALA KALOA (LEGEND OF HABITATION)
Once upon a time a Prince of Royal Birth named Koimala, and his
wife the daughter of the King of Serendib, set sail on a voyage
on two ships. The Royal Couple traveled on one ship while their
retainers traveled on the other. The ships traveled the high seas
for many days. Nearing the Maldives they were becalmed in the North
Maalhos Madulu Atoll, in the North of the archipelago. Wanting to
rest and provision they disembarked on the island Rasgetheemu and
commanded their retainers to occupy the other island lying nearby,
The inhabitants of the nearby islands learning of
Koimala’s royal lineage, invited him remain and proclaimed
him their king. One day while the prince was supervising the construction
of a royal bath he saw a white bird flying overhead. The next day
also he was supervising the royal baths when he saw a similar bird
fly overhead. This went on for some days. On the seventh day he
decided to follow the bird. Koimala traveled by boat while the bird
flew overhead. After a journey of many days several islands were
sighted. The bird alighted on a large tree on the island of Dhoonidhu,
lying near Male’. The bird however, did not remain in Dhoonidhu
for long. It once again flew away. Koimala followed it in his boat.
This time the bird alighted on a tree growing on Male’. At
the time Male was being used by the people of Giravaru Island, lying
nearby, as a fishing village. Therefore Koimala asked their permission
for him to settle down in Male’, which they willingly gave.
Koimala and his spouse, the daughter of the king of Serendib, settled
down in Male’ and sent their ships to Serendib to fetch more
RANNAMAARI (LEGEND OF CONVERSION)
The Traditional Version
The popular version of the episode attributes the exorcism and the
subsequent Conversion of the islands to Yousuf Shamsuddin-al Tabrezi*,
(popularly known as Thabreyzgefanu), and relates how he dispelled
the evil demon by the powers of the Holy Qur’an. Nevertheless,
this account deviates somewhat from Ibn Battuta’s' version.
It is said that an evil spirit came to the island every month demanding
the sacrifice of a virgin. Every month a virgin was chosen and taken
to a small ‘temple’ located on the north eastern shore
of Male’, where she was left alone. When the people came to
the temple in the morning, they found the girl dead. One day there
arrived in Male', a man most pious named Yousuf Shamsuddin-al Tabrezi*,
(popularly known as Thabreyzgefanu). He stayed in the house of a
poor couple in Male'. The month following his arrival, he came home
from a walk one day to find the poor couple weeping and wailing.
When he heard about their plight, he volunteered to take the girls
place in the temple that night.
Yousuf awaited the evil demon in the idol temple. He sat there
reciting the Holy Qur’an. Around midnight he beheld something
that looked like a ship, far out in the Eastern horizon. Slowly
it loomed larger. However, as it came within hearing distance of
the Qur’an recital, it turned back, plunged in to the sea
and disappeared. At dawn, when the king and the islanders came they
were astonished to find the learned man engaged in the recital of
the Holy Qur’an.
The king questioned him about his mysterious performance and Thabreyzgefanu
explained that he was saved by the powers of the most Gracious and
Holy Qur’an, and called upon the king to embrace Islam, so
that the island maybe freed from the wrath of the demon. The king
replied; ‘I shall embrace your religion if on the next full
moon night the demon fails to appear’
On the night of the next full moon, the lot fell on the king's
daughter. This night too, Thabreyzgefanu went with the princess
to the idol temple. When the demon failed to appear, he called upon
the princess to embrace Islam, which she did at once. Next morning
when the king, his courtiers and the islanders arrived, Thabreyzgefaanu
once again called upon the king to embrace Islam. To this the king
replied; ‘If you show me the demon I shall do as you ask’.
Thabreyzgefaanu instructed the king to order the islanders to deposit
all the fish parts on a particular spot on the Northern shore of
the island. This being done, the learned man and the king awaited
the demon on Rahdhebai Magu.
As they waited, they beheld a small figure emerge from the sea
and advance north along the road. It came and stopped at a large
boulder on the middle of the road. [This boulder is said to mark
the middle of the island.] The learned man and the king observed
the child from the shadows. The boy looked around, making sure that
he was not observed, started growing. It grew until its face could
no longer be seen from the ground. Then the elongated figure bent
towards the point on the northern shore, where the offal had been
collected. It devoured the whole heap, shrank back to its original
size and started to walk away.
Now, Thabreyzgefaanu was no ordinary mortal. He had a powerful
jinni at his command, which he now summoned. Accompanied by the
king, the learned man stepped out of concealment and barred the
demon’s retreat at the Rahdhebai Magu / Majeedhee Magu junction.
Thabreyzgefaanu commanded the demon to shrink. It shrank. Thabreyzgefaanu
made it shrink until it was the size of a small worm, whereupon,
he wiped out a small bottle from his pocket and commanded the demon
to enter it. Afraid of the jinni the demon meekly entered the bottle.
Then as Thabreyzgefaanu started to seal it the demon spoke, ‘this
kingdom belongs to me; therefore, I come to my throne once every
month. Today you have vanquished me expelled me, but if the day
comes that you no longer holds the kingdom, you should inform me,
so that I may once again come to claim my birthright.’ In
reply the learned man clapped a rhythmic beat on his buttocks and
said, “as long as I hold the kingdom this rhythmic beat would
be heard at every sunset. If, you do not hear this beat for three
consecutive days, you may return to claim your throne”. Saying
this he sealed the bottle and dropped in to the sea. The king embraced
Islam and had messengers sent to all the outlying islands bearing
Ibn Battuta’s Version
"... and others related to me that the people of these islands
used to be idolaters and there appeared to them every month an evil
spirit, one of the jinni who came from the direction of the sea,
He resembled a ship full of lamps. The custom of the native, as
soon as they perceived him, was to take a virgin to adorn her and
take her to the budhukhana, that is to say an idol temple, which
was built on the seashore and had a window by which she was visible.
They left her there during the nigh and returned in the morning,
at which time there were wont to find the young girl dishonored
and dead. Every month they drew lots and he upon whom the lot fell
gave up his daughter. At length arrived among them a Maghribin Berber
called Abu'l-Barakat, who knew by heart the Glorious Qur’an.
He was lodged in the house of an old woman in the island of Mahal
(Male'). One day he visited his hostess and found that she had assembled
her relatives and that the women were weeping as at a funeral. He
questioned them upon the subject of their affliction, but they could
not make him understand the cause, until an interpreter, who chanced
to come in informed him that the lot had fallen upon the old woman
and that she had an only daughter, who was now about to be slain
by the evil jinni.
Abu'l-Barakat said to the woman: ‘I will go tonight in your
daughters stead'. At the time, he was beardless. So on the night
following, after he had completed his ablutions, he was conducted
to the idol temple. On arrival there he sat himself to recite the
Qur’an. Presently through the window, beholding the demon
to approach, he continued his recitations. The jinni, as soon as
he came within hearing of the Qur’an, plunged in the sea and
disappeared; and so it was that, when the dawn was come, the Maghribin
was still occupied in reciting the Qur’an.
When the old woman, her relatives and the people of the island,
according to their custom, came to take away the girl and burn the
corpse, they found the stranger reciting the Qur’an. They
conducted him to their king by name Shaniviraza, whom they informed
of his adventure.
The king was astonished; and the Maghribin both proposed hi to
embrace the true faith, and inspired him with a desire for it. Than
said 'Shaniviraza' at him:' Remain with us until next month, and
if you do again as you have now done and escape the evil jinni,
I will be converted'.
Therefore, the stranger remained with the idolaters, and God disposed
the heart of the king to receive the true faith. He became Musalman
before the end of the month, as well as his wives, children and
courtiers. At the beginning of the following month, the Maghribin
was conducted to the idol temple; but the jinni came not, and the
Berber recited the Qur’an until the morning, when the Sultan
and his subjects arrived and found him so employed. Than they broke
the idols and razed the temple to the ground. The people of the
island embraced Islam, and sent messengers to the other islands,
whose inhabitants were also converted".