The muezzin’s island

Many years ago there lived a wise muezzin and his wife, on an island far away where they had a quiet life. They made home in a modest house by the sea, with backyard of trees that grew fruits good for meals. The muezzin was a kindly man, wore a turban made of white cotton most fitting for the job at hand. The cotton he bought from trading boats that brought sustenance in cargo like rice and oats. The muezzin wore the turban for prayer, for reciting verses and for hiding his thinning hair. He could pray for the dead and he could pray for the ill, too weary and ridden to bed. He could pray for the rain when water was grim, and pray for the sun when the crops could not bring. He could pray to ward off evil and pray he did to chase off the devil. He could pray for the daily catch of fish and pray he did on anyone's wish. So the islanders came seeking his aid to rid their troubles and hopes in fade. The muezzin would sing in haunting suspense holy verses in beautiful cadence. When the children fell ill the muezzin would chant to take away the disease at will. And happy the mothers would be for their children should soon run carefree. Happy the husbands would go, for in the next few days rain would fall. And happy the wives would sing, for in the next few days fish aplenty their husbands would bring. And so it seemed the rains and the sea, good fortune and health obeyed the muezzin's creed. But the truth be told, and this he knew, the seasons and weather were nothing new. For nature worked to a timeless law, 'tis why changes occurred in predictable flow. This the muezzin knew, being learned and wise, to be certain and true. Then as the years passed, the muezzin found it hard to time his prayer and tell seasons apart. The rains would sometimes fall for weeks on end, never ceasing to let farmers tend. And the seas would not relent, much to the fishermen's discontent. And sometimes the rains would not come for many a month. And the trading boats arrived less frequently, so the islanders feared it was time to go. And the tide ate into the island leaving people naught to mend. With no food and no water the children lost their laughter. So the islanders came seeking his aid to rid their troubles and hopes in fade. Alas, thought the muezzin dismayed, nature's laws have all but failed. So one by one, family by family, the islanders left as the muezzin and his wife slowly wept. For what could bring such a disaster, surely he knew, it is something far sinister. There's nowhere to go the muezzin thought so. So the muezzin prayed, he prayed for his island to be saved. But being learned and wise the muezzin was not surprised. Somewhere, something was afoot and that wasn't good. Then one day, at high tide the sea claimed his home with all his possessions save love for his island and his wife alone.

~ Simon Shareef is a writer based in the Maldives; more at

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Himal Southasian