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by Mohamed Luthfee
published in Faiythoora magazine 1995
translated by Fareesha Abdulla

Kurendhoo is on the south-western side of Lhaviyani atol. The island has virtually no harbour, and it is on the ocean side of the atoll. However the island was settled as early as the Buddhist period of Maldivian history. The ruins of a stupa and other things have been found on the south-eastern side of the island.

Historically it has been an agricultural island rather than a fishing one. Underneath the soil is a very hard sedimentary layer of sand and stone which holds moisture in the soil facilitating the composting of buried vegetable matter. There is evidence that the people of this island had cultivated gardens in other islands as well. They were renowned for their shallots.

Kurendhoo is famous among Maldivians because the tomb of Sheikh Najeebul Habashee is there. The tomb was built on the very spot where the sheikh died and was buried. What we see now was built early in the reign of Sultan Mohamed Shamsudheen at the beginning of this century. At this time many holy places and mosques were repaired and renovated.

The historical documents Faiykolhu record that in 1578, Kalhu Hussein Kaloa and his wife Fathma Kan'buloa built a mosque attached to the tomb of the sheikh. When they reported what they had done to the Sultan Al-Ghaazee Utheemu Radhun 1573-85, the sultan officially created a waquf (title and trust) for the mosque. This building has since been restored by the Maldivian Government's National Council for Linguistic and Historic Research.

It is believed that Sheikh Najeeb Habashee came from Habush (Ethiopia). He arrived at Male' in an African merchant ship, and decided to stay. He used to make his late night and early morning prayers on a spot at the east end of the island... Sheikh Najeeb had a beautiful voice. He used to recite the Quran beautifully. He is said to have taught Quran to many Male' people.

One story is told that during the reign of Sultan Sayyidh Ahmed Shareeful Makkee 1510-1513, Sheikh Najeeb was among the royal clerics who recited Quran and other prayers while sitting on the benches in the inner chamber of the royal palace. The wife of the sultan fell in love with the holy man's voice. The sheikh was annoyed by her attentions and left Male' for another island in the atolls.

Sheikh Najeeb happened to arrive at Kurendhoo in Faadhippolhu atoll. Since there was no one on the island he knew, he left his dhoani (small sailing vessel), washed at a well nearby and began to pray in a clear spot in the bush. During the prayer a toddy man in a coconut tree noticed him. The man approached the sheikh and gave him two cups of toddy to drink, and then invited him to his house. But that night the sheikh didn't arrive and the toddy man went searching for him. The sheikh had passed away at the very spot he had been praying.

The toddy man reported everything to the island chief and they buried the sheikh where he had died. As they were digging the grave they discovered an old well, now known as the Kurendhoo Tomb Well. They'd never seen this well before. It's water was used to wash the sheikh's body. The discovery was considered a divine revelation, and until recently the well was treated as sacred.

The bottom half was fashioned from a single rock, and the top section from coral stones. During the tomb's construction, a small house was built over the well to protect it from the weather. It became known as the 'sheltered well'.

When royal women got pregnant, palace dhoani would be sent to collect water from this well. They also got water from the well in front of a tomb in Matheerah [in western Haa Alifu atoll], and from the Utheemu Palace coral stone well [in southern Haa Alifu atoll]. This well is said to have come originally from Vaadhoo in south-eastern Huvadhu atoll.

The construction of Kurendhoo Tomb was carried out by Manippulhu of Kanzudhoshuge, Male', and Ibrahim Fulhu (M. Fadidhuvvaa, Male'), who were sent to Kurendhoo with materials supplied by the Treasury. The chief of Kurendhoo, Abdul Rahman Kaleyfaan, worked with them and later he became the keeper of the tomb. It took four years to complete the structure. First a low wall was built around the base. Over this a frame was placed. The sides were teak planks, and the roof was made of coconut frond thatch. Then a sliding door was put in between the grave and the well, to conceal the grave.

Before the burial of Sheikh Najeeb, the area was not a graveyard, but when the mosque was built the surrounding ground became, in time, one of the largest cemeteries in the island. The Annual Wake of Habashee is celebrated on the 15th of Ramazaan. This is a very special day in Kurendhoo and other islands on Lhaviyani atoll. Apparently about six or seven sacks of rice are cooked on that day. The government sends a large fat billy-goat. The ceremonial dagger used to kill this goat has an inscription in arabic of the name 'Ghaazee Mohamed Iskandhar'. The wake is celebrated using offerings from people fulfilling vows during the year, and with the things from others taking part in the ritual.

On the night of the 15th, wake prayers are held in individual houses, and on the 16th, dishes are prepared and sent to the common house 'Haruge' to be eaten during the wake prayers performed by the men. After the afternoon prayer on the 16th, the reading of the Quran from the Book Box takes place. Those who can, read one book each (out of the 30 books of the Quran) for Habashee.

From my research on the 'Sheltered Well' it is certain that a well was constructed long before, using a single coral rock at a point on Kurendhoo which was the most convenient place for arrival and departure by sea. This rock had been sculpted into shape, and topped off with a separate wall of stones. Single rock wells are a feature of the ancient practices in the Maldives. It was an excellent water filter, and made it tastier.

A similar well was in use near the mosque of Kuredhivaru on Noonu atoll. When I saw this well about six years ago, erosion had left it in the lagoon to the west of the island. The 'Kadhaa Valhu', said to have been brought to Utheemu by Utheemu Sultan from Vaadhoo in Huvadhu, is also one of these ancient wells. In other islands these kinds of wells still exist, so the Kurendhoo well is not a divine revelation.

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