These islands constitute one of the wonders of the world; for their number is about two thousand, nearly a hundred of which are so close to each other as to form a sort of ring; each of which, nevertheless, is surrounded by the sea. When vessels approach any one of them, they are obliged to show who they have on board; if not, a passage is not permitted between them; for such is their proximity to each other, that the people of one are recognized by those of another.

        The greatest trees on these islands are those of the cocoa-nut, the fruit of which they eat with fish. Of this sort of trees the palm will produce fruit twelve times in the year, each month supplying a fresh crop: so that you will see upon the trees, the fruit of some large, of others small, of others dry, and of others green. And this is the case always. From these they make palm-wine, and oil-olive; and from their honey, sweetmeats, which they eat with the dried fruits. This is a strong incentive to venery. I had some slave girls and four wives during my residence here, . . . . [the translator omits details of the author's sexual activities].

        The people are religious, chaste, and peaceable. They eat what is lawful, and their prayers are answered. Their bodies are weak. They make no war; and their weapons are prayers. They are by no means terrified at the robbers and thieves of India, nor do they punish them; from the experience that every one who steals, will be exposed to some sudden and grievous calamity. When any of the war vessels of the infidel Hindoos pass by these islands, they take whatsoever they find, without being resisted by any one. But if one of these infidels should take for himself (surreptitiously) but a single lemon, his chief will not only severely punish him, but will impress most seriously upon his mind, the fear of some horrible consequence to follow. Excepting this one case only, they are the most gentle people possible towards those who visit them: the reason probably is, the delicacy of their persons, and their ignorance of the art of war.

        In each of these islands are several mosques, which, with the rest of their buildings, are constructed of wood. They are a cleanly people, each individual washing himself twice daily, on account of the great heat of the sun. They very much use perfumes, such as the galia, and scented oils. Every woman must, as soon as her husband has arisen and said his prayers, bring him the box of colyrium for his eyes, with the perfumes, and with these he anoints and perfumes himself. Both the rich and poor walk barefoot. The whole country is shaded with trees, so that a person walking along, is just as if he were walking in a garden. The water of their wells is not more than two cubits from the surface of the earth.

        Whenever a traveller enters these islands, he may marry for a very small dowry one of the handsomest women for any specific period, upon this condition, that he shall divorce her when he leaves the place; because the women never leave their respective districts. But if he does not wish to marry, the woman in whose house he lodges will cook for him, and otherwise attend on him, for a very small consideration.

        The greatest part of their trade consists in a sort of hemp, that is, thread made of the fibres of the cocoa-nut. It is made by macerating the nut in water, then by beating it with large mallets till it is quite soft; they then spin it out, and afterwards twist it into ropes. With this thread the ships of India and Yemen are sewn together, of which, when they happen to strike against a rock, the thread will yield a little, but will not soon break, contrary to what happens when put together with iron nails. This is the best sort of hemp. Each population catches the fish of its own island only, which they salt, and send to India and China. The currency used instead of coin, is the Wada. This is sea shell-fish, which they take upon the shore, and then bury in the earth till the flesh is entirely wasted away, the hard part still remaining. This is the Wada which is so abundant in India: it is carried from these islands to the province of Bengal; and there also passes instead of coin.

        The women of the islands of India cover their faces, and also their bodies, from the navel downwards: this they all do, even to the wives of their kings. When I held the office of judge among them, I was quite unable to get them covered entirely. In these islands the women never eat with the men, but in their own society only. I endeavoured, while I was judge, to get my wives to eat with me, but I could never prevail. Their conversation is very pleasing; and they, themselves, are exceedingly beautiful.


        The cause of these islands becoming Mohammedan was, as it is generally received among them, and as some learned and respectable persons among them informed me, as follows. When they were in a state of infidelity, there appeared to them every month a spectre from among the genii. This came from the sea. Its appearance was that of a ship filled with candles. When they saw him, it was their custom to take and dress up a young woman who was a virgin, and place her in the idol-temple which stood on the sea-shore, and had windows looking towards him. Here they left her for the night. When they came in the morning, they found her vitiated and dead. This they continued doing month after month, casting lots among themselves, and each, to whom the lot fell, giving up and dressing out his daughter for the spectre.

        After this there came to them a western Arab, named Abu'l Barakat the Berber. This was a holy man, and one who had committed the Koran to memory. He happened to lodge in the house of an old woman in the island of Mohl. One day, when he entered the house, he saw her with a company of her female inmates weeping and lamenting, and asked them what was the matter. A person who acted as interpreter between him and them said, that the lot had fallen upon this old woman, who was now adorning her daughter for the spectre: for this it was she was crying: this too was her only child. The Mogrebine, who was a beardless man, said to her: I will go to the spectre to-night instead of thy daughter. If he takes me, then I shall redeem her: but if I come off safe, then that will be to the praise of God.

        They carried him accordingly to the idol-house that night, as if he had been the daughter of the old woman, the magistrate knowing nothing whatever of the matter. The Mogrebine entered, and sitting down in the window, began to read the Koran. By and bye the spectre came, with eyes flaming like fire; but when he had got near enough to hear the Koran, he plunged into the sea. In this manner the Mogrebine remained till morning, reading his Koran, when the old woman came with her household, and the great personages of the district, in order to fetch out the young woman and burn her, as it was their custom. But when they saw the old man reading the Koran, just as they had left him, they were greatly astonished. The old woman then told them what she had done, and why she had desired him to do this.

        They then carried the Mogrebine to their King, whose name was Shanwan, and told him the whole of the affair; and he was much astonished at the Arab. Upon this the Mogrebine presented the doctrine of Islamism to the King, and pressed him to receive it; who replied: Stay with us another month, and then, if you will do as you now have done, and escape from the spectre with safety, I will become a Mohammedan. So God opened the heart of the King for the reception of Islamism before the completion of the month, of himself, of his household, his children, and his nobles. When, however, the second month came, they went with the Mogrebine to the idol-house, according to former custom, the King himself being also present; and when the following morning had arrived, they found the Mogrebine sitting and reading his Koran; having had the same rencontre with the spectre that he had on the former occasion.

        They then broke the images, razed the idol-house to the ground, and all became Mohammedans. The sect into which they entered was that of the Mogrebine; namely, that of Ibn Malik. Till this very day they make much of the Mogrebines, on account of this man. I was residing for same time in these islands, without having any knowledge of this circumstance; upon a certain night, however, when I saw them exulting and praising God, as they were proceeding towards the sea, with Korans on their heads, I asked them what they were about; when they told me of the spectre. They then said: Look towards the sea, and you will see him. I looked, and behold, he resembled a ship filled with candles and torches. This, said they, is the spectre; which, when we do as you have seen us doing, goes away and does us no injury.


        When I first came to the island of Mohl, a woman was sovereign, because the King mentioned above had left no male issue; the inhabitants therefore gave to his eldest daughter, Khodija, the supreme rule. Her husband, Jamal Oddin, the preacher, then became her prime minister.

        It is a custom with them to write out copies of the Koran and other books on paper only. Letters, orders; and legal decisions, they inscribe on palm leaves of the cocoa-nut tree, with a crooked sharp-pointed instrument somewhat like a knife. The army of this Princess consists of foreigners, to the number of about one thousand men. Their laws mostly originate with the judge, who, for the authority with which his orders are obeyed, is more like a king. He enjoys, by right of his office, the revenue of three islands: a custom which originated with their king Shanwaza, whose proper name was Ahmed, and this still remains in force.

        When I first arrived at these islands, the ship in which I was, put into port in the island Kalnus, which is a beautiful place, containing several mosques. Upon this occasion some of the learned and pious inhabitants took me to their houses, and entertained me with great hospitality. The commander of the ship in which I had been, then went with me to the island in which the Queen resided; and after which, the other islands of these parts are named. I sailed with him in order to see her; and after passing by many of the islands, came to it. Our practice was, to sail in a large boat during the morning; about the middle of the day we said our prayers, and then dined in the boat.

        And thus, after ten days, we came to the island Zabiah El Mohl, i.e. the Maldive island. In this I landed, and a report was made to the Queen's vizier, Jamal Oddin, who was also her husband. Upon this he sent for me. I went to him, and was very honourably received and entertained. He also appointed a house for my residence, sent me a present of victuals, fruits, clothing, and an alms-gift of the Wada (or shells), which are the currency of these parts, and used instead of coin.

        The food of the greater part of the inhabitants of these parts is rice, which they cook and lay up in saucers, and small potted plates, with spiced flesh, fowl, and fish. Upon this, in order to assist digestion, they drink El Kurbani; that is, the honey of the cocoa-nut made into spiced wine; this easily digests, excites the appetite, and communicates strength to the frame.


        After this the Vizier desired me to take the office of Judge, and to remain among them. He gave me a house, and a large garden, in which were built many other houses. He also sent me a carpet, vessels, a dress of honour, and made me ride upon a horse; although it is a custom with them, that none except the Vizier should thus ride. The rest of the nobles and others either ride in a palanquin, a machine formerly described, or walk on foot. He also sent female slaves for my service; and I married three wives. The Vizier also frequently came himself and conferred his favours upon me: for which may God reward him.

        When, however, I had married my wives, and my relations became, through them, numerous and powerful in the island, the Vizier began to be afraid of me, lest I should get the upper hand of him, when no such thought had entered my mind. This resulted purely from their weakness, the fewness of their troops, and their inexperience in the art of war, as already noticed. He hated me mortally in his own mind, began to inquire into my affairs, and to watch my proceedings. This was all known to me; and it became my intention to leave the place: but this was also a matter of dread with him, because I might then possibly bring an army upon him from the Maabar districts of Hindustan, the king of those parts, Giath Oddin, having married a sister to one of my wives when I resided in Dehli, and with whom I was on terms of friendship.

        I then divorced all my wives except one, who had a young child, and I left that island for those which stretch out before it. These form numerous groups, each group containing many islands. In some of these I saw women who had only one breast, which much astonished me. Of these islands, one is named Muluk. In this, large ships destined for the districts of Maabar put into harbour. It is an island exceedingly rich in vegetation and soil, so that when you cut a branch from any of its trees, and plant it either on the road or on a wall, it will grow, throw out leaves, and become a tree. In this island I saw a pomegranate tree, the fruit of which ceased not to shoot during the whole year. Between the Maldive islands and the Maabar districts there is a distance of three days, with a moderate wind.

*on to chapter 9*

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