A snakehead reared as a hobby forms natural Arabic letters reading 'Allah' on one side and 'Allahu Rabbi' (My Creator Allah), on the other

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

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Published: Fri 18 Feb 2005, 4:49 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:11 PM

It is a fish that didn't get away. It is a fish that in fact came back and stayed and, over the years, grew into a miracle creature, bringing with it awe, wonder and affirmation of faith. It is a fish like no other. It is a live fish in possession of Mohammed Rafeek of Bur Dubai and Muhammed Ishaa Wozeer Ali, both Sri Lankan nationals related by marriage.

Their 23 inch long, 5-pound fish carries The Creator's holy name, 'Allah' emblazoned in Arabic letters on one side and 'Allahu Rabbi' (My Creator Allah) on the other. The letters, perfectly formed on the fish's dark bluish-grey body out of the natural white patterns the fish has been blessed with, are clear and unmistakable. According to Wozeer Ali, the last publicly known instances of fish bearing Allah's name naturally written on their bodies were reported once in the 80s and once in the 60s, both in India.

Mohammed Rafeek, 37, has been in Dubai for the last 20 years and works for the Dubai Port & Customs. He is also the director of Sangamam Radio, in whose office on Al Fahidi Street the wonder fish has begun to attract visitors and devotees. Rafeek was ecstatic to receive the fish three weeks back when his brother-in-law Wazeer Ali brought it with him from Colombo. "I think it's a miracle," Rafeek beams. "It's not very often that we get to see such a phenomenon. It came here during the DSF, and I felt as if I had received a bumper draw. I look upon it as Allah's gift." He said that they got offers to display the fish during the DSF. "But we didn't do it, mainly to ensure its safety."

The fish was not born that way, reveals Wozeer Ali, who is a computer consultant and was also a hobby fish-breeder back in Colombo. He got the fish three years back in Colombo, as part of a whole lot imported from China by one of his fish-dealer friends. It was one of the four snakehead fish variety that Wozeer Ali received, three of which died soon after. Snakeheads, known as such due to the resemblance of their heads to a snake, are freshwater fish from the genus Channa found in parts of Asia. They are known as very aggressive and fierce predators in the wild, feeding on almost anything — smaller fish, frogs, baby turtles and even baby ducks. Adult snakeheads are known to camouflage themselves, varying their colours to suit the colour of the water they inhabit. Their young have attractive reddish-brown backs and prominent longitudinal stripes, counter-shaded with silver or white bellies and live up to 15 to 20 years.

Wozeer Ali received the fish when it was a baby, only 3 inches long with just a white stripe across its body. True to its nature, however, it began to attack the other fish in the tank, and to protect them, Wozeer Ali had to give it away to a friend who promised to keep it forever. One year later, however, the friend returned the fish to Wozeer Ali because he couldn't keep it from going after his other fish. So, Wozeer Ali accepted the fish, put it in a separate tank and stopped paying it much attention because he had lots of other fish to look after. Looking back, he says, "That fish was a problem. I could've given it to someone else. I don't know what made me keep it."

But keep it he did, for two and half years and the fish grew to a length of 20 inches. Nobody noticed anything unusual about it — until five months back. On a Thursday, one of Wozeer Ali's ustads — teacher — dropped in for a visit. While going home after discussing religious issues with them, the teacher stopped near the tank and kept looking at the fish for a long time. After some time, calling everybody, he excitedly announced, "I see some Arabic letters on the body of the fish."

The whole family crowded around and took pictures of the fish. "We carefully looked at the pictures," recalls Wozeer Ali, "and discovered to our amazement and absolute delight that we were looking at the holy word, 'Allah'. The holy words probably formed some time back, but we didn't know until the teacher came along. I was ecstatic, deliriously happy. I thought it was a gift from Allah Almighty to me, and I thanked Him for giving me the marvel fish." Then pondering on the ironic fact that he had given away the fish and it came back to him, Wozeer Ali softly adds with a humble smile, "Maybe Allah Almighty loves me."

Although Wozeer Ali didn't publicise the invaluable phenomenon in his possession, word spread quickly through Colombo. People came and took pictures. Many, including some foreign organisations offered to buy the miracle fish. "I didn't accept the offers because I didn't want to part with my precious possession at that time," he says. Now the fish has become a member of the family, Wozeer Ali says, and a favourite with his wife, two daughters and Mohammed Rafeek's three children aged 10, 8 and 5, who lovingly call it, 'My Allah's fish.' Talking about it as if it were a human being, he says, "You know ... that fish is very moody. He hates to be alone and is most happy and excited when there are people around. He eats meat and fish, but sometimes he doesn't eat for days." Then Wozeer Ali adds, almost as an afterthought, "And you know, he may hail from an aggressive species but now he's really very gentle and peaceful." Little wonder about that, too.

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