Moses’ staff and Joseph’s coat – in Yemen? [Archives:2007/1026/Last Page]

February 19 2007
Sheikh Al-Amoudi says hed rather die than allow anyone to take the sacred staff and coat from his family.
Sheikh Al-Amoudi says hed rather die than allow anyone to take the sacred staff and coat from his family.
An African of Yemeni origin traveled all the way to touch the cloth and was overjoyed at the opportunity.
An African of Yemeni origin traveled all the way to touch the cloth and was overjoyed at the opportunity.
Sa'eed Al-Batati
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It was like manna from heaven when a new acquaintance said he'd seen what's thought to be Moses' staff and Joseph's colorful coat at the home of an old man in an out-of-the-way village in Doan, Hadramout governorate. Even though the in-between valley district is my home turf, I've never heard about the location of the staff, let alone the fact that it was within easy reach.

Several unanswered questions cropped up: How and when did it arrive here? Who brought it? Most importantly, is it really Moses' staff?

Biographers are united in the opinion that neither Moses nor Joseph was buried in Yemen, only touching on prophets like Hud and Saleh.

As a journalist, it's my job to chase down stories whenever or wherever they are. I was with some friends on a tour of the Hadramout. Before hearing the news about these sacred items, it wasn't at the top of our agenda to visit this place, but once we learned of the staff's location, we made it our top priority.

A dense forest of palm trees rings the rugged village of Boudhah nestled in a knoll on the eastern side of Doan Valley. Because the road is bumpy, an off-road vehicle is best to reach it. Despite the rough way, I comforted myself with the thought that I'd soon see Moses' magical staff and Joseph's colorful coat, which would be a major scoop!

As soon as we got out of the vehicle, we asked the Boudhah villagers about the location of Sheikh Mutahar Abood Ahmed Al-Amoudi, custodian of Moses' staff. A septuagenarian yet strong-limbed man took the initiative to lead us to Al-Amoudi's house.

With joy and anticipation, we climbed a stone-paved street, passing through narrow alleyways. By the time we got to the top, we all were huffing and puffing, as well as marveling at how our guide moved with such a spring in his step.

Before us was an impressive lime-covered mansion with two cannons in its facade, a testament to Al-Amoudi tribe's power in the past.

A bearded man, who we later learned was the sheikh's assistant-keeper, received us with warm hospitality and took us to the living room on the first floor. Al-Amoudi kept us waiting in the well-carpeted room for nearly a half hour, while the marvelous staff was the centerpiece of our speech.

After keeping us waiting for so long, the sheikh made it very dramatic, sending his assistant many times, possibly to ensure that we weren't going to snatch the items from him. As we neared the end of our ropes, the assistant called to us, “The sheikh is ready to meet with you.”

Climbing more stairs to reach Sheikh Al-Amoudi's room, we entered a well-appointed room with wooden columns and pillars. A nonagenarian and an imposing man wearing traditional Hadrami clothes was sitting in the corner of the room, welcoming us with his ear-to-ear grin.

Apparently hearing-impaired, he asked us to repeat our questions many times as we pumped him for more information about the staff. As we took our places in the room, I immediately got to the point, telling him the purpose of our visit. “Yes, you'll see the staff, but you must bear in mind that Allah is the Creator and he makes all things benefit or harm you,” he replied with a shrinking voice, directing his assistant to bring the staff and the coat, which were kept in a steel box.

The assistant first brought the three-cubit staff, the tip of which was made of whitish brass tinged with silver. Undoubtedly, the wood used to make it was very interesting, as one can imagine that from Moses' time until today, it had survived all kinds of weather and climates and crossed the Red Sea to reach the Hadramout and then into the rugged region of Boudhah.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the fascinating staff, which was once in Moses' hands and now was in mine! The staff smelled sweet and much use had left a black smudge along the staff – one could feel how the staff was weathered by touch.

My inner feeling was that I had touched the staff Allah had prescribed as one of the miracles to go up against the Egyptian Pharaoh – and now it belongs to us in the Hadramout!

Apart from the staff was a cube-shaped bundle of cloth tucked inside a green velvet cloth also shrouded in mystery. The cloth's presentation was fascinating, as the mixture of deep yellow satin along with green satin made for an astonishing combination.

Al-Amoudi claimed that inside the bundle was the coat that Joseph's envious brothers showed his father as proof that he had been killed by a wolf.

We were allowed to touch the staff, but when we tried to see what was inside the cloth bundle, the sheikh vehemently refused and held it tightly. “Our ancestors wouldn't have had the guts to open the cloth, so why do you want me to dare and open it?” he said angrily. We didn't know what to do except accede to his wishes.

But how did he get the staff and coat? “We got them from Morocco. They were in the possession of a Moroccan Muslim man called Shaib Abu Madian hundreds of years ago. Before his death, he directed in his will that the staff and coat be sent to Fagiah Al-Mugadam (an Islamic authority living Tarim in the seventh century according to the Islamic calendar) in Hadramout,” he explained.

Regarding the staff's authenticity, Sheikh Al-Amoudi welcomes experts to come examine the staff and see for themselves the truth of his claim.

The sheikh explained that after Abu Madian's death, another one took the staff and coat and headed toward the Hadramout. “The staff traveled via Iraq and then reached Mecca, where the man became sick. He pledged to continue his trip if he recovered from his illness; however, he died and so another man took the staff and traveled to the Hadramout,” he recounted.

After a long journey, the staff reached Mugadam's hands in Tarim. Sheikh Sa'eed Al-Amoudi, an Islamic scholar living in the seventh century according to the Islamic calendar and an ancestor of Sheikh Mutahar Al-Amoudi, was one of Mugadam's students in Tarim.

Because Sheikh Sa'eed Al-Amoudi was such an outstanding student, Mugadam gave him the two items in order to honor him. Sheikh Sa'eed Al-Amoudi died and was buried in Doan; thus, the staff and coat transferred to his heirs.

The elderly sheikh claims to know quite a lot about Al-Amoudi clan, believed to be descended from the son of the Prophet Mohammed's (pbuh) first caliph, AbuBakr Al-Sideeq. Because of the honorable position the clan has, the coat and staff came into Sheikh Sa'eed Al-Amoudi possession and he is now the sole heir of the staff and property.

However, he admits that the staff has caused irreconcilable differences within his family. “The staff came into our possession after much conflict. These items have been with us for 27 years,” he adds.

For those seeking blessings from the staff, he instructs, “Your faith in Allah should be strong, then run your eyes along the staff while reading special verses from the Qur'an.”

According to the sheikh, many people have visited and interviewed him. “Today, a group from the U.K. and East African countries studying at Dar Al-Mustafa in Tarim came and saw the staff and the coat.”

Although the number of visitors is increasing daily, Al-Amoudi isn't making money off of it, which causes many of those I interviewed to trust his word. Asked whether non-Muslims may see the staff, he replied, “No, no it's not permissible for them to visit me.”

Al-Amoudi refuses the suggestion to hand over the staff and coat to a museum, declaring, “We'll die behind it! We won't allow anyone to take it from us!”

Sheikh Mutahar Al-Amoudi's heirs will inherit custody of the items upon his passing.

Word has it that Moses' staff actually was 10 cubits long; however, in any event, it seemed to be an interesting story, which I leave for the readers to decide.