NgazidjaGrande Comore is the site of Moroni, the capital city of the Union of the Comoros, and is the largest of the islands in the Comoro archipelago. It has an area of 442 square miles (1,146 square kilometers). The northern two-thirds of the island are dominated by a rocky plain known as La Grille. The southern third of the island is dominated by an active volcano, Karthala, which stands over 7700 feet (2361 meters) high. Karthala's crater is 3.0 x 4.0 kilometers wide, the largest active crater in the world. Since 1857 there have been over a dozen eruptions with lava flows; the most extensive was the flow in 1918. The most recent serious eruption was in 2005.

The island's over one fourth of a million inhabitants are predominantly of Arabian and African ancestry and engage in commercial, fishing, and agricultural activities. Agriculture on the island is generally limited by the lava flows and to areas lower than 2,000 feet in altitude. Above this altitude is remnants of a dense tropical forest (in the south) and a grassy plain still exist (in the center and north).

European sailing ships stopped for provisions at Grande Comore as early as 1570 when the island was ruled by 12 sultans. Although each was independent of the others, they generally recognized a principal sultan, whose rights and responsibilities were primarily settling inter-regional disputes, and accorded him or her the title of Sultan Thibe. There were conflicts over the right to use this title which increased after the French appeared on the scene. They assumed that the title indicated sovereignty over the entire island.

The best documented of the conflicts between sultans is the long and complicated struggle between the rulers of the towns of Bambao and Itsandra during the nineteenth century. This eventually led to the establishment of a French protectorate over the island and the ceding of Grande Comore to France.

 

Iconi

   Iconi, is a community on the western shore of Grande Comore. Townspeople there tell about the time in the late 18th century when slave raiders from Madagascar invaded the islands and attacked Iconi. In reaction to this incursion, the women of the town committed suicide by throwing themselves into the sea from the nearby cliff rather than letting themselves be captured.
   One of the characterizations one hears in the Islands about the people of Grande Comore is, due to their travels around the world, they can be found in almost any country. When I first heard that, I treated it simply as an exaggeration. But in the 1960s I was asked to translate a letter in English for an elderly, blind gentlemen in Iconi. He had been a deck hand on a freighter in his younger days, jumped ship in New York City, and enjoyed a life in Brooklyn for more than four decades. When he became seriously ill, he had decided to return to Iconi before he died. The letter was from his children in Brooklyn thanking him for the time he spent with them and wishing him well for the remainder of his life. It was a very touching farewell message and I have never forgotten it.

Photo of Iconi, Grande Comore by M. Aboud

 

 


What is the relationship between the Comoro Islands and The Book of Mormon?

Moroni, located on the island of Grande Comore, is an ancient city which is now the capital of the Union of the Comoros, the political polity of three of the Comoro Islands. In the Book of Mormon, the sacred text of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an angel named Moroni reveals to Joseph Smith the location of golden tablets upon which the sacred text is based. The golden tablets were hidden on a hill near Palmyra, New York, spelled, "Cumorah", in the text. Is it just a coincidence that both the name of the hill and the name of the angel who revealed the location to Joseph Smith are similar to names from the islands of the western Indian Ocean? Or, is there a historical connection between them?

It should be first noted that 'moroni' has a meaning in the local languages spoken in the western Indian Ocean. The word can be translated into English as: "at the place of fire." It is constructed of the root 'moro,' which means "fire" or "heat" and the locative '-ni,' which has the meaning "at the place of". Thus, it is a meaningful name constructed from the morphemes of the local languages reflecting the fact that Moroni is a community located at the base of an immense, active volcano. Secondly, it should be noted that 'Moroni' is a word found on European maps as early as the middle of the 18th century. The name, 'Comoro', also has a meaning in the local languages. It is composed of an old Swahili locative 'ko-' and the word 'moro.' It's meaning is also "the place of fire" and the name can be found on European maps since the 17th century and even earlier on Arabic maps.

The present evidence suggests the most likely explanation for the extraordinary similarity between the names found in The Book of Mormon and those in the western Indian Ocean is that there is a historical relationship between them. Americans visited the Comoros as early as the seventeenth century and it was reported that as many as twenty-five to forty whalers a year were visiting the islands during the 19th century. The seamen aboard these ships undoubtedly related tales about these exotic islands when they returned to the whaling ports of New England. By the time The Book of Mormon first appeared in the 1820s, the words ‘Comoro’ and ‘Moroni’ had unquestionably been spoken of in the eastern U.S. Thus, the appearance of "Moroni" and "Cumorah" in The Book of Mormon is probably the result of Joseph Smith having heard tales about these islands.

 

mosque
The Old Friday Mosque in Moroni