MOSCOW, Oct. 22, 2009 — -- Thousands of Muslim pilgrims are flocking to the home of a 9-month-old boy in Russia's southern republic of Dagestan to see the verses from the Koran that seem to appear and fade on his body every few days.
Religious leaders in Dagestan say the verse "Be thankful or grateful to God" appeared on Ali Yakubov's right leg in Arabic script earlier this week, according to Reuters. By the time foreign journalists had arrived, the verse had faded to a single letter.
In photos, the words look like pink birthmarks a few inches high. Ali's parents told reporters at first they thought it was in fact a birthmark or a skin irritation but doctors couldn't explain it. The lettering appears on different parts of his body and shortly before a new set is about to appear, his parents say, the boy's temperature spikes to about 105 degrees.
"It's impossible to hold him, he cries, lifts that part of the body [where the verse appears], his temperature goes up to 40 degrees [Celsius], and he doesn't sleep all night," his mother told reporters.
"From a medical point of view, I can't explain it in any way," said local nurse Saida Rasulova.
To add to the mystery, Rasulova says baby Ali was born with cerebral palsy and an ischaemic heart condition (reduced blood supply to the heart muscle) but says he's now healthy.
About 2,000 pilgrims are showing up every day at the family's modest home in the town of Kizlyar where green flags line the pathway (green being the color of Islam). Local police keep order while pilgrims and Muslim leaders pray and pass around photos of the verses that previously appeared on the child.
Dagestan is a majority Muslim republic located in Russia's North Caucasus region on the border of Chechnya. The area has seen a spate of violence in recent months with security forces regularly clashing with separatist Islamist militants.
"The fact that this miracle happened here is a signal to us to take the lead and help our brothers and sisters find peace," the head of the Kizlyar region, Sagid Murtazaliyev, told reporters. "We must not forget there is a war going on here."
Miracle Baby: Sign of the Apocalypse?
A Muslim imam who visited Madina and her boy had a more apocalyptic take on situation, saying, "It is written that the closer to the end of the world, such signs will appear on a person's body."
The baby's markings have caused such a stir that the Russian Council of Muftis put out a statement calling them a warning to Muslims to "turn to the wisdom of the religion of Allah."
"[They should] repent of their sins, and abandon their discord, conflicts, and the fratricidal confrontation that today shakes the blessed land of Dagestan and the entire Caucasus," the statement read, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Madina, who is married to a local policeman, has no doubt that her son's condition is linked to the region's troubles.
"Allah is great and he sent me my miracle child to keep our people safe," she said.