The legend of the holy tomato

Look very closely at this tomato. Does it contain just seeds and flesh - or can you make out the word - the Arabic symbol for Allah? If so, you are just one of the witnesses to the miracle of Bradford.

There was nothing extraordinary about 52 Willow Street. The terrace house, with its tiny concrete front garden, was just like all the others in the Bradford suburb. In the quiet road children trundled past on skateboards, and the odd cat slunk along the top of a wall. The back of the house offered panoramic views of the neighbours' washing lines. Life was tranquil for the mostly Asian residents of Girlington.

Nothing extraordinary until last Tuesday when housewife Shabana Hussain started preparing a curry. Since then hundreds of curious Muslims have been making their way to No 52. Their knocks on the door are always followed by the same question: "Is this the house with the miracle tomato?"

Shabana, 27, had been at home with her four young children and mother- in-law, Zeenat Bibi, when she ran out of tomatoes. Zeenat, 61, popped out to the local corner shop, Tahir Food Stores. Sitting in the lounge of No 52, surrounded by pictures of the Taj Mahal and Mecca, Zeenat smiles as she recalls the part she played in the miracle.

"Another customer was choosing some tomatoes, and I had to wait. I then picked out a kilo - I prefer the hard ones. It was just luck that I picked that one." Shabana, in the kitchen cooking another curry, pops her beaming face through the hatch and picks up the story.

"It was the first tomato I picked out from the bag. As I was slicing it in two I said `Bismillah', which means `In the name of Allah'. I glanced at one of the halves and there was that very word."

She then looked at the other half only to see the veins had formed another Arabic phrase from the Koran - "There is no god but Allah". "I was so amazed. I just stared at the halves feeling completely numb. I had a desire in my heart to see it. I was startled that my wish had come true."

Shabana had been looking at the insides of tomatoes for two years, ever since Shaista Javed from Huddersfield - also in Yorkshire - claimed the veins in her tomato spelt Koranic scripture meaning "There is no God but Allah" and "Mohamed is the messenger".

Shabana showed the fruit to Zeenat and to her 16-year-old brother-in- law, Adil Hussain. Jubilant at the discovery, they started phoning friends and relatives with the news.

"I was amazed," says Adil. "I thought it was a miracle. I was worried the tomato would go soggy. We put it on top of the display cabinet in the front room so the kids couldn't get at it. I kept going back to look at it every five minutes."

When Shabana's husband, Imdad, a 38-year-old computer technician, returned home, he asked the imam of Girlington mosque, Qari Muhammed Ali Azhar, to come and verify the "writing". The spiritual leader is in no doubt of its authenticity. "This is a proclamation of god's oneness and it's a true miracle," he says.

He asked Imdad to bring the fruit to the mosque to show the congregation. Mindful that one trip over a raised paving slab and the miracle would be mulch, Imdad walked the short distance holding the dish in front of him like a ticking bomb.

"About 30 people lined up to have a look," recalls Imdad. "They all agreed that it was sacred scripture. One person rushed home to get a camcorder and filmed it."

Even Bradford's most senior Muslim cleric, Pir Mahroof Hussain, has given the tomato his approval. "It's a miracle of Islam," he insists.

The flow of pilgrims beating a path to No 52 shows no sign of drying up. Adil, who has been buying six bottles of soft drinks a day to cater for them, puts the number at around 250 so far.

"The house was packed out the first couple of days. I kept having to rush back and forth to the fridge to bring out the tomato, as well as trying to look after the guests."

And still they come. A red Rover pulls up and a tall man in a white tunic and trousers steps out and peers at the house. "Have you come to see the tomato?" asks Adil, who has done the routine so many times before. "Yes," admits Arshad Khan, a 35-year-old engineering lecturer from Bradford.

The fridge is duly opened, and the tomato, sitting proud in a white dish, wedged between a bunch of coriander and a lettuce, is ceremoniously carried through to the front room, which offers the best light. Mr Khan peers through the cling film at the halves, which by now are beginning to go fuzzy. Imdad assures him that the lines were much clearer when the tomato was fresh, and shows him blown-up photographs taken earlier.

There's a moment of silence. The visitor then announces: "It's a miracle! A miracle. No human has the power to write in a tomato. It's a message to the world, not just to Muslims, to believe in the oneness of Allah. It endorses your faith. I feel very emotional. It increases my love for Islam."

So why has Allah chosen a tomato? "Allah chooses what pleases him. A few years back it was an aubergine."

Indeed, in March 1996 Ruksana Patel, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, cut into an aubergine only to discover the seeds had formed the phrase "Allah exists" in Arabic. A holy aubergine once even turned up in Bradford. A Hindu, Amrata Mistry, and his wife discovered the sacred symbol "ohm" in the centre of their would-be dinner two years ago.

In the lounge of No 52, a group of women have gathered to see the wonder. "You should have called me sooner, so I could have seen it when the lines were clearer," says a housewife, Rukhsana Naim, 40, from Heaton, Bradford. But she is not disappointed. "It's a miracle, and everybody should know. I'm very pleased to see it with my own eyes. I was at a friend's house when they told me and I came straight round."

Another housewife who will pause before slinging tomatoes into her pan is 38-year-old Robina Zabair, also from Heaton. "I couldn't believe it when I was told. It's a special moment. I would be over the moon if I had discovered it."

Indeed, Shabana hasn't stopped beaming. It has, she claims, changed her life. "I have more belief that there is only one god, and that our religion is the true religion." Still smiling she returns to her cooking, diligently inspecting every sliced tomato.

Now almost celebrities, the Hussains are finding themselves the subjects of congratulatory hugs and handshakes. "As a family we feel very privileged that it has happened to us. People have said maybe we are good people. We don't feel anything special," says Imdad.

Another person whose popularity has increased is storekeeper Tahir Haq, who sold the tomato. The 21-year-old says his shop was busier than usual the day after the discovery. He believes Allah gave him a role in the miracle to reward him for a recent pilgrimage to Mecca.

"The price of my tomatoes remains the same," he says.

Imdad is now trying to get in touch with university food-science departments for advice on how to preserve the tomato. If unsuccessful, he may offer it to a sick member of the community to eat - should it not mould over first. If so, he may bury it, or toss it into the sea, following the traditional method of disposing of damaged sacred objects.

While the tomato's days are numbered, Imdad doubts whether its demise will deter pilgrims. They will still come to see the photos, he says.

Could it be, I venture as I leave, that it is just a coincidence that the veins look like Koranic scripture? Absolutely not, Imdad insists. "There is no break in the Arabic characters."

I put to him the other question I have been dying to ask - why has Yorkshire produced so many "miracle" fruit and vegetables?

"A coincidence," he says, turning on a table lamp to give visitors a better look at the miracle tomato.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
television
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower