How steadfast are Maldivians in Islam?


Royal Editorial

22 April 2005

It is possible that some people faithfully issue the odd grunt in order to force out that nagging piece of excrement out of their posterior orifices.The overseas-based Maldive opposition/ dissident movements appear to be rattled by the Egyptian-trained mullahs heading the Maldive republican authorities. In a recent speech, the head mullah and president of the republic repeated his perennial accusation that the Maldive opposition and dissident movements are bent on converting Maldivians to Christianity.

In an attempt to absolve themselves of this charge, the opposition and dissident movements are making knee-jerk-statements such as “Much as he [the head mullah] would raise the specter [sic] of Christian missionaries converting Maldivians, he cannot refute that Maldivians had been resolute in following the Islamic faith since 1153 AD.” (Click here to view source).

There is ample historical evidence that not all Maldivians have always been that resolute in their faith in Islam.

Reluctance to vandalise Buddhist remains
Islam was first introduced to the Maldives in AD 1127 and was confined largely to the southern atolls. The tolerant Buddhist rulers of the realm, who were based in Malé, made no attempt to forcibly reconvert the new Muslims back to Buddhism.

Religious tolerance existed in pre-Islamic Maldives.

The Arab-colonialist missionaries, including local collaborators, were able to exploit the social unrest caused by the growing influence of a cult based in Malé that demanded the sacrifice of a virgin every month. In 1153, the king in Malé, Dhovemi Kalaminja Siri Bavanaadheettha was persuaded to convert to Islam. That marked the end of religious tolerance in the Maldives. The Arab-colonialist missionaries persuaded the king to order the destruction of all non-Islamic places of worship.

Hoping that the new colonialist cult was a transient fad, many Maldivians in remote atolls did not destroy their temples and objects of worship. They simply covered these up with soil in the hope of restoring them when the Arab-colonialist fad passed. This hardly lends weight to the claim that Maldivians were resolute in following a foreign doctrine forcibly imposed upon them.

Buddhist resurgence
As the Arab colonialist intolerance dragged on and intensified, open rebellion broke out in some distant atolls. Barely a century after the forced conversion of Malé, the chieftains of Dambidu island in Haddummati atoll openly restored the faith of their ancestors. A military force was dispatched from Malé to Dambidu and the locals were forcibly reconverted to Islam and their chieftains and priests were executed.

So when the sacred months have passed away, then kill the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

(Koran: Surah el-Towbah verse 5)

Perhaps the Maldive republican authorities and the opposition/ dissident movement would dismiss that episode as an isolated rebellion by a few misguided apostates. The fact was that freedom of choice was stamped out and those who made the free choice of returning to the faith of their ancestors were brutally killed as dictated in the Koran. The killing was done by the then equivalent of the National Security Service (NSS). No doubt, the Maldive opposition and dissident movements regard this as yet another proof of Maldivians being “resolute in following the Islamic faith since 1153 AD”.

Christian conversion
In the first half of the 16th century the young king Dom Manoel Siri Dhirikusa Loka left his realm because his ministers opposed his decision to convert to Christianity. The ministers "deposed" him and two of their number usurped the throne in succession. When the Christian king’s followers succeeded in landing a force in Malé to restore their legitimate monarch, the second of the usurpers, Ali was quickly deserted by the militia. He was left to meet a lonely death. There is evidence in the oral tradition as told by Buraara (transcribed and published in 1958), that the population of entire islands had accepted the faith of their king. Again this hardly demonstrated the Maldive resolve in the faith forcibly imposed on them in AD 1153.

General apathy to Islam
Until 1967, the chief Islamic justice was the supreme authority over religious affairs in the Maldives. The chief justices annually sent a missive to every inhabited island reminding the citizenry of their religious duties. The population paid little attention to the missives and the Royal Government did not fully enforce them. The orders in these missives ranged from toilet etiquette through sweeping of streets to stoning to death of adulterers.

Maldives annual Islamic missive

Click here to view such a missive issued in 1929 by Hussain Salahuddine son of Moosa of Malé, chief justice and chief Islamic authority.

This particular missive was addressed to the headmen and citizenry of the islands of Inguraidu, Fainu, Kinolas, Midu, Ufulandu, Maduvvari, Kandoludu, and Kudafurhi of North Maalosmadulu atoll. Among other things the missive called upon the islanders to grunt in order to expel any residual pieces of faeces off their rectums after defecation and to cleanse their orifices with water or stones. It refers to the ritual of using odd numbers of stones to wipe private orifices if water could not be found to cleanse them. Corporal and capital punishments were to be meted out as per Islamic laws and adulterers were to be stoned to death. the Royal Government expressly prohibited executions, amputations or stoning to death

No one took much notice of these annual ranting and ravings of the mullahs. It is possible that some people faithfully issued the odd grunt in order to force out that nagging piece of excrement out of their posterior orifices. In some islands where the headmen were particularly nasty, fornicators were whipped but the Royal Government expressly prohibited executions, amputations or stoning to death.

Given this type of historical evidence, it is a gross exaggeration to claim that “Maldivians had been resolute in following the Islamic faith since 1153 AD”.

It must be acknowledged that there are many people in the Maldives who sincerely follow what they understand to be Islamic teachings. Without a doubt, they are steadfast in their belief.

It is, however, not clear how many of them would heed the Koranic commandment to kill the idolaters wherever they find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush- there are those who say that this is an elaborate call to engage in terrorism.