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the islands going beneath the sea .......

Religion in Maldives
 
Islam, central to the life of Maldivians, not only lays the cultural background and life style, but lays down the smallest details of everyday behavior. Until recently, pre-Islamic history was ignored. But while the contribution of pre-Islamic culture is now appreciated, a non-believer still cannot become a citizen of the Republic of Maldives.
 
The president is the religious as well as political leader. The law is based on the Muslim code of shari'a, which applies the principles of the Qur'an to society as interpreted by a gazi (judge). Indeed, like all Muslims, Maldivians do not distinguish between law and religion, shari'a, the nearest word for law, means the way, the true path of enlightenment. The main events and festivals in Maldivian life follow the Muslim calendar. From the age of 3, children are taught the Arabic alphabet, memorize extracts from the Qur'an, and learn the basic principles and history of Islam. As they grow older they will be expected to say prayers with the family. On Fridays the boys go with their father in their best clothes to the local mosque, girls go with their mother to a mosque for women, if there is one, or pray at home. When they grow up, the ambition of all Maldivians is to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
 
The Advent of Islam in Maldives   -   When King, Dhovimi Kalaminja (Sri Bavana MahaaRadhun) was ruling Maldives, an Arab named Abul Barakaath came to Maldives from North Africa. At that time there was a practice of offering a virgin every month to a spirit called "Rannamaari", which was said to appear from the sea. Abul Barakaath made the spirit not to appear any more by reciting the Holy Qur'an. Convinced by the faith of Islam, the King and the people became Muslims. After sometime the King went to Mecca and nothing was heard of him again. His descendants ruled Maldives. Abul Barakaath was burried at Male' and his tomb lies adjacent to the Hukuru Miskiy (Old Friday Mosque).
 
 
Islamic Beliefs   -   Belonging to the Sunnis, the largest and most traditional Islamic sect, Maldivians believe that "There is only one God, Allah - the Almighty", confident that Allah is one, supreme and all-powerful above everything. They also believe that "Muhammad" is the messenger of Allah. In a long line of prophets which includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. Muhammad is considered the last and greatest. Mohamed is not divine, the arch-angel "Gabriel" brought Mohamed the message of Allah, and Mohamed  is man at his best. It's the aim of all Muslims to practice Islam.
 
At the same time, Maldivians follow the liberal Shafi'ite school, founded by Al-Shafi'i, an Arab-born Persian descended from the Qurayishi tribe. He usually gave equal weight to the Qur'an, and to the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad as written down in the "Hadith". In some cases he preferred to rely on the latter in interpreting the principles of Islam for society. Maldivians, therefore, share similar beliefs to the Muslims of the East Indies, East Africa, lower Egypt and southern Arabia.
 
All Maldivians believe in an afterlife and a final judgement that decides whether they go to hell or heaven. Only right conduct can assure the latter, which entails keeping to the five pillars of the religion, to repeat the creed "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah" (La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah), to say prayers five times a day (at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and after darkness), to give alms to the poor, to make a pilgrimage to Mecca if possible at least once in a lifetime, and to fast during the month of Ramadan.
 
 
Islamic Justice  -   In applying shari'a, or sariyathu as it is locally known, Maldives is fairly lenient compared with other Muslim states. The women do not generally observe purdah or cover themselves. Neither is punishment for breaking Qur'anic law too severe. When Ibn Battuta became the gazi chief minister of justice and ordered tile traditional Islamic punishment of cutting the hand off a thief, several Maldivians in his presence fainted at the thought of it. Only once, during the reign of Mohammed Amin Didi in this century, have thieves had their hands cut off. Maldivians are peace loving. Violent crime, like murder or rape, is extremely rare. In the old days a murderer would be flogged through the streets before banishment for life to a remote island.
 
Prisons for serious criminals and political detainees have been established only recently. People are still flogged with a dhurra, (a taut leather strap with flat copper studs down the sides). Anyone caught committing adultery undergoes flogging on the thighs. The most common and traditional punishment is house arrest or banishment to another island, far away from family and friends. Anyone caught drinking alcohol is usually banished for a year. Fines are imposed for petty crime. If a banished person works hard they can become a respected member of the local community. With a new sense of self-esteem, it is extremely rare that they commit a crime again.
 
 
Tribute to Islam  -  Dominating the Male skyline from the sea is the shining gold dome and thin minaret of the new and striking Islamic Centre. Located between Medhuziyaaraiy Magu and Ameer Ahmed Magu, it was opened in 1984 and contains a library and conference hall. Its central feature, the grand mosque, holds more than 5,000 people. The main prayer hall has woodcarvings and Arabic verses inscribed by Maldivian craftsmen. The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Maldives is also located in this center. Named after the national hero, Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu, who ousted the Portuguese in the seventeenth century, the Islamic Centre not only honors the Muslim faith but reflects the new prosperity that is enveloping the islands.
 
There are several other Islamic monuments on Male'. Opposite the old Friday Mosque sits the Medhu Ziyaaraiy memorial, which commemorates the person who converted Maldives to Islam in AD 1153 one Al-Sheikh Abu-al-Barakat Yusuf al Barbari, also referred to as Al-Sheikh Abdul Rikaab Yusuf al- Thabreyzee. Nearby is the most beautiful mosque on Male' the Hukuru Miskiiy or Friday Mosque built in 1656 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar. The interior and exterior walls are intricately carved with Arabic verses and ornamental patterns. The architecture is influenced by the aesthetic values of Islamic traditions and the workmanship of the master carpenters, Masons and artists of the Maldives. The Friday Mosque is built with intricately carved coral stones, mainly brain corals, fitted into each other with hewn grooves carved in the stone so fine that a Dutch captain Fredrick de Houtman (Forbes, A.D.W. 1979) described it by saying that "One could hardly get a needle between the joints". The compound encloses the ancient tombstones, all beautifully carved, of many past sultans, sultanas and dignitaries. In 1675 the same sultan, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, inspired by the minarets he had seen on a pilgrimage to Mecca, built the nearby Munnaaru Minaret, where the chief mudhimu, or muezzin, on the island called the faithful to prayer before the Islamic Centre was built.
 
The most remembered episode in Maldives' past is commemorated by the Bihuroszu Kamanaa Miskiiy, the tomb of Muhammad Thakurufaanu, who in 1573 was instrumental in regaining the country's independence from the Portuguese. That day, the first of the Islamic month of the Rabeeu'l Awwal, is celebrated as Maldives' National Day. Thakurufaanu, who died in 1585, is also remembered for minting the country's first coins, improving education and religious services, and expanding trade.
 
Sultan Ali Vl, Popularly known as Ali Rasgefaanu, he ruled the country only two and a half months before he was killed in the Portuguese invasion of 1558. The memorial is on the spot where the sultan fell after being hit by an enemy arrow. He was standing in the shallows, but land reclamation has brought the memorial inland. Successive rulers used the inspiration of Sultan Ali and Muhammad Thakurufaanu as national heroes to weld the scattered people of Maldives into one nation.
 
 
 
 
 
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