Islam is the focus of the Maldivian life in every respect,
all being Sunni Muslims. Prayers are conducted five times a
day in all mosques on every inhabited island. The golden dome
of the Islamic centre dominates the skyline of Male’ whether
first viewed by air or from water. A result of the commitment
of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government to uphold and
strengthen the character of the nation, this imposing mosque
was inaugurated in 1984.
The well planned, comfortable interior of the centre is often
utilized for important official occasions in addition to regular
meetings. Dark woodcarvings depict the history of the religion and serve
as inspiration for spiritual development. For the artist they are a work
of beauty. From inside the mosque, worshipers can see both the
spiralling communication tower of the Postal building and the graceful
minaret of the Islamic Centre. It is a startling contrast of tradition
The night view of the mosque is breathtaking. In the quite night,
visitors may stand at the bottom of the impressive steps, look upwards
to what is said to be one of the most beautiful mosques in Asia and find
a moment for reflection.
Belonging to the Sunnis, the largest and most traditional Islamic
sect, the Maldivians believe that "There is no God but Allah", confident
that he is one, supreme and all-powerful. They also believe that
"Muhammad" is the messenger of Allah.
All Maldivians believe in an afterlife and a final judgment 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", 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.
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.