Comment: Democratic openings and Islamic nahda

Who is not worried about the recent spike in violence of all forms? Who is not anguished by the madness of senseless killings? And inflation? What explains these issues?

And what explains Adhalaath’s reaction or action? Maybe ‘functionalisation’ of Shari’ah in an effort to enlist more members before the upcoming Adhalaath party elections?

Maaddi was a word that was prominently censured in Sheikh Ilyas’s darus on April 22. Now according to maadi social science, attempts toward ‘shariatisation’ of the state happen under such general socio-political conditions as we now see in the Maldives, and as we witnessed under not very dissimilar conditions but in a different context of post-Suharto Indonesia.

That is, however, another story for another comment.

So is lack of Islam to be blamed for social ills?

History of Islam in the Maldives: a mixed story

Maldivian history is littered with examples of ‘bad’ religious beliefs and practices: from Maloney’s ‘parallel religious system’ of fandita, sihuru-haahooru, astrology, and so on to visiting the dead, maulood, and beliefs in demons of all sorts; from unveiled women to women who would not cover their chests; from a woman ruler (which was noted with ‘strangeness’ by Ibn Battuta) to ex-wives sharing homes with ex-husbands and to people fainting when Ibn Battuta passed hudud punishments, we see a very mixed story in our history. The popular Islam in the Maldives especially prior to late 1970s was a far cry from the ‘puritan’ Islam we now see.

Hence, I argue, it is simply bad maaddi social science to blame the recent social ills on alleged lack of proper Islamic education.

Gayoom’s ‘renewed commitment’ to Islam

Writing in the late 1970s, Clarence Maloney, a maaddi anthropologist who did maaddi ethnography in the Maldives, has this to say: President Gayoom’s government ‘engineered a renewed Islamic commitment’. In fact, since the 1980s we have seen a hitherto unseen effort to Islamise the society.

From Mau’had to Arabiyya to the introduction of Islamic studies at all levels in the education system; from annual Ramadan Ihya darus started by Gayoom at Mulee-aage to darus throughout the year by Gayoom’s government in the islands; from the ‘lot of attention given to Islam, as part of nationalism’ (as the then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Mohamed Hussein was quoted in Gayoom’s biography) to re-marking of the mythical Maldives’ conversion-to-Islam day in 2000, the Maldivian society we see today is far more conscious of ‘true’ Islam than it had ever been in the past.

Democratic openings and Islamic nahda

If what President Gayoom did was not enough, come 2004’s democratic openings, we saw an unprecedented Islamic nahda in the country. The young public sphere or al-mujtama’ al-madani saw itself largely controlled by Salafi organisations.

From Jamiyyathul Salaf (the first-ever salafist NGO in the country) to quasi-political Adhalaath party to the Islamic Foundation, this rise in the salafi phenomenon has not been matched by all other jamiyyas combined. In terms of organisational capacity, outreach, activeness, and financial capabilities salafis surpass all others.

From rallies addressed by world-class televangelists and da’ees like Zakir Naik, Abdurraheem Green, and Bilal Philips to darus CDs to Facebook groups, blogs, websites like,,,, and to almost daily darus at rallies, in taxis, on television and radio like Radio Atoll; from children’s specialized darus to religious camps like Hijra; from Rihla to I’lmi khazana; from English-language madhaha and nursery rhymes to other innovative outreach programmes such as road-side darus on mega-screens, the country has seen an unprecedented effort to re-Islamise the society.

This is truly an Islamic nahda.

Correlation between Islamic nahda and social ills

Now there is a clear positive correlation between Gayoom’s Islamisation and recent re-Islamisation phenomena and the apparent rise in social ills in the country.

But, no, I will not blame these Islamisation phenomena for the social ills.

Blaming Islamisation phenomena for social ills seems to me as bad an explanation as Sheik Ilyas’s explanation that Islamic studies get a meager three hours weekly in the curriculum, or that Islam teachers are not qualified, or people are not Islamic enough, or there is a harb al-afkar against Muslim Maldivians by adaavaaiythereen (enemies).

If there is one single thing prominently wrong with our education system, it is the utter lack of maaddi social sciences and humanities subjects such as sociology, political sciences, anthropology, philosophy, theology, linguistics, and literature.

Finally, I am not a maaddi sociologist, so I do not know where the explanation for our social ills lies. Disappointingly, we do not have sheiks doing such research in the country, and hence the government’s increasing ‘militarisation’ of the issues.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


13 thoughts on “Comment: Democratic openings and Islamic nahda”

  1. minivan news. keeps bringing propaganda against islam everyday!!

  2. there is a trend here
    when ever there is an anti-government protest or demonstration, minivan news will publish something anti-islamic so that peoples attention is diverted.
    Why dont you publish a comment piece about the rising discontent withing the maldives about this current government?

  3. is this person out of his mind?
    islaamdheen dheke rulhi ayas thankolheh bodu waru thee.
    the people who are roaming around stabbing, looting, stealing, raping people has nothing to do with religion. In fact most of them are out right, anti-religious. They fall more nicely into the category of secularists and atheists.
    This explain the social ills.

  4. minivan news keep on publishing these islamophobic things daily.
    just shows the level of anxiety the secularists are facing due to increasing number of Maldivians turning to the truth of islam.
    no matter how much of the propaganda you people spread, we will keep on growing more and more strong and we will conquest the whole maldives same as Mohamed Thakurufaanu. Insha Allah.
    you wait and see

  5. Frankly i do not understand what your getting at...but i sure hope Adhaalath never wins a majority or forms a government.

  6. I see a trend now.
    whenever there is an anti-government protest minivan news starts publishing these anti-islamic articles. This is Just to divert peoples attention.
    Why dont you people for once write an article about the growing discontent about the current government instead of these fear mongering, islamophobic things?

  7. I see a trend now.
    whenever there is an anti-government protest minivan news starts publishing these anti-islamic articles. This is Just to divert peoples attention.
    Why dont you people for once write an article about the growing discontent about the current government instead of these fear mongering, islamophobic things??

  8. some people are green with jealousy because of the increasing number of faithful in the country.

  9. Adhaalath rocks!
    they are the best political party in the country. more and more people are accepting this fact.
    currently they hold the rank of being the 3rd largest party in the country. I hope they jump from 3rd to 1st.

  10. As usual another target-islam article, but this time with a twist. I couldn't find a single label which minivan news usually use to describe us, like mullah, osama bin ladin supporter, fundamentalist, extremist, radical, jihadhist, etc, etc... Oh, boy was i disappointed? specially minivan news. come on. Its not very like you.
    maybe tommorows target-islam article, eh?
    Although this article doesnt make much sense it does contain some random arabic words thrown here and there. Seriously, did the guy who wrote this just started going to an Arabic language class or what?? lol

  11. hehe
    good comment XX
    the secularists think that we will be frightened and step back by their constant labeling and name-callings on us. Also by their constant propaganda and fear mongering. they are highly mistaken.

  12. The social issues arise from a lack of spirituality, not from lack of religious practices. We have enough of people advocating and practicing without knowing. Fear based strategies to control people will not work. What is happening in Maldives,after instilling fear in people, those advocating religion has nothing beyond that, to offer to the people. The truth is people by nature needs to evolve and grow. People need to learn how to pursue their spiritual evolution, need to connect to their inner self, to the Universe and to higher spiritual power. People need to learn how to nurture values, let go of pain, know their human potential, face the truth, make decisions instead of procrastinating, recognize right and wrong, be accountable for their decisions and know they are part of a bigger "Truth" that they need to discover in this life. It is not about what is being told to you. It is what you experience. Rituals are not enough for this and people do not understand the meaning of rituals. That is why it is hard to sustain rituals. The holistic approach to self actualization and spiritual growth is lacking.

  13. It is a beautiful article, But one question though. i would like to know how u came to the conclusion "Correlation between Islamic nahda and social ills."

    spirituality is something that comes from within, and yet spirituality leads to overt behavior. As such psychologists measure spiritually by; 1)frequency of prayer, 2)frequency of discussion of religious teachings, 3)frequency of deciding moral actions for religious reason and, 4)over all importance of religion in everyday life.

    psychological research suggests a very positive impact of religion and religiosity on us. some of the major issues we are facing today are anti-social behavior (e.g. crime) and drug problem of our adolescents.

    Research suggests teenagers who view religion as important are half as likely (than adolescents who do not view religion as important) to use DRUGS.

    Religious practices such as going to church has been linked to better grades from low income backgrounds. For Muslim adolescents religious practices is linked to social competence, positive peer-relationships, academic achievement, emotional regulations, pro-social behavior, and self-esteem. These are all necessary domains of development for a healthy living being.

    Other researchers have also established a correlations with religious practices with lower rates of delinquent behavior and drug use. Being highly religious is also linked to less likelihood of smoking, drinking, use of marijuana, and be depressed.

    In conclusion psychological literature suggests good, healthy, life promoting consequences of religiosity, and no where in literature we find negative effects of religiosity. In light of the research it is safe to conclude therefore that A VERY EFFECTIVE way of reducing crime rates and drug problem for example, is promoting religiosity in our youths today. According to research one special person in our lives is extremely important for teaching us religious values and practices, Mother.


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