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 Noorul-slam.com, Dheen.info, Dhiislam.com, MvislamQA.com, and Dharuslive.com 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.
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