The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has requested amendments to the uniform code of the security services to authorise army and police officers to grow facial hair.
A media official from the ministry confirmed that a letter was sent to the President’s Office this week officially requesting the policy change “to give permission to police and army officers to grow beards as in other Islamic countries, since our constitution is based on Islamic principles.”
Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told local media this week that a number of army and police officers had appealed with the ministry for the change.
Shaheem argued that in spite of disagreement among scholars regarding the issue, the Maldivian constitution provides the freedom to adhere to Islamic codes.
He noted that other Islamic nations such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan permitted beards in the military while Sikhs in the Indian army were allowed to wear beards.
Shaheem explained to local daily Haveeru this week that the Islamic Ministry was not advocating in favour of making beards mandatory for the uniformed bodies, but rather to allow those who requested permission to wear beards.
“While our constitution offers that right, why has it been forbidden by some in an Islamic country?” he asked, adding that he had complete confidence that President Mohamed Waheed “would not turn his back on the request.”
“Mocking the Sunnah“
Shaheem’s religious conservative Adhaalath Party, part of the ruling coalition, put out a statement yesterday “condemning in the harshest terms” remarks made by two unnamed scholars in a lecture to police officers last week that the party contends “mocked” the Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed).
The press release did not identify the speakers by name. However, a police media official confirmed that the session was conducted by Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and MP Afrashim Ali, a moderate scholar and council member of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
According to police media, the pair spoke in detail about sources of disputes among religious scholars, including on the issue of beards.
“In his speech, Dr Afrashim Ali mainly explained the importance of knowing how the Prophet’s Sunnah is ranked,” reads the police news item.
MP Afrashim argued that issues on which scholars have not been able to reach a consensus could not be declared either compulsory or heretical as “there cannot be a definite conclusion regarding such problems.”
According to Adhaalath Party, one of the scholars told police officers that there was no benefit to society from an individual wearing a beard “even if, for example, it was established from the Prophet’s Sunnah.”
The remarks implied that growing a beard was not mandatory in the Sunnah and cast doubt on its purpose, the Adhaalath party statement argued.
“As some officers of the Maldives police institution wanted to wear beards, he attempted in his talk to convince them that there was no need to do something that was of no benefit to society,” the statement reads.
Adhaalath Party noted that there was consensus among Islamic scholars that wearing beards was part of the Sunnah. Scholars however disagreed as to whether the practice was obligatory upon all Muslim males.
“This is as clear as the midday sun,” the statement claimed, citing authentic hadith purporting to show that the Prophet “ordered all Muslims to trim their moustaches and grow out their beards.”
In its statement, the Adhaalath Party’s scholars council also urged all government departments and state institutions to “amend all regulations in conflict with Islamic principles.”
Article 10 of the constitution states that the religion of the state is Islam while “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”
Religious NGO Jammiyathul Salaf meanwhile released a statement yesterday signed by the group’s President Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohamed Ibrahim, Sheikh Hassan Moosa Fikry and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer bin Ibrahim insisting that beards were compulsory in Islam.
The Salaf statement further claimed that regulations prohibiting beards in the military were unconstitutional as it was contrary to a well-established tenet of Islam.