Maldives to introduce study of comparative religion, says State Islamic Minister

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed is advocating the study of ‘comparative religion’ in the Maldives.

“It is important for both Muslims and non-Muslims to compare their religions and cultures, and to compare philosophies,” Shaheem told Minivan News, explaining that subject was taught in many Islamic universities across the world, including academic institutions in Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Visiting Islamic lecturer Zakir Naik is a well-known proponent of comparative religion, and frequently quotes verses of other religious texts to support his arguments.

The religions to be studied in the Maldives course would include “all those in the world: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions,” Shaheem said.

In the lead up to the launch of the course, Shaheem explained that the Islamic Ministry was drafting regulations legalising possession of books concerning other religions, such as the bible, “for educational and research purposes”.

Permitting the study of comparative religion did not mean permitting the worship of other religions in the Maldives, a 100 percent Muslim nation, Shaheem emphasised.

“The subject is comparative religion,” he said. “It will compare between Islam with other religions – such as Christianity and Judaism. At the end of study, students will know the differences and the similarities. When you study other religions, that doesn’t mean you convert to other religions – it is my belief that by the end of this people should know that Islam is the truth.”

Shaheem said the course would only be taught from an undergraduate degree level, and not secondary level “because [students’] minds are not prepared to deal with these philosophies. They are ready for it at university level,” he said.

An understanding of comparative religion would strength Islamic faith in the Maldives, Shaheem said, “because when Muslims study this subject they learn how to deal with other philosophies – they learn about what others believe, the differences between us and them, and what is the right side.”

He said he did not anticipate any objections to the new course, but noted that “the interpretation of Shar’ia has to develop from period to period. The island has become a country, the country has become a region, the region has become a world. Muslims have to be aware of these philosophies in order to deal with others in the world.”

At the same time, Shaheem said, it was necessary for other cultures to learn about Islamic culture.

“They must learn that Islam is not a religion of terrorism and extremism, or an uncivilised religion. Islam is a civilised system, because it provides all the needs of a human being – for example, in Christianity and Judaism philosophies there is no democratic political system, there is no family law, there is no economic system; we have a penal code, code, family law, economic law, even an Islamic banking system. This is why Islam is among the fastest growing religions in Europe, America and the rest of the Western world – Islam is everywhere.”

Shaheem noted that many scholars in the Maldives had studied the subject, including himself, and put himself forward as a potential teacher.

“I have studied this subject in Saudi Arabia, and I am very interested in comparative religion,” he said. “I am sure that when people study these things, at the end of the story they will agree that Islam is the truth.”


48 thoughts on “Maldives to introduce study of comparative religion, says State Islamic Minister”

  1. Thank you. This will contribute much towards Maldivians' understanding of themselves and their faith. However, the subject should be taught in a way that also encourages tolerance and respect for otherness, regardless of differences in beliefs. After all, no one can beat anyone else into submission, and faith is very personal, something that is purely between one and one's creator.

  2. I welcome this new step. Legalizing religious/spiritual scripture for academic purposes is a step towards intellectual freedom.

  3. Indeed this would be a good move. In a democratic era, we need educated people in our society to provide coherent and logical arguments to people who contradict with th religion of Islam. Shaheem, I salute you for your diligence and your perseverance and May God bless all muslims who strive and struggle in the way of Allah (SWT).

  4. On what basis does Shaheem claim that secondary level students' minds will not be prepared to deal with philosophies? I have news for you minister, secondary and even middle year students in other parts of the world do discuss philosophy. You need to be more updated with developments in education before making such a generalised statement.

  5. Thats what we want man!!!something to study... We never heard about "comparative religion" before.. we thought Religion is the islamic studies they teach in the schools,... the truth is this Islamic studies book doesn't teach you anything about Islam,,,thanks islamic scholars trying to"upgrade" islam in this country.

  6. While this is definitely a step in the right direction, I do not believe that any course in comparative religion will be well taught if the teachers are adherents of any particular religion. There is no way that the students will be able to make an unbiased comparison if the teacher comes to the course with the view that 'by the end...people should know that Islam [or for that matter, any religion] is the truth'.

  7. "Visiting Islamic lecturer Zakir Naik is a well-known proponent of comparative religion, and frequently quotes verses of other religious texts to support his arguments."

    Zakir Naik is famous for distorting the beliefs of other religions to support his arguments. I highly doubt that Adhaalath mullahs can teach comparative religion in a manner that is fair and tolerant to other religions. These people are famous for denigrating other religions. However they are the first to protest when the someone makes a (fair or otherwise) criticism of their own beliefs.

    Shaheem and his ilk are trying their best to portray themselves as moderates to ease the international pressure. But their past actions and their support and encouragement of extremists show that they are wolves in sheep's clothing.

  8. now this is what true islam is. the world can see true leaders of the faith of islam, tolerant and understanding promoting knowledge not force. this would one of the big leaps for our country for bringing up good and intellectual people.

    And ofcourse umar naseer and the DRP will have a lot to talk about now.

  9. The biggest mistake this country took in the education sector was segregating special religious schools from the mainstream. The result of that is visible everywhere in the country, i.e. a culture of intolerance.

    Islam as well as other subjects need to be studied alongside Mathematics, Philosophy, Medicine etc. This is how it was in the Golden Age of Islam, and is precisely why Islam and its scholars flourished.

    Tolerance and respect for other cultures, religions and views need to start from the ground up and I hope that the first group of people to attend such 'remediation' courses be members of Parliament!

  10. Shaheem caved in, buggar was told that he has a choice, either leave Maldives with family or shutup... I salute you Shaheem for beign a Hero

  11. I do not know what TouchNBounce is refering to when he talks about international pressure. God fearing Muslims do not really care about any international pressure as their only worry is what Allah (swt) might not be pleased with something they do wrong.

    I think good move by Islamic Ministry. Yes to begin with, it should be started at university level. Nothing can be just done all out from the start. Everything good comes gradually in good time.

  12. Why is that comparative religion not suitablel for even secondary school students, but islam is even when we are little babies? Are you saying, youths and infants below secondary school is developed enough to take islam, but not other religions. brilliant!

    Zakir Naik is not remotely close to an example of a student of comaparative religion officer im afraid. Zakir mocks other religions than make a statement proving he understands them. YES he has memorised the scriptures of other religions if thats what you meant to say. pls don't use HIM as an example.

    While i appreciate the move, i want everyone to understand what is laid out by Shaheem is not what you may think. Shaheem seems to have gotten the meaning of education and learning wrong.
    IF you approach a subject with an answer/conclusion already in your mind, then its not learning (which is exactly what's happening here). if this study of comparative religion is just going to be disrepecting of other religions and bad-mouthing and disproving their "hypotheses" and never looking at our own, then it does not make sense.

    I have a feeling this might have been proposed by Naik himself to Shaheem and their idea of studying comaparative religions are probably going to be more or less what you see on Peace TV. meaning not much information, but personal opinions of the teacher...

  13. Do you really think Islam is taught in catholic and jewish schools in europe and israel? I dont think so. So why are you so interested to introduce your so calles comparative religious study? Whats your real motive behind this crap? I have studied from Maldives, and during my Islam class lessions we have been taught enough about bible and Torah. I guess this was enough knowlegde for even a dumb person to realise that Quran was the best among all books. So why do you think this new comparative religion can do some magic. France and Belgium parliaments have voted to ban muslim women to wear hijabs and so will the rest of EU countries follow one by one. And you are interested in making our kids learn bible and torah and all those stones which hindus follow. I dont think this is a wise decision. Our schools already have a good currciculum regarding religious studies and we dont need a new one from adhaalat or anyone.

  14. But still i can't agree to bring Zakir Naik... because he said "if Usam Bin laden is a terrorist, he is a terrorist too" so lets try not allow any terrorists to this beautiful country, if not we or those who can afford, may leave this country with their childrens...

  15. I admit this is a beginning in the right direction towards intellectual freedom in the Maldives.

    But I'm hoping that Zakir Naik's little lectures do not form the basis of 'comparative religion'.

    I also disagree that 'secondary level' students minds will not be able to withstand the effects of enlightenment.

    As a student abroad, we had a chapter in our history books that taught the origins, history and beliefs of all the major religions - Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism,Sikhism, etc.

    And that was in the seventh grade.

  16. Hussein, a beautiful country? you call this a country? this is worse than a jungle, even in jungles 10-15 animals dont go and rape 1, they have some decency.

    Well, now that Shaheem has caved in to the pressure, Im sure he would listen to you on Zakir Naik (Tomorrow, he will annouce no more Zakir Naik)

  17. Well that's interesting. I just hope "comparison" doesn't end at "look at how stupid these people are compared to us! How could anyone believe this ****? Why must we feel any compassion for such ********?".

    That's the comparative religion I remember being taught in Islam classes in school anyways.

  18. Why do problem have a problem with Zakir Naik coming here? If a religious scholar with religious degree speaks you have problems that he is talking too much Islam. If Zakir Nair speaks you have problem that he does not possess a degree in Islam Scholar. Can anyone tell me if Anni and Maumoon had a degree in Politics that we have elected them both to be our presidents?
    Zakir Nair talks modern Islam and he speaks the truth. He has enough Islam knowledge to give a lecture and all you dumb ignorant Maldivians,just get over with the fact that he is coming to give a lecture here.

  19. Interesting comments here... I agree it would be a good step forwards to teach comparative religion - IF it creates more tolerance than now.

    Now, what I can see, if Islam teachers talk about other religions, it is merely to create hatred (may be not all of them are like that, but that's what I have experienced).

    I agree (with Stewie) too that Zakir Naik uses his knowledge of other religious scriptures to mock them. His Q&A sessions seem to be great to the Muslim, but he doesn't give the person who poses a Q the opportunity to comment on what he said! Besides the fact that he uses lies to underline his points of view.

    Agree with Alila that students will not gain an unbiased view of the different religions if their teachers just follow what Shaheem has already anticipated:
    “I am sure that when people study these things, at the end of the story they will agree that Islam is the truth.”

    Absolutely think that this subject would be interesting for secondary education as well.

    Will support anything to make this country more tolerant.

  20. What is the difference between learning and being spoon fed? Memorizing and critical thinking? What is the purpose of academic effort if you are supposed to arrive at an already established point of view?

    I would love to see Zakir Naik in this discussion:

    A better alternative answer could have been provided by our own Professor Saeed.

  21. This definitely is a good move from the Islamic Ministry. To some extent i do agree with Shaheem regarding this being taught at the undergraduate level. I am not saying that at the secondary level students mind are not preapred for such philosophies. Its just that even now to some extent at the secondary level students are being taught about other religions and are even being compared. They are also taught that Islam is the true religion. Personally in my opinion i think introducing comparative religious studies as a subject does not even fit secondary level curriculum. Instead we could just introduce a chapter of comaparative religious studies (in more detail than what is being taught now) to the islam curriculum,so that atleast the student would have an idea. And also it is a fact that not every student would want to do it as a whole new subject and there will be students who are satisfied with the level they are being taught at the islam class, so i guess introducing at undergraduate level means there is an option atleast. Besides i am assuming it would be much more advanced, so in that case its much better to be taught as a seperate program.

    What concerns me is how fair and just this could really be. I mean the comparisions should be about facts and students should have a better understanding towards other religions at the end of the program. The program should not be based on the particular views of the teachers or islamic ministry nor either be bias towards a particular religion.

    I welcome this new step and hope for the best.

  22. Shaheem is finding a way that he can resign from aDHAALATH PARTY TO JOIN mdp.. DON'T WORRY ON WHAT HE SAYS. he just want a way to leave adhaalath..

  23. It all sounds too sugar-coated to me. This I can tell you will be a subject that glamorize Arabic culture and denounce other cultures through the disguise of 'comparison' - exactly as it is done in Western societies as well, only they uphold their values. Still a positive step from being forcibly kept from other knowledge.

  24. lets bring the Bibles...let there be light....let the conversions begin....soon a christian majority in Maldives and the first church to Load jesus......

  25. Ibrahim Yasir : "Zakir Nair talks modern Islam and he speaks the truth. He has enough Islam knowledge to give a lecture"

    Unfortunately, he has been proven to NOT speak the truth, opting instead for crowd pleasing statements that have nothing to do with either Islam or common sense.

    Just youtube his response to teh question about why Muslims shouldn't eat Pork.

    He has been disowned by major congregations in his own country.

    The guy even has a fatwa on his head that labels him an infidel.

    But none of that matters to us average Maldivians as much as the fact that he has publicly called on ALL Muslims to become terrorists.

    That doesn't sound like the guy our Ministry of Islamic Affairs should be inviting to preach to the public.

    Unless, of course, the Ministry agrees with his viewpoint that we should all be terrorists.

  26. Yasir please explain "Modern Islam" to me.

    I am made to believe Quran is for all times and there are no old an new Quran or Islam.

  27. "lets bring the Bibles…let there be light….let the conversions begin….soon a christian majority in Maldives and the first church to Load jesus……"

    And, yes, whilst you're at it, lets have the first Maldivian Gay Priest who goes on to abuse children too! And they when he gets to the Vatican, let there be The Great Cover Up!

  28. Just a small note on Ibrahim Yasir's comment.. I went to school in Europe and believe it or not, they also teach about Islam and all the other world religions!!!
    You shouldn't just make comments like that if you have no idea what's going on in the rest of the world...
    And I wonder why everybody is so paranoid.. It's not like bringing a bible will convert everybody into christians..

  29. Most of the world's religions teach us how we can better our lives, of others, and the world through fundamental concepts such as unselfishness, love, peace, personal discipline, ethics, wisdom. Why should one religion have to 'win' over another? Why is conversion the ultimate goal? Instead why can't we accept that each of us are different and unique and equally valuable - and hence, the very personal practice of spirituality needs to reflect our uniqueness?

    Yes, we have commonalities stemming from geographical factors such as a shared country's history, culture, geography, language,location, race, family origins etc. However, there are other things that are not related to a geographically-rooted identity - including shared interests or connections such as cross-racial friends or wife/husband, gender, sexuality, hobbies, career, issues that deeply concern you personally. These latter factors are often not related to geographic parameters.

    Hence, if each of us are unique, then why should there be only one religion that is 'right'? If other religions also seek to better the world where all can live peacefully and harmoniously, where our basic needs are met, and where we genuinely care for others - then surely it is desirable for each person to find the religion or spiritual practice that most helps them to achieve such inner and external peace. Isn't it about different pathways to very similar things? If you have found a religion that fits with you most comfortably, then this is great, but it may not be such a perfect fit for another person.

    And for those who argue that some religions advocate violence and conversion, I would then say that in those cases religion has been used to achieve things which do not truly belong to those religions. And instead violence and oppression (which is what conversion is = forcing a population to only believe in one thing) has been conducted through false use of the name of that religion. And often this mis-use of religion is due to political reasons, due to individuals or groups which choose to pervert that religion's true essence of peace/love/harmony.

    So in summary, I hope that the comparative religious studies will increase understanding and harmony within the Maldives and globally - and not, as one other reader said, to use as another platform to showcase Islam as 'better' than other religions. The method and manner that Maldives chooses to showcase Islam as a core part of what it means to be Maldivian, will clearly reflect whether it is due to national pride or to national insecurity.

  30. Marina! You stupid or something?
    Which lecturer in a Q and A session gives opportunity for one person to ask questions over and over again? It's like Deedat said 'Go back to the queue and line up for next question"

    And what are you ranting about Zakir Naik lying? Did he promise to marry you?

  31. Not a bad idea. Certainly, the matter is expected to confront complications due to the novelty and the break from tradition.

    Without a doubt, the comparison of religions from the viewpoint of this subject will start from the normative statement that Islam is superior to all other subjects. So it may not be a comparative science but more informative. Fundamental differences between religions can also be expected to complicate matters. The Islamic claim that the bible was a divine revelation that came down to Jesus and then later corrupted is both ahistorical and directly contradictory to Christian tradition. How are such issues to be resolved?

    Students of this subject will, hopefully come into contact with Karen Armstrong's writings. A scholar whom I believe is the most unbiased and objective student of anything that can be called Comparative Religion. Zakir Naik should be dismissed as a charlatan and a fraud.

  32. Secondary level idiots cannot grasp the difference between Akon & Godzilla.

    So, an undergrad level Paper on Comparative Religion, while only a parenthesis in the dictionary of Words-that never translate-to-actions, is a just creditable yawn.


  33. The Hebrew to Grecian Bible which survives in the King James Edition is no more historical than the Turin-shroud being proved false by Scientific American; it is fact in Christian scholarship just as the errors in what makes the bible is.

    Historically the existence of Abraham is also disputed.

    So, while an Islamic scholar may see the fallacy of the bible as an afterthought, his assertion is far from ahistorical. The English King James edition might as well have been a Musical Play written by Shakespeare.

    It is the "essence" of Jesus's teachings and his "legacy" retained in the Bible which the Christians devote all their love to. So the historical accuracy of it is openly disputed amongst its scholars because this is of no relevance to its followers or even disciples.

    So when a Muslim says the bible is fake, he's spot on.

  34. heck,
    I have commented to a different article ( why Dr. Zakir lies:

    The problem is that if Zakir runs out of arguments (f.e. if he tries to deny scientific fact), he starts pulling out his set of lies which he can be sure that 99.9% of the audience won’t even notice (partly because they would never check the literature he quotes, and because the audience has been brainwashed just like he does in his speeches). Here is an example: listen when it comes to quoting books that he claims scientists have written against evolution:

    In addition, despite his academic background as a medical doctor, he claims to know the word “theory” too well. In fact, he underestimates its use, power & high ranking in science and tries to fool the audience as can be watched in this video:

    We know that so-called scholars fool the audience a lot, but I find it sad that HE does, HE who has such a profound (well, I guess!) knowledge of various religious scriptures. In religious matters I wouldn’t mind consulting him, but that’s it.

    Even in religious matters, which I am really not an expert in, his answers are sometimes quite funny... recently he explained why a man can have four wives is because there are more women in this world than men, and instead of becoming "public property", the woman is better married off to a man who's already married.

    However, that's my least concern - it could be his way of interpretation.

    But denying scientific fact and spreading nonsense to the ordinary woman and men, that's something I find alarming!

  35. i just hate interviews.

    Zakir Naik is an orator who knows scripture. He is a Shepard for the unwavering flock; a web-spinner for both the hijazi & the devout faithful.

    There is no denying he knows the length & breadth of biblical scripture, but yes he is no Richard Dawking *snicker*

    Also, No he does not misinform or actualize facts- he operates within his own knowledge-cess pool. This while perhaps nauseating to an A-kon fan who , while having no comprehension of this thing known locally as "science" but also knowing in the meanwhile that Dawkins is at the vanguard of all the loose ends in scientific jurisprudence- Graduate of Comparative religion or even those are aspiring to be, will find he knows how to make a christian wet himself. But that's about it..

    In order to become a true Fellow of Comparative Religion one must first see that the Shepard is only as good as the flock. Today's Dhievhi-devout is in Naiks Class of athletes.

    Both Dawkins & Naik are reciprocal idiots who know their limits. There are more lethal's out there (Reza Azlan being one example).

    The issue should be the audience. As would be evident from opinions it makes little difference because what is seeks is a hormonal high- sex driven contempt for Order.

    Example- Yes Science is great. Let's all learn something of this "science" before we flash the word in front of religion all the time shall we?

    Is every atheist a distinguished student of science or are the Hobo's just looking to get wasted hiding behind this "science" word? hmm

    Akons arrival delayed. Let's see how distinguished the audience who challenges Zakir Naik will be.

  36. Marina! The truth is your cousins are waiting for you in the sub-saharan desert jumping from tree to tree! Take a hike and join them instead of wasting your time among offsprings of Adam.

  37. Good points, Oparty. But did not know Reza Aslan is lethal.

    Marina, can't help but ask: Were you the one who felt like throwing a chair at a man who questioned Dr Bilal Phillips something about marriage age?

    I hope you get the opportunity to grill Dr Naik and would love to be in the audience while you do it. Unfortunately, looks like I will just have to watch the video -- that too if I am lucky. I hope Minivan News posts it here. lol

    "But denying scientific fact and spreading nonsense to the ordinary woman and men, that’s something I find alarming!"

    Dr Naik does not deny scientific facts, Marina. It is just that he is not convinced of evolution. He is not the only one who opposes Darwin's Theory. There are several PhD holders and medical doctors who oppose it.

    And he does not spread nonsense. His knowledge of Qur'an and other religious texts is impressive. He preaches from this knowledge.

  38. marina: Even in religious matters, which I am really not an expert in, his answers are sometimes quite funny… recently he explained why a man can have four wives is because there are more women in this world than men, and instead of becoming “public property”, the woman is better married off to a man who’s already married.

    I think zakir has put it in the best way any one can possibly do. Why is it so funny?? Islam has provided the best solution to this problem of more female in the world. If this is funny than what solution can you give?? Leaglize prost.. same sex marriage or what else. This is what i always need to get in depth knoledge than you would come to know the reasons behind things.

    If evolution is a fact then give a logical explanation of how things began including the universe. By chance...

  39. Did not mean Reza Azlan is 'extremist' if thats how you read into it. To paraphrase 'there are more lethal proponents & opponents out there'.

    Adhalat would be more comfortable with Naik, if you catch my drift.

    Oooh 'evolution'...wealli scientific stuff huh. So kewl how them white beautiful people talk about Scientific stuff and then never get to miss Happy Hour.
    There needs to be conducted remedial classes for you so that some sense could be made of all this infomania/nimphomania fed oogle ignorance .

    Essaying on contemporary views on Evolutionary Biology is not difficult even if it means with a modicum of rationale unbias, but hardly worth the effort. One baby step at a time coconuts.

    Darwin buny okeyo porn beliyas.Enter the Hobo's & the Goats.


  40. Robin,
    I acknowledge Naik's knowledge in comparative religions.
    With 'nonsense' I referred to what he says about natural selection (however, he's not the only one).

    Denying scientific truth: Yes, he does deny molecular biology, fossil records, radioactive dating and such, lies about scriptures he's never read and tries to ridicule the topic.

    I do not know any scientist of repute who denies the theory of evolution. The evidence is just too clear. PhD holders who oppose you'll easily find, it's not hard to get a PhD without understanding evolution. Doctors you'll find too, why not?? You'll also find fat chain-smoking doctors, so what?

    @ach, I'll take back that it's "funny" what Zakir said about polygamy. Let it be to the ones who like to practice polygamy like our close cousins, Bonobos and Chimpanzees - just making it legal under the label "marriage".

  41. :marina, I dont think you are using your faculty of thinking and reasoning. The real problem is people just believe things that come around. Whether it be from scietists, sheikhs etc.

    If you say that eveolution is a proven fact based on fossil records then what is your explanation as a rational human being for the existence of matter, sigle cell organisms or simply life.

    If you say there are many scientific eveidences that supports evolution then be informed that there are as many reputable scietists who refutes them. Then i am sure you would call them psudo scietists.

    Even GOD does say to think about things aroud us. This simply menas to investigate, experiment, research etc. Learning subjetcs related to natural sceince is not alien to Islam.


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