Islamic NGO Salaf Jamiyyah has condemned plans to revive bodu maaloodh (big feast) in Thaa atoll Kadoodhoo, a tradition that was banned under the previous government.
Bodu maaloodh was traditionally celebrated on the Prophet’s birthday as a social event where people from neighbouring islands get together for a feast.
“Salaf believes it should not be revived and that it is a bidah (innovation),” said Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim, president of the association.
Bidah refers to innovations within Islam that are not part of the religion. In Sunni Islam, innovations in religion are believed to sinful and blasphemous.
In April last year, the government announced it planned to end the segregation of tourists and locals by introducing community-based tourism and establish seven cultural centres in the seven provinces to promote cultural tourism.
Abdullah added reviving such rituals in the name of promoting cultural tourism could have “dire consequences” on society as they were in conflict with Islam.
“If all such practices are to be brought back, they might even revive old Buddhist traditions,” he said.
Abdullah said celebrating the Prophet’s birthday was an innovation because it was not practiced either by the Prophet’s companions or during the three centuries that followed his death.
Moreover, it was not prescribed in the Prophet’s Hadith (sayings) or Sunnah (practice).
RaajjeIslam.com, a website that posts Islamic literature and writings of local Sheikhs, scholars and associations, reported yesterday that Ahmed Mujthaba, state minister for home affairs, met the people of Kadoodhoo and encouraged the revival of the practice.
“At the meeting where a lot of men and women of the island were invited, the state minister said he will make sure islanders are able to do it and that the province office will cover all the costs,” reads the news statement.
It adds that the state minister told RaajjeIslam.com that it would be revived under the government’s policy of introducing cultural tourism.
The statement calls on the government to stop the “spread such irreligious practices” and advise those intent on reviving it.
Such bidah were discontinued in the country due to the efforts of many scholars, it reads, as it had been practiced as part of religious worship in the past.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Yousuf Nizar, Kadoodhoo councilor, confirmed the state minister encouraged people to organise a bodu maaloodh at the meeting.
Nizar said the tradition was discontinued over five years ago when the previous government refused to give permission.
While there might have elements of unIslamic traditions in the practice, such as in some of the Arabic chanting, he said, it was celebrated as a cultural ritual or a gathering intended to strengthen social bonds.
“I don’t believe it conflicted with Islam even back when it was stopped,” he said. “It is a cultural practice, not a religious festival.”
The councilor stressed that the feast would be planned this year only if islanders wanted to resume the practice.
In the past, he said, the island ended other practices such as putting up fire lights as it was believed to date back to the time when Maldivians worshipped the sun.
Izzudheen Adham, communications officer at the ministry of Islamic affairs, told Minivan News today that the practice was an innovation as scholars believed it was not in the sunnah or hadiths.
The Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs under the previous government campaigned to discontinue and ban various cultural traditions that were seen to be contrary to Islam, he said.
Izzudheen said bodu maaloodh was believed to have been introduced to the Maldives by Indian Borah traders, who borrowed it from a Sufi sect in India and Sri Lanka.
The ministry believes it should not be continued as it also involved prayer and supplications for blessings.
The ministry would be able to take measures against such practices when its new regulations were enforced, he said, as it would empower the ministry to stamp out unIslamic traditions.
“Our mandate is to protect religion in the Maldives,” he said. “If people are trying to revive it, we will take whatever measures we can to stop it.”
Izzudheen said the ministry will consult with the tourism ministry and other relevant authorities to ensure that the promotion of cultural tourism does not bring back traditions that conflict with Islam.
In a statement issued today, the Maldivian Detainee Network (MDN), a human rights NGO, said it views the call to ban bodu maaloodh as unconstitutional.
Article 39 of the constitution guarantees the right to participate in cultural life, while article 19 states, “A citizen is free to engage in any conduct or activity that is not expressly prohibited by Islamic Shari’ah or by law. No control or restraint may be exercised by a person unless it is expressly authorised by law.”
“Given the fact that there is no law which expressly prohibits the practice of bodu mauloodh, MDN calls upon all parties to respect the constitution on this matter and allow the cultural event to go ahead,” reads the statement. “MDN further urges those opposed to the practice to publicly air their concerns, and partake in religious debate if necessary, to discourage the practice on a cultural level. Calling on the state to ban the practice without such debate and public consultation goes against the spirit of both the constitution and democracy, especially when it infringes on rights guaranteed in the constitution.”