Saudi Prince donates MVR18.4 million to build mosques in the Maldives

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has donated MVR18.4 million (US$ 1.2 million) to a mosque project with plans to build 10 mosques in the islands.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed confirmed that the money was transferred to ministry’s bank account yesterday (October 15) and that work on the mosques is scheduled to start in the next couple of months.

“This is just the first donation of a US$4 million full amount from the Saudi Prince. We are told that we would receive the rest of the amount as construction of the mosques goes forward,” said Dr Shaheem.

The Saudi Prince – who pledged to build 10 world class mosques in the Maldives in his visit to the Maldives earlier this year – told Shaheem he is willing to help the Maldivian government to preserve the Islamic identity of the nation and that Saudi Arabia sees the Maldives as a country of ‘special importance.’

For his visit in March, the prince – who also serves as the defense minister of Saudi Arabia – booked out three resort islands for nearly a month, reportedly leaving tourists unhappy as bookings were cancelled.

Hajj issues

Dr Shaheem also shared with Minivan News concerns brought forward by agents from Mecca who say that they have large amounts of money owed to them by Maldivian private Hajj companies.

“An agent from Mecca came to the Maldives and shared information about two Hajj groups who owes money in excess of US$300,000 to the agent not paid in over a year now,” said Dr Shaheem.

Recently, the government covered the expenses of the 121 defrauded customers of Al-Fathuh Hajj Umra group with an amount in excess of US$ 500,000.

“We have given the company one month to reimburse the government for the expenses and the company has informed the government via police that they are currently in the process of paying back the government,” explained Shaheem.

While speaking to local media after coming back from the Hajj pilgrimage, Shaheem said that the ministry had decided implement a policy which would require private Hajj companies to keep a deposit at the Islamic Ministry in order to acquire the permit from the government in order to prevent a repeat of this type of fraud.

Haveeru also reported the story of ten Maldivian students who were on their way to the pilgrimage from Medina when they were stopped at a checkpoint near Mecca and denied access being told that the permit was invalid.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Mosques to be brought under Islamic ministry on November 1

All mosques in the country will be brought under the purview of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on November 1, Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has said.

“The ministry is working to change mosques, Imams, muezzins, workers to the ministry from November 1 onward,” Shaheem tweeted on Sunday (September 28).

Responsibility for the maintenance and management of mosques was transferred from the Islamic Ministry to local councils by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010.

However, in April, President Abdulla Yameen ratified amendments to the Religious Unity Act of 1994 that would bring mosques under the Islamic ministry and outlaw independent prayer congregations. The amendments came into effect in mid-July.

In April 2012, Shaheem called for mosques to be returned to the ministry’s care following the refusal of some island councils to allow scholars to preach in mosques, most recently in the island of Innamaadhoo in Raa atoll.

The Innamadhoo island council filed a complaint with the Islamic Ministry in March against Sheikh Ibrahim Shameem Adam after the NGO Salaf preacher allegedly delivered a sermon in the island’s mosque without permission from the council.

In May 2013, Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Sheikh Ilyas Hussein – senior members of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party – were obstructed from preaching in Vaikaradhoo, in Haa Dhaalu atoll, whilst the Kamadhoo island council in Baa atoll prevented Sheikh Nasrulla Ali from preaching in the island’s mosque.

In Vaikaradhoo, the Adhaalath sheikhs were provided police protection in the face of unruly opposition protesters.

“Broadening the role of mosques” was among the eleven key policy objectives unveiled by the Islamic ministry in February.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Archaeological team from India concludes survey in Maldives

A delegation from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) visited Maldives from August 14-20 on the invitation of the Government of Maldives to conduct a detailed study for a project to undertake restoration of ancient mosques in Maldives.

The 4-member team, led by Dr BR Mani, additional director general, visited several mosques in various islands and held meetings with the Maldivian delegations in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Department of Heritage led by Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Deputy Minister of Education and Director of Heritage Department Yumna Maumoon.

Both sides welcomed the proposal for a MoU between ASI and the heritage department, and the renovation and preservation of ancient cultural heritage in the Maldives.

The ASI delegation visit is a follow-up of the visit of Shaheem’s visit to India in April 2014, during which co-operation between India and Maldives in this area was discussed.

India had previously assisted the Maldives in restoration of several ancient mosques including Hukuru Miskiy (1988), Eid Miskiy (2006), Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu Miskiy (2004) in Male and Fenfushi Hukuru Miskiy in South Ari atoll (2001).

Six of the country’s coral stone mosques are currently being considered for UNESCO world heritage site status.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Islamic Minister to release MVR10 million for mosque repair in Ramadan

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has pledged to spend MVR10 million on mosque repair in the Maldives for the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Speaking to news agency Haveeru, Shaheem said the ministry had handed over MVR800,000 to the Malé City Council to repair 22 mosques in the capital.

The announcement comes after the council had expressed concern over the ministry’s failure to release funds.

“So far, we have released funds for 100 mosques. In the past two weeks, we have spent approximately MVR4 million for mosque repair,” Shaheem said.

Funds will be spent to replace fans, repair sound systems, and renovate toilets and minarets, he said.

Shaheem also noted difficulties in repairing the domed roof of the Hulhumalé mosque. The Qatar government has pledged US$100,000 for the job and released US$50,000 so far, he said.

The Islamic minister also expressed concern over the delays in construction of Furugaan Mosque on Ameenee Magu in Malé. He said eight years has passed since construction began, but expressed confidence the mosque would be opened for Ramadan.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Malé City Council turns to private donations for mosque repair

Malé City Council has turned to private donations to repair mosques for the Islamic month of Ramadan after the Islamic Ministry’s failed to release funds.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told the press on Tuesday many mosques in Malé are badly in need of repair. With just three months remaining for Ramadan, the council has decided to “do what can be done” from the council’s budget and private donations.

The Islamic Ministry has failed to respond to a two month old request for a MVR 1.5 million (US$ 97,087) to paint and renovate mosques, the council said.

The permanent secretary of the Islamic Ministry told the council that a decision will be made on consultation with Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

“We have already met the Islamic ministry and reminded them that Ramadan is approaching, and at that meeting the Islamic Ministry permanent secretary said a decision would be made after consulting with the minister. Again, last week the mayor [Mohamed Shihab] went to the meet the Islamic minister and brought these issues to his attention. [The minister] has said that some assistance would be provided this week. So we are hoping now,” Shifa said.

Malé City Councillor Zaidul Ameen said businesses are now sponsoring some of the repairs and said the council had recently received paint from a shop in Malé.

Responsibility for the maintenance and management of mosques was transferred from the Islamic Ministry to local councils by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010. However, following an amendment to the the Religious Unity Act enacted in April 2013, all mosques will be under the jurisdiction of the Islamic ministry starting 13 July 2014.

An Islamic Ministry official told Minivan News today that it had received a total of MVR10 million (US$648,508) from state budget to repair mosques around the country, and the amounts necessary for mosque renovation would be transferred to the councils as soon as requests are submitted.

“We have now released a circular [June 1] requesting all councils to submit the amounts they require [for mosque renovation],” the official said. According to the official, this amount is from the state budget and does not include any funds from the Islamic Ministry’s mosque ‘Waqf’ fund.

The ministry has already announced plans to build new mosques and “broaden the role of mosques” in the future in a more sustainable manner.

In July 2012, the Islamic Ministry collected more than MVR15 million (US$974,000) million as donations from members of the public for the “mosque fund” established in 2010. At the time Shaheem said that he decided to ask for funds from the people of Maldives as the state budget could not provide it.

After an Algerian businessman donated MVR3.1 million ($US200,000) to the fund, Shameem announced plans to construct a ten storey building ”Darul Iman” (House of Faith) to sustain the Waqf fund. Shaheem said he expected Darul Iman to generate MVR1.8 million (US$116,731) annually, which would then be used to construct and renovate mosques.

Shaheem also requested more funds from Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia, and Brunei. In March this year, he handed over the construction project to state owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) for MVR24.9 million (US$1.6 million).

In February, the ministry announced plans to construct 40 new mosques within  the year. The ministry said 14 are already under construction with MVR72.6 million (US$4.7 million) from the state budget.

A total of MVR65.2 million (US$4.2 million) was allocated in the 2013 state budget for the construction of 17 mosques.

Saudi Arabia has also agreed to donate funds to construct seven mosques within the year. The ministry said it has received MVR 28.8 million (US$ 1.8 million) for six of these mosques.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz has also donated US$1million to the ministry when Shameem brought up the renovation of mosques in a meeting with leaders of the Indian Muslim community,

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Amendments to religious unity law brings mosques under Islamic Ministry, outlaws independent congregations

A first amendment to the Protection of Religious Unity Act of 1994 bringing mosques under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and outlawing independent prayer congregations was ratified by President Abdulla Yameen yesterday.

The amendments (Dhivehi) – passed with 33 votes in favour and 10 abstentions at the sitting of parliament on March 31 –  brings all mosques and prayer houses in inhabited islands back under the purview of the Islamic Ministry.

Responsibility for the maintenance and management of mosques was transferred from the Islamic Ministry to local councils by the landmark Decentralisation Act of 2010.

In April 2012, Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed called for mosques to be returned to the ministry’s care following the refusal of some island councils to allow scholars to preach in mosques, most recently in the island of Innamaadhoo in Raa atoll.

The Innamadhoo island council filed a complaint with the Islamic Ministry last month against Sheikh Ibrahim Shameem Adam after the NGO Salaf preacher allegedly delivered a sermon in the island’s mosque without permission from the council.

Shameem was also prevented from delivering a sermon by the Omadhoo island council in December last year on the grounds that it might “disrupt the stability and social harmony of the island”.

In May 2013, Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Sheikh Ilyas Hussein – senior members of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party – were obstructed from preaching in Vaikaradhoo, in Haa Dhaalu atoll, whilst the Kamadhoo island council in Baa atoll prevented Sheikh Nasrulla Ali from preaching in the island’s mosque.

In Vaikaradhoo, the Adhaalath sheikhs were provided police protection in the face of unruly opposition protesters.

“Broadening the role of mosques” was among the eleven key policy objectives unveiled by the Islamic ministry in February.

Other provisions

The amendments ratified today also prohibit “sowing religious discord” in the community and outlaws independent or unauthorised prayer congregations.

Friday prayers must be conducted in mosques designated by the Islamic ministry while the Friday sermon must be delivered at a time determined by the ministry.

Religious sermons delivered at mosques must meanwhile adhere to rules set by the government.

In February this year, the Malé City Council shut down the Dharumavantha mosque at the request of the Islamic Ministry to stop unauthorised Friday prayers by a group described as “extremist” by Islamic Minister Shaheem.

Among other offences specified in the amendments were the construction of places of worship for other religions, the sale, possession, or advertisement of expressions or slogans of other religions and the importation, display, advertisement and sale of books of other religions.

Moreover, seeking financial assistance from foreigners to propagate other religions is prohibited while permission must be sought in writing from the Islamic Ministry before accepting a salary, funds, or a gift from a foreign party for conducting religious activities in the country.

Similar provisions were included in the religious unity regulations enforced in September 2011 to crack down on extremist and unlicensed preaching of Islam in the country.

The penalty for violations of either the law or the regulations is a jail sentence of between two to five years.

The new amendments also stipulate that permission must be sought in writing from the Islamic Ministry for preaching or delivering sermons, offering religious advice or publishing books concerning religion.

Other amendments brought to the religious unity law include a provision requiring Islam to be taught as a compulsory subject in all public and private schools from grade one to 12.

Additionally, the Education Ministry and other relevant state institutions must revise the Islamic curriculum to “instil love of religion among students” and discourage involvement in sectarian disputes.

Islam teachers will also be required to possess qualifications from Islamic universities or centres accepted by the Maldives Qualification Authority while expatriate teachers must belong to the Sunni sect.

In February, the government introduced Arabic language as an optional subject for grades one through 12.

The new amendments will come into force three months after ratification.

The amendment bill was submitted in June 2010 by the late Dr Afrasheem Ali, a moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP who was was brutally murdered in October 2012.

The legislation was first put to a vote in October 2012 following review by parliament’s social affairs committee. The bill was however rejected and returned to committee after only 16 MPs out of 66 in attendance voted in favour.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Maldives celebrates Ramazan with food, festivities, fasting, prayer

The Maldives has seen a flurry of activities in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan, which began today (July 9) in the tropical island nation, with festivities and devout worship to continue throughout the month.

Ramadan marks month in which the Quran was revealed to mankind, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of fasting, is one of the five pillars of Islam and represents a form of worship to Allah.

During Ramadan, or Ramazan as the holy month is referred to in the Maldives, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Maldivians throughout the 100 percent Sunni Muslim nation will abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset throughout ‘roadha mas’ (fasting month).

The rituals during this holy month are intended remind those who follow Islam of their duty as a Muslim, by keeping them away from worldly temptations to tame the mind and instill determination.

Extensive cleaning, home repairs, as well as shopping for foodstuffs and other household supplies are common practice in preparation for Ramazan throughout the Maldives, as is hosting banquet celebrations, traditionally referred to as ‘maahefun’ parties, to welcome the coming of Ramazan and symbolically celebrate eating the last meal before ‘roadha mas’.

Family, friends, and neighbors come together to enjoy traditional food and music, while many celebrations have ‘boduberu’ performances, a combination of traditional singing, dancing and rhythmic drumming considered one of the most high-profile examples of Maldivian culture.

Maahefun block parties have been ongoing throughout Male’ neighborhoods, particularly over the last week, in addition to events hosted by political parties, businesses, schools and government offices.

Since the exact date Ramazan begins is derived each year from phases of the moon, moving backwards an average of 10 days every year, last night (July 8 ) the Islamic Affairs Ministry held a small conference to confirm the sighting of the new moon.

During a ceremony following the meeting, the Islamic Affairs Ministry declared that today (July 9) would mark the beginning of Ramazan in the Maldives, as well as some other Muslim countries where the new moon had been sighted.

Now that Ramazan has officially begun the flurry of parties and preparations have given way to calm and quiet during the day, particularly in Male’ where there is a noticeable lack of people on the roads in the typically overcrowded capital.

Working hours have been reduced to between 9:00am to 1:30pm, as per previous years, while cafes and restaurants have been permitted to remain open until 3:00am. In previous years, many eateries and other businesses were open 24 hours, however in October 2012, the Ministry of Economic Development revoked the 24 hour licensing permits issued to businesses across the country, citing concerns over national security.

The pace of daily life has slowed to accommodate the difficulties that arise from not eating or drinking, which can be quite challenging given the tropical equatorial climate in the Maldives.

Mosques are brimming with worshipers – in some cases they are overflowing with people who can be seen praying in the street – during the five regular prayer times which fall around 5am (fajr), 12pm (dhuhr), 3:30pm (asr), 6pm (maghrib), and 7pm (isha).

There is also an special tarawih (night prayer) that takes place during Ramazan; while the exact prayer time varies it always follows isha prayers.

Another optional prayer time in the middle of the night, around 2am, is referred to as ‘dhamu namaadhu’ (midnight prayer) in the Maldives. While it takes place throughout the year, there are more attendees during this holy month.

One of the most significant aspects of Ramazan is Laylat al-Qadr, the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed, which falls on one of the last nights of roadha mas although the exact date is unknown. It is believed that an individual who prays with devout sincerity on this day will have all their past sins forgiven.

The spiritual oneness of island communities in the Maldives is palpable during Ramazan, especially when most of the community comes together to pray in the quiet, peaceful hours of the night, while the Imam’s Quran recitation can be heard echoing on the breeze.

While the religious significance and ritual practice of Ramazan makes this an extremely important month for Maldivians – and Muslims worldwide – it is also very festive.

Maldivians break fast as soon as the call to magrib prayers is heard in the evening, eating delicious traditional foods during ‘roadha villun’ (fast breaking). Dates and fresh juice – watermelon and young coconut are particularly popular – are followed by sweet and savory ‘hedhika’ (short eats).

Although the hedhika varies by household, a surprising variety of dishes can be derived from the basic ingredients of tuna, shredded coconut, chilies, onions, and flour. ‘Haaru’ (supper) is also taken sometime in the middle of the night, with many traditional dishes served during Ramazan.

This year a Male’ City Ramadan Fresh Market consisting of 24 stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables is being held in the capital’s Henviru ward, near the Artificial Beach. The market will be open daily from 8am until 1am until the end of the Eid holidays in mid-August.

Unfortunately, the increased demand during Ramazan also drives up food prices throughout the country each year.

The sundown to sunrise festivities are not limited to food. There is also an increase in evening sports events, such as football tournaments, as well as entertainment programs on TV, like the popular boduberu challenge that has been broadcast annually in recent years.

Given the importance of the holiday, President Mohamed Waheed issued a Ramazan greeting to the nation, noting that the holy month was an occasion to strengthen communal relations and an opportunity to restore peace and order in the society.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)

Algerian businessman donates MVR3.1million to mosque fund

Islamic Minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has today told Sun Online that an Algerian businessman has decided to donate MVR3.1 million ($US200,000) to the mosque fund after visiting Male’ as a tourist.

The Minister explained that this donation would cover the cost of 20 percent of the building currently under construction for the Waqf fund, with the Islamic Bank paying for the remaining 80 percent.

Sun reported that the fund, which was started to provide financial assistance to mosques, has thus far received MVR15 million (US$974,000) in donations. Nearly one third of this is said to have been spent on the renovation of mosques.

Shaheem also said that he believed the fund would receive more donations at the upcoming Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Likes(0)Dislikes(0)