A first-ever symposium for local religious scholars organised by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs concluded last night with participants reaching consensus on a number of longstanding religious disputes and points of contention in Maldivian society.
Among the contentious issues deliberated and agreed upon by the 80 scholars were reciting Qunooth (invocation) during dawn prayer, the exact time of Friday prayer (12.35pm), the number of rak’ah for Tharavees prayers during Ramadan and reciting Bismillah aloud during prayers.
The scholars also opposed authorising Israeli national airline El Al to operate in the Maldives and decided to ask the authorities to remove controversial SAARC monuments in Addu City as they are considered an offense to Islam.
The religious scholars also decided to back Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari’s request to parliament’s National Security Committee that the airline not be allowed into the Maldives.
On the issue of Qunooth – an invocation offered in times of adversity – a majority of scholars concurred that the practice was not a bid’ah (heretical innovation). Sheikh Ibrahim Fareed Ahmed of the Islamic Foundation of Maldives (IFM) and Sheikh Ilyas Jamal however insisted that the invocation was an innovation when the issue was put to a vote.
Moreover, a majority of scholars could not agree that praying in front of pillars in mosques was an innovation.
On the optional Tharavees prayers during Ramadan, the scholars agreed that the number of rak’ah could exceed 20 or end at a lower number.
The decisions made during the symposium also included forming of an association of religious scholars to raise awareness among the public and assist the Islamic Ministry in “responding to those who deny or cast doubt on the Sunnah.”
Seven papers were presented by prominent scholars at the two-day symposium that took place at the Islamic Centre while participants were divided into three discussion groups. In addition to Islamic Minister Dr Bari, the papers were presented by MP Dr Afrashim Ali of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Sheikh Mohamed Giyas, Sheikh Abubakur Ibrahim of IFM, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, Sheikh Nasrulla Musthafa and Sheikh Ahmed Saleem Hussein.
The papers focused on points of conflict and disagreement among scholars over issues of ambiguity.
Speaking to press at the conclusion of the symposium last night, Dr Bari said the event was a success and noted the absence of serious disputes among Maldivian scholars.
Dr Bari observed that disputes were more common in the public than among religious scholars.
As a measure to reduce misunderstanding among the public, said Dr Bari, participants at the symposium agreed to issue fatwas only after reaching consensus among all scholars.
Following the success of the symposium, Dr Bari added that the Islamic Ministry was considering making the gathering an annual event.