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The Maldives has been an Islamic country since 1153 AD. The how and why is not entirely clear, but one scientific theory says it had to do with the rise of Buddhist empires on the Indian subcontinent. These became increasingly powerful navies and therefore posed a danger to the Maldivians. By switching to Islam, they gained protection from the Arabs.

All Maldivians are basically Muslims because there is no religious freedom. Maldivian nationals are compulsorily Muslim. Maldivians are Sunni Muslims of the liberal Shafiite school. Sunnis regard the four caliphs after Muhammad as the successors to Islamic leadership and the Sunnah, the traditional practice of law based on the writings about Muhammad's life, as a supplement to the Koran.

The religious practice in many other Islamic countries is much stricter than in the Maldives where we are dealing with a milder variety. The younger people in particular are no longer so strict in their beliefs. Fundamental Muslim groups are not found in the Maldives. Some rules are still strictly adhered to, however. For example, one cannot get alcohol anywhere except in the tourist resorts. Maldivian law is highly modernized but still based on Islamic law. Under this law, the president is not only the secular leader but also the Islamic leader of the Maldives.

Despite the fact that Islam has been the state religion of the Maldives since the 12th century, superstitions and mystical matters still play an important role in the beliefs of life, especially of the older Maldivians. Evil spirits or Jinnis, astrology, palm reading, occultism and black magic are things that most Maldivians still believe in more or less. The belief in jinnis predates Islam. It is related to animism where, among other things, plants, animals, stones and other objects are attributed mystical powers. Jinnis do not even contradict Islam because spirits are considered a third category of evolved beings next to humans and angels. Maldivians who have much special knowledge of all these things are called fandithas and are a kind of witch doctors or shamans who can communicate with jinnis, for example.


Derksen, G. / Maldiven

Ellis, R. / Maldives

Lyon, J. / Maldives
Lonely Planet

Vliet, E. van / Reishandboek Malediven

Voigtmann, H. / Malediven

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info