Maldives: 22 religious scholars say Islam prohibits music

15 March 2008

The Maldives – an island group of 19 atolls in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India – has included itself in the list of countries where music is being threatened by religious leaders, Minivan News’ Judith Evans reported from the capital city Malé.

                      Illustration from Jamiyyathu Salaf video

The Maldives is a Muslim country, and its legal system is based on the Islamic Sharia law. The issue of Islam and music was brought into the spotlight when the government-endorsed cleric Dr Afrashim Ali claimed on national tv, Television Maldives, that the Prophet himself had sung, and the president of the country, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, promoted the view that music is allowed and acceptable in Islam in public at a gathering of the ruling Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party in February 2008. He told the party members that listening to music, playing music, listening to songs and singing songs were allowed according to Islam.

The reaction from 22 of the Maldives’ top Islamic scholars was to participate in a video which showed the scholars – including officials from the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, the Human Rights Commission, and political parties – saying in turn that they believe music is ‘haram’ (forbidden) according to Islam. (The video can be seen below on this page).


Six of the 22 scholars who declare music is forbidden


Human rights worker against music
The scholars who took part in the video denouncing music included Sheikh Mohamed Nasheed Adam and Sheikh Mohamed Moosa, Supreme Council members Ahmed Farooq Mohamed and assistant director Hassan Moosa Fikuree, Adhaalath party president Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) religious council member Adam Naseem, two staff members from Malé’s Centre for the Holy Qur’an, Usman Abdullah and director Sheikh Abdullah Aziz Yusuf, as well as Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Kareem of the Human Rights Commission.

The video was shown at a gathering organised by the local religious NGO Jamiyyathu Salaf on 13 March 2008. This organisation is registered with the Ministry of Home Affairs and was formed “to raise religious awareness and promote the values of Islam” in the Maldives. According to Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim, president of Jamiyyathu Salaf, the gathering was attended by over 800 people. It was held at the Dharubaaruge conference centre in Malé, and officially its agenda was to deal with issues of Sharia law. The speakers, however, stood against a backdrop showing a symbol of a crossed-out musical note in flames.

The police halted the gathering without prior warning, citing the risk of religious extremism as a reason for breaking up the event. Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim reportedly told local newspaper Minivan Daily that he believed the police had halted the meeting because they knew of the group’s plan to take a stand on the acceptability of music.

Commision supported by Norway
“Amazing as it may seem, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives is trying to ban music. And countries dedicated to upholding human rights are financially contributing to this oppression,” a Freemuse stringer from the Maldives pointed out while refering to a recent project in which the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Maldives and a Norwegian development programme committed themselves to help The Human Rights Commission of Maldives in “to lead the promotion and protection of human rights under the Constitution of the Maldives, Islamic Sharia law and regional and international Human Rights Convention ratified by the Maldives.”





Sources – 15 March 2008:

‘Top Religious Scholars Defy Government On Music Issue’

Jamiyyathu Salaf’s official home page:

   See the video produced by Jamiyyathu Salaf

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