Maldives History: Islamic Sultanate (1153-1965)

Figure 1.-- Here we see two children in a Maldivian fishing village with their favorite toy--a war canone. The caption on the back mentions Pirate Island, but we can find no reference to a Pirate Island in the Maldives. Partially obscured hand writing seems to say Kanerún. That may just mean canoe. Notice hoiw the boy and girl in the phitograph seem to have equal status. That is usually not the case in Muslim countries.

An Islamic historical is that before Islam there was a time of 'Jahiliya' (ignorance). Maldivian school children are taught that the introduction of Islam was the cornerstone of the country's history. The islands were an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its modern political existance (1153-1968). Arab domination of the sea routes resulted in the islands becoming Islamicized, although this occured later than was later than the nearby Malbar coast. Buddhist Ceylon is the closest land mass, but Arab domination of the seas meant that Islam had a powerful advantage. Islam is believed to have been formally adopted (1153 AD). The last Buddhist king of Maldives, Dovemi Kalaminja, converted to Islam. The date most commonmly cited is 1153, but later dates are also cited. King Dhovemi adopted the Muslim title and name (in Arabic) of Sultan in addition to the old Divehi title of Maha Radun or Ras Kilege or Rasgefānu) Muhammad al Adil. This began a series of six Islamic dynasties consisting of eighty-four sultans and sultanas that lasted until 1932 when a new British intsalled constitution converted the sultanate into an elected office. Islamization apparently did did not go smoothly in the south. One source reports the suppression of Buddhism in the southern Haddhunmathi Atoll, which had been a major Buddhist center. Monks were taken to Male and beheaded. [Dhanbidhū Lōmāfānu] The formal title of the Sultan was, Sultan of Land and Sea, Lord of the twelve-thousand islands and Sultan of the Maldives. Ibn Baṭṭūṭah, a noted North African traveler, lived there for a while (mid-1340s). He provide an early written account. He was disturbed by the relative freedom women enjoyed compared to other Muslim societies. He saw it as violating Koranic tenants. Mopla pirates from the Malabar Coast (modern Kerala state in India), harassed the islands, attacking in war canones and sounding rather like tropical Vikings. A Maldive source claims that the people of the northern islands because they were frequently exposed to the Mopla pirate attacks are hardier and more vigorous than their less warlike southern neighbours. The Portuguese who attacked Islam and the Sultanate were soon outted (16th century). The Protestant Dutch and British tended to rule through the Sultanate. The British gradually encroache on the secular power of the sultanate, but did not attack Islam.


Dhanbidhū Lōmāfānu.


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Created: 4:17 PM 1/19/2019
Last updated: 4:17 PM 1/19/2019