When the Maldives Embraced Islam: A Historical Journey - Lets Go Maldives

When the Maldives Embraced Islam: A Historical Journey

October 17, 2023

One of the pivotal moments in the history of the Maldives is its conversion to Islam, which has profoundly shaped our nation’s identity. Today, the Second of Rabi Ul Akhir, as we celebrate 896 years of being an Islamic nation, we take a look into this historical journey of how the Maldives embraced Islam.

1. Ancient Origins

The history of Islam in the Maldives dates back to the 12th century. Before its conversion to Islam, the Maldives practiced Buddhism. It is believed that Buddhism was introduced to our islands as early as the 3rd century BC. The historical remnants of Buddhist stupas and monasteries are still found on some of the islands.

2. Conversion to Islam

The conversion to Islam in the Maldives is attributed to the North Indian scholar and saint, Abu al-Barakat Yusuf al-Barbari. He is said to have arrived in the Maldives around the 12th century and played a pivotal role in the conversion of the Maldivian ruler at the time, Sultan al-Adil. This marked the beginning of Islam’s influence on our islands.

3. Islamic Heritage

The adoption of Islam in the Maldives led to a significant transformation of the culture, traditions, and way of life. Islamic practices, customs, and architecture became an integral part of Maldivian society. Over the centuries, the Maldives developed a unique blend of Islamic and indigenous cultural elements.

4. Influence on Governance

Islam also influenced the governance of the Maldives. We adopted a system of Islamic law (Sharia) in their legal framework, which continues to influence the legal system today. The Maldives remained a sultanate for much of its history until it became a republic in 1968.

5. Contemporary Islam in the Maldives

Today, the Maldives is a predominantly Muslim nation, with Islam as the state religion. The call to prayer echoes across the islands from the numerous mosques, and Islamic holidays are celebrated with fervor. Maldivian culture remains deeply intertwined with Islamic traditions.

6. Challenges and Preservation

In recent years, the Maldives has faced challenges related to religious extremism and the preservation of its unique cultural identity. The government has been proactive in addressing these issues while ensuring the continued practice of moderate and tolerant Islam.


In conclusion, The Maldives’ embrace of Islam is a remarkable chapter in its history, marking a profound cultural and religious transformation. The legacy of Islam is deeply ingrained in the Maldivian way of life, from its culture and traditions to its legal system. As the Maldives continues to evolve and face contemporary challenges, it remains a testament to the enduring influence of Islam in the heart of the Indian Ocean.

This historical journey highlights the importance of understanding the cultural and religious dynamics that have shaped the Maldives into the enchanting destination it is today.