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Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Maldives

Ethnicity

The people of the Maldives tend to be a mix of various ethnicities, a combination that defines the people today from an ethnic viewpoint. The Maldivians are primarily ethnically Indian and Sri Lanka, but even these two groups are varied, especially the Indians so the ethnic mix of the Maldivians today is quite complex and variable from island to island and person to person. There are also significant traces of Arab blood in many of the people, a result of Arab traders, who also converted the people to Islam.

Language

The only official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, which is an Indo-Aryan language also found in Sri Lanka. The dialect of Dhivehi spoken in the Maldives is written in the Arabic script and is influenced in some ways by Arabic. English is the most commonly spoken second language and is often used in the business, government, and tourism sectors.

Religion

Sunni Muslim is the official religion in the Maldives and nearly every citizen in the country adheres to this faith.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014