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).