The Fiqh Academy of Maldives has issued a fatwa prohibiting participation in foreign civil wars.
Infighting amongst Muslims and actions that undermine Islamic unity are prohibited under Islamic Shariah, the fatwa (legal opinion) stated.
“Travelling to Islamic countries where groups belonging to Islamic countries create havoc and instability in the name of jihad will open avenues for enemies of Muslims to interfere in the affairs of Muslim countries.” the fatwa read.
More than a hundred Maldivians are believed to be fighting with the militant groups Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq and at least seven have reportedly been killed in battle.
Media reports suggest a steady outflow of Maldivians leaving the country to join terrorist organisations, including immigration officers, women and children.
The Fiqh academy said that the consensus among “leading Islamic scholars” is that fighting in foreign civil wars is not a religious obligation for all adult Muslims (farz-ain).
Even if joining foreign wars is considered a ‘farz-kifaya’ (collective religious obligation upon a society), one could only travel overseas for jihad if permission is granted by the country’s leader and the individual’s parents, the academy explained.
Nations embroiled in violent conflict have enough young Muslims to fight in the name of God, the fatwa stated. Muslims are instead enjoined to pray for peace and the safety of Muslims engaged in warfare, it added.
The Fiqh academy was established during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2010. Its mandate includes resolving differences of opinion and disputes on religious issues.
The academy has previously issued fatwas on abortion, kosher meals, marriage of inmates, Muslims visiting temples, taxation, and life insurance.
In July last year, former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed urged Maldivians to refrain from joining foreign wars following the death of two Maldivian jihadis in Syria.
“[We] beseech all Maldivian youth and citizens, who love Islam, to refrain from participating in conflicts between one Muslim group and another. It is better to allow the citizens of the country in war to solve their own problems,” he said.
The government has recently submitted an anti-terror bill to the parliament with harsh punishments for attempting to leave the Maldives for Jihad.
Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen in July ordered an investigation into the departure of Azlif Rauf, a suspect in the 2012 murder of an MP, to Syria. However, there were no pending charges against Azlif or an order to withhold his passport.
His family claims he was killed in battle in May.