Clerics have criticised a government-backed sermon that said people should obey their ruler, calling it un-Islamic, as protests continue against President Abdulla Yameen.
The Friday sermon, from the Islamic Ministry, was titled “The Leader is a Blessing” and quoted scripture that said it was forbidden for people to insult their leader or pray against him.
“Whoever hates anything from his ruler should be patient. Verily, none of the people reject authority so much as a hand’s length and die except that they have died upon ignorance,” said one hadith in the Friday sermon.
An imam in Laamu atoll Maamendhoo reportedly refused to deliver the sermon because it contained anti-Islamic wording. An island councillor told Mihaaru that an imam from a neighbouring island had to be sent to lead Friday prayers.
The sermon attracted criticism from Maldivian scholars after it was uploaded to the ministry’s website.
“Don’t politicise the Friday sermon,” Sheikh Mohamed Aneel wrote on Facebook. “If things continue this way, Friday sermons may become a toy for every group in every government that follows.”
“An oppressive leader is not a blessing,” Dr. Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef wrote in a Facebook post. “Rather it is a punishment upon the people when their actions are wrong. If such a thing happens, you must repent and speak out the hadith says. Among the greatest jihad is speaking words of justice in front of a tyrannical ruler. And you must pray that you be saved from tyranny.”
Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad Bagir defended the sermon and insisted it was not anti-Islamic.
“It’s important to know what Islam says about obeying leaders because we need to know the values in Islamic Shariah,” he said at a ruling party press conference Friday evening.
The sermon was part of a ministry initiative to “raise awareness” about efforts to overthrow a lawful and Islamic government.
“Although it is written (by the ministry) Friday sermons are approved by a council of five scholars. So I am sure they wouldn’t approve anything like that (against shariah),” he added.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) called on the government and scholars to stop using Islam as “a political tool.”