The ruins of an ancient mosque have been discovered this week on the southern island of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll during land excavation for the construction of a new Islamic centre.
Abdulla Saneef, a member of the Thinadhoo island council, told The Maldives Independent that a limestone wall with stonework had been found within the boundaries of the abandoned Friday mosque.
“The mosque was abandoned eight years ago after the discovery of human remains from the area, even under the foundation of the mosque. Excavation by the roads corporation revealed the ruins of an older limestone mosque,” he explained.
Islamic principles do not allow places of worship to be built on the site of a cemetery. Courtyards of mosques, however, have traditionally been used as graveyards.
Saneef also said that officials from the heritage department had visited the island following the discovery to assess and excavate the area.
“They requested all works be halted for the time being until the significance of the find is established and evaluated, but we do not have the authority to do so as the land is under the Islamic Ministry now,” he said.
Hawwa Nazla, director of the heritage department, said a team is compiling a report on the newly discovered mosque, following further examinations and excavations.
“We hope to get the report done by next week Sunday. Meanwhile, other works on the site will be halted,” she said.
She added that the heritage department will then make recommendations to the relevant authorities on what should be done with the site.
Photos of the ancient mosque show intricate stonework foundations and sections of walls. One of the stones had a damaged inscription in Arabic numerals, likely to be indicative of the Hijree year in which the mosque was built.
Thinadhoo islanders were forcefully removed from the island in 1962 by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir following the short-lived secession of the three southernmost atolls. Thinadhoo was one of the strongholds of the Suvadie Republic.
Photo from Thinadhoo council president Ibrahim Assad.