Sheikh Ali Zaid has come under fire for claiming that 70 percent of people on an unnamed southern island do not fast during Ramadan.
Delivering a sermon Saturday afternoon at a mosque in Malé, Zaid said he was told during a visit to the island that the majority of people have been eating during daytime at Ramadan for years.
The claim was widely circulated after it was reported by Miadhu and was met with scepticism on social media.
The local population of the Maldives is ostensibly 100 percent Sunni Muslim. Fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith and eating before sunset is a criminal offence in the country.
Zaid could not be reached for comment at the time of publication as his phone was switched off.
Mohamed Ahusan, the Islamic ministry’s spokesman, told the Maldives Independent that the ministry is also trying to reach Zaid.
“We have not received information about an island that does not observe fasting. We don’t know what the statement was based on,” he said.
Zaid told newspaper Mihaaru that his claim was based on information “from a person who would not lie.”
He also wrote on Facebook that “it is important to report fully what a person said rather than reporting a part of it.”
Comments on news articles on Facebook and Twitter about the claim was heavily critical of the sheikh with many accusing him of “spreading falsehood among the people”.
“People from other islands would have known about this if this were to be true,” suggested a user named Faree Faru.
Habyb Hussain called Zaid “a hypocrite in the name of a sheikh” and called for his banishment.
Zaid’s sermon was delivered at Masjid Sultan Muhammad Bin Abdulla, one of the country’s biggest mosques.
“I asked if they were drug addicts who do not observe fast. I was told that people of all ages in the island, over 70 percent of its population does not fast. It has been a tradition on the island,” he was quoted as saying by Miadhu.
Zaid went on to warn that Muslims who refuse to fast should fear the afterlife.
“Earth’s fire is 70 percent cooler than hellfire. But if you would touch the fire with your fingertips while your wife is cooking. Now imagine how hot it will be in hell,” he said.