The day Maldives embraced Islam: Abul Barakaath or Yousuful Thabreyzee?

Islamic Center, the largest mosque in Male’ City. Photo by: Ministry of Islamic Affairs

Tomorrow 2nd of the Islamic month Rabi Ul Aakhir, we are marking the day that Maldives embraced Islam, a nation-wide celebration & a public holiday for the country which consists of 26 atolls & around 1192 tiny coral reef islands. The religion Islam is a faith revealed by prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which teaches that there is only one God.

There’s a famous legend on how the country converted to Islam. It is said that a Moroccan Islamic scholar named Yoosuf Al Barbary visited Maldives during a time when Maldivians were practicing the religion Buddhism & people lived in fear of the demon named "Rannamaari" which comes from sea. This demon comes out of the sea once a month & threats the people to destroy them unless a young virgin girl is sacrificed. These virgin young girls were chosen by a lot. The girls had to stay in a temple near the seashore & were found raped & dead in the morning when the people visit the temple. One day the daughter of the house which Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary stays, had been selected & the girl’s family was weeping in sorrow when Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary came home. He asked them about the reason for their grief. The girl’s family told Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary the whole story & he decided to save the young girl from the demon. That night Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary disguised himself as a young girl & spent the night in the temple near the seashore reciting the Holy Quran. In the morning when people visited the temple to find out the fate of the chosen virgin young girl they were amazed to find Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary alive reciting the holy Quran. Later as the King found out that the "Rannamaari" had been defeated through the Holy Quran which Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary recited, the king himself embraced Islam & ordered all his people to embrace Islam. This legend was recorded by a Moroccan traveler named Mohamed Ibn Batuta who visited Maldives in 14th century. According his legend Maldives was converted to Islam in the year 1153 AD. According to historian Hassan Thaajuddheen, Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary stayed in the Maldives to teach Islam even after Maldivians adopted Islam.  Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary died during the reign of Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu who is known as Muhammed Ibn Abdulla. Abul Barakaath Yoosuf Al Barbary’s shrine is at Medhuziyaaraiy in Malé City. In some historical articles it is said that after Abul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary’s death, the Sultan Muhammed Ibn Abdulla left on pilgrimage to Mecca and did not return back to Maldives. The first Friday Mosque to be built in Malé City was commissioned by the name of Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu as Sultan Muhammed Ibn Abdulla.

However, there is a contradiction between some historical pieces regarding the real person who embraced Maldives to the religion Islam. Some historical documents say that it was Abul Barakaath Yousuful Barbaree from Morocco while others says that it’s Yousuful Thabreyzee who was from Addu City’s Meedhoo Island. The legend of how the Maldives embraced Islam has been continually taught to the children studying in Maldivian schools. However, this legend of "Rannamaari" is dismissed by today’s young generation as a myth. Not only the young, but many Maldivians today believe that it was the King himself who pretends to be "Rannamaari", allegedly raping & murdering the innocent young virgin girls every month. It is believed that Islam has spread rapidly throughout the centuries & by some measurements Islam is believed as the largest religion in the world today.

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