origin of the first settlers of the Maldives
still remains a mystery. The historians
date early settlers back to 5th century
BC with the Aryan immigrants coming from
the neighbouring countries India and Sri
Lanka. The Maldivian language is said to
be Indo-Aryan with influences from Sinhalese,
Tamil, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdhu and Arabic.
It is believed that Hinduism existed before
Buddhism. The Maldivians were practising
Buddhism until AD 1153, when a learned scholar
converted the king to Islam. The exact name
and origins of this scholar is an ongoing
debate. Some are of the opinion that he
was a Moroccan traveller named Sheikh. Abul
Barakaath Yoosuful Barubaree. Others say
that he was from Persia and known as Sheikh
Yoosuf Shamsudheenul Thabreyzi. Mr Mohammed
Ibrahim Luthufi, an acclaimed contemporary
historian and researcher, claims that the
name of the person who converted Maldivians
to Islam was Sheikh Aburikaab Yoosuf Thabreyzi.
Hassan Nooreddine II Iskander King of Twelve Thousand Isles and Sultan of the Maldives
conversion to Islam, the Maldives boasts
of a recorded history that is rich and colourful.
The system of government was a monarchy
with Sultans as sovereigns while Sultanas
or queens ruled on rare occasions. Traders
from Arabia, India, Sri Lanka and Persia
visited the Maldives to exchange goods.
Slaves were also brought from Africa. Quite
often, sailors were shipwrecked in the treacherous
reefs of Maldives. These visitors contributed
much to the language and culture of the
Maldives. However, the visitors' influence
did not change the identity of the country
as a secluded haven virtually unknown to
the rest of the world.
of cowry shells, coir rope and ambergris
in Maldives attracted Portuguese interest
in the country during the 16th century.
Consequently the Portuguese launched attacks
against Maldives. Their attempts were in
vain until a better equipped and organised
fleet attacked the capital Malé. In 1558
they seized control of the country, after
defeating Ali 6th, the reigning Sultan.
Since then, they administered Maldives from
Goa in India but had their armed forces
and a leader stationed in Maldives. Muhammad
Thakurufaanu, from the island of Utheemu
in Thiladhunmathi Atoll, waged an effective
resistance against the invaders. In 1573
after fierce guerrilla warfare Muhammad
Thakurufaanu and his compatriots defeated
the Portuguese invaders. Muhammad Thakurufaanu
was offered the throne and remains a revered
did not allow the Maldivians to relax even
after their 1573 debacle. The country had
a restless time fighting off the colonial
pursuits and had to strengthen its defence
by building forts and acquiring more arms.
Nevertheless there was a substantial time
period before the country was captured by
an invading force. Malabari pirates from
the nearby south Indian coast finally succeeded
in 1752 in seizing the Maldivan throne in
the capital, Malé. They abducted the Sultan
and took him to their country and placed
some soldiers to administer Maldives. Only
four months later Maldives regained control
under the leadership of Muleege Hassan Maniku
or Dhon Bandaarain who belonged to a family
from Huraa in Malé Atoll.
colonial ambitions in the Indian Ocean had
their effects on Maldives. They recognised
the strategic location of Maldives and the
prospect of Maldives being under any other
colonial power was unacceptable to them.
It was in a period of uncertainty, political
rivalry and turmoil in the Maldives that
the British offered Maldives a treaty, which
was to become a watershed in Maldivian history.
Some Maldivian politicians also needed British
co-operation to suit their ambitions. It
was in this atmosphere of instability that
the Maldives went into the agreement with
British in 1887. The British pledged to
protect the Maldives from any foreign aggression
while the Maldives in turn agreed not to
collaborate with any other foreign power
without British consent. The British were
also not to interfere with the internal
affairs of the Maldives.
differ in their opinions as to the extent
of the independence that Maldives enjoyed
under the status of a British Protectorate.
It was evident that the Maldives was not
a colony per se, however the government
of the Maldives sought the advice of British
Governor in Ceylon on major issues.
constitution did not exist in Maldives till
1932 and the customs and traditions along
with Islamic Shariah formed the Law. The
sultans usually consulted a group of advisors
or bodun who included his ministers and
the Fandiyaaru or Chief Justice. The Islamic
scholars usually exercised much influence
in the government affairs but quite often
they were replaced when the Kings were at
odds with them. The hereditary system continued
to exist but in many occasions the helm
of power shifted from one family to the
other following internal uprisings and the
demise of kings. A constitution was introduced
in 1932 after the emergence of a new educated
elite. The new constitution, which provided
for a People's Assembly of 47 members, did
not survive long. It was literally torn
apart by the public and the reigning Sultan
Mohammed Shamsudheen 3rd was dethroned shortly
thereafter in 1934. The Sultan was believed
to have used exceeded his legal powers.
A new constitution was formed in 1937.
In 1948 the
existing agreement between the Maldives
and the British were renewed.
In 1953 the
Maldives changed from a monarchy to a Republic.
Mr Mohammed Amin Didi was the first President
of the Maldives. He was a popular politician
who had won a referendum held to determine
the type of government that the Maldives
should have. However, the Republic was short-lived.
After a mere eight months Amin Didi was
overthrown and a Sultanate was formed once
again. The people were outraged because
of the prevailing food shortages and the
total ban of tobacco by Amin Didi. The Second
World War caused famine that continued even
in the early 1950s. Against this backdrop
it was quite easy to manipulate and mobilise
the ignorant masses for political ends by
Amin Didi's rivals.
failure of the First Republic, the Maldives
was a Sultanate until 1968. The intervening
period saw the rule of only one king. Sultan
Mohammed Fareedh was to be the last monarch
of the Maldives.
Second World War, British built a military
base in Gan of Addu Atoll and Kelaa of Thiladhunmathi
Atoll. They evacuated the bases soon after
the war. However, British interest in the
Maldives revived during the late 1950s.
The British were successful to conclude
an agreement with the Prime Minister Ibrahim
Ali Didi for the lease of Gan in Addu for
100 years. This agreement signed in 1956
provided Gan, located in the southern tip
of the Maldives, as an airfield for the
British. It also included the provision
of a part of Hithadhoo in Addu Atoll as
a radio communication centre for the British.
was heavily criticised in the Maldives,
and led to the resignation of the Prime
Minister. He was succeeded by Mr Ibrahim
Nasir who sought to solve the problem regarded
by the Maldivians as an issue endangering
the territorial integrity and sovereignty
of the Maldives. However, the government
of Mr Nasir was to face more serious problems
that threatened the integrity of the country.
While the British developed Gan as a base
for Royal Air Force, the people of the three
southern most atolls revolted against the
government of Mr Nasir. They formed a separate
government and declared the 'United Suvadheeb
Republic' in 1959. The British support for
them was suspected by the government. The
grievances of the people of these three
atolls against the government were not entirely
unjustified. For centuries, the people of
the Huvadhoo, Fua Mulah and Addu Atolls
sailed in their wooden vessels odi to Sri
Lanka and India and exchanged goods. They
travelled independently to these countries
without stopping over at Malé; hence there
was no government control over these trade
affairs. However, Mr Nasir introduced measures
which were unfavourable to the three southern
most atolls including the prohibition of
direct sail to the neighbouring countries
without clearing through Malé. The workers
in Addu who could have enjoyed the benefits
of direct payment from the British were
also disappointed with the arrangement in
which they were paid through the government
in Malé. They believed that the government
controlled the exchange rates to their disadvantage.
uprising was brought to an end by the government
of the Maldives in 1963 in some atolls with
brute force. However, the unease and hostility
continued. The government of the Maldives
negotiated with the British for a diplomatic
solution. Maldives demanded more independence
than the existing agreements provided for.
In 1960 an agreement was signed reducing
the period of British stay in Addu to 30
years. The British finally agreed to give
independence to the Maldives and an agreement
was signed in 1965. This historic agreement
was signed on 25 July 1965 in Sri Lanka.
However, the British presence in Addu Atoll
continued till 1976.
In 1968 the
monarchy was ended and a Republic wasformed.
On 11 November 1968, Mr Ibrahim Nasir was
proclaimed the First President of the Second
Republic. In 1978 Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom
was elected the President of the Maldives.
He has been the President for the past 26