This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of Maldives (Dhivehi Raajjeyge Jumhooriyyaa), based on research produced by the Library of Congress. Under the Maldives' Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) is the principal source of legislation.
The Maldives is a group of atolls located in South Asia, south of India. The capital of the Maldives is Male. The official language is Dhivehi, which is closely related to Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka). The country's population in 2017 was approximately 392,702. The official religion is Sunnī Islam, and in order to be a citizen of the Maldives, one must be a Sunnī Muslim. Accordingly, the vast majority (over 98%) of the country's population is Muslim. The Maldives is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Constitution & Legal Structure
The Maldives gained its independence from Great Britain in 1965. The country adopted its first constitution shortly afterwards, but its current Constitution was ratified in 2008. The Maldives is referred to as a presidential republic. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
Constitutional Status of Islamic Law
Islamic law is referenced throughout the Constitution of the Maldives, including Islam being the official religion and sharīʿa a principal source of legislation. The Constitution states that the president of the Maldives must be Muslim. Furthermore, it states that the president is the "supreme authority to propagate the tenants of Islam." In order to be granted citizenship in the Maldives, one must be Muslim. As such, all non-Muslim inhabitants of the Maldives are considered expatriates.
Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law
Judges are appointed by the president and removable by him. These judges must be Muslims. Although there is no sharīʿa court specifically, the general court system serves all the needs of the citizens, as the population is less than 400,000. Sharīʿa is incorporated into the legal system, and it is especially important in matters of personal status. Sharīʿa is also important for designating punishments.
Dominant School of Islamic Law
The legal system of the Maldives is an Islamic religious legal system, based on the Shāfiʿī school of jurisprudence, with some English common law influences.
Sources of Law for Legal Research
For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English translation. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].