The Islamic Ministry of the Maldives has said practicing yoga is forbidden in Islam.
In a letter sent to Maldives Police Service on June 16, the ministry had asked the police to stop yoga activities in the Maldives. The Islamic Ministry said yoga is practiced in the Maldives for meditation, exercise, and healing, but that yoga is forbidden in Islam. Therefore, all yoga activities must be stopped, the ministry said.
Until the letter became public, the Islamic Ministry had not explained to the public the ruling on yoga. The letter became public amid controversy regarding an event held at the National Stadium on June 21 to mark International Yoga Day. The event was held while religious scholars called on the relevant government agencies not to hold the event. However, the Islamic Ministry did not make a public statement on the matter before or after the event. Nineteen people, including two religious scholars, have been arrested for breaching security at the National Stadium and stopping the yoga event.
The letter, signed by Senior Executive Director of the Islamic Ministry Hisham Ahmed and addressed to Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed, clearly stated the decision of the Islamic scholars and fatwa councils on the issue of yoga.
The letter said yoga is being used in the Maldives as meditation or exercise and in the name of healing various diseases. However, in September 2004, the Egyptian Fatwa Council issued a fatwa stating that yoga is forbidden to Muslims and is not permissible even as a sport because it is associated with Hindu worship. In 2008, Malaysia's National Fatwa Council also issued a similar fatwa stating that yoga is forbidden to Muslims and should not be practiced as a sport or as a form of worship.
The ministry's letter said that meditation is part of the Hindu religious practice of yoga. During meditation, kneeling to the sun during the sunrise is practiced, and music used by Hindus in Buddhist worship is used, the letter further said.
"... For the above reasons, such activities are contrary to Islamic Shariah and prohibited under the Protection of Religious Unity Act of the Maldives. Therefore, it is hereby directed to identify those who practice yoga and take appropriate action in order to uphold Islamic Shariah and Maldivian laws and regulations," the ministry said.