Dhunya Maumoon

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (Dhivehi: މައުމޫނު އަބްދުލް ގައްޔޫމް) (born 29 December 1937) has been the President of the Republic of Maldives since 11 November 1978, succeeding Ibrahim Nasir.


President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is the son of Khadheeja Didi (Khadheeja Moosa), daughter of Maryam Didi.

Early life

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is the son of Abdul Gayoom (Maafaiygey Dhon Seedhi) and Khadheeja . His father had 25 children by 8 different wives and Gayoom is the 10th in his family. His mother died when he was studying in Cairo, Egypt. Gayoom's father, who died in 1982 at the age of 87, saw the first term of his son's presidency. His father was appointed the chief judge for some time.

Much of Gayoom's early life was spent in Egypt. He was among the 15 students selected at the direction of the then-president Mohamed Amin Didi for special education overseas. At the age of 10, he left for Egypt on 15 September 1947, with a stopover in Ceylon for a few days. However, his departure from Ceylon was delayed for two and a half years because of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, during which he completed his secondary education at Royal College, Colombo. When the war ended, he left for Egypt in March 1950 along with other Maldivian students.

Gayoom attended Al-Azhar University in Egypt. He spent six months learning Arabic so he could enroll in the Faculty of Sharia and Civil Law to study for a Diploma of Education. In 1966, he obtained his Bachelor's degree in Islamic Sharia and Civil Law, with honors. Gayoom came out first in the Faculty of Islamic Law and Studies at Al-Azhar University and was awarded his graduation certificate by Gamal Abdel Nasser.He was later awarded Masters degree in Islamic Sharia. He completed English Language course from the American University in Cairo.

When fourteen Maldivian students, under Gayoom's direction, sent a signed letter to Prime Minister (later President) Ibrahim Nasir to reconsider his decision to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, their government-awarded grants were stopped. The students were then financed by the Egyptian government. By the time Gayoom acquired his MA in 1966, the Egyptian government had stopped its funding. As a result, he was unable to complete his PhD. Later, with his marriage, he decided not to go further with his studies.

As a result of being "blacklisted" by the government for his letter, Gayoom decided not to go home. He spent almost 24 years outside the Maldives except for a brief period in 1964. In 1967, he began working for the American University in Cairo as a research assistant in Muslim History under Professor Marsden Jones for almost 2 years.

In 1965, Gayoom met Nasreena Ibrahim, a student who had just arrived in Cairo from the Maldives for her studies. She was then 15 and Gayoom was 27. Four years later, they married in Cairo, on 14 July 1969. A few weeks after his marriage, he joined Ahmadu Bello University in Kano, Nigeria as a lecturer in Islamic Studies and moved there with Nasreena. In 20 March 1970, at the age of 20, Nasreena gave birth to twins, Dhunya Maumoon and Yumna Maumoon. When Nasreena got pregnant for the second time, it was arranged to send her to Malé. She gave birth to their first son, Farish, in Malé, on 31 March 1971. Nine years later, during Gayoom's presidency, Ghassan was born on 12 June 1980.

During his time in Egypt, he had become particularly interested in Egyptian politics. He closely followed the revolutionary movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Free Officers Movement of Gamal Abdel Nasser. He attended several public meetings of Muslim Brotherhood where celebrated orators like Sayyid Qutb railed against Britain, imperialism and King Farouk's government. In July 1952, Gayoom was at the Muslim Brotherhood camp, on holiday, when Gamal Abdel Nasser took over in a bloodless military coup. In his book A Man for All Islands, biographer Royston Ellis wrote, "Maumoon regarded it as a privilege to be able to hear Sayyed Qutb"..

Career and politics

When his two year contract with Ahmadu Bello University ended, he returned to the Maldives in 1971?. Three weeks later, he joined Aminiyya School as a teacher of English, arithmetic and Islam. In 1972, he was appointed as the manager of the government shipping department.

On 12 March 1973, Gayoom was placed under house arrest for criticising President Ibrahim Nasir's policies. He was tried in court and sentenced to banishment for four years on 14 May 1973. On 21 May, he was taken to Makunudhoo Island of Haa Dhaalu Atoll. After serving five months of his sentence, Gayoom was released on 13 October 1973 as a result of Nasir's amnesty following his re-election for another five-year term.

In 1974, Gayoom was appointed as under-secretary in the Telecommunications Department. After ten weeks, he was promoted to director of the department. During this period, he worked as a part-time teacher in some private schools, teaching Islam, Arabic and English.

On 28 July 1974, Gayoom was again arrested for criticising Nasir's policies. This time he was kept in solitary confinement in a prison in Malé nicknamed 'China garden' (Chinese fishermen were once detained there). This prison was later demolished in Gayoom's presidency and Islamic Centre was erected on the site. After 50 days in jail, he was set free in September 1974.

Six weeks later, he was appointed as special under-secretary in the office of then Prime Minister Ahmed Zaki. The post of Prime Minister was abolished with the removal and banishment of Ahmed Zaki from office, in 6 March 1975. With this decision, Gayoom's position disappeared as well and he was notified of his dismissal when he was in Colombo. However, when he returned from Colombo, he was made the Deputy Ambassador of the Maldives in Sri Lanka. In 1975, he was sent to the United Nations for two months as a member of the Maldives delegation. Upon his return, he was appointed under-secretary at the department of External Affairs. After nine weeks, he was appointed the Deputy Minister of Transport. One year later, he was tenured at the United Nations from September 1976 to January 1977, until Nasir summoned him back at the end of the UN session. In 29 March 1977, Gayoom was appointed as Minister of Transport, making him a member of Nasir's cabinet. He held the post until 10 November 1978.


As Ibrahim Nasir's second term was coming to an end, he wanted someone else running for the presidency. In June 1978, the Citizen's Majlis was called upon to nominate a presidential candidate. 45 voted for Nasir, while the remaining 3 voted for Gayoom. There was another ballot on 16 June, in which four people participated. 27 voted for Gayoom, enough for him to be put forward as a candidate.

Five months later, he was elected with 92.96% of the votes as the new President of the Maldives. The grand reception of his inauguration was held at Majeediyaa School on the night of 10 November 1978. In a 1983 referendum, he was re-elected by 96.62%, for a second term. He was last re-elected to a sixth five-year term in October 2003 with 90.28% of the vote; he was the sole candidate, having been chosen by the Majlis.

The President of the Maldives is both the Head of Government and Head of State, with very little distinction between the two roles, therefore Gayoom is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Maldivian armed forces, the Maldives National Defence Force. In a 2007 referendum, voters approved a presidential system with direct election of the president, the option favored by Gayoom, rather than a parliamentary system.

Assassination attempt

On 8 January 2008, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt at Hoarafushi by Mohamed Murshid, a twenty-year-old man from the island. Murshid attempted to stab Gayoom with a knife concealed in a Maldives flag. The attempt was foiled when Mohamed Jaisham Ibrahim, a fifteen-year-old Boy Scout from the island, blocked the attack with his bare hands. Jaisham sustained minor injuries during the intervention and was subsequently treated.

Notable visits and participations

  • The first country Gayoom visited as the President was Libya. His visit in September 1979 to Libya was to participate in a celebration held to mark the 10th anniversary of the September Revolution.
  • In 1981, Gayoom attended the third Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held in Saudi Arabia. Since then, he has attended every ISC meeting. These have been in Morocco in 1984, in Kuwait in 1987, in Senegal in 1991, in Morocco in 1994 and in Pakistan in 1997.
  • In May 1982, he made state visits to neighboring Asian countries, Singapore and Malaysia.
  • His first visit to a western country, as the President, was on 10 May 1982, to London, England.
  • In October 1982, he participated in the Commonwealth heads of Government Regional Meetings in Fiji.
  • In March 1984, he made a state visit to Sri Lanka to repair the cracked relations with two countries.
  • In 1983, he made a state visit to North Korea. The same year, in October, he made a visit to South Korea. During this visit he was awarded the Grand Order of Mugunghwa, the lowest order of the Republic of Korea. He invested the president, Chun Doo Hwan, with the Maldivian order of Nishan Izzuddeen.


Gayoom has been claimed to be a Dictator by the oppositions. He has been accused of nepotism, because several family members, in-laws and close relatives of him held high posts in his government and cabinet. According to Amnesty International, in the year 2003, "there were severe restrictions on freedom of the press, and political parties were unable to function." Anti-government riots broke out in the country in September 2003 following a prison shooting incident. Opposition to the President has come in the form of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Gayoom was also the defense minister and finance minister of the Maldives for a long time, but gave up these positions on 1 September 2004, following international pressure, and media and public ridicule. It is claimed that Maumoon influences a lot of Maldivians, as he controls the Judiciary, the Parliamanet and the Executive, unlike other countries where the Presidential System of Governence is practiced.

See also



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