from Wikipedia Maldives:
The Maldives (or Maldive Islands) (IPA: /ˈmɒldaɪvz/ or /ˈmɒldiːvz/), officially the Republic of Maldives, is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives is located south of India's Lakshadweep islands, and about seven hundred kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka. The twenty-six atolls of Maldives' encompass a territory featuring 1,192 islets, two hundred and fifty islands are inhabited.
The name "Maldives" may derive from Maale Dhivehi Raajje ("The Island Kingdom [under the authority of] Malé")." Some scholars believe that the name "Maldives" derives from the Sanskrit maladvipa, meaning "garland of islands", or from mahila dvipa, meaning "island of women", but these names are not found in ancient Sanskrit literature. Instead, classical Sanskrit texts mention the "Hundred Thousand Islands" (Lakshadweepa); a generic name which would include not only the Maldives, but also the Laccadives and the Chagos island groups. Another theory suggests that the name "Maldives" derives from the Tamil "mala tivu" meaning "a garland of islands." Some medieval Arab travellers such as Ibn Batuta called the islands "Mahal Dibiyat" from the Arabic word Mahal ("palace")." This is the name presently inscribed in the scroll of the Maldive state emblem.
The inhabitants were Buddhist, probably since Ashoka's period, in the 3rd century BC. Islam was introduced in 1153. The Maldives came then under the influence of the Portuguese (1558) and the Dutch (1654) seaborne empires. And in 1887 it became a British protectorate. In 1965, the Maldives obtained independence from Britain (originally under the name "Maldive Islands"), and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic.
The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of population. It is also the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world.