This chapter focuses on the crucial period that preceded democratization. The chapter aims to show how Islam emerged as a modern ‘discursive political religion’ in the public domain, and was consolidated as an institutional political religion, under the religious scholar-president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who it shows espoused a modernist, reformist Islam. This chapter therefore shows the links between a more comprehensive scholarly strand of reformist Islam in the space of politics and Islam’s modern transformations. On the one hand, Gayoom’s Islamic modernism upheld that Islam was compatible with modernity, justified certain individual rights, and validated ‘democracy’ through a scholarly interpretation of Islam. On the other hand, it also supported institutionalizing Islam into modern political forms, and more crucially building a distinctly modern Islamic identity based on a powerful public discourse. This chapter details how Islam was functionalized for these purposes and was deployed as a public discourse. In the process, Islam was embedded as a powerful discursive political frame of reference in the public domain as unknown in the past. The prior transformations of Islam nourished the rise of Islamism and Salafism – which found the right ‘language’ already available in the public domain – and opened increasing avenues for controversy instead of settling questions over religion’s place in the polity.