This study investigates the role of the background meridional moisture gradient (MMG) on the propagation of the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) across the Maritime Continent (MC) region. It is found that the interannual variability of the seasonal mean MMG over the southern MC area is associated with the meridional expansion and contraction of the moist area in the vicinity of the MC. Sea surface temperature anomalies associated with relatively high and low seasonal mean MMG exhibit patterns that resemble those of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. By contrasting the years with anomalously low and high MMG, we show that MJO propagation through the MC is enhanced (suppressed) in years with higher (lower) seasonal mean MMG, though the effect is less robust when MMG anomalies are weak. Column-integrated moisture budget analysis further shows that sufficiently large MMG anomalies affects MJO activity by modulating the meridional advection of the mean moisture via MJO wind anomalies. Our results suggest that the background moisture distribution has a strong control over the propagation characteristics of the MJO in the MC region.