Sri Lanka: Plight of Muslim Women


At a gathering of women for a home cooked meal at Thai Pongal, a Hindu harvest festival, in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, a Muslim woman remarked that last year 65 young girls in her community were married-off before their O’ Levels. The women listening knew that the economic crisis was driving families to take desperate measures. They questioned as to why the law was unable to protect these children from early marriages. The conversation quickly turned to the lack of reform of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA), which still permits the marriage of Muslim girls as young as 12 and even younger with the permission of the Quazi. 

Meanwhile, we were told of meetings across the country led by certain Muslim religious leaders calling for communities to reject any forthcoming reforms proposed by the Government. One preacher had ferociously defended the position that girls should be able to marry even at the age of nine and claimed that women becoming Quazis (judges) was dangerous. A woman celebrating Pongal asked me with concern, “Can’t you talk to your religious leaders and explain to them that it’s good for children to finish their education?” Her question sparked a feeling of solidarity but also a hopelessness that Muslim women feel about the harm that continues daily under the MMDA hung heavy in the air. “No one listens…they do not care,” I replied, feeling frustration and sadness.

The road to reforms has been frustratingly long

For over 40 years, Muslim women and men have worked towards reforming the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA). Muslim women’s organisations have been in the forefront of calling for reforms, as they have borne witness to the devastating consequences of failing to reform this law. After thousands of individual testimonies have revealed experiences of injustice and cruelty, several government and non-governmental committees repeatedly suggesting reforms and countless meetings with successive Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Justice, religious administrators and clerics, the long-awaited reforms appear to be precariously moving forward. However, what could be the last mile of this long journey, is facing every challenge that can be thrown its way. 

Progressive reforms will strengthen MMDA’s adherence to Islamic values 

Values attributed to any religion are always historically situated and the practice and application of fundamental values are constantly evolving across time. With this understanding, it is important to acknowledge, at the outset that the MMDA is a colonial piece of legislation. It is based on the Dutch-introduced “Special Laws relating to Moors or Mohammedans and Other Native Races” and was maintained and codified into statute under the British. Contrary to claims, it is far from divine in its words, procedures and the official positions it creates. In fact, it is a mélange of some Batavian Islamic rulings as codified by the Dutch, Tamil custom (Kaikuli) and English procedural rules. 

The MMDA also fails to mention the uniquely Islamic practices of a marriage contract, mata’a (alimony), Mubarak (divorce by mutual consent) and Khula divorce regimes and legal protections for property of the wife. 

The MMDA as it stands now is far from Islamic. In its current form, the ways in which it is misused, and its implementation, it is a departure from the radical thinking that Islam championed, of equal and sometimes preferential status afforded to women. Women’s testimonies about their treatment under MMDA are a depressing account of how distant from the core Islamic values of justice, compassion and kindness the law actually is. The proposed reforms address many of these issues and in fact steers the law towards a more Islamic, and democracy and rule of law compliant system.

Reforms are caught between a politics of misogynistic power, fear, hate and non-interference

The process of reforming the MMDA contends with pressures from multiple sides. A fear of women holding office, gaining opportunities to assert financial rights and to hold husbands accountable when they enter polygamous marriages without caring for the existing family is palpable in the debates.

The deeply un-Islamic and unconstitutional practices and injustices perpetuated under this law have benefited men in the community. They do not want to give these up. They use the platform of identity politics to say that making changes to Muslim personal law is an erosion of rights afforded to ALL Muslims. They want to keep the arbitrary and unsupervised power of the MMDA untouched by declaring it ‘divine’. These constituencies that are male-led and often anti-women keep the Muslim political elites afloat. As such, historically, we have seen Muslim political leaders resisting reform of Muslim personal law. 

Political elites, with privilege and education, sometimes know better but will not provide strong leadership for betterment of their communities. Controlling the discourse of ‘Muslim family’ is their ticket to power. Thus, they continue to employ this discourse at the cost of the rights of women and children of Muslim society. Repeatedly, during election time when the major parties are courting the Muslim vote is when these ‘community’ and political figures amplify their demands. 

This is why Muslim women activists face vicious attacks when they try to shed light on the ugliness they encounter within their families and communities, because it threatens power structures. Most recently, we have seen activists labelled as ‘working against Islam’, ‘masterminds’ conjuring sentiments of criminality, ‘the threat from within’, a comment about gathering 6,000 women to demand for the need for reforms was recast as a threat to the state. Sharing photographs and using this language targets individuals and gives permission for ‘righteous’ violence. Muslim politicians have been silent for too long. They must care more about their power and voter bases than the welfare of the communities they represent. 

Simultaneously, consecutive Sri Lankan governments protect power-holds by deploying a language of non-interference. A language of ‘leave it to the community’, ‘my hands are tied’, ‘your people don’t want change’, ‘it’s too sensitive’. All of these statements are but masks for racism and misogyny. This dynamic has permeated everywhere – into professional, academic and civil society spaces. Muslim women are doubly marginalised by this language, as it shuts the door on the faces of Muslim women raising grievances.

Consecutive Sri Lankan governments have engaged in destructive majoritarian politics of outright racism, fear mongering and terrorising of minority peoples. Doing away with personal laws is a constant and easy threat deployed by majoritarian agendas. Community gatekeepers also use this threat to keep their people, particularly Muslim women, from asking for change. It is this politics of fear that contributes to silencing of and sometimes retaliation against ordinary Muslims for talking about their grievances openly. 

More generally, Muslim reformists must contend with the fact that since independence, successive Sri Lankan governments have failed to maintain a strong commitment to pluralistic policies and have engaged in non-participatory and opaque law-making processes. Similarly, all political parties are guilty of a scant commitment to securing substantive, structural change for women including that of political representation for ALL women. Any advancements in the law have been elite-led often seems to happen only when the stars align! This deeply divisive, patronage-based, discriminatory and opportunistic political culture creates an almost impermeable barrier to any advancement of Muslim women’s rights and for that matter of advancement of the rights of any marginalised group in the country.

Wedged between this politics of hate and fear being played by the majoritarian state and the self-proclaimed representatives of the Muslim community, ordinary Muslim families are struggling to cope with the economic crisis, like all other ordinary families in Sri Lanka. They face increasing daily concerns about money, food, livelihoods and overall economic security for themselves and their children. The emotional labour of worrying about it all alone is crippling. Meanwhile, the State continues to crush avenues to complain and protest for justice. People are also dealing with the electoral shenanigans that prey on vulnerabilities and the making afresh the same old promises. 

Token bills promising women’s equality are charging ahead of law reforms that have been struggling for state recognition for decades, including the MMDA. It is amid the growing complexities of daily struggles that Muslim women activists continue to nurture the call for MMDA reforms. It is precisely because of these complexities and the odds stacked against Muslim women that all citizens who want change and believe in equality and justice ought to support Muslim women in their call for progressive reforms. It is only by coming together as citizens of this country that we can ensure the inalienable fundamental rights of Muslim women and children without being appropriated either by majoritarian state agenda or by conservative Muslim community agenda.

Everyone should support MMDA reforms

To support these reforms is to protect little children from being ‘given away’ in marriage and accords equally able adult women the same right to be proactive and full members of society in their public and private lives as the men in their community. If, as peoples of this country, we cannot find it in ourselves to make the time, effort and commit to this, we not only fail Muslim women and children but we fail to understand what system change really means. Nation-wide support for Muslim women activists, for their just demands, at this time will pierce through a politics of elite power that we as Sri Lankans are trying to reject. Even at the on-coming local government elections choose candidates that care about marginalised communities. Perhaps one day, together, we can change this feeling that all of us have about many issues, that “No one listens, they do not care”. 

Armed Rebellion against the State: A Violation of Islamic Law


Pakistan’s present issue of armed rebellion against the state has become a serious source of concern for the country and its people. The growth of militant groups, as well as their use of violence and intimidation to oppose the authority of the government, has led in major instability, loss of life, and disruption of everyday life. These groups, working under various political and ideological banners, strive to impose their own vision for society via the use of force, which is directly contrary to the state’s promotion of the ideals of peace, justice, and order.

The issue of armed insurrection against the state is critical in the current situation because it has far-reaching repercussions for the country and its people’s destiny. It calls into question the state’s ability to maintain law and order while also ensuring the safety and security of its residents. It also weakens the country’s political and social stability, producing an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty that pervades all parts of life.

Islamic law, as outlined in the Quran and Hadith, promotes peace, justice and obedience to the state. The Quran explicitly states that

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination” (4:59).

The use of violence for political or ideological objectives is severely forbidden in Islam and contradicts the religion’s precepts. One of the main reasons why armed revolt against the state is haram is because it violates the idea of loyalty to legal authority. Islam believes that obeying legitimate authority is a religious requirement, and that Muslims should respect and follow people in positions of power if their directives are in accordance with Islamic law. Individuals who engage in violent rebellion are basically rejecting this concept and striving to topple rightful authority, which is regarded a terrible sin.

Based on the ideas outlined in Islamic law, the thesis statement of this article is that armed revolt against the state in Pakistan violates Islamic law and contradicts Islamic teachings. The use of violence to attain political or ideological ends not only violates the ideals of peace, justice, and loyalty to the state, but it also jeopardizes the country’s and its people’s stability and security. This article will present a thorough review of Islamic law addressing armed rebellion against the state and show how terrorist groups in Pakistan are acting in clear violation of these principles.

Islamic Law and Its Stance on Armed Rebellion Against the State:

Islamic law, commonly known as Sharia law, is a complete legal and moral guiding system based on the Quran and Hadith. It encompasses all areas of life, such as personal and social behavior, economic transactions, and political issues.

The Quran and Hadith are unequivocal in their condemnation of violent insurrection against the state. As previously stated, the Quranic verse 4:59 mandates obedience to those in power, and using force to dispute this authority is deemed a breach of the ideals of peace and obedience to the state.Additionally, the Hadith states that

“Whosoever kills a person who has a treaty with the Muslims, shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance may be smelt from a distance of forty years”.

This emphasizes the sanctity of life and the importance of respecting treaties and agreements.

Top Islamic scholars and clerics believe that using force against the state is prohibited in Islam. They believe that because the state was founded by the will of the people, it has the right to employ force to preserve law and order and defend its residents. The use of violence to oppose the state is regarded a breach of the ideals of peace and justice, and it contradicts Islamic teachings.

The Islamic community as a whole agrees that violent insurrection against the state is not allowed in Islam. This viewpoint is shared by academics and practitioners from many sects and schools of thought within Islam, and it is founded on the principles given in the Quran and Hadith. The Islamic community’s agreement on this topic serves as a powerful reminder of the significance of peace, justice, and loyalty to the state in Islamic teachings, as well as the sanctity of life.

The Impact of Armed Rebellion on Society and Religion:

Armed rebellion against the state has far-reaching and detrimental consequences for society and its people. Militant groups’ use of violence and intimidation causes instability, fear, and disorder, which impacts all sectors of life. The loss of life and property as a result of armed conflict disrupts society’s regular functioning and impairs the state’s capacity to deliver basic services and maintain the safety and security of its residents.

Armed revolt also has a negative impact on Islam’s reputation as a religion of peace. Many perceive the conduct of violent organizations claiming to operate in the name of Islam as directly contradicting the religion’s values of peace and justice. This hinders the Islamic community’s attempts to present a favorable image of the religion and weakens knowledge of Islam’s actual character as a peaceful and just way of life.

Armed rebellion against the state weakens and destabilizes the state’s ability to maintain law and order and secure the safety and security of its population. The use of violence to challenge official authority produces a climate of dread and uncertainty that pervades all parts of society. This affects the state’s capacity to deliver essential services like health care, education, and infrastructure, as well as eroding confidence between the state and its population. The disruption and instability caused by armed revolt also fosters the propagation of extreme ideology and the recruitment of new members by militant groups.


Armed insurrection frequently results in violence, damage, and death. Human life is highly valued in Islam, and the killing of innocent lives is considered one of the most serious crimes. According to Islamic religious edict, any armed action against the state of Pakistan constitutes a rebellion and is prohibited (haram) under Islamic law. This is a consensus shared by top Islamic scholars and clerics who have stated unequivocally that the use of force to implement Sharia, including armed confrontation against the state, sabotage, and all forms of terrorism, is categorically prohibited by Islamic teaching and is considered a rebellion or mutiny.

Armed revolt against the state is not only a breach of Islamic law, but it is also a grave threat to the country’s stability and security. The emergence of non-state actors and terrorist attacks in Pakistan has alarmed both the government and the general people. In Pakistan, there have been episodes of armed revolt against the state, most notably terrorism and sabotage. These behaviors not only violate Islamic law, but also hurt Islam’s and the Muslim community’s reputation. They also hinder the efforts of those fighting for the country’s peace and stability.

Islam Respects Womanhood – Let It Remain So


Woman as mother commands great respect in Islam. The Holy Quran speaks of the rights of the mother in a number of verses. It enjoins Muslims to show respect to their mothers and serve them well. The Prophet states emphatically that the rights of the mother are paramount.

The ongoing protest in the Islamic Republic of Iran by Iranian women against the country’s strict rules on Muslim women wearing hijab head scarfs has caught the attention of the world community.

. It is reported that more than 75 protesting people including women have died in the Iran government’s crackdown after the death of woman activist Mahsa Amini, on September,16, following her arrest for allegedly breaching the country’s strict rules on hijab head scarfs. . This news has made many ardent admirers of Islamic religion think whether the noble thoughts of Holy Quran on respect for women and their sentiments have not been adequately understood by section of menfolk belonging to Islam religion.

The underlying cause for protest against the insistence on Muslim women wearing hijab headscarf is that this compulsory use of head scarfs by women amounts to restricting the rights of Muslim women to lead a life of their own choice in appearance and public movement.

In Afghanistan, Muslim women are not permitted to go to schools beyond the 6th Standard. A year after the Taliban took power in Afghanistan, teenage girls are barred from school and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, with only their eyes showing. Hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led government There have been reports of many Afghan women tearfully protesting against such restrictions on women’s education.

There are so many other practices by which the rights, liberty and sentiments of Muslim women are not recognised by the clergies and religious heads of Islam in some places. There are practices such as Muslim men being permitted to become the husband of several women at the same time, the practice of triple talaq where a husband can disown his wife by repeating this word three times, property rights for women, dress code for women and even driving licence being denied to Muslim women in some places. Even with regard to offering prayers in mosques, there are some restrictions on Muslim women.

What is noteworthy here is that while so many restrictions are imposed on Muslim women which are insisted by menfolk, there is practically no restriction on the behaviour and practices of Muslim men.

Such situation gives the impression that in several Islamic countries, Muslim women are being looked upon as second-rate people compared to the menfolk.

Of course, it is very necessary to point out that there are a few Muslim countries where such restrictions on women are not enforced anymore in letter and spirit but this is not so in all Muslim countries as seen in Afghanistan and Iran.

There is a number of Muslims including women living all over the world, who understand the tenets of principles enunciated in the Holy Quran and remain religious people, even as they involve themselves in professional and social activities in different walks of life and enjoy liberty and freedom. But, they can do so, only in regions where they are permitted to do so.

All said and done, one cannot but admit that liberty and freedom for a considerable population of women in a few Islamic countries remain restricted. This should not be so. Certainly, Holy Quran does not want this.

The Muslims have to join the mainstream of worldly life in tune with the prevailing civilised practices in the world, which are gradually getting fine-tuned over the years in tune with the scientific and technological development and progressive social thoughts, that insist on harmony with everyone and goodwill for all. When Muslim women who face restrictions, see other women getting themselves well educated, taking up jobs, involving themselves in business pursuits and occupying top positions in government and politics, they too naturally aspire for such conditions when they can realise their potential.

Muslim women in Iran and Afghanistan have now raised their voices demanding freedom, which should be seen as a positive trend and encouraged by the top leadership of the countries. The leadership should realise that Holy Quran insists on respect for womanhood in toto and the demand of women are in tune with the sayings in Holy Quran.

World opinion should assert itself and extend all support for the liberty-craving Muslim women in Afghanistan and Iran. and other places The leadership of these countries should recognise and respond to the women’s sentiments positively.

It is now gratifying to hear that the Taliban deputy foreign minister in Afghanistan has called for reopening schools for girls in Afghanistan, saying clearly that there is no valid reason for such insistence One is not sure, whether Taliban government leadership has reacted positively to the suggestions.

The ball is clearly in the court of Islamic leadership and they have to recognise the ground realities and, move with time and restore the glory of womanhood, as proclaimed by the Holy Quran.