FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Muslim Law has a long and distinguished history in Sri Lanka
Posted:Apr 23, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
The on-going discussions on amendments to the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act (MMDA) and the extensive coverage being given by the country’s media to the several view-points expressed, require warm appreciation.  
 
When I initiated the move for improvements not only to the MMDA of 1951 but also to the Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act of 1956 way back in 1970, in my capacity as the President of the Law Students’ Muslim Majlis by holding a two- day seminar and establishing theMuslim Law Research Committee, public discussion in the media at that time on Muslim Law was virtually nil. We were encouraged and supported by the highly respected Principal of Sri Lanka Law College the late Mr. R. K. W. Gunasekera in holding the seminar and in following up thereon for two more years.   
 
Following the two- day seminar and the setting up of the Muslim Law Research Committee (MLRC) a committee was established to recommend amendments to the MMDA, headed by then Registrar- General H. M. Z. Farouque, current Professor of Law at the Monash University and another committee to recommend amendments to the Wakfs Act headed by the late A. M. Ameen, then District Judge.  
 
 After two years of continual work the two Committees produced two separate reports in 1972, which were submitted to the government. The Mosques Act was amended by Act No. 33 of 1982 incorporating several recommendations of the A. M. Ameen Committee thanks to the dedicated efforts of the then Wakfs Commissioner the late M. I. M. Nalir. Coincidentally the file relating to the Mosques Act was referred to me by the Hon. Attorney-General in my capacity as Senior State Counsel, which enabled me to expedite the amendments, enacted later by Parliament as Act No. 33 of 1982.  
 
 But nothing was heard from the government of the H. M. Z. Farouque Committee recommendations, which received the scholarly inputs of late M. A. M. Hussain, District Judge and late A. M. Ismail, then City Coroner, Late M. Markhani, Advocate and Editor of the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Law Reports (MMDLR) in addition to the Chairman Farouque. The MLRC report on amendments to the MMDA could be referred to in the (1978) 4 Colombo L. Rev. at page 60. Also for a related publication, please refer to (1972) 4 MMDLR 13.  
 
Presently there are many interesting points of view and counter points of view in the print and social media that require the earnest attention of the Justice Marsoof Saleem Committee. It would be a good idea for the Committee to invite all those interested in the amendments to spend time and engage with them. For this the Committee needs time, particularly if what happened to the several previous laudable efforts, post-Farouque Committee, does not happen to the present Committee! Patience plus assistance to the Committee and not angry retorts at incorrectly quoted statements of a few, are what is presently required.   
 
We ought not to forget that Muslim Law in Sri Lanka has a long and distinguished history. It is as long as the history of the Muslims in this country, dating back from the eighth century onwards. According to Tennent, Ceylon 1, page 597, “from Idrisi’s account of the Sinhalese court of the 12th century, it would appear that the Muslims as well as the Christians and Jews were accorded complete freedom of worship and a matter of internal jurisdiction to be governed by their own laws and usages, apart from being actively associated in the royal consultative council.” Dr. H. G. Reissner, Ceylon Historical Journal 111 No. 2 page 141 has stated that ‘in line with their conception that all law was derived from revealed scripture’, these communities must have been governed by their respective legal systems in the ‘whole range of civilian commitments from marriage contracts to commercial obligations’.  
 
 Rev. Fr. S. G. Perera, History of Ceylon for Schools, Volume 1, 1947, page 9 quoting Chief Justice Sir Alexander Johnston, says that when the Portuguese arrived in 1505, Colombo which was the chief port and the mart of the island’s trade with a largely Muslim population, had a court of justice to settle disputes according to Islamic Law. For a detailed account of the historical sequence of the Muslim Law in Sri Lanka, one must read “Muslims of Sri Lanka, Avenues to Antiquity” edited by Dr. M. A. M. Shukry, Chapter on “Islamic Law in Sri Lanka- An Historical Survey with Particular Reference to Matrimonial Laws” by H. M. Z. Farouque. For a greater appreciation of Islamic jurisprudence by a Sri Lankan jurist, one may delve into the writings and speeches of Justice Dr. C . G. Weeramantry and for historical perspectives, to the writings of Pro. K. M. de Silva, Dr. C. R. de Silva, Dr. Sirima Kiribamune, Dr. Lorna Dewarajah, Dr. Shirani Ponnambalam amongst several others.    
 
In an earlier article published in the Daily Mirror on November 18, 2016 under the title, “International Treaties protect the Personal Laws of Minorities”(http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/119344.html), reference was made to Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prevents the state from denying the rights of minorities, “…in community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion or to use their own language.” Reference was also made to the ‘Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities’. MMDA is reflective of the enjoyment in community with other members of their group the Muslim culture and the practice of the Islamic religion. Enacted by the post independent Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1951, the MMDA has governed the Muslims of Sri Lanka, in their matrimonial matters, for the past 66 years with great acceptance, notwithstanding shortcomings. Under these and other international treaties to which Sri Lanka is a state party, the Sri Lankan state is obliged to protect the MMDA and as per Article 1 of the ICCPR “encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity”. Changes to the MMDA must therefore come from within the Muslim community. MMDA requires improvement both from the legal and administrative perspectives. We need to support the Justice Marsoof Saleem Committee with goodwill and adequate time to achieve the objectives of reform with the fresh experiences of the past 66 years. 
Read More: http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Muslim-Law-has-a-long-and-distinguished-history-in-Sri-Lanka-127615.html#sthash.RgLZ9wrs.dpuf
Daily Mirror, April 24, 2017 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Vitaly A. Prima, Ambassador of Belarus to India for close to five years, is very enthusiastic about the future of bilateral relations as the two countries mark 25 years of diplomatic relations. Resident in New Delhi, Prima is also his country’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.
 
read-more
India’s top diplomats held a four-day brainstorming session in New Delhi this month to strategise and decide how India should engage with major global powers and countries in the immediate neighbourhood, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury
 
read-more
Video Gallery

 
see-more
Is it the Modi magic or Modi cult propelling the BJP to new heights with the opposition pulverised and decimated by the split vote banks of these parties in large parts of India? The BJP has gained five states in the assembly elections but lost Delhi and Bihar, writes Lalit Sethi
 
read-more
I recently received an extraordinary email from a troubled young Kashmiri in Srinagar. Days before the Indian authorities turned off the internet, Saif (not his real name) had watched on YouTube the 45-minute video documentary Crossing the Lines — Kashmir, Pakistan, India that I had helped make in 2004 and mostly agreed with its
 
read-more
The successful conclusion of the Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing, which India chose to stay away from, has led to a chorus of voices warning that in doing so, India has isolated itself both regionally and globally.
 
read-more
  The resounding victory of President Hassan Rouhani, who had sought re-election on a platform of moderation and engagement with the outside world, is a strong endorsement by the Iranian people for political change.
 
read-more
  The US announced a huge arms deal with Saudi Arabia on Saturday as President Donald Trump visited Riyadh on his maiden foreign tour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Jim Corbett was a British-Indian hunter and tracker-turned-conservationist, author and naturalist; who started off as an officer in the British army and attained the rank of a colonel. Frequently called in to kill man-eating tigers or leopards,...

 
Column-image

Title: Bollywood Boom; Author: Roopa Swaminathan; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 399; Pages: 221

 
Column-image

Title: Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War; Author: Myra Macdonald; Publisher: Penguin Random House India; Pages: 328; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

  The story of Afghanistan -- of the war against the Soviets and of terrorism that has gripped the landlocked country ever since -- is in many ways also the story of diplomat Masood Khalili, who motivated his people and led them...

 
Column-image

Title: The Golden Legend; Author: Nadeem Aslam; Publisher: Penguin Random House; Pages: 376; Price: Rs 599

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive