Dr Ismath Rasmy answers this question in his study, “Women Quazi in a Minority Context: An Overview of Sri Lankan Experience.”
A woman’s eligibility to be appointed as a judge in Shariah courts in Muslim societies has been a debated issue for decades. Although some Muslim majority countries, including Arab countries, have allowed women judges (Qudath) in Shariah courts, the Muslim Religious Leadership in Sri Lanka, namely All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to such appointment to administrate Muslim matrimonial law on the basis of classical Muslim scholars’ discussion on the qualification of a judge (Qadi in Arabic), particularly referring to their debate on gender; however, women activists in Sri Lanka argue for women Quazi on the basis of women’s privacy and fair hearing.
This article, therefore, explores the Islamic standpoint regarding women Quazi in Sri Lanka. Hence, this research studies the classical scholars’ discussions on the qualification of a judge (Qadi) critically and uses textual and document analysis to bring out the dynamic interpretations of the verses of the Quran and Hadiths that they used for their arguments. The contextual analysis was carried out to understand the various applications of these verses of the Quran and Hadiths in history, particularly in connection with the present situation for women in Sri Lanka.
This research found no explicit verses of the Quran and Hadiths to allow or deny women Quazi. The positive and negative approach to women judges (Qudath) has been founded throughout history on the basis of Islamic scholars’ understanding of a few verses of the Quran and Hadith that are related to women leadership. This study recommends women Quazi for Sri Lankan Quazi courts by highlighting differences of context and insignificance of classical Muslim scholars’ debate on gender as a qualification of a judge (Qadi).
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