From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Islam in Sri Lanka is practiced by a group of minorities. The Muslim community is divided into three main ethnic groups: the Sri Lankan Moors, the Indian Muslims, and the Malays, each with its own history and traditions. The attitude among the majority of people in Sri Lanka is to use the term '"Muslim" as an ethnic group, specifically when referring to Sri Lankan Moors.

History of Islam in Sri Lanka
  With the arrival of Arab and Somali traders in the 8th century, Islam began to flourish in Sri Lanka. The first people to profess the Islamic faith were Arab and Somali merchants and their native wives, whom they married after converting to Islam. By the 15th century, Arab traders had controlled much of the trade on the Indian Ocean, including that of Sri Lanka's. Many of them settled down on the island in large numbers, encouraging the spread of Islam. However, when the Portuguese arrived during the 16th century, many of their descendants- the Sri Lankan Moors- were persecuted, thus forcing them to migrate to the Central Highlands and to the east coast of the country.
During 18th and 19th centuries, Javanese and Malaysian Muslims bought over by the Dutch and British rulers contributed to the growing Muslim population in Sri Lanka. Their descendants, now the Sri Lankan Malays, adapted several Sri Lankan Moor Islamic traditions while also contributing their unique cultural Islamic practices to other Muslim groups on the Island.

The arrival of Muslims from India during the 19th and 20th centuries has also contributed to the growth of Islam in Sri Lanka. Most notably, Pakistani and South Indian Muslims have introduced Shia Islam and the Hanafi school of thought into Sri Lanka, however although most Muslims on the island still adhere to the traditional practices of Sunni Islam.

In modern times, Muslims in Sri Lanka are handled by the Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs Department, which was established in the 1980s to prevent the continual isolation of the Muslim community from the rest of Sri Lanka. Today, about 10% of Sri Lankans adhere to Islam; and there are approximately 5,000 mosques, with every mosque having a committee to look after the community affairs. Muslims of Sri lanka, mostly from the Moor and Malay ethnic communities on the island with smaller numbers of converts from other ethnicities, such as the Sinhalese.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was established in Sri Lanka in 1915. But the other Muslim Communities consider Ahmadiyya as a separate non-Muslim religion.

Sri Lankan Moors
The Sri Lankan Moors make up almost 92% of the Muslim population and 9.23% of the total population of the country. They are predominantly Sunni Muslims of Shafi School. The Moors trace their ancestry to Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka sometime between the eighth and fifteenth centuries. The Arabic language brought by the early merchants is no longer spoken, though various Arabic words and phrases are still employed in daily usage. Until the recent past, the Moors employed Arwi as their mother tongue, though this is also extinct as a spoken language. Currently, the Moors in the east of Sri Lanka use Tamil as their primary language which includes many loan words from Arabic. Moors in the west coast are fluent in Sinhala, an Indo-European language spoken by the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka, but use English within the community. Thus, the Moors are a multilingual ethnic and religious group, lacking linguistic cohesion.  
The Sri Lankan Moors lived primarily in coastal trading and agricultural communities, preserving their Islamic cultural heritage while adopting many Southern Asian customs. During the period of Portuguese colonization, the Moors suffered from persecution, and many moved to the Central Highlands, where their descendants remain.

There are 749 Muslim Schools in Sri Lanka and 205 madras’s which teaching Islamic Education, and there is an Islamic university in Beruwala (Jamiya Naleemiya). In early 20th century there are few Muslim professionals in Accounts, Medical, Engineering, etc. But at present they are exceeding the national average. Due to lack of opportunity in Sri Lanka, many Muslim professionals are migrating to get jobs abroad, such as the Middle East, United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

East Coast Moors
On the eastern province of the country Muslims are predominant. East cost, Sri Lankan Moors are primarily farmers, fishermen, and traders. Their family lines are traced through women, as in kinship systems of the southwest Indian state of Kerala, but they govern themselves through Islamic law.

West Coast Moors
Many moors in the west of the island are traders, professionals or civil servants and are mainly concentrated in Colombo, Kalutara and Beruwala. Moors in Puttlam and Mannar predominantly make a living as prawn farmers, and fishermen. Moors in the west coast trace their family lines through their father. Along with those in the Central Province, the surname of many Moors in Colombo, Kalutara and Puttlam is their fathers first name, thus retaining similarity to the traditional Arab and middle eastern kinship system.

The Malays of Sri Lanka originated in Southeast Asia and today consist of about 50,000 persons. Their ancestors came to the country when both Sri Lanka and Indonesia were colonies of the Dutch. Most of the early Malay immigrants were soldiers, posted by the Dutch colonial administration to Sri Lanka, who decided to settle on the island.
Other immigrants were convicts or members of noble houses from Indonesia who were exiled to Sri Lanka and who never left. The main source of a continuing Malay identity is their common Malay language (Bahasa Melayu), which includes numerous words absorbed from Sinhalese and the Moorish variant of the Tamil language. In the 1980s, the Malays made up about 5 % of the Muslim population in Sri Lanka and, like the Moors, predominantly follow the Shafi school of thought within Sunni Islam.

Indian Muslims (Memons, Bhoras, Khojas)
The Indian Muslims are those who trace their origins to immigrants searching for business opportunities during the colonial period. Some of these people came to the country as far back as Portuguese times; others arrived during the British period from various parts of India. Majority of them came from Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, and unlike the Sri Lankan Moors, are ethnically related to South Indians and number approximately 30,000. The Memons, originally from Sindh (in modern Pakistan), first arrived in 1870; in the 1980s they numbered only about 3,000, they mostly follow the Hanafi Sunni school of Islam.

The Dawoodi Bhoras and the Khojas are Shia Muslims came from north-western India (Gujarat state) after 1880; in the 1980s they collectively numbered fewer than 2,000. These groups tended to retain their own places of worship and the languages of their ancestral homelands.
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