Islam in Sri Lanka

With the arrival of Arab traders in the 8th century, Islam began to flourish in Sri Lanka. The first people to profess the Islamic faith were Arab 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. The Moors trace their ancestry to Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka some time between the eighth and fifteenth centuries...

The Muslims of Sri Lanka are a very small minority amounting to approximately 10% of a total population of 16 Million people. Sri Lankan Muslims are the third largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka, comprising 10% of the country's total population. They are native speakers of the Tamil language Tamil and predominantly followers of Islam.

Sri Lankan Moors ( Muslims)

The Sri Lankan Moors make up almost 95% of the Muslim population and 8% of the total population of the country. They are predominantly Sunni Muslims. The Moors trace their ancestry to Arab.

(Arab people or Arabs are an ethnic group whose members identify along linguistic, cultural or genealogical grounds...)

The Sri Lankan Moors have been strongly shaped by Islamic culture, with many customs and practices according to Islamic law. While preserving many of their ancestral customs, the Moors have also adopted several South Asian practices

The Muslims of Sri Lanka have a colorful history behind them punctuated by a long spell of hardship suffered during the Portuguese and Dutch ocupation of the Island. It is much to their credit that they withstood the onslaught of economic constraints, political intrigues and religious persecution to stay behind and survive. Most other peoples may have packed their bags and left for good. They not only saved their religion from the Christian enemies but also rebuilt the economy, slowly and steadily, by the 18th century when the British took over control of the island from the Dutch.

The Arabic language

Arabic is a Central Semitic language, thus related to and classified alongside other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and the Neo-Aramaic languages. In terms of speakers, the Arabic macrolanguage is the largest member of the Semitic language family. It is spoken by more than 280 million people, as 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

(Arwi or Arabic-Tamil is an Arabic-influenced dialect of the Tamil language written with an extension of the Arabic alphabet, with extensive lexical and phonetic influences from the Arabic language. Arwi was used extensively by the Muslim minority of Tamil Nadu state of India and Sri Lanka) as their mother tongue, though this is also extinct as a spoken language. Currently, the Moors in the east of Sri Lanka use Tamil language.

Tamil Language

Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in India, Sri Lanka and Singapore. Tamil is also spoken by significant minorities in Malaysia, Mauritius and Réunion as well as emigrant communities around the world...

as their primary language which includes many loan words from Arabic. Moors in the west coast are fluent in Sinhala, an Indo-European languages language spoken by the Sinhalese is Sinhala 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.

East Coast Moors

On the east coast, 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.


Beruwala, is a small resort town in the south western coastal belt of Sri Lanka. The name Beruwela is derived from the Sinhalese word Beruwela . It marks the spot for the first Muslim settlement on the island, established by Arab traders around the 8th century AD.


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 is a resort town located approximately 40km south of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital.- Overview :Once an important spice-trading center, the city's name is derived from the Kalu Ganga River . In the 11th Century, the town was temporarily made a capital on the orders of a South Indian Prince. Arab people or Arabs are an ethnic group whose members identify along linguistic, cultural or genealogical grounds...and middle eastern kinship system.

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