University of Helsinki

Mulki Al-Sarmani

Docent and Academy of Finland research fellow, Study of Religions Unit, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki.

Areas of Research: contemporary Muslim family laws and their linkages to Islamic jurisprudence; Muslim marriages and divorces between legal texts, courtroom practices, and lived realities; transnational Muslim migrant families in Europe; and Islamic feminism and Islamic interpretive tradition.

Research Projects:

Academy of Finland Research Project: Transnational Muslim Marriages in Finland: Wellbeing, Law, and Gender (2013-2018).

Under this project, I am the lead researcher for the main study which investigates three interrelated issues: the marriage norms and practices of Somali Muslim migrant families in Finland; their strategies of navigating Islamic family law and Finnish codes; and the impact of migrants’ transnational family ties and practices on their marriage and divorce practices. As part of this study, I have been conducting interviews with migrants on their marriage practices as well as researching the work of mosques in family dispute resolution. In particular, I have been doing ethnographic research in one mosque leading an initiative to reform marriages and promote new religious discourse on spousal and parental roles.  In addition and since February 2017, I have been working with Sanna Mustasaari at the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki to investigate (through qualitative research) Muslim marriage conclusion practices from three angles: the role and discourse of the state, the role of mosques, and the lived realities of different couples.

Academy of Finland Project: Islamic Feminism: Tradition, Authority, and Hermeneutics (2013-2018).

I am the principal investigator for this project, which researches contemporary Muslim women’s engagements with Islamic interpretive tradition, focusing on the question of gender, authority of religious knowledge, and hermeneutics.  Specifically, I am studying the knowledge-producing  projects of a group of women scholar/activists in Egypt, UK, USA, Canada,  and South Africa who are conducting hermeneutical and historical studies of the Qur’anSunnah,and classical Islamic interpretive tradition with the aims of: problematizing patriarchal interpretations and rulings, producing new knowledge that makes the case for gender equality and justice within an Islamic paradigm, and using that knowledge to work for religious and legal reform on gender rights. I am also studying how ordinary Muslim women in Egypt and Finland undertake similar hermeneutical engagements as they make sense of their Islamic legal tradition and its relevance for their lived realities. This project combines both textual and ethnographic research.

Relevant Publications:

  • Al-Sharmani, Mulki, Mustasaari, Sanna, and Ismail, Abdirashid. “Faith-based Family Dispute Resolution in Finnish Mosques: Unfolding Roles and Evolving Practices,” In: Bano, Samia (ed.).  Gender and Justice in Family Law Disputes: Women, Mediation, and Religious Arbitration.  Waltham, MA: Brandeis University, 2017.Pp. 270-291
  • Al-Sharmani, Mulki and Ismail, Abdirashid. “Marriage and Transnational Family Life among Somali Migrants in Finland.” In: Migration Letters, 14, 1, 2017: 38-49 (co-authored with Abdirashid Ismail)
  • Al-Sharmani, Mulki. “Striving against the ‘Nafs’: Revisiting Somali Muslim Spousal Roles and Rights in Finland.” In: Journal of Religion in Europe, 8, 2015: 101-120
  • Al-Sharmani, Mulki. “Islamic Feminism: Transnational and National Reflections.” In: Approaching Religion, 4, 2, 2014:83-94
  • Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Al-Sharmani, Mulki, and Rumminger, Jana. Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition. Oxford, UK: Oneworld, 2015
  • Al-Sharmani, Mulki.  Gender Justice and Legal Reform in Egypt: Negotiating MuslimFamily Law.  The American University in Cairo Press, in press.
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