Shari’a and Pashtunwali: Implications for Afghan Women

Just Future partners publish a new report on the interface between Pashtunwali and Shari’a law in Afghanistan, examining the effects on the position of women and proposing recommendations for engagement with the Taliban.

After the start of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in May 2021, the Taliban intensified its multi-fronted campaign to overcome the Afghan security forces and gain control of large swaths of the country. This intensification culminated in the fall of Kabul on August 15, 2021, when the Taliban entered Kabul and claimed control over the entire country.

Since early September 2021, the Taliban has tightened its control and announced that it will, on a temporary basis, adopt the 1964 Constitution with the caveat that provisions in the Constitution that they interpret as being incompatible with Shari’a will not apply.

“[W]e are ruled by men who offer us nothing but the [Qurʾan], even though many of them cannot read… we are in despair.”

Dominating the narrative and concern of the international community during the evacuation and its aftermath has been the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan under Taliban rules on the place and role of women in society. The Taliban, however, is far from monolithic nor is it bound to the manner in which it ruled Afghanistan during its 1996-2001 iteration. To better understand and plan interventions to support Afghan women, this research examined the impact of the Taliban rule on the place of women in Afghan society through three dimensions. These were:

  1. The extent to which Shari’a-based law making and practice by the Taliban will have foundations in edicts of Pashtunwali (regardless of their narrative),
  2. The extent to which normative conflicts between Pashtunwali and Shari’a can be resolved, and
  3. The extent to which the rule of law – based on Shari’a, Pashtunwali, or a combination – would be adhered to in the different and diverse communities throughout the country given the long history of a weak centralized rule of law in Afghanistan.

This report examines these question, enabling a greater understanding of the interface between Pashtunwali and Shari’a in theory, and providing recommendations for the international community’s engagement with the Taliban.

Read the report below:

Read the policy brief here:

Cover photo credit: Daniel Arrhakis – Shadows of Betrayal (

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