The coexistence of Islam and matriliny has been viewed as a ‘paradox’ because of strict patriliny that Islam prescribes. This article attempts to disentangle this enigma by comparing the Minangkabau, Kerala and coastal northern Mozambique that represent the most well-known cases of simultaneous practice of Islam and matrilineal kinship, which initially was a result of peaceful Islamisation through Indian Ocean networks. In the nineteenth century, the Dutch and British colonial regimes helped matriliny to survive, despite all the efforts of the Islamists to the contrary, by codifying local juridical rules. The Portuguese integration of the local matrilineal nobility into their colonial administrative system preserved matriliny within the local Muslim order. Nowadays these communities are influenced by modernisation, nation-state policies, and Islamic reformist movements, but matrilineal principles still regulate the use of the ancestral land.