Petitioners who crusaded for women’s entry to the inner sanctum of Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai, welcomed the Bombay High Court verdict that ruled in their favour, while opponents readied for the next round of battle in the Supreme Court.
The verdict is a victory for Muslim women, said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, who co-petitioned the public interest litigation. “It’s a historic decision in every way,” she said, paving the way for assertion of ‘real’ Islamic qualities and values. The decision was a “precedent that has set the freedom of women against the peremptory actions of religious men.”
Ms. Niaz, who is the co-founder of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), had filed the petition in 2014 along with her counterpart, Zakia Soman. “In 2012, we tried to enter the inner sanctum but were stopped. Initially, we tried to resolve it through dialogue and by writing to the trust, but they rejected all our letters. So, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan decided to approach the court,” Ms. Soman told The Hindu .
“The implications go far beyond equal access to women in the dargah; the court is giving to women what the ulema (Muslim religious law board) would deny,” said Javed Anand, who was a part of ‘Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye’ forum, a campaign that included the BMMA and 20 other voluntary organisations. Jamal Siddiqui, member, Bhartiya Janata Party Minority Morcha, said the entry of women in shrines is not a crime and should be allowed.
Mohammed Ahmed Tahar, the Administrative Officer at Haji Ali Trust, said the trust is studying the order and will decide its next step in the next six weeks. The All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board spokesperson, Abdul Moid Azhari, said in Islam, there is no restriction on women who want to enter religious places.
However, he refrained from giving the Board’s opinion on the verdict.‘Just a beginning’
Women’s activists, though, see this as a huge step forward.
Nandita Shah, co-director, Akshara Foundation, which works for the empowerment of women, said, “This is a beginning and it should not stop here. All the discriminatory aspects within the religion need to be done away with. Sanction for women to enter Sabarimala temple should be the next step.”