The Sufi shrine in Mumbai, Haji Ali Dargah is no more open for women. Reports state that the trust has issued a decree preventing women from entering the sanctum sanctorum, which houses the tomb of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, the 15th century Sufi saint. The management has declared the decision as irrevocable.
According to trustees it is “un-Islamic under the Sharia Law” for women to visit graves. They will, however, be allowed to roam freely within the dargah’s compound. ”If Islamic scholars have issued a fatwa, in accordance with the Islamic law of Sharia, and have demanded that women not be allowed in dargahs, we have only made a correction. They can offer their prayers, do namaaz and offer shawls and flowers. We are only requesting our sisters not to enter inside the dargah. Women will not be allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum,” said a report quoting Rizwan Merchant, who happens to be a trustee and noted criminal lawyer.
“According to the Sharia, this is a sin. It is un-Islamic. We cannot allow it,” says Mohammed Sharif Kadri, maulana at the dargah, Cotton Green, Central Mumbai.
The ban is said to have been imposed over 6 months ago. But the matter hogged the limelight when Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a women’s advocacy group objected to the same. ”Since childhood we have all been going to the Haji Ali dargah to offer prayers. We were always allowed inside and we could even touch the tomb. I went there a year ago and there were no issues,” says Noorjehan Safia Niaz, member of BMMA.
“When it comes to spiritual and social issues, men and women are both given the same rights. I am a Muslim. I believe in Allah. If God sees men and women as equals, then who are these trustees? This is an attempt to subdue women. It is this misuse and abuse of Islam which is un-Islamic,” says Niaz, who insists that the trustees’ ‘interpretation of the Sharia vis a vis the teachings of the Koran’ stands contradictory.
There are some who agree with Niaz. Maulana Gulam Javed Sheikh of Sewri Dargah, Central Mumbai is of the opinion that “times have changed. It is not possible to enforce this.”
Noorjehan Niaz plans to take up the issue with the Minorities Minister, state minorities commission and the trustees of Haji Ali. “They need to take steps to curb such a regressive trend,” said Niaz.
Located off the coast of Worli in south central Mumbai on a bed of rocks into the Arabian Sea, Haji Ali attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. The decision taken has evoked different quarters and has triggered protests.
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