DON’T COMPARE HAJI ALI WITH MECCA, SAYS TRUSTEE
‘This is a dargah, and women aren’t allowed in cemeteries’
Suhail Khandwani, trustee of the Mahim and Haji Ali dargahs, defends the rule that places restrictions on women
The decision of the trustees of the Mahim and Haji Ali dargahs to ban women from entering the mazaar (inner sanctum) has drawn a sharp reaction, even from within the community.
“Muftis are turning Talibani,” some sufis who visit dargahs regularly have said, while Islamic Scholar Asghar Ali Engineer has pointed out that no ban on women entering mosques or mausoleums exists either in the Koran or the Hadees. However, Suhail Khandwani,trusteeoftheMahimand Haji Ali dargahs, defends the recent rule that prohibits women from going up to the mazaar, terming it a belated improvement on existing tradition.
Earlier women were allowed in both Haji Ali and Mahim dargahs right up to the mazaar. Then the management changed. We were informed by our Mufti Mehmood Akhtar Raza thatunderShariahlaw,womenwere not allowed. So we created a space two feet away where women can pray. Seventy to 80 % women have said they are fine with this. I had thoughtpeoplewouldsay:whynot? I’m surprised the question being asked is: why?
But the big question remains – whynow?
Improvements can take place at any time. We tried to implement the Islamic law as soon as we learnt about it.
But Islamic scholars say that there is nothing in the Koran about women not being allowed. In fact, according to Asghar Ali Engineer, Prophet Mohammed has said: ‘Don’t stop the female servants of Allah fromenteringAllah’shouse.’
Is Mr Engineer a mufti who can pronounce a fatwa? And this is not Allah’s house. You can’t compare it with Mecca. This is a dargah. Women are not allowed in cemeteries. We are not forbidding women – we are creating a separate space for them withinthepremises.Thatwayweare also protecting women. Often there’s too much rush, they are forced to mix with men. That’s also notgood.Youknowwomenaresupposed to be accompanied by their sons or husbands when they travel.
In SaudiArabia,not in India…
That’stheShariah,it’snotthatSaudi Arabia has invented it. If somebody starts practising it here, it’s a desirable thing. And the dargah is the right place to implement this.
Women may not find this desirable. In Mumbai, women are used to going to dargahs without men. As a trustee, shouldn’t you be respecting tradition instead of breaking it?
As a trustee, I am improving the existing tradition. And we are not beingrigid.Weareleavingthedecision to women. We are educating them gradually, we have not directly stoppedthem.AndinMahim,wearegetting a good response. People are getting convinced.
There’s a fear that tomorrow some mufti may say that unless you wear a veil, you won’t be allowed. Or that a non-Muslim may not be allowed.
No, nothing like that (will happen). We are a very secular trust. There’s no dress code, except that it must be respectful. Even men can’t go in without a cap.
There are progressive interpretations of the Shariah too. In moderntimestoforbidwomen–isn’tthatgoingbackwards?
If Shariah law does not permit something, we need to correct ourselves. As Muslims, we have to be guided by it.
Mumbai, November 06, 2012
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), a women’s group, plans to write to the state authorities over the restricted entry to women at dargahs in the city.
the sanctum sanctorum triggered their survey. Of the 20 city dargahs visited in September, seven did not allow women near the grave.
“When we asked with the trustees, we were told that the decision was taken after the authorities noticed that a woman came inappropriately dressed last year,” said Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder, BMMA.
The dargah trustees said that the decision at the Haji Ali dargah was taken almost seven years ago.
“Eventually, this will be done in every dargah, as the Sharia law claims that no woman can visit a cemetery or a grave,” said Suhail Khandwani, trustee of the Haji Ali dargah and managing trustee of Mahim’s Makhdoom Shah Baba’s Dargah, where religious leaders have been educating women visitors about the law.
“We will write to minorities minister Arif Naseem Khan, the state minorities commission and the trustees of Haji Ali. They need to take steps to curb such a regressive trend,” said Niaz.
“Managements can’t run dargahs according to their whims and fancies,” said Hasina Khan, Awaaz-e-Nizwaan, an NGO.
- Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai shuts doors on women (ndtv.com)
- Mumbai mosque bans women worshippers (91live.in)
- India Ink: Mumbai’s Historic Haji Ali Bans Women From Most Sacred Area (india.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Fury after women are banned from visiting iconic Indian shrine as its female pilgrims are ¿un-Islamic¿ (dailymail.co.uk)