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Muslim clerics question court order on permitting women inside Haji Ali

New Delhi : Muslim clerics on Friday questioned the Bombay High Court verdict allowing entry of women up to the restricted grave area of the Haji Ali Dargah, asserting that while they respect the court, the ruling goes against Islam.

“Our Constitution gives every right to Indian citizens to follow the religion of their choice. When someone follows a religion, then he or she must also follow the rules of that religion. There are certain Islamic laws pertaining to Dargah and graveyards, which restrict women. The high court judgement is, therefore, questionable,” Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, a prominent Lucknow-based Muslim cleric, told IANS over phone.

He contended that while women were “not prohibited” from entering a mosque, the rules for Dargah and graveyards were different, and claimed that certain Hindu laws too imposed restriction on women from entering cremation grounds.

“Islam gives equal rights to women and doesn’t prohibit women from entering a mosque. But rules are different for Dargah. If any committee has made rules in light of Islamic Shariyat, it must be protected,” he said referring to a 2012 decision by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust (HADT), prohibiting women from entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Mumbai-based Dargah.

A cleric from Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, in Uttar Pradesh, said that while the matter was for the Iftaa department (which issues edicts) to comment upon “it’s not ideal for a woman to enter a Dargah or graveyard, as per Islamic law”.

“In Islam, though it’s not a sin, but it is also not considered good for women to enter a Dargah or graveyard. Women had been going to the Haji Ali, so it must not be a problem, but it’s not ideal,” the cleric, who wished not to be identified, told IANS over phone.

The cleric also opined that though not ideal, women can continue visiting the graves or Dargah where they had been going to.

“However, it’s wrong to promote visiting to those Dargahs or graveyards where it had always been prohibited,” he said.

Islamic cleric Sajid Rashidi, from Delhi, also denounced the court’s decision describing it as anti-Islamic.

“The high court is perhaps unaware of Sharia law. We respect the court but this is against Islam. The HADT has already resolved to approach the Supreme Court,” Rashidi told media.

However, some clerics and schiolars, including Hina Zaheer, first woman Qazi of Uttar Pradesh, and Zakia Somani, founder member of Mumbai-based Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), welcomed the decision.

BMMA had in November 2014 filed the PIL challenging HADT’s decision banning women inside the core area of Haji Ali Dargah.

“It’s a welcome move and it will go a long way in restoring the faith of the people … in equal rights and gender justice,” Zakia Somani told media persons adding that the verdict sends a strong message to members of all other religions where male custodians have put themselves in charge.

“Gender justice is fundamental to Islam. Men and women both go to Haj… there women are allowed to go right up to Kaaba… women can go to mazaars all over the world,” said Somani adding that “it was a great setback for us” when the Haji Ali Trust barred women from entering its sanctum sanctorum in 2012.

The Bombay High Court earlier on Friday permitted the entry of women right up to the restricted grave area of the famous Haji Ali Dargah here.

The 56-page ruling by a division bench comprising Justice V.M. Kanade and Mohite Revati-Dere came on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) and its office-bearer activists Noorjehan Niaz and Zakia Somani.