The landmark Haji Ali mosque in Mumbai is facing pressing to overturn a ban on women entering its inner sanctum, a move that can set a precedent on gender restrictions to places of worship.
A Muslim women’s rights group is locked in a bitter legal battle with trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah, built in the 15th century and popular not only with Muslims but Hindu adorer and sight-seeing tourists.
Women have been stop entry to the mosque’s mausoleum since 2011, with its trust adage close female proximity to the tomb of a revered saint is “a grievous sin” in Islam.
The Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has petitioned the Bombay High Court require a ruling that the ban is unconstitutional, hoping such a decision would mark a major step onward for women’s rights in India.
A positive ruling would set a precedent and would have a wider and long-term impact.
It would send a message and stimulate women of all religions who are interrupted from entering places of worship to reach courts with similar demands.
The mosque is located on an islet common via a causeway at low tide. It was built in the 1430s in memory of a wealthy Muslim who gave up his worldly assets and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Legend has it that Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who became a Sufi saint, die out during his metaphysical journey and his body washed up on rocks in the Arabian Sea off south Mumbai.
The mosque was constructed on the spot where his body was found, and his tomb, or “dargah”, lies in the inner sanctum — the mosque’s most blest place.
It is one of a string of temples and mosques across India that stop access to women.
Last month local media reported that a Hindu temple in western Maharashtra suspended seven security guards after a female adorer stepped on a platform to adoration an idol.
Women are barred from the stand and temple authorities later performed a “purification” ceremony on the idol.
Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai’s most recognisable landmarks and take tens of thousands of visitors every week.
But Ms Niaz said the trust start banning women from the mausoleum four years ago, although they are still allowed into the mosque’s other areas, where they could pray.
She said trustees cited menstruation as the reason for barring women entry to blest spots, an argument often used. “They’ve said women are impure. But menstruation is a natural event and responsible for the entire of humanity being born. How can it be dirty? It’s a ridiculous and degrade argument.
She complained to the board and then reach Maharashtra’s minorities commission before launching legal action last year after making no development.
The shrine is symbolic for people of all castes, all religions and land. It’s an iconic place and people travel from all over the world to visit it…How can you bar somebody from entering the sanctum just because she is a woman? The judgment was anti-women and anti-Islamic and we had no choice but to go to court. It was the last resort.
A member of the trust reject comment when contacted by AFP adage the matter was sub-judice. He only said he hoped Mumbai’s top court would reside the dispute when it holds its next hearing on December 15.
Maulana Mustaqeem Azmi, a member of the nonprofit All India Muslim Law Board, said the rule was equal to those in other mosques. “To insist that they be allowed into the tomb is against the religion.
Human rights lawyers back the women, but are sceptical of whether their case will win. Instead, they are pushing for a law making it illegal for any trust to bar entry to a public place of worship on the grounds of gender.
There are lots of temples where women are not allowed. If you go through every individual case it will be an endless exercise so you have state intervention,” main Indian rights lawyer Mihir Desai .