In a first for Jaipur and probably the state, the city’s Jama Masjid has made special arrangements for women to offer namaz at a separate section created inside the mosque.
“Women, who were usually out for shopping in this area, used to come and offer prayers at the mosque. Women have always been allowed to pray at mosques since they couldn’t go back home in time to offer prayers. Hence, we created a designated place within the mosque for them to offer prayers,” said Naim Qureshi, chief of Jaipur Jama Masjid committee, the largest mosque in Jaipur.
Though they are allowed, women rarely pray at the mosques. Jama Masjid in the city is among those few mosques where women pray occasionally. Situated in the old city market of Johri Bazaar, a tourist attraction, the mosque also sees a few tourists who stop by to pray.
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The designated place is located on the mosque’s first floor. A small portion in the south-west corner of the main hall has been separated with glass partition and curtains for purdah.
“For ablution, there was a common hauz (place for ablution) on the ground floor. So we created another hauz for women in their designated place on the main floor above it,” Qureshi said, adding that “it does not violate Islamic jurisprudence”.
Javed Hyatt, another committee member, said, “Earlier, there was a concern for purdah. Now any woman can draw the curtains, perform ablution, and then pray.”
Welcoming the move, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) member Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali said: “It is certainly a welcome step, but it (women offering prayers in mosques) should not be made into a habit. Men are encouraged to offer prayers at mosques as it translates into sawab (reward in the context of Islam), while women are supposed to offer prayers at home. It is more convenient for them and the family.”
Nishat Husain, chief of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), termed the move “historic”.
“Doors to God are open for everyone but in a male centric society, the men have appropriated darghas and mosques. This move is certainly historic for, for a change, they have thought about women and their entry in mosques.” All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) chief Shaista Ambar, too said that she is “happy” over the news. In 1997, Ambar had set up the only such mosque in Lucknow, and perhaps in Uttar Pradesh, where both men and women offered prayers.
“Clerics often generalise and say that Muslim women are ignorant. I keep telling them that they have always kept the women away from various forums, and from including them in discussions about deen (faith). I have always felt that women should be allowed to freely pray and hear the taqreer (religious speech) at mosques, this will bring them closer to knowing their rights; and in turn, they will be able to educate their children in a better way and ultimately uplift the society.”
Recently, two Jaipur women had underwent a training course for qazis in Mumbai, backed by BMMA, making them perhaps the first women qazis in the state. However, the clerics had opposed the move and termed any possible marriages administered by them as automatically invalid.
Further, a 25-year-old woman from Jaipur had last month moved the Supreme Court seeking reform of the Muslim personal law and an end to the system of “triple talaq”, after her husband had divorced her through Speed Post.