IT is a “grievous sin” as per Islam for women to be in close proximity of the grave of a male Muslim saint. The trust of one of Mumbai’s iconic landmarks, the Haji Ali Dargah, raised this point in the Bombay High Court Monday while defending its ban on women from entering the shrine’s inner sanctum (mazaar).
The “unanimous” stand of all trustees forms part of a resolution passed by the dargah’s trust. The minutes of the meeting held on August 6 this year that led to passing of the resolution were submitted before Justice V M Kanade and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi.
The trust also invited the judges to visit the dargah, taking stock of the arrangements in place.
A Mumbai-based group working for the Muslim women of lower strata had challenged the ban imposed on women from entering the shrine. Claiming gender discrimination, members of the group.
Dr Noorjehan Niaz and Zakia Soman had said the restriction was imposed some time between March 2011 and June 2012.
The trust’s Monday argument was in reply to the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the group. The minutes of its meeting read, “The trustees are unanimous on the point that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is a grievous sin as per Islam and as such the trust is governed by the Constitution Law and particularly Article 26 of the Constitution of India, which confers upon the trust a fundamental right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion and as such interference is uncalled for by any third agency.”
The PIL had said Haji Ali was regarded as a patron saint and even saints were born from the womb of a woman.
Their lawyer Raju Moray, relying on the trust’s affidavit, had earlier pointed out that the women were allowed at a point in the inner sanctum. However, he said, a stand was taken later on the advice of scholars to segregate men and women at places of worship so that sexual harassment of women could be avoided.
The existing arrangement for women, the minutes said, provided a “secure place” to them to offer prayers. “This has been decided in the interest of their safety and security and they are close to the inner sanctorum of the tomb as possible, considering the rush of men; this arrangement has been welcomed by the women pilgrims,” it said.
Therefore, the trustees clarified, at no juncture women were allowed to enter near the grave of the saint. “In fact, the current arrangement of a separate entrance for women is more proximate to the tomb than it earlier was,” said the minutes.