Updated: May 21, 2020 10:54:45 pm
Farha Anwar Hussain Shaikh, a resident of Pune, has started a legal fight to seek the entry of Muslim women in mosques across the country.
In response to a petition filed by Farha, seeking directions for permitting Muslim women to enter mosques, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday issued notices to 10 parties including the Union government, Central Waqf Board Council, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Jamiat Ulama I Hind and Darul Uloom Deoband.
Farha had moved the petition before the SC in February this year through lawyers Sandeep Tiwari and Rameshwar Goyal. “Initially, the hearing was scheduled in March, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We got to know from lawyers that the hearing will take place on May 20. Accordingly, on Wednesday, I appeared before the SC through video conferencing…,” said Farha, who runs an online trading business.
She is a resident of Dapodi, where she lives with her husband Anwar Shaikh and two children. Anwar works with a private bank in the city and is the head of a non-governmental organisation ‘Noor Welfare Association’, which collects “jakaat (funds) for helping the needy.”
An incident last year prompted Farha to file the plea. “Last year, during Ramzan, we had gone to Pune Camp area for shopping. Around 5.30 pm, it was time for namaz. But it suddenly started raining. My husband was allowed to enter the mosque to offer prayers, but I was not allowed to enter. This was wrong. I had to stand outside with my children in the rain… that’s when we decided to take up this matter of why Muslim women are not allowed to enter mosques,” Farha told The Indian Express.
“There are mosques in Saudi Arabia, Canada and even in Kerala, where women are allowed entry … Also, the Quran doesn’t differentiate between a man and a woman. In fact, Prophet Muhammad told Muslims not to prevent women from going to mosques when they ask for permission…..In May last year, we wrote to the authorities of a local Masjid in Bopodi area, seeking permission for entry of women for offering prayers… but we got no reply… Then we wrote to various government authorities in this regard. We got a reply from the Minority and Women’s commissions that they have forwarded our letters to concerned authorities. But nothing more happened,” said Anwar.
“So, in February, we decided to move the Supreme Court. Farha filed a petition seeking an order or direction in the nature of mandamus, declaring practices of prohibition of entry of Muslim women in mosques in India as illegal and unconstitutional,” he added.
“The petition pointed out there are no records stating that Quran or Prophet Muhammad opposed women entering mosques… A ban on women entering mosques to offer prayers is also against the Constitution and it is violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 21, 25 and 29 of the Constitution…”, he said.
The petition states, “… There is no such gender discrimination to offer worship in Mecca, the holy city in Western Saudi Arabia and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, where both men and women together circle the Kaaba.”
The petition also pointed out that SC had held, while allowing entry of women to Sabarimala temple, that “Religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women and it is also against human dignity. Prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.”
The petition was heard by a bench of Justices A S Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy on Wednesday. “After hearing our lawyer, SC issued notices to the Union government and other parties…They are expected to file their say before the next hearing scheduled on July 6. We will fight the legal battle. My husband is standing firm with me,” said Farha.
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