In an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has submitted that Islamic scriptures do not prevent Muslim women from offering namaz in mosques, although it is not obligatory for them to do so, as it is with men.
Facts Of The Case
The petition filed by Farah Anwar Hussain Sheikh seeks the prohibition of entry of women into mosques to be declared unlawful and unconstitutional.
The affidavit filed by the AIMPLB states that there is no gender discrimination at religious places and Muslim women are allowed to enter. However, the “free intermixing” of genders is not allowed as per Islamic texts and principles.
It further states that while a prayer by Muslim men is considered valid only if done in a congregation, and therefore at a mosque, Muslim women have the option of praying at home too.
Replying to the submission made by petitioners that Muslim women be allowed to offer prayers freely with the men and the inter-mixing of genders be allowed, as it is at religious places like Mecca and Medina, the board said that the two holy sites are differently placed in Islam.
The Board further added that both the AIMPLB and the SC cannot make detailed arrangements for a religious place, which is a completely privately managed entity. It also claimed that being an advisory body, it can only offer observations based on Islamic texts.
The plea is likely to be heard by the apex court in March.
The entry of Muslim women into mosques has been a contentious issue in India. Previously, the Jama Masjid in Delhi had prohibited the entry of single Muslim women or women in groups inside the mosque premises.
The reason offered was “When women come alone, they indulge in improper acts, shoot videos. The ban is to stop this”. It was later clarified that women can come to the mosque accompanied by their husbands or families.
A case was previously filed with the Supreme Court in which a Muslim couple was prevented from entering a mosque by the Mohammadiya Jama Masjid in Pune.
Incidentally, the Jama Masjid is one of the few mosques to allow women to offer namaz. While mosques do not expressly prohibit women from entering, practically it is not so. Usually, there are no provisions made for Muslim women to offer prayers separately, making mosques a “male-only” zone.
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