HindustanTimes Fri,28 Nov 2014

152-year-old mosque in Mumbai to allow women into its main hall

Manoj Nair, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, April 29, 2013
First Published: 00:45 IST(29/4/2013) | Last Updated: 01:29 IST(29/4/2013)

On Thursday afternoon, when Shias celebrate the birthday of Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Mohammad and the wife of Ali (the first Imam of the sect), a historic event will be witnessed at the 152-year-old Iranian mosque in Imamwada.

For the first time since the mosque was built, women will be allowed into the main prayer hall, access to which was restricted only to men.

Women, who have traditionally prayed in an enclosure next to the main hall of the mosque, will on Thursday offer short prayers in the main hall.

“For Shias, Bibi Fatima Zahra is the epitome of womanhood, and by opening the main prayer hall to women, we are saying we treat them as equals,” said Ali Namazi, honorary secretary of the mosque.

However, in deference to religious rules that call for gender segregation, men will not be allowed into the hall when women pray.

The mosque’s trustees are not sure whether they will allow women into the main hall regularly.

“There is an issue of space because men need the bigger hall, but we will allow women to use it  whenever possible,” said Namazi.

The mosque, identified locally as the Moghal Masjid, was built around 1860 AD by a businessman from Iran — then known as Persia.

He built it to resemble the architecture of his homeland. During Moharram, it is the venue of discourses by religious leaders.

On Thursday, before the prayers, Dr Zahra Zamani, a well-known speaker from Iran will talk about ‘Women in Islam’ in the mosque’s main hall.

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