Women’s groups welcomed on Friday the Bombay high court’s verdict allowing women entry into the Haji Ali inner sanctum but the landmark decision divided political parties and angered conservative Muslim leaders.
The petitioners in the case said the decision was a victory for Muslim women and that their next fight would be to get the triple talaq practice banned.
“The agenda for reform in the community is being set by Muslim women who have strong ideological understanding,” said Feroze Mithiborwala of Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye Forum, a group formed to support the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the petitioners in the case.
“It has been a really long fight,” said Khatoon Shaikh, convener of the Maharashtra unit of BMMA.
But the Samajwadi Party (SP) expressed its displeasure while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) said it was an issue between the management and the protesting women, and that Islam should not be dragged in it.
The ban was imposed in 2012 by the Haji Ali Dargah Trust citing religious traditions. The trust defended the ban saying that the entry of women in close proximity to the tomb of a male saint is seen as a grievous sin in Islam.
Samajwadi Party state president Abu Azmi said the decision interfered in Muslim personal law. “Women are not being disallowed but there is just a certain restriction which is according to Islam. The trust has some powers and have utilised them,” said Azmi. He said the verdict would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The trust had created separate arrangements for women to walk up to a certain point from where they could offer prayers.
“The AIMIM has nothing to do with individual decisions taken by the management and even the protests had our party members protesting in their personal capacity. It is a verdict given to a single dargah and hence the management has to decide the next course of action,” said Imtiyaz Jaleel, AIMIM legislator.
But conservative leaders flayed the decision, saying the entry of women had become a political game.
“There are boundaries for women in Sharia law, people need to know that before interfering. It seems like the court has taken the step without knowing Sharia law,” Maulana Sajid Rashidi told ANI.