In a first, hundreds of Muslim burqa-clad women filed into the three century old Aishbagh Eidgah to offer prayers on Eid ul-Fitr in Lucknow on Thursday.
While women offering prayers at a mosque or Eidgah isn’t unusual, for over a decade, barely a few dozens have turned up to take part in the communal prayers. However, with an increase in requests to accommodate more of them, Maulana Khalid Firangi Mahali provisioned for a larger space this year.
“Women offering namaz at Eidgah is not new. It has been continuing for long. But till last year, there was a small space allotted to women and nearly 50-60 women offered namaz on Eid. Following demands from women, we have made special provisions this year and a separate hall for a capacity of 7,000 has been allocated for women namazi,” said Maulana Rashid.
Two gates were allotted for the entry of women at the Eidgah and provisions for mats, wazu and so on were made. “Since Eidgah witnesses a congregation of about four lakh men, we have made provisions to ensure that the purdah is maintained and women are not required to struggle due to the rush. Thus separate entry points have been marked for them,” he added.
Lucknow: Women allowed entry inside Aishbagh Eidgah, separate enclosure put in place for women to offer Eid prayers pic.twitter.com/yPFNQtpW5l— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) July 7, 2016
Given the debate on gender disparity in Islam, typically pertaining to women’s rights in various spheres of their lives including divorce, the cleric said the decision to welcome more women by making special provisions for them was a way to show that they weren’t disregarded in the community.
“By extending an invitation to women in large numbers to be a part of the Eid namaz at the Eidgah this year, we want to rubbish the misconception that the clergy and Islamic leaders are against women. We want to tell them that we are not against any right that is granted to women by Islam,” said the Imam.
In Arab countries, men and women offer namaz at an Eidgah.
Shaista Ambar of All India Muslim Personal Law Board also reiterated that Islam grants women equal rights as men to pray at holy places.
“This is an ancient practice that women were allowed to offer namaz at the eidgah. It is still their right and no one can stop them from doing so. This initiative would make the women feel empowered.”
To make women feel more comfortable, Ambar had a mosque built in the state capital where one can visit freely and offer namaz.