Women will be allowed inside the inner sanctum of Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah in a month’s time, the shrine’s trust told the Supreme Court on Monday, a landmark victory for female worshippers still barred from India’s most holy places.
“Women will be treated at par with men,” the Haji Ali trust informed the top court, agreeing to scrap a 2012 order that said it was a “grievous sin” to let women enter the iconic mausoleum off the coast of Mumbai.
The decision comes roughly two months after the Bombay high court struck down the ban and called it a violation of fundamental rights. The trust had challenged the verdict in court.
The development is likely to bolster a larger campaign for allowing women entry into shrines and strike down what activists say is regressive gender bias among religious leaders. Earlier this year, activist Trupti Desai and hundreds of women entered the holy Shani Shani temple in Maharashtra. A case for lifting a similar decades-old ban at Kerala’s Sabarimala shrine is being heard by the Supreme Court.
The trust’s decision comes amid a raging nationwide debate on women’s rights in Islamic personal law that governs matters of marriage, inheritance and property and growing calls to ban practices such as triple talaq. The government and the law commission have moved to seek public opinion on a uniform civil code that will dissolve religious laws into a common set of guidelines across the country.
But others say the UCC is a thinly veiled attempt to attack Islamic identity and argue that reform from within – as advocated by many Muslim women – is a better way to reform. The shrine’s progressive stand on women devotees could be seen in this light.
“It’s a victory for women’s rights,” said Noorjehan Niaz, co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan which campaigns for the rights of Muslim women in India.
“It is restoring the Islamic values of what we have always believed as Muslims, that Islam is a religion of equality, democracy and women’s rights,” she told AFP.