Pray, Tell Us Where to Pray
Pray, Tell Us Where to Pray
All across the Indian cities, Muslim women attending colleges, offices, or simply shopping find the mosque doors closed for them. “Should we miss our prayers”, they ask
M. H. Lakdawala
- Sania Shaikh, a student of MBBS daily misses her Asr prayer while commuting from college to her residence. She has no suitable arrangement to offer Namaz on the way.
- Amina Patel after finishing her shopping enters a nearby mosque to offer her Maghrib prayer. She was refused entry on the ground that women are not allowed inside. She missed her Maghrib.
- Arif Kazi and his wife Saeeda visited their relative in a city hospital. On the way back home Arif asked his wife to wait outside a mosque nearby while he offered his Zohar prayer.
These are few instances of the lack of suitable namaz arrangements for women in the cities like Mumbai and other urban centres in India. For men there are numerous mosques and madrassas throughout the cities, where they can perform namaz, the basic tenet of Islam. Where as there exist no provision for women to offer Namaz.
Women constitute about 50 per cent of the Muslim population, and they are denied their basic rights to offer namaz. Speaking to a cross section of Muslim women in Bangalore and Mumbai this correspondent gathered that although most of the women are aware of this problem but lack courage to air them.
“Women in India being uneducated are docile, hence unable to fight for their legitimate rights,” says Advocate Niloufer Akhter, member All India Muslim Personal Law Board. “Those women who stand up for their rights are ridiculed by the community or branded as characterless,” she said. “Since there are no organized fora women have no say even in the matters related to them.”
While men find mosques in bazaars and malls, the accompanying women have to sit idly outside the Allah's domain watching the namaz time slipping away
Rukhsana Ansari, a school teacher in south Mumbai approached the management of a mosque located near her school to reserve a small vacant room for girl students to offer their prayers as there is no space in school for offering Namaz. She was strictly warned by the trustees not to raise a potential controversy, as it would give raise to tension in the locality.
Does Islam prohibit the entry of women in the mosques? Contrary to popular belief there is no restriction as such entry of women in the mosque. In South India, Gulf countries, the USA and in Europe, there are adequate provisions for women in the mosques. In many countries in the Gulf and in the USA, women even offer prayers in congregation, though there are separate arrangements.
Prof. Hasnath Mansur, member of Karnataka state Minorities Commission and convener - Federation of Muslim Women Organization of Bangalore opines that superficial knowledge of Islam is responsible for women not getting their due status in the community. “It is the responsibilities of educated class and the ulema to look into issues which are crucial for women to discharge their duties as Muslims”, she said.
While the portals of mosques in the Gulf countries and the US have been open, the Indian mosques have stubbornly clung to age old taboo that does not find sanction within Islam
In a city like Mumbai and Calcutta where more than 50 per cent of population lives in slums, Muslim women do not have any suitable place to offer her prayers. Rashida Baig who resides in 10 by 5 shed, at Sankli Street, Byculla quite often has to miss her daily namaz because of lack of clean space in the hut. “If adequate provisions is made in mosque we can at least offer prayers with complete peace of mind, which is not been possible in filthy slums,” she said.
Uzma Nahid, executive director, Iqra Foundation and head of the ladies department M. H. Saboo Siddik Polytechnic opines that in our country when it comes to women issues, purdah is given prime importance. “Where as namaz and its related issues are quite often neglected,” she said. “These biases against women are because of the lopsided literature, which are being penned by men who do not take into consideration women’s problem. The current literature fails to take into consideration the psyche of the women”
Ironically, women themselves are unwilling to take up the cause of their legitimate demands such as provision for namaz. Advocate Yusuf Mucchawala, legal advisor to Muslim Personal Law Board believes that unless and until women themselves demand their legitimate rights, society is not going to offer them. “How many Muslim women are socially active. Men are not going to fight for their rights,” he said.
Namaz is the most important pillar and part and parcel of our faith. Muslim Society must pause and give this issue a thought, forgetting the frivolous arguments and debates.