New Delhi: On February 8, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) submitted its Affidavit to the Supreme Court in the second Petition seeking direction for Muslim women’s entry into Mosques for offering Namaz. This Affidavit is broadly in line with the first Affidavit filed by the Board in a similar Petition earlier filed before the Supreme Court stating that there is no prohibition on Muslim women entering Mosques and offering namaz or congregational prayers”.
The board submitted its affidavit in response to a petition filed by a Pune-based advocate Farha Anwar Hussain Shaikh seeking that the apex court declare the prohibition on the entry of Muslim women into mosques illegal.
Ms. Shaikh argued that the practice infringed on Muslim women’s constitutional rights, particularly their right to a life of dignity.
According to the petition, the Quran does not foresee such a prohibition. Shaikh also provided examples of Makkah and Madinah, where she said that female pilgrims participate in several rites with male pilgrims.
In response, the Board said it consistently holds the view that Muslim women are free to visit mosques and participate in congregational or Namaz prayers based on the teachings of Islam. The Affidavit stated that “In terms of Islamic texts there is no prohibition on Muslim women entering Mosques and offering namaz or congregational prayers”.
However, the Management Committee must, if at all feasible, segregate space inside the premises because the unfettered intermixing of genders in the same line or common area is not in accordance with the position established by Islam.
The Muslim Board has also made it clear that the Petitioner’s reference to the Tawaf in Makkah around the Black Stone ( Hajr-e-Aswad) in the recent Petition as an example is deceptive with regard to the offering of Namaz. Men and women are still segregated in all of the mosques in Makkah that surround the Holy Kaabah.
“Even in Makkah in all the mosques around the Holy Kaabah, the practice of segregation of men and women is in place,” it has claimed.
Similarly to this, the Management Committees of the existing mosques in India are allowed to designate such separate areas for women if the structure or location allows for such arrangements, depending on the facility provided. In addition to the Affidavit’s stated position, the Board also makes a general plea to the Muslim community to keep the issue of providing adequate space for women in mind whenever new mosques are built.
The board has stated that it “can only give an advisory opinion, based on Islamic principles” as a group of specialists without any state authority. The board and this court, for that matter, are unable to intervene in the specific plans of a religious establishment that is entirely privately run for religious purposes.
In an effort to remedy alleged abuses of the rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, and 29, it also questioned the Supreme Court’s role in addressing religious practices.