As part of our faith some Mumbai based activists of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan visited the Haji Ali dargah to offer prayers. To our shock and dismay we found that women were not allowed to enter the mazaar sharief. The dargah has always been open to women devotees. Women have been offering their prayers right inside the mazaar. Till last year women had access to the mazaar.
It is very disheartening to observe that although men and women are equal in the eyes of Almighty Allah, Islam has accorded atmost respect to women, and Prophet Mohammed has been a pioneer in protecting and promoting the rights of women, our present day religious leaders are undertaking the most unIslamic actions. Women were debarred from entering the mosque and the cemetery and now the dargahs ! Why are women discriminated by Muslim men when the Creator and his Prophet have treated them equally? When men and women can pray at Kaaba, why can’t they worship at the dargahs?
It is our fear that some of these Trusts have now been under the influence of some very conservative elements and as a result women who have always had spiritual equality are now being treated as second class believers. We fear that under the influence of such elements, a time may come when they will debar non-Muslims also from enter the mazaar sharief. They are people who have no understanding of Islam which is a religion of equality, justice, wisdom and compassion.
If women are considered impure and hence not eligible for entry into the dargah, then the entire process of procreation and the products of this procreation, men, should also be declared impure? In other words even men should not be allowed to enter the mazar.
Another argument given is that the saint’s tomb is a grave and women are not supposed to go to a grave/cemetery. Our question is why should women not go to a grave/cemetery? More over how can one compare an ordinary grave with the grave of a saint? The larger issue of reducing the importance of dargah is also a major concern for us.
If excess crowd is a problem, then arrangements should be done in such a way that women and men both can enter the mazaar sharief independently and pay their respects in separate enclaves, they way it is done in Maqhdoom Shah dargah. But to stop women just because the Trust is not able to manage the crowd is nothing but an excuse for imposing patriarchal notions on women. The decision of the Trust is not only discriminatory but also goes against the spirit of Islam.
As Muslim women it is a matter of concern and matter of anger. This practice can spread to other dargahs also who so far have been very egalitarian and have given full respect to the women devotees. As said earlier this exclusion of women from dargahs will get extended and women from other communities will also be debarred.
Why is the community having this exclusivist approach towards its own women folk? If God has created her equal, if the saints have treated them as equals, why should the Muslim men treat her like a second class citizen? Are we not all creations of one Almighty? Are we not all human beings first? Do we not have the same spiritual aspirations? Or one is to believe that men have more rights even in spiritual matters? Are they more blessed? Are they more special in the eyes of God? We ask these questions as a woman, as a Muslim and as citizens of this country.
Muslim women are socially and educationally disadvantaged and are struggling to live a life of dignity, please, do not allow the community to further treat her as a second class believer?

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