By Yaqoob Murtaza
A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court of India by a Pune based couple- Yasmeen and her husband- Zuber Ahmad challenging the practice of Prohibiting entry of Muslim women in Mosques to offer prayers, as being violative of Art. 14,15,21 and 25 of the Constitution of India seeking that such restrictions should be declared as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.Referring to constitutional provisions, the petitioners have said there should not be any discrimination against any citizen of the country on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth. They have added that a life of dignity and equality is the most sacrosanct fundamental right and a Muslim woman cannot be prohibited from entering a mosque.
This plea has been filed after the verdict of Supreme Court in Sabarimala case where court permitted entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. The Supreme Court issued a notice to Law Commission of India, Muslim Personal Law Board of India and Central Waqf Board to submit their reports.
Now, we have to see whether Islam prohibits women or permits them to enter in mosques to offer prayers? What are myths and realities?
What is Myth?
It is said that Muslims are not ready to give women religious freedom. They have conservative mindset and women are always under the control of male gender. They cannot enjoy their religious rights on their own wishes and there is no value of Muslim women, their ideas, their feelings and consequently their choices never matter in Muslim society. That’s why, Muslim women are not allowed to offer Namaz (prayers) in mosques, that is violative and a discriminatory practice as well as it is a systemic humiliation, social exclusion, a symbol of subjugation and a sign of derogation from the dignity of women and an exploitation of their right to be equal human beings in the eyes of God. This is totally myth and stereotype. There is no as such any restriction in Islam. They are equal in Islam and there is no concept of discrimination on the ground of gender. The reality is that the credit of to make women an important part of society and to give them equal right to men goes to Islam. This was a revolutionary step of Islam to declare women an important figure of society and to grant them right of consent in that age, where women were not being considered even equal to goods or animals.
What is Reality?
Reality is that in Islam, women are allowed to enter in mosques to offer prayers and there is no existence of discrimination one the ground of gender as well as no violation of right to equality and of worship. Ibn Umar (Abdullah bin Umar) reported what is translated as: The Messenger of God said, “Do not prevent the maid-servants of God from going to the mosque”. Simultaneously, Prophet Mohammad also advised Muslim men not to stop women to visit mosque as he said ” don’t prevent your women from going to mosque when they ask for permission”. “Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) did not forbid women from entering his mosque in Medina”. Additionally, Women are allowed to go to mosque to offer Namaz even without her relatives. As at the time of Prophet Mohammad women were offering Namaz with Jamat in mosque. Ayesha Raziullaho Unha, a wife of Prophet Mohammad said -women were coming to mosque to offer Namaz-E- Fajar (morning prayer) with prophet, wearing full dressed clothes and when they completed their Namaz, returned to their houses.
These all Hadith shows that women are permitted to enter in the mosque and to perform prayers over there to show their devotion to their God. There is no violation of right to equality and right to worship. They have Islamic right to visit mosque to perform prayers.
It was not disliked at the time of Prophet Mohammad till the early days of Khilafat of Umer Raziullah, women were performing Namaz in mosques and attending Juma sermon. once Umar (second Khalifa of Islam) while delivering Juma sermon tried to fix the amount of dower for women that is called Mahar and which is not fixed in Islam. It depends on the discretion of parties to marriage. An old lady from the audience, at once, stood up and argued that Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) did not fix amount of dower then who has given you right to fix the amount of dower? Then Umar withdrew his words and said if this lady would not be there, Umar would be destroyed. This incident shows that women were offering prayers in early days of his ruling. The expression of disapproval or dislike was first shown in the later period of Umar Khilafat and it was done because social evils and bad elements began to raise their heads in the society. The evidence of these changes at that time of Umar in that society is present in the narrative of Ayesha bint Abi Bakr, a wife of Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), once she said, “If the Prophet had lived now and if he saw what we see of women today, he would have forbidden women to go to the mosque even as the Children of Israel forbade their women”. But it is also the testimony of history that Atiqah- wife of Umar and other women too were performing Namaz in later period of Umer and their husbands did not prevent them to enter in mosques. As a result, even today, women are allowed to offer prayers in mosques in Indonesia, Malaysia, in Arab countries as well as in Muslim countries and even in some parts of India and so on.
Another part of this provision is that to offer prayers in mosques is not compulsory for women, they will get total reward as men get in mosque even if they offer Namaz in their houses as it was reported by Abdullah Bin Umar. He said prophet Mohammad said “don’t stop your wives to visit Mosque to offer Namaz but their houses are better for them”. So, the women community is more benefited in comparison to male gender. They can offer Namaz in Masjid as well as in house and will get total reward even in case when they offer Namaz in their houses.
Nowadays, some scholars are not in favour to allow women to offer prayers in Mosques. They give reasons that bad elements and immoral things are spread everywhere in society and women’s entry instigates Fitnah (distress) and averts male gaze. Therefore, they should not be permitted to offer Namaz in mosques and they call it as Makrooh (dislike). This is totally irrational and illogical, because it is contradictory to the provision of Islam and increasingly scholars have no right to prevent them from entry while they have already permitted by Prophet Mohammad. Those who have rude mindset that women are reason for Fitnah, they must change their mindset that women are not responsible for Fitnah(distress) and immoral elements. Therefore, they should be allowed if they ask for permission and male gender can have separate sections in mosques for them but have no right to prevent them. In furtherance, safety and security as well as concentration can be properly maintained in such procedure as it was elaborated by Prophet Mohammad. In Sahih Muslim -one of the two most authentic Hadith books in Islam-It says that “the best rows for men are the first rows, and the worst ones the last ones, and the best rows for women are the last ones and the worst ones for them are the first ones”.
It is also recorded that Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) ordered that “mosques have separate doors for women and men so that men and women would not be obliged to go and come through the same door”. He also commanded that “after ‘Isha’ evening prayer’, women be allowed to leave the mosque first so that they would not have to mix with men”.Where is the violation of right to equality and of worship? There is as such no question to prevent women to enter in mosques, and to declare it as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. This is perfectly an artificial propaganda which has been raised to divert Muslim society from real issues. It is being made an issue out of issues and there is no connection between Sabarimala temple case and entry of women in Mosque. Because Muslim women have already been permitted in Islam with some extra benefits for them.