The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the entry of women into mosques for offering namaz inside is permitted.
The board said a Muslim woman is free to enter a mosque for prayers and it is her option to exercise her right to avail such facilities as available for prayers in a mosque.
The AIMPLB said this in an affidavit filed in the apex court which is seized of a plea relating to the entry of Muslim women into mosque for offering namaz.
“It is submitted that the questions raised in the present petition are not in the background of state action. The practices of religion in the places of worship (which in the present matter are mosques) are purely private bodies regulated by ‘Muttawalis’ of the mosques,” the affidavit, filed through advocate M R Shamshad, said.
One Farha Anwar Hussain Shaikh has filed a petition in the top court in 2020 and has sought a direction that the alleged practices of prohibition of entry of Muslim women into mosques in India are illegal and unconstitutional. The plea is likely to be heard by the apex court in March.
The affidavit said the AIMPLB, being a body of experts without any state powers, can only issue advisory opinion based on Islamic principles.
It said the AIMPLB and the apex court, for that matter, cannot enter into the arena of detailed arrangements of a religious place, which is completely privately managed entity for religious practices of believers in religion.
“Considering the said religious texts, doctrines, and religious beliefs of the followers of Islam, it is submitted that entry of women into mosques for offering namaz inside mosques is permitted,” it said.
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“Thus, a Muslim woman is free to enter into a masjid (mosque) for prayers. It is her option to exercise her right to avail such facilities as available for prayers in a masjid,” the affidavit said.
It said the AIMPLB does not want to comment on any contrary religious opinion to this effect.
The affidavit said that Islam has not made it obligatory on Muslim women to join daily five times prayers in congregation nor is it obligatory for woman to offer weekly Friday ‘Namaz’ in congregation, though it is so on Muslim men.
“The Muslim woman is differently placed because, as per doctrines of Islam, she is entitled to the same religious reward (sawab) for praying as per her option, either in masjid or at home,” it said.
The affidavit said there is no religious text authorising “free intermingling” of genders in any masjid.
“It is submitted that the Masjid An-Nabawi in Medina has separate spaces/chambers for men and women inside the mosque. In the area surrounding the Masjid An-Nabawi, designated and separate spaces are available for men and women worshippers with temporary barricades in place demarcating them,” it said.
The affidavit said when it comes to performing namaz around the Kaaba in Mecca, there are temporary arrangements by putting barricades to provide separation between men and women worshippers during the prayer.
“The etiquettes of prayer, particularly no free inter-mixing of both sexes, are adhered to willingly, strictly, and sincerely by all worshippers whether men or women,” it said.