No bar on women’s entry into mosques but not for SC to rule, says Muslim board

Muslim women are free to enter mosques and Islamic texts do not restrict their entry into mosques for namaz, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“Considering the said religious texts, doctrine and religious belief of the followers of Islam, it is submitted that entry of women in the Mosque for offering prayer/Namaz, inside the Mosque, is permitted. Thus, a Muslim woman is free to enter Masjid for prayers,” an affidavit filed by the AIMPLB said.

The affidavit was filed in response to a plea by a Pune-based couple seeking declaration of “restrictions” on the entry of women into mosques as unconstitutional and violative of the right to equality under the Constitution. The AIMPLB said it was for Muslim women to exercise their right to enter mosques and underlined that it was not obligatory on them unlike men to offer Friday prayers in congregation.

“I agree with the stance of the AIMPLB that Islam does not prohibit the entry of women into mosques. It is not mandatory for a woman to pray in a mosque. It [Islam] only gives an option to women to pray at home or in mosques. Muslim men, however, have to compulsorily offer prayers at Friday congregation,” said Supreme Court advocate Haris Beeran.

The AIMPLB pointed out mosques are purely private entities and it can only issue an advisory based on Islam. Neither AIMPLB nor the court “can enter into the arena of detailed arrangements of a religious place, which is a privately managed entity for religious practices of believers”, it added.

“As I understand, the prayer in the petition is to enter and pray in the same area as men. In India, most mosques allow women to pray but in separate prayer rooms. It is always better if the courts stay from religious debates like these…,” Beeran said.

The Pune couple has pointed out there is no gender discrimination while offering worship in Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims. The petitioners have therefore pleaded that all mosques be opened for Muslim women.

The case was first heard in April 2019. The Supreme Court had said that it will have to hear the matter due to its 2018 judgment in the Sabarimala case in which it ruled the ban on entry of women in the 10-50 age group into the Kerala temple was unconstitutional.

When the plea came up for hearing in October, the top court issued a notice to the Centre and the AIMPLB and sought their response.

In the November verdict of the Supreme Court on the Sabarimala review petitions, it referred three cases involving the rights of women vis-à-vis religious practices including the entry of Muslim women into mosques to a larger bench.

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