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Women can enter mosques for Namaz provided that there is no intermixing of men and women: AIMPLB tells Supreme Court

All-India Muslim Law Personal Board told the Supreme Court that no Islamic religious text authorised the mixing of genders in any mosque.

On Wednesday, February 8, 2023, the All-India Muslim Law Personal Board (AIMLPB) told the Supreme Court there is no bar on Muslim women offering Namaz in mosques, provided there is no intermixing of men and women in the mosque. In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the Muslim Personal Law Board told the Supreme Court that as per Islamic texts, traditions, and beliefs, women are permitted to enter mosques for namaz as long as there is no free intermixing of men and women in common areas.

“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,” the affidavit filed through advocate M R Shamshad said.

The affidavit was filed in the hearing of a petition filed by one woman, advocate Farha Anwar Hussain Shaik, who urged the apex court to declare the prohibition of entry of Muslim women into mosques as illegal and unconstitutional. She said that this only violates the constitutional rights of Muslim women, it is also not allowed as per Quran. She argued that no Islamic holy text mandates keeping men and women separate in mosques.

The petitioner also claimed that women are allowed to perform hajj and umrah rituals in Mecca and Medina along with their male companions.

However, the Muslim Personal Law Board completely dismissed her arguments, saying that intermixing of men and women in mosques is not allowed in Islam. The affidavit claimed that no Islamic religious text authorised the mixing of genders in any mosque.

It further stated that when it comes to practising namaz around the Kaaba in Mecca, temporary arrangements are made by constructing barricades to separate men and women worshippers during the prayer.

The etiquettes of prayer, particularly no open intermixing of both sexes, are freely, scrupulously, and truly observed by all devotees, men and women alike, AIMLPB said. In reality, aside from Masjid Al-Haram, there are scores of mosques in Mecca where, since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, no intermingling of the sexes is permitted, the affidavit further read.

It is worth noting that almost every mosque has separate entrances for men and women, as well as separate cleansing and washroom spaces.

According to the affidavit, the AIMPLB, as a body of experts with no state authority, can only provide advisory opinions based on Islamic principles. It stated that the AIMPLB and, for that matter, the Supreme Court cannot delve into the realm of particular arrangements of a religious place, which is a completely privately managed entity for religious practises of believers in religion.

“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.

According to the affidavit, Islam does not mandate Muslim women to join daily five times prayers in congregation, nor does it require Muslim women to offer weekly Friday ‘Namaz’ in a congregation, but Muslim males must.

“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 the masjid or at home,” it said. The board further appealed to the community that the issue of making appropriate space for women should be kept in mind wherever new mosques are constructed. 

The next hearing in the plea is likely to be held in March.

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