“This is an era of intolerance”, the Bombay High Court observed while indicating that it will not decide on religious matters like the ban on entry of women in the sanctum-sanctorum of the iconic Haji Ali Dargah.
A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite Dere was hearing a petition challenging the rule imposed by the Haji Ali Dargah trust which bars entry of women in the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of the Dargah which houses the tomb of the 15th century Sufi saint Haji Ali.
“Today the atmosphere is such that everything is taken in another way. This is an era of intolerance. When it comes to religious matters people become very sensitive,” Justice Kanade said.
The court urged the parties involved to try resolving the issue outside of court.
“Earlier in a similar matter where the Parsi Panchayat had banned entry of Parsi women who married out of their caste inside their Fire Temple we (court) did not take any decision and asked them to go for an out of court settlement. The aggrieved women then approached the Supreme Court and got some relief,” the bench said.
The court has now posted the petition for further hearing on December 15.
Earlier, the trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah had told the court that entry of women in close proximity to the grave of a male Muslim saint is considered as a grievous sin in Islam.
The trust told the court last month that a meeting had been convened after the HC asked the trust to reconsider its decision and it had been again unanimously decided by the trustees not to allow women in the sanctum sanctorum.
The trust argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from “uncomfortable situations” and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum.
The petitioners, however, claim that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the norm at the Dargah contravenes the Hadiths, which say that women are not prohibited from visiting tombs.
The restriction emanates from “a very conservative and extremist Salafi ideology” and in future “there may be an order banning the entry of women in the Dargah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly,” the petition argued.
Raju Moray, the petitioners’ lawyer, contended that at other Dargahs or shrines women are not banned. Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Dargah in suburban Mahim, he noted.