The Bombay High Court asked the trustees of iconic Haji Ali Durgah, which houses the tomb of a 15th-century sufi saint, to reconsider its rules which bar women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum.
Hearing a petition which challenges this restriction, the court said “if the issue is not resolved by the management amicably, then we would hear all the sides and give a decision on merits.”
The division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade had earlier ruled that the petition, filed by two women, was ‘maintainable’ and admitted it for hearing.
The Trust which manages the shrine has argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from “uncomfortable situations” and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum.
The petitioners claim that gender justice is inherent in the Quran and the norm at the Durgah 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 Durgah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly”, says the petition.
Raju Moray, the petitioners’ lawyer, argued that at other Durgahs or shrines women are not banned. Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Durgah in suburban Mahim, he pointed out.