Dozens of women have entered the inner sanctuary of a historic mosque in India on Tuesday after winning a bitter legal battle to overturn a ban on female worshippers. The Haji Ali Dargah trust agreed last month to lift the ban on women entering the mausoleum on an island off the coast of Mumbai after a group of women activists launched a legal case.
The board of trustees have put the ban in place in 2011, arguing that to allow women near the grave of a revered saint was a “serious sin” in Islam.
The activist Noorjehan Niaz called it a victory for the rights of the woman and said that he would set a strong precedent for similar cases. “We are very happy that the prohibition against the entry of the woman in the sanctuary was raised,” he said. “Credit must be given where due, and the board of directors ensured our visit to the inner sanctuary of the mosque was peaceful … we even had chai [tea] with them after the visit.”
Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai’s most recognisable monuments, and receives tens of thousands of Muslims, Hindus and tourists every week of the Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA
Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai’s most recognisable monuments, and receives tens of thousands of Muslims, Hindus and tourists every week. The mosque is accessible via a causeway at low tide. It was built in memory of a rich 15th-century Muslim merchant who gave up his worldly possessions and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The women of India have been intensifying their campaign to be allowed to enter in a string of Hindu temples and other religious places. Hundreds of women staged a protest march to the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra state in January, the high court of Bombay to bring down a prohibition against women entering a shrine there.
Approximately 80% of India’s 1.2 billion people are Hindus, but the country is also home to a large number of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.