After the success of the struggle of Hindu women to enter the Lord Saturn temple in Maharashtra with the help of judiciary, a historical Sunni mosque has opened its doors to Muslim women.
The mosque at Tazhathangady in Kottayam town of Kerala is supposed to be as old as 8th century. It is famous for its beautiful architectural style and exquisite wood carvings.
India has 172 million Muslims. It is believed that Islam came to India during the time of prophet Mohammed itself. Arabs who were very active in trade in Kerala coast, brought the religion to the Indian sub continent. The first mosque in Kerala, the Cheraman Juma masjid was built in 629 CE. The Tazhathangady mosque must have been built soon after.
As per tradition, the mosque at Tazhathangady were not allowing Muslim women to enter to pray, though tourists were allowed inside. Now after constant pressure from local women, the administration has relented and is allowing women to visit the mosque on certain dates at stipulated times.
However, this isn’t a whole-heartedly benevolent or magnanimous gesture. Not only are there restrictions on timings of the visit, but also a prescribed dress code is to be followed. A hand written board prominently displayed at the entrance, clearly says that only properly-dressed non-menstruating Muslim women could enter. And till the time they exit the place, they should have only Allah on their minds. It is also mentioned that this should not be construed as worship or celebration but a mere visit.
This is the first time I have entered a mosque. I just cannot express my happiness. I would love to come here regularly to offer Namaaz but that’s just not possible, right,” sighs Saudha Hasssan, a 60-year old who stays right next to the mosque.
However, faced with women like Saudha, some of the committee members did allow the women to offer prayers in a smaller hall off the main prayer hall.
Sixty-five-year-old Ayishumma, who came all the way from Malappuram, was ecstatic. Although she came with the expectation of only being permitted a visit to the beautiful mosque, she was allowed to pray.
“We could offer namaaz for the very first time inside a mosque. Of course, we would love to be able to have access to all mosques. But that is just not possible, as all this has to do with our beliefs. But if the committee allows, we would be so glad,” she says.
Like the victory of Hindu women, this success is also a small step forward towards gender equity in India, even if it is in the setting of severely patriarchal and irrational religion. Now all eyes are on two famous shrines that restrict entry of women, the Sabarimala temple and Haji Ali shrine.