The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre and various Muslim bodies, including All India Muslim Personal Law Board, on a petition filed by a Muslim couple from Pune seeking direction to allow Muslim women to offer namaz in all mosques.
However, a Bench of Justice SA Bobde and Justice S Abdul Nazeer expressed reservations as to whether courts can direct mosques to allow entry of women.
“If people in mosques don’t want you (women) to enter, can you agitate right to equality against them? Fundamental right to equality is only against the state and not individuals,” it said.
But the Bench said it will examine the issue in view of Constitution Bench verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into Lord Ayyappa’s Temple at Sabarimala in Kerala. A Constitution Bench had ruled that age restrictions on entry of women amounted to gender discrimination.
“Is a mosque state? Is a temple state? Is a church state? Can you invoke Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution and claim equal treatment from another human being?” the Bench asked the petitioner.
“We are only hearing you, and maybe we will hear you in the future, because of Sabarimala judgment. But you are not giving any satisfactory answer. We’ll see,” it said issuing notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Minority Affairs, National Commission for Women, Maharashtra State Board of Waqfs, Central Waqf Council and All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Asserting Muslim women’s right to equality, right to non-discrimination and right to religion, petitioners Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and her husband Zuber Ahmad Nazir Ahmad Peerzade—who hail from Pune—said Muslim women should be allowed “to pray in the musalla without being separated by a barrier, including in the front and in mixed-gender congregational lines”.
They cited the example of Mecca, where “the faithful, both men and women, together circumambulate the Kaaba”. Besides, most sacred mosques in the world equally embrace both—men and women, the submitted.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, the petitioner couple said, “The Hon’ble court in the case of Sabraimala held that ‘religion cannot be used as cover to deny rights of worship to women as it is against human dignity’. Prohibition on women is due to non-religious reasons and it is a grim shadow of discrimination going on for centuries.”
They demanded that all fatwas restraining Muslim women to enter mosque should be quashed and purported customary tradition banning women’s entry into mosques declared unconstitutional and violation of right to equality, right to non-discrimination, right to live with human dignity and right to religion.
Pointing out that there was no mention of gender segregation in either the Quran or Hadith, the couple contended that such practices were repugnant to basic dignity of women and violated their fundamental rights.
There were no records stating that the Quran and Prophet Muhammad opposed women entering mosques and offering prayers, and in fact men and women have equal constitutional rights to worship, according to their beliefs, they submitted.