Ziya Us Salam
are often, and erroneously, reminded that their best prayer is performed at
home, selective amnesia overtakes society when it comes to talking of the
condition of women during the time of the Prophet. Or even the days of Caliph
Umar. During his time, women not only went to the mosques, but also
participated in battles!
never told that the same caliph appointed a well-known female companion
al-Shifa bint Abdullah Al-Adawiyyah as the Supervisor of the Markets of Medina.
She was appointed not because of the dearth of able men, but because she was
more meritorious, with better leadership skills.
She used to
go to the Medina markets with a whip in her hand, ready to strike at any
indiscretion. No companion of the Prophet objected to her lofty status. As for
Caliph Umar himself, well, he was the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque. But he did
not stop his wife from praying in the mosque. According to Sahi Bukhari Hadith,
the wife of Umar used to go to the mosque (Al-Masjid al-Nabawi) for the prayers
of Fajr and Isha. It was said to her, ‘Why do you go out when you know that
Umar doesn’t like it.’ She said, ‘What stops him from forbidding me?’ It was
said to her, ‘What stops him, is the saying of the Prophet who said, “Do not stop
the women from the Masajid (mosques) of Allah”.’ No, the caliph did not forbid
women from going to the mosques and praying there, or even giving a sermon. He
followed the Prophet’s instruction. It is the men in the 21st century Indian
subcontinent who do that. Not the Prophet. Not the caliphs. Not the Quran, but
ill-informed men drunk on potions of male superiority, a society where men
decide and women follow, where men instruct and women obey.
mores rather than religious dictates are at play, as is the incomplete and
lopsided knowledge of the scriptures. To this, noted Islamic scholar Dr Israr
Ahmad said, ‘The backward and ignorant Muslims have imposed their own
self-forged model upon the Muslim woman. This model has indeed reduced the Muslim
woman to merely a beast of household burdens and a sex-maid, and imperceptibly
negates and denies her independent spiritual existence.’ The immutable
instruction of the Almighty was completed with the revelation of the Quran. In
verse 3 of Surah Maida, it is said, ‘This day, I have perfected your religion
for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your
religion.’ After the revelation of this verse, no argument can hold about ‘the
Prophet’s times were different’ or that ‘men were more decent and pious’, etc.
fundamental principles of the Quran remain valid for all times to come.
Suggesting that one can pick and choose verses to follow according to
preference is tantamount to rebellion. Prophet Ibrahim did not pick and choose
the Lord’s instructions to follow, nor did Prophet Lot. Or Prophet Nooh. The
Quran has to be followed in letter and spirit. Moving away from the message of
the Quran amounts to going astray. As the Prophet himself said, ‘Every
innovation (in matters of faith) is misguidance, and every (one practising)
misguidance will be in the Fire.’
women from the mosques is an innovation one can do without. It is time for
women to reclaim the space they have surrendered. And time for men to stand up
against this injustice perpetuated in the name of faith. It is especially
relevant today for people of all genders to have access to places of worship
and avenues of self-realisation. Opening the doors of the mosques goes beyond
the cry of gender justice and it reaches the realms of human justice. The
faithful believe Allah is Adil, one who does justice. Excluding 50 per cent of
the society from the avenues of self-realisation leads to debilitation of the
community, besides being an obvious injustice towards women.
community fails to take quick remedial measures, it could well be staring at
another triple Talaq-kind of situation, where right wing hawks will masquerade
as well-wishers of Muslim women, pushing the Muslim men into an indefensible
situation. Men can then draw sustenance neither from the Quran, as in the case
of the Shayara Bano versus the Union of India judgement, popular as the triple
Talaq judgement in the mind of the common Indian, nor from the larger Indian
society. Or even from the mosques all over the world.
deliberate exclusion of women from the mosques does not happen in the Arab
world. Women enjoy complete right to go to Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Al-Haram or any
other mosque in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, etc. It is
the same with women in the Muslim countries of South-East Asia, for example,
Indonesia or Malaysia. Women in most European countries and the US do not face
this embargo, where mosques are often used as socio-cultural centres for both
men and women. This discrimination seems to be reserved only for women in
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the Indian subcontinent, most mosques are
out of bounds for women, except some in Kerala or others maintained by the
minority Ahl-e-Hadith sect.
women enjoyed much greater freedom during the days of the Delhi Sultanate and
the Mughals. Many royal women were known to have built imperial mosques; many
mosques, from Delhi to Bengal, had sections reserved for women to come and
pray. It all changed with the decline of the Mughals and the coming of the
British. As conservative, orthodox elements raised the cry of religion being in
danger, women were the first to be sent into the closet. They have not emerged
from there ever since.
excerpt from Women in Masjid by Ziya Us Salam has been published with
permission from Bloomsbury India.
Headline: Muslim women enjoyed greater
freedom during Delhi Sultanate and Mughal rule than now
Source: The Print