Winds of change are blowing in Muslim society. Even as a petition seeking women’s right to pray in mosques is awaiting hearing in the Supreme Court, the leaders of the community in Delhi have realised the potential embarrassment an apex court ruling on the issue could cause. With the experience of the instant triple talaq judgment still fresh in their minds, the religious leaders of the community have had informal meetings to decide on the subject of women’s right to pray in mosques before any intervention by the courts.
The clerics point out that no verse in the Quran prohibits women from praying in a mosque and the problem survives because of the prevalent social mores in a patriarchal society. Taking heed of the demand, mosques have begun to open up and reserve a section for women worshippers. While the historic Jama Masjid, built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century, has always welcomed women worshippers, in recent years, the New Delhi Jama Masjid opposite Parliament House has earmarked a room for women to pray. The move was initially criticised in some quarters. However, the imam was able to tide over the criticism to continue with the facility for women.
No such hardship has been faced by the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s Ishaat-e-Islam mosque in South East Delhi. The mosque has been hosting women worshippers for long. A piece of land to the left of the central hall is used by women every Eid.
Now, for the first time in recent years, a mosque has not only opened a section for women but actually reserved an entire floor for them. It is probably for the first time that women worshippers have been taken into consideration right from the stage of planning. The newly expanded Ishaat-e-Islam Masjid, which turned operational on March 26, has reserved its entire first floor for women, not just for Friday prayers but for the five daily prayers. The hall can accommodate up to 850 women. They have separate entry and exit points and can bring children with them. A modern wuzukhana (place for ablution) with provision for hot and cold water is likely to be operational soon. The women also have the option of taking Quran lessons every afternoon. Though some other mosques have started accepting women worshippers in the city, it is the first time that a mosque has made ample space for hundreds of women, provided them parking facilities and an opportunity to learn in their designated section.
The masjid’s simple white walls and brown niches offer a soothing experience. Interestingly, the mosque steers clear of using even colour-coding stereotypes for women. Thus there are no pink toilets or signage for them. Instead, usual symbols of gender classification have been used.