Nineteen years after P.K.K. Ahmed Kutty Maulavi, the chief imam of the Palayam Jama Masjid, Thiruvananthapuram made history in 1997, opening the Mosque to women worshippers, just twoo days ago, on April 19, 2016, similar strides were made in another part of Kerala.
Starting April 24, the historic Juma Masjid at Thazhathangadi, believed to be among the 11 mosques constructed by Malik bin Dinar, the eighth century religious preacher from Arabia, will, for the first time, be opened for women worshippers.
Women believers can enter the mosque on April 24 and May 8 from 8 a.m. till 12 noon and then from 1 p.m. till 3.30 p.m. and later from 4.30 p.m. till 6 p.m. The timings have been regulated so as not to interfere with the religious rites, a press note said on April 19, The Hindu reported
This historic place of worship, a stunning and unique construction in wood, attracts tourists from far and wide. Women have not been, however, allowed to have a peek into the richly carved interiors, made primarily of wood, so far, said C.M. Yousuf, secretary of the Thazhathangadi Muslim Jamaath, in the press note.
The Juma Masjid, considered one of the most beautiful places of religious worship, reflects the heritage of Kerala temple architectural styles and showcases the rich sculptural styles of Arabic architecture. The mosque also houses the centuries-old sundial, sacred writings from the Quran embossed in wood, the stunning Maalikappuram and the richly carved facades and many more objects of interests.
According to Mr. Yousuf, though researchers and tourists from far and wide reached Thazhathangadi from far and wide, to study and observe the unqiue archirecture and woodwork, so far women have been denied permission.
For the past several years, there have been appeals from local residents to 'allow' women entry. It was against this background that the Juma Masjid committee decided to allow women to enter the mosque, Yousuf said.
Earlier Story (1997, Communalism Combat):
As readers may be aware, we have been probing areas of gender justice, communal and caste violence since August 1993. In Communalism Combat. In February 1997 we carried this cover story, In Allah’s Home At Last. By conceding to Muslim women the right to pray in mosques, P.K.K. Ahmed Kutty Maulavi, the chief imam of the Palayam Jama Masjid, Thiruvananthapuram, had taken a bold step forward on the road to gender parity. As was to be expected Muslim women were silently vindicated, many among the pallbearers of Indian Islam, distinctly uncomfortable. Communalism Combat had carried a detailed report in its tabloid sized edition, an Interview with the radical Imam and reactions from across the board.
Early this month (February 1997) Muslim women in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, won a historic victory over priestly obscurantism. For the first time in their life, they stepped into the portals of the Palayam Juma Masjid along with men for the Ramzan prayers.
To many of them it seemed a New Year Gift from Heaven!
The entry of women in the mosque was silent but fireworks followed in the aftermath. Significantly, the protest came not from men of the Palayam Jamaath but from those outside it. A section of some 283 Jammaths in the district formed an Imam’s Council and issued a “fatwa” against women’s entry inside the mosque. “It is un-Islamic and unauthorised by the Holy Scriptures”, they cried.
The Sunni Yuvajana Sangham (SYS) marched to the mosque staged a protest dharna before it and urged the chief imam, P.K.K. Ahmed Kutty Maulavi, to rescind his decision. But the chief imam was unmoved : “ I cannot deny what the Prophet has sanctioned. Islam allows women to pray in mosques,” he declared.
Coming soon after the Christian women’s successful legal fight in the Kerala high court for their share in ancestral property, the Muslim women’s extraction of a right so far denied to them, marks a significant break for womanhood. Throwing conventional caution to wind, Muslim women are determined to defend their newly – acquired right.