In Allah’s Home At Last

Written by P.K. Surendran | Published on: April 22, 2016
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Muslim women from north Kerala, erstwhile Malabar, have since long been praying in mosques on Fridays. But this was not the custom in south Kerala, erstwhile Travancore. Intra-regional social and educational backwardness seem to be the only plausible explanation for this  difference.
 
“What  was the need for the Palayam Imam to break a tradition?” asks the angry leader of the anti–change brigade, Poonthura Koya Maulavi. According to the protesters, none  of the four  major schools of Islamic jurisprudence – Shafai, Hanafi, Hambili and Maliki – permit women to pray with men in mosques.

P.K.K. Ahmed Kutty Maulavi, chief  imam was unmoved, “ I cannot deny what the Prophet has sanctioned. Islam allows women to pray in mosques,”
 
I would rather leave the question of propriety of allowing women praying inside mosques to the religious leaders. But I do not think it proper to allow women to pray with men. There should be separate arrangements for women’s prayer. We have, in Poonthura, made such arrangements in different homes”, says the lone People’s Democratic Party corporator, Poonthura Siraj.
 
The chief imam, Ahmed  Kutty Maulavi, known for his erudition and catholicity, responds: “It is a bitter truth that the leaders are misleading the flock. What about mosques in Mecca and Medina being open to women? Nearer home, have been praying in mosques in Malabar. Where is the justice or reason for denying women here the same right?”
 
“The decision to let the women in was taken by the Palayam Jamaath after considering all the pros and cons,” the pro-change Maulavi told Combat. “I shall withdraw the permission if the opponents bring me scriptural proof denying women the right to enter mosques. They could not and that is why they are howling outside”.
 
According to the chief imam, Qurtubi, Vol-I, by Saalim, a Koran exponent and  contemporary of the Prophet, says on page 465, “If women seek your consent to go to the  mosque to pray, you should not prevent them”. Again, Abdulla- Bin Umer quotes Ummusalama, one of the Prophet’s wives, “We women used to go with the Prophet to the mosque to pray five times. After the prayer we would leave first. The Prophet and men would wait for a while till we cleared”.
 
Other Hadiths, too, say in different contexts that women have equal rights as men to pray in mosques.
 
“These men”, says the Imam, “are like the proverbial four blind men who felt the elephant first time. They do not try to learn the absolute truth. Gender parity is central to Islam, only misinterpretation has resulted in skewed justice”.

“We can go for shopping , we can run shops and we can see cinema. Why can’t we go inside the mosque?”, Ayisha Babu, wife of a shopkeeper in Thiruvanthapuram.

The Thiruvananthapuram episode is indicative of the changes education can bring out. Among various mosques in this district, Palayam occupies a pride of place and political prominence.
 The members of this Jamaath are more advanced educationally and financially than for example, those in Poonthura, a fishing community hamlet. A progressive streak is discernible among the people who frequent this mosque. The Palayam imam’s political stance is often sought and respected by the local community.
 
The fracas on the issue has prompted many in the Muslim community to shun public debate. Says Khamarunissa Anwar, President of Muslim League’s women’s wing, “Women have a right  to pray in the mosque, but the issue should be sorted out within the community”. The League President Panakkad Shihab Thangal too suggested an Imams’ conference  rather than discussing it in public.
 
“There is nothing to discuss”, says Ayisha Babu wife of a shopkeeper in Thiruvanthapuram. “We can go for shopping, we can run shops and we can see cinema. Why can’t we go inside the mosque?” She can not understand the logic of the opposition.
 
“How can anyone keep some one away from God? It is our natural right to come here”, a middle–aged women who is now a regular at the mosque told Combat. Around 150- 200 women come to the Palayam mosque for prayers every day. Their menfolk