Quran suggests women can enter mosques: Couple who filed SC plea

Anuradha Mascarenhas
Yasmeen and Zuber Peerzaade. (Ashish Kale)

The family members of Zuber and Yasmeen Peerzaade had no idea that the married couple, based in Pune, had filed an appeal seeking directions to let Muslim women enter mosques and offer prayers. They got to know about the appeal only after the Supreme Court admitted it on Tuesday, and the Peerzaades informed them about it.

"My mother, elder and younger brothers as well as their families are away at Kudachi village in Karnataka's Raybag. We did not inform them earlier as we were not too sure of their reaction, but I have just spoken with my elder brother Altaf and he is okay with it," said Zuber (48).

Based on the couple's appeal, the Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Centre, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Central Waqf Council, and directed them to file their replies within four weeks.

"We are grateful that the apex court has admitted our plea," said Zuber, who has a construction business. Yasmeen, 42, is a housewife and the couple have two sons.

Their decision to approach the Supreme Court was not prompted by any "political pressure", said Zuber. "This move has come naturally to us. There has been no political pressure and it was a decision that my wife and I took together".

Yasmeen admitted that while she didn't give too much thought to the issue when she was young, it struck her anew when, during an outing with her husband Zuber, a mosque located nearby didn't allow her to go inside and offer namaz. "The incident took place a couple of years ago… in Aundh gaon. There was a mosque nearby and since it was time for prayers, Zuber went inside to offer namaz. When I followed suit, authorities refused to allow me inside and also chided me, saying was I not aware that women are not allowed inside the mosque. It hurt me… and I started thinking… why can't women go inside a mosque and pray…," said Yasmeen.

She further wondered, "Jab mana kiya to kya hain hamare liye Islam mein jagah hain ya nahi" (If we are being told no, does that mean there is no place for us in Islam). Yasmeen said the incident made Zuber and her want to find out more about the issue.

"We read in the Quran too that women can offer namaz in the masjid," Yasmeen said.

The couple then forwarded an application to Bopodi Jama Masjid, urging it to allow women inside the mosque. "They told us the letter had been forwarded to two madrasas, which refused permission for the entry of women. We did not get many replies to our appeals… many did not take us seriously and didn't respond to our queries," said Zuber.

But after studying religious texts and consulting with members of the community, the couple from Bopodi decided to file the petition. "I was convinced that this was the right thing to do. Whichever holy text I read… and after holding deliberations with members of the community, I felt that there was no reason why women should not be allowed entry in mosques," said Zuber.

Yasmeen pointed out that in some countries, women are allowed in mosques. " We are prevented from doing so in our own country," she said.

Their petition stated that no records are available in favour of the argument that the entry of women in mosques to offer prayers is prohibited by either the Quran or by Prophet Muhammad.

Rajendra Anbhule , the petitioners' lawyer, said Zuber had been working on the issue for several months.

At Pathan chawl in Bopodi, where the couple lives, people from nearly slums greet him. "They are not aware of the matter," Zuber said, in between giving interviews to some TV channels.

He also runs a charitable trust that offers food to the underprivileged. "My father was a driver at the ammunition factory at Khadki… after his death, my brother got a job there. I have seen rough times… when we were not financially stable. I got a job only after the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana was implemented. Under the scheme, slum dwellers were being given Rs 50,000 to make pucca houses, and I got a job providing raw material for the construction. I learnt the trade soon enough and got involved in the construction business. Today, I am financially stable and I have set up the Noor Charitable Trust, which runs a roti bank. We do not take donations, but invite people, hoteliers and others to deposit food, rice or chapatis, and give it to the poor," said Zuber.

He said he was not worried about the possible backlash to the petition by him and his wife, as they both felt that it was the right thing to do. "So far, no one has objected to our decision and we will try to raise awareness about the issue among community members," added Zuber.