"Entry of women in close proximity of grave of a male Muslim saint is a grievous sin in Islam," the trustees of the iconic Haji Ali Dargah told the Bombay High Court today.
Hearing a petition, the HC had earlier asked the trustees of the Dargah, which houses the tomb of the 15th century Sufi saint Haji Ali, to reconsider its rules which bar women's entry into the 'sanctum sanctorum'.
The trust gave a letter today to a bench headed by Justice V M Kanade in which it stated that a meeting had been convened recently in this regard in keeping with the HC order, and it had been again unanimously decided by the trustees not to allow women in the sanctum sanctorum.
"The trustees are unanimous on the point that entry of women in close proximity of a grave of male Muslim saint is a grievous sin as per Islam and as such governed by Constitution law and particularly Article 26 of the Constitution, which confers upon the Trust a fundamental right to manage its own affairs of religion and as such interference is uncalled for by any third agency," the letter read.
"The existing arrangement for women provides a secure place to them. This has been decided in the interest of safety and security of the women close to the inner sanctum sanctorum of the tomb as possible, considering that the arrangement has been welcomed by women pilgrims," the letter further said.
The letter was taken on record and the matter posted for hearing on November 17.
Hearing a petition which challenges entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine, the court had earlier said, "If the issue is not resolved by the management amicably, then we would hear all the sides and give a decision on merits."
The HC had also ruled that the petition, filed by two women, was 'maintainable' and admitted it for hearing. The Trust, which manages the shrine, argued that the bar on entry is meant to protect women from "uncomfortable situations" and is restricted only to the sanctum sanctorum.
The petitioners claim that gender justice is inherent in Quran and the norm at the Dargah contravenes the Hadiths, which say that women are not prohibited from visiting tombs.
The restriction emanates from "a very conservative and extremist Salafi ideology" and in future "there may be an order banning the entry of women in the Dargah complex and banning the non-Muslims wholly," the petition argued.
Raju Moray, the petitioners' lawyer, argued that at other Dargahs or shrines women are not banned. Women can enter the sanctum sanctorum at the historic Makhdoom Shah Dargah in suburban Mahim, he pointed out.