Haji Ali and the joy of equality
Haji Ali Dargah is one of Mumbai’s most recognizable landmarks and receives tens of thousands of Muslims, Hindus and tourists every week. I remember how eager I was to visit the dargah after the famous A. R. Rahman song ‘Piya Haji-Ali’ and it indeed was one of the first places to visit after my arrival in Mumbai. But my visit a few weeks ago was different, after the access to the inner sanctum of Haji Ali has now been opened to women. I have been keenly following the story of women’s ban on entering the inner sanctum of Haji –Ali and as when the ban was lifted I planned a day out to shoot without any physical or mental barrier.
The ban was imposed by the Haji Ali trustees in the year 2011 stating that – women in close proximity to the tomb of a male saint, was against Islam and would be considered a sin. It is not just the mosque, women entry is being refused in some of the Hindu temples as well, which is a blatant case of gender inequality.
In August 2016, the High Court allowed women to enter into the sanctum of the shrine and said that the shrine trust has no power to alter or modify the mode or manner of religious practices of any individual or any group. It is a moment of joy for the ordinary women who were overwhelmed to worship their God, the way they wanted to do and not how it is decided by certain preachers. It was not only about winning a legal battle, but also about giving hope to all those women who choose not to challenge the higher authority.
Have you visited Haji ali lately and have seen it in a different light?