It came as quite a surprise when on October 24, the Haji Ali trust told the Supreme Court that it'll allow women inside the inner sanctum of the dargah in a month.
It sounded like a perfect conclusion to a long-drawn court battle between some Muslim women pleading justice against gender discrimination and religious authorities at the 585-year old Mumbai shrine.
In fact, so elated were the women petitioners that they termed it a moral victory. However, one of the petitioners, Noorjehan Safia Niaz, took the trust's stand with a pinch of salt because she told ScoopWhoop with some skepticism: "We will go to Dargah and see how they've implemented it."
Turns out her fears had some merit.
It has emerged that the trust is merely going to let women enter the room housing the grave but won't let them touch it to seek blessings. Instead, it'll stop the privilege for men too.
What this means is that the trust is playing around words in the SC verdict on October 29 to ensure gender parity but will refuse to let women touch the grave as it feels it's "un-Islamic".
Here's what has happened:
On August 27, the Bombay high court ordered a status quo ante – which means “a reversion to the previously existing state of affairs”. As per women petitioners, before 2012, women were allowed inside the sanctorum and could touch the grave.
A lawyer representing the trust told Indian Express after the HC verdict that by allowing women inside the sanctorum, the trust was indulging in an "un-Islamic" practice and it was simply a mistake. So the trust appealed against the HC order in the SC.
On October 29, the trust lost its case because the SC upheld the Bombay HC verdict.
However, the SC did not scrutinise the new proposal by the trust. As per a report in today's Hindustan Times, the proposal says that the trust is going to implement a new scheme based on "the concept of equality between men and women in Islam". It plans to create a restricted area around the tomb where only “khadims” (dargah attendant) will be allowed to enter. Both men and women worshippers will be allowed inside the room housing the grave but stopped outside of this restricted area.
So what's the problem now?
Experts say this is not in line with what the Bombay HC said about reverting to the earlier tradition. Advocate Amita, who fought the case on behalf of women petitioners, told HT that the trust's proposal is a violation of HC order.
But the trust advocates say this is what the earlier position was - only khadims were allowed to touch the grave. But Anita pointed out to HT that the trust never told the HC that nobody was allowed to touch the tomb.
look at the past statement by a lawyer representing the Haji Ali Trust in August suggests a contradiction. "There is no discrimination but only females are not allowed to touch the tomb of male saint. The Quran is very clear on that,” Shoaib Memon had told Indian Express about the row.
Now all eyes are on the women petitioners on whether they'll be satisfied with this solution by the Haji Ali trust.