Centuries-old mosque in Kerala allows entry to women

Centuries-old mosque in Kerala allows entry to women

Centuries-old mosque in Kerala allows entry to women
A day after throwing the doors of one of India’s oldest mosque open to women, the mosque’s administrators called it a “good start”.

They said they were expecting an even more positive response when women are allowed in next, two weeks later. The management committee of the Juma Masjid at Thazhathangady in Kottayam district had decided on two dates — April 24 and May 8 — to script a new chapter in the mosque’s 1,300-plus-years’ history. Women were allowed in the mosque to have a look at its uniquely exquisite architecture. Located on the banks of Meenachil river, about three km from Kottayam town, the masjid is one of the first 10 mosques established in the state.

Habib Dinar, son of Malik Dinar who introduced Islam in the state, is believed to have constructed the masjid. The mosque committee maintains that women are, still, not allowed to offer prayers at the mosque but claims the decision is a first in the history of Sunni mosques in the country. Nawab Mulladom, president of the mosque committee, said the decision to allow women in was in response to the grievances of Muslim women living in and around Thazhathangady.

“They used to point out to us that even tourists from other countries were entering the mosque but women who lived so close to it could not. There was some opposition when their entry was mooted but most of us backed the proposal,” Nawab told DH. He said two dates were decided on as an effort to gauge the initial response and the proposal would be followed up based on the response. “As of now, we haven’t thought about extending the entry to other days during this year. This itself is a first in over 1,300 years; we are eager to see how it moves forward,” Nawab said.

The mosque officials do not look at the decision as a “celebration” or a socio-political statement against the backdrop of recent controversies involving religious customs and women’s rights. Yusuf C M, secretary of the mosque committee, told DH that it was a natural response to a fair grievance. “It’s only about women having access to a local mosque with so much history and architectural relevance,” he said. The response on day one has been overwhelming, the officials said. Even after closing time, tourists and visitors were still coming in. “A woman came to us and said she had travelled 70 km to see what the mosque’s interiors looked like,” Nawab said.

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