Although social changes in this century have altered the situation of women in society opening opportunities for their participation in various fields of endeavour, patriarchal attitudes are reasserting themselves, particularly, in the religious domain.
The Sabrimala temple forbids the entry of women to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and the Haji Ali Dargah has recently barred women from entry to the same, reverting its earlier stance where there was no restriction of space for the entry of women to a confined area .
This attitude besides bringing to the forefront misogynistic attitudes and patriarchal assertions of male domination is surprising for a secular democracy like India where the Constitution clearly speaks of no discrimination on the basis of religion, caste or gender.
The religion of Islam endorses this constitutional clause. There is no authentic scriptural injunction in Islam for debarring equal rights to women or the entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Haji Ali Dargah.
The negative approach dispensed by patriarchy is far from the ideals and values of Islam where women and men are assigned the same religious duties and the equivalent spiritual rewards.
The prevalence of patriarchal control has tended to restrict women’s access to many aspects of Islamic religious space and life. It must be stated that there is no segregation of women in the obligatory duty of the Hajj pilgrimage incumbent upon all Muslim men and women.
In Islam, in the eyes of Allah, women and men are equal participants in both spiritual and material aspects of life.
In several verses, the Quran says: "For Muslim men and women…For believing men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity. For men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise – for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward". (HQ 33:35).
Several verses in the Quran (3: 195; 40:40) speak in the same vein.
Visitation to graveyards was recommended by the prophet. Women were not excluded from this approval. This is because the concept and wisdom of visiting graveyards was said to be two-fold :
One, the reminder of the inevitability of death and accountability for actions in the hereafter; two, to offer prayers for mercy and forgiveness for departed ones. Hence the purpose of visiting graves is to remember the hereafter, which is something that both men and women need.
Men are, by no means, more in need of this reminder than women. It was never to go there and pray for ourselves, or make the dead speak or help us in our prayers.
There is no authentic prohibitory order forbidding women to enter graveyards. Imam Malik, some Hanafi scholars and most of the scholars hold it permissible for women to visit graves.
This is based on the following hadith from Hazrat Ayesha. She once asked the prophet "What should I say to them, O Messenger of Allah when visiting graves?" and he replied, "Greeting to you, people of the abodes among the men and women believers! May Allàh grant mercy to those of you and us who went ahead and those who tarried back! Truly we shall – if Allàh wills – join up with you."
There was no mention that it is not permissible for women to visit graves. This is narrated in many other books (this is narrated as part of a longer hadïth by Muslim and al-Nasà’ï).
Another tradition regarding the same issue where Abdallah ibn Abi Mulaikah is reported to have said, "Once Ayesha returned after visiting the graveyard, I asked, 'O Mother of the Believers, where have you been?'
She said: 'I went out to visit the grave of my brother Abd ar-Rahman.' I asked her: 'Didn't the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, prohibit visiting graves?' She said, 'Yes, he did forbid visiting graves during the early days, but later on he ordered us to visit them'. The Prophet said: "I had prohibited you from visiting the graves, but now I encourage you to visit them." (Sahîh Muslim (977) ; This Tradition is likewise repeated in other words in Sunan Abu Dâwûd (3235) and Musnad Ahmad (23005) ; Sunan al-Nasâ’î (4429 and 5653)
Perhaps visiting graves was not held permissible for men and women alike in early Islam as attachment and supplication to the dead were widespread.
In Islam, worship is meant only for God and there is no second opinion in that. Thus it was avoided as a preventative measure to avoid grave worship .
But once the teachings of Islam were well established, visiting the graves became permissible since they were reminders of death and the Hereafter.
This encouragement includes women, because when the prophet had been prohibiting his followers from visiting the graves, the prohibition had been meant equally for men and for women. Therefore, when he lifted the prohibition, he did so for both men and women.
Yet again, another tradition states that Anas reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, saw a woman crying by the grave of her son, and said to her, 'Fear Allah, and be patient.' She replied, 'What do you care about my tragedy?' When he went away, someone told her, 'Indeed, that was the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him.' The woman felt extremely sorry and apologetic.
She immediately went to the Prophet's house, and finding no one outside called out: 'O Messenger of Allah! I did not recognise you.' The Prophet, said, 'Verily patience is needed at the time of affliction'.'' (Bukhari and Muslim).
This clearly supports the argument in favour of the permissibility of women visiting graves, for the Prophet when saw her at the grave and showed disapproval of her crying aloud but not of her visitation.
This is confirmed by the practice of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet as shown in the following two narrations.
Imam Ja`far al-Sadiq narrated with his chain from al-Hasan ibn Ali that Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet used to visit the grave of her uncle Hamza ibn `Abd al-Muttalib every Jumu`a and she used to pray there. ( Al-Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra (4:78), and Ibn aAbd al-Barr in al-Tamhid (3:234) Hazrat Ayesha lived in the Masjid un Nabi wherin lies the grave of the Prophet. She lived there with the Prophet's grave everyday and prayed to Allah.
Such can similarly apply to visits to graveyards. It is important to note that the grave of Prophet Muhammad is inside the room of the house of Hazrat Ayesha; the grave of Hazrat Abu Bakr, the first Caliph of Islam and father of Ayesha, is in a room of the house of Ayesha buried next to Prophet; the grave of Hazrat Umar al Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam is in a room of the house of Ayesha buried next to Prophet and Abu Bakr.
Hadrat Umar requested to get buried beside the tomb of Prophet; Al-Bukhari narrates in his Sahih, Book of Jana’iz; "When Umar was stabbed he sent his son Abd Allah with a message to Ayesha to "Ask her if I can be buried with my two companions," that is, in her room, next to the Prophet and Abu Bakr. Ayesha replied: "I wanted the spot for myself, but I shall put him (Umar) before me today." ( Narrated by al-Bukhari in his Sahih.)
Those who object to the visitation of graves by women adduce chiefly three hadïths as their proof, two of these being the weak-chained narrations:
(a) "Allàh curses the women who visit the graves" (la‘ana Allàhu zà’iràt al-qubur)
(b) "Allàh curses the women who visit the graves and take them for places of worship and candles."
(c) "Allàh curses the women who frequently visit the graves" (la‘ana Allàhu zawwàràt al-qubur).
As indicated by Sayyid al-Rifà‘ï, the above narrations do not constitute "agreed-upon, clear and explicit proof from the Law" for the prohibition of women from visiting graves in Islàm. Accordingly, the majority of the Ulema concur that women are permitted to visit the graves . ( As stated by Ibn Hajar in Fat hal-Bàrï (1959 ed. 3:148), al-Shawkànï in Nayl al-Aw tàr (chapters on burial and the rulings pertaining to graves), and al-Mubàrakfurï in Tu hfat al-A hwadhï (4:139)
The above example counters the claims of a handful of dissenters, which cannot be used as a blanket opinion for all. "The most correct position is that the dispensation (rukhsa) for the visitation of graves is firmly established for women." Ibn ‘Àbidïn, Hàshiya (1386/1966 ed. 2:242).
In his Advice to our Brothers the Scholars of Najd, Sayyid Yusuf al-Rifà‘ï states: "You forbid women from visiting the noble Baqï‘ with no agreed-upon, clear and explicit proof from the Law!" ( Proofs for Visitation of the Graves by Women by Shaykh Gibril F Haddad )
The negative implication in the contemporary Muslim world where women are barred from entry to the sanctum sanctorum is not witnessed in several Muslim countries.
In Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Iran and other countries both men and women visit to Sufi Shrines and Tombs alike. In India , without fuss, men and women of every faith and creed visit the celebrated shrine of the Sufi Saint, Khwaja Mohinuddin Chisti and several others.
The Sufi wisdom, enlightenment and radiance has touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people across the country, irrespective of gender. It is interwoven within the mosaic and fabric of our great country India.
The myth that women cannot get entry into the sanctum sanctorum of a dargah due to the imposition of religious restrictions needs to be nullified. It goes against the spirit of equality granted to women in Islam.