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Retrograde Custodians

The attempt to ban the entry of women into the famous Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai is an irrationality shaped by regressive minds—and an insult to a liberating religious tradition.

One of the defining features of popular devotion in the Indian subcontinent is the welcome presence of women at Sufi shrines. Therefore, it is so unfortunate and disturbing to hear of the attempt by some vested interests to ban the entry of women at Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. It is one of those irrationalities of our time that we are confronted with almost on a daily basis. There was a time, in the first centuries of Islam—for a millennium indeed—when Muslims were setting standards of excellence in almost all fields of life, and now not a day passes without some self-declared custodians of Islam coming up with wicked and irrational ideas shaped by their regressive minds—bringing so much disrepute to a religious tradition, which was so liberating to start with.

If that thing called soul does exist, the Prophet of Islam, who must have been one of the finest figures of his time and a role model for Muslims for all time to come, must be turning in his grave. What is wrong with the communities of people claiming to be his true followers? As lovers of God and followers of the righteous path shown by the Prophet, Sufis and other Muslim holy men would never discriminate against women in the manner in which the current guardians of Islam seek to bar them even from such spaces as a dargah—a sacred space where they have historically been allowed to have a corner of their own as a sanctuary of relief from the oppressions of a patriarchal order that wants to subjugate them as toys or trophies as well as reproductive machines, mainly for a feudal society’s fancy for male children.

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