Haji Ali Dargah
The trust challenged this verdict in the SC saying that allowing women inside the inner sanctum would mean putting them in close proximity to a male saint, which is regarded as a sin.Wikimedia Commons

The trustees of Sufi shrine Haji Ali Dargah have banned women from entering the sanctum sanctorum, where the remains of saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari are buried.

"According to the Sharia, this is a sin. It is un-Islamic. We cannot allow it," said Mohammed Sharif Kadri, the maulana at the dargah, according to NDTV.

The iconic shrine, located 500 meters from the coast of Worli in South Mumbai, houses the tomb of the 15th century saint and is visited by thousands of people every year.

Six other dargahs in Mumbai apart from the Haji Ali dargah have also banned women from visiting their tombs.

"If Islamic scholars have issued a fatwa, in accordance with the Islamic law of Sharia, and have demanded that women not be allowed in dargahs, we have only made a correction," Rizwan Merchant, trustee of the Haji Ali dargah and a noted criminal lawyer, said to the news service.

Merchant said that women are allowed in the dargah's compound but are restricted from entering the sanctum sanctorum.

"They can read their prayers, do namaaz and offer shawls and flowers. We are only requesting our sisters not to enter inside the dargah. Women will not be allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum," he said.

The controversial move by the dargah's trust board has sparked off protests from several quarters who found it to be "highly discriminatory and grossly regressive".

The decision was taken more than six months ago, but the issue came to light only when women's group Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) voiced objection.

"When we asked with the trustees, we were told that the decision was taken after the authorities noticed that a woman came inappropriately dressed last year," Hindustan Times quoted Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder of BMMA, as saying.

"We will write to minorities minister Arif Naseem Khan, the state minorities' commission and the trustees of Haji Ali. They need to take steps to curb such a regressive trend," Niaz added.