SHOAIB SHAIKH | NT STAFF REPORTER
PANAJI: Masjid-ul-Abrar at Sirvodem in Margao is the first known mosque that has allowed women to enter the premises in the state post liberation and also perform namaaz. Going beyond, the Al-Aman Society, which manages the Masjid-ul-Abrar, has made the mosque a centre of learning and development for women.
“According to the Islamic teachings, a mosque is not only a place for prayers and worship, but a learning centre in the society. And knowledge should be accessible to all, men as well as women,” stated Mohammed Ismail, secretary of Al-Aman Society.
He stated that the initiative to allow women to perform namaaz in the mosque met with a lot of opposition when the managing committee of the mosque decided to grant the permission in the year 1995, twelve years after the Masjid-ul-Abrar was inaugurated.
The year 1995 saw the formal process of women entering this mosque for namaaz, however much before its inception in 1983 girls were being tutored in the Quran, contrary to the then existing traditions of females being provided the Quranic education either in madarasas or homes.
The ‘maktab’ as known in Arabic, is the organised traditional Islamic elementary school, primarily teaching literacy and the Quran.
He further said that until 1995 it was not possible for the mosque to provide adequate separate facilities for women to perform namaaz and hence till then the restrictions were followed. But after the extended portion of the premises was constructed, women were permitted to attend and perform namaaz in the mosque.
Women are provided with a separate entry and exit to the mosque and the men are not allowed to access the area especially during the prayer timings. This is done to let women move freely without any hesitation and discomfort, he added.
The managing committee of the mosque has been providing equal opportunities of learning to boys and girls, rather with additional facilities to the womenfolk of the community.
Ismail is of the opinion that the Friday sermons have been the most crucial and sacrosanct to the Islamic teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. The khatib (the one who delivers the sermon) addresses on issues varying from Islamic traditions to world affairs including family life, inter-personal relations and social affairs.
He stated, “We believe that the mosque is a centre for development and training, and if women are not allowed to listen to these sermons then they are losing out on knowledge. Fifty-two sermons in a year when added together is a lot of knowledge and food for thought, training and development.”
The Masjid-ul-Abrar was established by the Al-Aman Society in 1983 with a local businessman Shaikh Abdul Rahim as its founder president. Over the years, the spirit of treating women with a preference has grown with successive managements and the current president of the society is Shaikh Tajoddin.
“Apart from being the first mosque in the Goan society to allow women to perform namaaz within the premises of the mosque, Masjid-ul-Abrar was also the first mosque in the state to organise programmes for people of other faiths in the late 1980s,” Ismail stated.
He further said, “We have been organising Iftar get-togethers during the month of Ramazan and inter-faith dialogue programmes within the premises of the mosque.”
People from all walks of life including swamis, Catholic priests, religious leaders of other communities, politicians, academicians amongst others have been participating in programmes organised by the mosque managing committee. “In recent times due to space constraints, such programmes are being organised at a hall adjacent to the mosque,” he added.