Women are not prohibited from entering mosques under Islamic tenets, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
"Islam permits the entry of women into mosques. However, unlike men, it is not mandatory for them to offer Friday prayers or attend congregational prayers," the Muslim body said in an affidavit filed in response to a petition seeking that women be allowed to "worship at all mosques".
There is no bar on women and men praying together either, it added.
"(We have) taken a stand as per Islamic texts that the entry of woman into mosques for namaz be permitted. Any other 'fatwa' to this effect may be ignored," news agency IANS quoted the Muslim body as saying in its affidavit.
However, the board clarified that as the sanctity of a 'fatwa' is an opinion based upon religious texts, doctrine and their interpretation without having any statutory force, the court has no jurisdiction to restrain it. "For instance, if some believer of Islam is of the opinion that he/she needs a religious opinion/fatwa based upon interpretations of religious texts, then delivering a 'fatwa' on that issue cannot be restrained by the judicial order of this court as the same will directly hit the right and freedom of that individual's religious belief," the affidavit read.
The issue will now be taken up by a nine-judge bench constituted to examine the legal question associated with discrimination against women in entering various religious places, including the Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
Last October, the Supreme Court had issued a notice on the plea filed by Yasmeen Zuber Ahmad Peerzade and others, who maintained that restricting the entry of Muslim women into mosques across the country is unconstitutional and constitutes a violation of their fundamental right to life, equality and gender justice.
Besides requesting the court to direct government authorities and religious bodies to allow the entry of Muslim women into mosques, the petition also said that they should not be restricted to separate entries, exits or praying areas.
(With inputs from IANS)