Gender Equality and the Concept of the Dargah In Islam

Women at Ajmer Sharif Dargah

In the Quran it is mentioned that those who are killed in the cause of Allah are alive. All the Islamic Messengers (1,24,000 messengers) are also considered alive (by most of the Islamic schools) because they all came for the cause of Allah and died for the same.

It is also mentioned in the Quran that if anyone who asks for forgiveness and comes to the Prophet (pbuh) then the Prophet (pbuh) also prays to Allah on behalf of that person for forgiveness. This is called praying through waseela (in the name of Prophet).

Therefore, many early schools of Islamic belief pray to Allah in the name of Allah’s Prophet/s (pbuh) and in the name of Martyrs and Saints.

There are few schools of Islam who don’t subscribe to the above philosophy and they consider it against Islam, therefore, they don’t go to the Dargahs; some even go to the extent of demolishing Dargahs.

The Dargahs are more open and secular places of worship than Mosques. The concept of Dargah is non-judgemental, and there contain, in this worship, the ancient traditions of respecting gender equality.

Gender discrimination is a new phenomena within Dargahs; earlier Men, Women, Children, Muslim, Non-Muslims, Transgenders, LGBT, anyone and everyone, was allowed to enter and pray, pay obeisance in their own way.

 The Prophet's Mosque (Al-Masjid Al- Nabawi) in Medina holds the Prophet Muhammad's burial chamber. The keys to this holy site and the mosque's minbar were kept by a group of eunuchs originally from Abyssinia, known as the Guardians.

Saudi Arabian portrait photographer Adel Quraishi has trained his camera on this theme: the handful of surviving Guardians of the Prophet’s burial chamber at Medina. Prophet Mohammed lived, died and is buried there, and every Muslim aims to visit the site at least once.

Since the Ottoman Empire, the keys to this holy site have been kept by eunuchs – originally from Abyssinia, later wider in origin.   They are eunuchs who entered the role long ago, and are now at least 80 years old – one is said to be 110, which would fit with research suggesting that ‘reduced testosterone gives eunuchs increased life expectancy’.

Be that as it may, three of the eight photographed in 2014 have died since the photographs – the only ones ever permitted – were taken, and only three remain fit to carry out their full duties. The Guardians are eunuchs, not because they have access to women’s accommodation, but for the spiritual aspect of a faith that is undistracted by sexual desire and uninfected by ritual impurity.

They are revered as mediators who cross boundaries, and there’s also a sense in which time is suspended for them, as they have never gone through the changes of adolescence. That state matches the suspension of time said to occur in the well-preserved state of the Prophet’s body.

Presently, no new Guardians are being taken on, so where once there were hundreds responsible for all aspects of running the mosque complex, the remaining few spend their days in a small room connected to the burial chamber itself.

They pray, clean the floor with rosewater and look after the set of keys which must be used in a closely-guarded sequence to access the chamber. Even Quraishi was not allowed to photograph the keys, but he was able to take an image of the chamber through which a constant stream of pilgrims pass: we see the architectural and decorative detail, but a long exposure time converts the worshippers to abstract marks passing through. Quraishi’s project, then, makes the most of the photograph as record: to look at the eight faces ranged – life sized or somewhat larger – around the ideally suited dimensions of Leighton House’s contemporary exhibition gallery is to look at the only pictures ever taken of an 800 year tradition which is set to disappear.

Ajmer Sharif Urs

During the Urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty in Ajmer, the prime reason for the huge participation of eunuchs is thanksgiving for their wishes being granted by him. The notion arose from the belief that the Khwaja had blessed eunuchs and allegedly, one of them even got pregnant after being blessed by him. There is a tomb of the eunuch (Hijde Ki Mazar) in Taragadh, Ajmer. This Mazar is believed to be the Mazar of the eunuch who was blessed and a disciple of khwaja garib nawaz.

Hijron Ka Khanqah is also an Islamic monument located in Mehrauli, South Delhi, India. The literal meaning of Hijron ka Khanqah is a “Sufi Spiritual Retreat for Eunuchs”. It is maintained well by the Hijras of Turkman Gate, in Shahjahanabad (present day Old Delhi) who are in possession of this 15th-century monument.

(The author is a communication designer)

References from the Quran:
ALI 'IMRAN (FAMILY OF IMRAN) Quran 3:169 171
وَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ
فَرِحِينَ بِمَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ وَيَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِالَّذِينَ لَمْ يَلْحَقُوا بِهِم مِّنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
يَسْتَبْشِرُونَ بِنِعْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَفَضْلٍ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ

And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision,
Rejoicing in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His bounty, and they receive good tidings about those after them who have not yet joined them – that there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.
They receive good tidings of favour from Allah and bounty and that Allah does not allow the reward of believers to be lost

AN-NISA (THE WOMEN) Quran 4:64
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا
And We did not send any messenger except to be obeyed by permission of Allah . And if, when they wronged themselves, they come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful.

Note: لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ For you is your religion, and for me is my religion. (Quran 109:6)
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
There shall be no compulsion in the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (Quran 2:256)

1. Adel Quraishi's Portraits of The Guardians
2. A queer rights activist on her visit to the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti
3. Hijron Ka Khanqah
4.Hijra Chadar Ceremony At Ajmer Shrif 1
5.World of Hijras At Ajmer Urus ,, Qawwali 1



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