MECCA: When gynaecologist Fatima Siraj, along with seven other women from Udaipur in Rajasthan, entered the premises of the cube-shaped Kaaba and the holy mosque in Mecca, it was God and Indian government that they gave thanks to. God, for the opportunity to undertake , and the government, for the new rule permitting women to travel to without ‘mahram‘ (without male members accompanying them) for the first time.
“We are so grateful to both God and our PM ,” said Siraj at the building she and her seven “sisters” are residing in, some 500 metres from Mecca‘s holy shrine.
The eight women are among around 1,200 Indian women who have travelled to on Haj without ‘mahram‘.
While the Saudi government had already introduced this rule, it is for the first time that India has allowed women above the age of 45 to travel to Haj in groups of four and more without ‘mahram‘ this year. The majority of the women pilgrims are from Kerala.
The eight women TOI spoke to in Mecca are reformist from Udaipur. The group includes a widow and two divorcees. The rest of the members are housewives whose husbands were unable to travel.
Siraj‘s husband is a retired Army officer. “I asked my husband to accompany me, but he said he had already performed Haj twice and didn‘t want to come. So, I applied and found the rest of the members to form a group,” said Siraj, who had earlier worked in Saudi Arabia.
The women lost their way from the tent city of Mina to Mecca as they were unable to find a volunteer to guide them. “There is one volunteer for 200 women pilgrims. Maybe they couldn‘t find the volunteer,” said Haj Committee CEO MA Khan.
Haj Committee member Irfan Ahmed and Mumbai BJP vice-president Haider Azam stay in the same building where the eight women do. “It is fascinating that these women took courage to come for Haj without male members,” said Ahmed.
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