World's First Women's Jamaat Meets in Tamil Nadu, May Lead to First Women's Mosque

August 2, 2004

Source: The Muslim News

On August 2, 2004 The Muslim News reported, "Around 50 women have gathered for the fifth meeting of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Women's Jamaat Committee (MWJC). The first women's jamaat in the world may well lead to the first women's mosque in history. The meeting begins with Rajab Nisha reciting prayers in Arabic to echoes of 'amin'. Slowly the register shifts to intelligible Tamil as Nisha prays: 'May Rahman strengthen the women's jamaat! May Rahman weaken the male jamaats that ruin women's lives!' More amins...Tamil Nadu has a unique system where jamaats, affiliated to the local mosque, sit in judgement on the domestic affairs of the community. A jamaat is essentially a citizen's council, but in TN it functions as a powerful dispute-settlement authority. The jamaat committees have no women on board; nor do they allow women to represent their own cases. When a battered, harassed woman approaches the local police for help, she is turned away...The steady stream of victims of dowry harassment, arbitrary talaqs, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harassment and cheating—each with a common enemy in the form of the local jamaat—coming to STEPs, which has been working on women's issues since 1989, forced Sharifa to consider tackling male-dominated jamaats. As she explains, 'The male jamaats are unlawful kangaroo courts that play with the lives of women. A mosque-jamaat axis is a power centre that controls the community. When women are refused representation here, we have no choice but to have our own jamaat. And since a jamaat is attached to a mosque, we have to build our own mosque.'"