153-year-old mosque opens its main hall to women for first time

Another glass ceiling was broken when Masjide-E-Iranian, a 153-year-old Iranian mosque in Bhendi Bazar, opened, for the first time, its main hall to women recently. The mosque was built in 1860 by Haji Mohammad Hussain Shirazi.

The historic occasion coincided with the birthday of Janabe Fatema, daughter of Prophet Mohammad.

Ali Namazi, general secretary of the trust that runs the mosque, said: "Iran has always allowed women to enter mosques, it's only here that they are barred. It is culture, nothing to do with Shariah. A gradual change is expected and women will be allowed on special occasions."

He said if men and women could pray together in Mecca, why not here?

Speaking on the occasion, Zahra Zamani, a professor in the department of biochemistry at Pasteur Institute in Tehran, said: "When you educate a woman, you educate a family. When you educate a family, you educate a nation."

Farah Abdi, a student, said: "For Iranian women, Janabe Fatema is the epitome of virtue and greatness. That is why we celebrate her birthday as Women's Day.

'Hijab saves you from prying eyes'

Zahra Zamani, who is in her 50s, is a third-generation Iranian with a Ph.D. in immunology. Here to bring about a change, she spoke to The Indian Express.

What inspired you to pursue women's education and empowerment?

I was in Tehran during the 1978-79 revolution and witnessed the change from monarchy to Islamic socialism. That influenced me a lot and I started reading the Quran, studied Hinduism and Christianity. These books answered so many questions and I wanted to pass the knowledge.

Did it also change your opinion of hijab?

I am wearing hijab for the last 28 years and I do it for Allah. I've read so much that I am convinced hijab is important. When I was studying in Mumbai, I wore clothes that girls around me did.

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