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Namaz that adds to women's empowerment

Lucknow: Empowered women come in all shapes, sizes or dresses - some even covered from head to toe in purdah. Just take a look at the participants in the Salaate Tasbeeh - a unique namaz which devout believe can purge one of lifeful of sins. The annual event meant for women exclusively, being held annually in the city's zanana park for the last sixty years, bears testimony to the free spirit of Lucknow women who have ensured that it survived male skepticism. The role of men is confined just to drop the women to the gate and collect them.

Indian Muslim women praying Eid

Indian Muslim women praying Eid

The park comes to life on every fifteen of the month as members of Bazme Khawateen, an organisation founded in 1934 by Begum Sultan Hayat, meet up to discuss various topical issues. Friday, October 29, was a special day. Hundreds of devotees had come from all parts of the city to offer prayers. And most of them find the female bonding quite heady. "It feels great to be together for a few hours and forget about all hassles," said Rukhsana Shamseer. Muslim women in other cities should also follow female emancipation, Lucknow style, she suggests. 

The mere freedom to vent their spleen can be therapeutic, says Mehru Jehan, who has attended a few gatherings. Umme Kulsum, a BA student is drawn here mainly due to the power of collective prayer. "Men can go to the mosque, but where do we go. This provides us the ideal opportunity and the feeling of taking part in mass prayer is truly awesome," she declared. 

Salate Tasbeeh is recited by Begum Shehnaz Sidrat. A former interior designer, Sidrat has been leading the congregation for the last thirteen years. This takes two-and-a-half hours and being a little difficult not everyone can read it, she said. Sidrat has brought a touch of modernity to the monthly majlis of Bazme Khawateen. "We have medical camps, discussion and symposium apart form religious discourse". The plucky woman is also waging a war with her other colleagues to retain the park's unique feminine character. Lucknow Nagar Nigam is promoting encroachment here and land mafia has its eyes fixed on the park, let us see how long we can withhold the pressure, she says and sharing the concern are almost 2500 members of the Bazm. (Excerpted from Times of India website, October 31, 2004)

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