A trend in some of the major dargahs to bar women from entering the sanctum sanctorum, where the remains of the saint lie buried, has been criticised by members of the Muslim community as an attempt to impose conservative practices.
Among the dargahs that have introduced this rule is the best known Haji Ali Dargah and six others have also started keeping women out of the central area.
The trustees of the dargahs say they are only "improvising" on a tradition laid down in the Shariah, the Muslim personal law code. But community members say this is untrue.
"Nowhere is it mentioned that people of both sexes cannot be together. They are patriarchal and conservative in their mindset. The name of Shariah is only to give credence to what they want to believe," said Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, a scholar on Islamic studies.
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founder member of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said, "Anyway the religion is supposed to be guided by the Quran. Shariah law is man-made and everything about it is human interpretation. Why should this be the basis for whether women are allowed entry or not?"
The trustees claim that according to the law women are not permitted to go near the graves of saints. "What was going on hitherto was not right and hence we have stopped this. The management has taken this decision after consulting the Muftis," said Sohail Khandwani, trustee of Haji Ali and Mahim dargahs.
He said that the rule barring women was not new. "When I became a trustee in 2003, the rule was in existence."
Scholars rubbish these arguments. "Women are allowed to visit the mosque which has the grave of Prophet Mohammed. Even the holy Kaaba which is the holiest place has both sexes visiting together there. How can they say it is different here," asked Engineer.
Niaz criticised the attempt to compare any grave with that of the holy saints, saying, "Those comparing the graves of ordinary men with those of the saints are indulging in mischief."