KOCHI: With the realty market currently in limbo, a Kerala-based builder willing to experiment has embarked on ‘shariah compliant’ apartments, aimed at devout Muslims who also have faith in money power to make room for their religious beliefs.
The high-end apartments coming up in West Kochi – to be replicated elsewhere in the state and outside if successful — will have flats facing Mecca, prayer and washrooms as prescribed by shariah law, installation of clocks showing prayer timings, a layout that enables azan from nearby mosques to be heard clearly in all apartments, separate ablution areas and toilet spaces, hand bidet in toilets for ablution etc, all of which are being apparently implemented for the first time in the country.
“In such spaces, people share the same faith, food habits and attire. They will not be criticised for who they are or what they eat,” said Dr Fathima Nilufer, a medical professional, recounting the difficulty she encountered while trying to rent an apartment in Kochi. “It is natural that people want to feel respected,” she said.
Critics, however, warn of a ghetto mentality or housing apartheid that such projects could encourage. “Already, society is getting segregated on the basis of religion and caste. Such initiatives could further weaken the social fabric,” said advocate Jacob Mathew Manalil, legal advisor to Kerala Apartment Owners’ Association.
V Sunil Kumar, founder and managing director, Asset Homes, which is building the shariah compliant apartment complex, took pains to clarify that this project was simply catering to a widespread need. “A project like this was taken up purely on the basis of demands made by customers. They don’t indicate a general trend,” he said. Incidentally, Sainudeen Azhari, a Muslim scholar, ridiculed the whole idea of shariah compliant apartments.
Pointing out that Islamic law hardly insists on bathrooms or beds being away from the direction of qiblah (facing Mecca), he said, “Such projects are just marketing gimmicks to attract members of the Muslim community. These are nothing but business opportunities that exploit the faithful”.
On his part, Najeeb Zackeria, chairman of Kerala chapter of CREDAI, the apex builders’ body, saw nothing wrong with experimenting. “Each builder can come up with innovative ideas. As long you don’t break the law of the land it is acceptable. Ultimately, the project should be completed and sold out. What matters is that the customer should be happy,” he said.