Ramadan: Hagia Sophia a glimpse of Turkey’s modern transformation | Religion News


Istanbul, Turkey – With the top of twilight protecting this metropolis, the sound of Isha prayer breathes closely across the complicated of Hagia Sophia.

As Muslims and non-Muslims – some vacationers, some not – manoeuvre their approach in the direction of the vintage surprise, many wait to hope and likewise expertise the particular tarawih prayers resuming within the museum-turned-mosque after 88 years this Ramadan.

Ibrahim Cetin, 50, is visiting the Grand Mosque of Hagia Sophia for the primary time and stays overwhelmed with feelings.

“Regardless of residing on this metropolis for the previous 30 years, I’m moving into this constructing for the primary time as a result of I need to pray tarawih right here,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“I’m extraordinarily comfortable that it’s a mosque once more. It’s arduous to say it in phrases to explain what this second means for me,” he added as he broke down in tears.

Hagia Sophia all through time stood as a central emblem of historic battles and shifts: the monument has been coveted and mourned by emperors, sultans, and modern-day politicians.

It has been a cathedral, a mosque, a museum, and now a mosque once more after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced the choice in 2020. The primary prayer was then held below the constructing’s sky-high dome on July 24 that 12 months.

Erdogan’s transfer acquired loads of backlash and was deemed to be “politically motivated” by critics. Nuh Atikoglu, 52, a customer to Hagia Sophia echoed related views.

“It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a mosque or a museum. I’m detached since there’s the Blue Mosque shut by as properly. Erdogan took this choice to distract Turkish residents from the continuing political disaster at the moment,” Atikoglu stated.

The conversion, nonetheless, was additionally thought-about to be a longstanding demand of Turkish conservatives. Cetin had “by no means anticipated that Hagia Sophia can be a mosque once more, however it’s a monument belonging to our Ottoman forefathers”, he stated.

Hagia Sofia has been a cathedral, a mosque, a museum, and now a mosque once more after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced the choice in 2020 [Hajira Maryam/Al Jazeera]

Altering meanings with historical past

Within the first 900 years of its existence, Hagia Sophia was central to Byzantine tradition and politics. Thought-about an architectural marvel, it was constructed as a basilica for the Greek Orthodox Christian Church in 537 CE through the reign of Emperor Justinian I.

Due to this fact, though it stands nonetheless in its type and construction, its that means stays fluid, reflecting the political transformations of previous and trendy Turkey.

A major historic shift for the constructing came about in 1453 when Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul. Jubilant on seeing the grand monument, he prevented its destruction and transformed it right into a mosque.

“Mehmed II is an especially mental chief, his mom is a Christian so he desires to guide the Christians of town, and relatively than destroying Hagia Sophia, he expanded it,” stated Kaya Genc, writer of, The Lion and the Nightingale.

Hagia Sophia grew to become the image of imperial and sacred status for the Ottoman empire – it stood alongside in significance with the Kaaba in Mecca and the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem.

Inside conversions additionally came about throughout Ottoman rule. Islamic roundels – that includes the names of God, Prophet Muhammad, the primary 4 caliphs, and the prophet’s two grandsons – had been held on the columns within the nave.

A mihrab – an altar that signifies the course of Mecca – was put in within the wall.

The mihrab in Hagia Sophia is correct below the Mosaic of the Theotokos, “as a result of the course of Mecca is in the identical approach in the direction of the east, there was no requirement of shifting the course or focus throughout the Church”, stated an artwork historian who requested to stay nameless due to sensitivities over Hagia Sophia.

To additional add an Islamic character to the constructing, 4 minarets and the minbar had been additionally added all through its historical past below the Ottomans.

“The constructing itself affected the buildings that had been to return later, with the development of imperial mosques in Constantinople and Istanbul. Their type, their dimension, the complexes that shaped round all of them affected the development of imperial spiritual buildings all through the Muslim world.”

Hagia Sophia grew to become the image of imperial and sacred status for the Ottoman empire – it stood alongside in significance with the Kaaba in Mecca and the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem [Hajira Maryam/Al Jazeera]

The trendy period

Because the Ottoman Empire declined at the beginning of the twentieth century, Turkey grew to become a secular republic in 1923. The political shift from an empire to changing into a republic additionally led Hagia Sophia to amass one other that means because it was was a museum in 1934.

Genc stated this was strategic political continuity for the importance of the constructing.

“What Ataturk did in 1935 is a type of continuity within the new trendy Turkish society. Simply as Islam is the continuation of Christianity, secularism is the continuation of Islam in its trendy model. The formation of the republic got here because of the modernised Islamists of that period.

“However the extra spiritual sections of the society had been dissatisfied, simply how Christians had been when Mehmed II transformed the monument right into a mosque within the fifteenth century,” he added.

For Turkish conservatives at this time, the conversion again to a mosque marked the fulfilment of a long-held ambition of restoring a symbolic monument of Ottoman glory.

“Ataturk made a immediate choice as properly – it was sudden and transient. Erdogan, too, made a sudden and transient announcement over Twitter to vary it again right into a mosque,” Kaya stated.

Final week, Erdogan additionally inaugurated the Hagia Sophia Fatih Madrassa in Istanbul. The Madrassah was constructed by Mehmed II, serving as the primary madrassah of town subsequent to Hagia Sophia, and was demolished through the republican period.

Talking on the inauguration ceremony, Erdoğan stated his authorities was happy “to present again town one other essential construction whose traces had been intentionally erased”.

After Hagia Sophia’s re-conversion to a mosque, the mosaics inside are once more coated with white sheets, the Islamic roundels stay hanging, golden chandeliers gentle up the colossal area, and a turquoise carpet covers the ground as individuals pray tarawih.

Hamza Cheroui, 32, a vacationer visiting from Belgium, stated he was ecstatic about its conversion. As a Muslim residing within the West, Hamza stated, Erdogan’s choice was principally criticised by individuals holding “anti-Islamic sentiments” in Europe.

As a frequent customer to Hagia Sophia over time, the area “feels extra spacious and clear than it did as a museum”, he advised Al Jazeera.

For a lot of Turks, the conversion again to a mosque marked the fulfilment of a long-held ambition of restoring a symbolic monument of Ottoman glory [Hajira Maryam/Al Jazeera]

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