Istanbul, Turkey – With the top of twilight protecting this metropolis, the sound of Isha prayer breathes closely across the advanced of Hagia Sophia.
As Muslims and non-Muslims – some vacationers, some not – manoeuvre their approach in direction of the vintage marvel, 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 entering into this constructing for the primary time as a result of I need to pray tarawih right here,” he informed Al Jazeera.
“I’m extraordinarily joyful 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 underneath the constructing’s sky-high dome on July 24 that yr.
Erdogan’s transfer received a lot of backlash and was deemed to be “politically motivated” by critics. Nuh Atikoglu, 52, a customer to Hagia Sophia echoed comparable 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 resolution to distract Turkish residents from the continuing political disaster at the moment,” Atikoglu mentioned.
The conversion, nonetheless, was additionally thought-about to be a longstanding demand of Turkish conservatives. Cetin had “by no means anticipated that Hagia Sophia will probably be a mosque once more, however it’s a monument belonging to our Ottoman forefathers”, he mentioned.
Altering that means 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 in the course of 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 outdated and fashionable Turkey.
A big historic shift for the constructing befell 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 a particularly mental chief, his mom is a Christian so he needs to steer the Christians of the town, and somewhat than destroying Hagia Sophia, he expanded it,” mentioned Kaya Genc, writer of, The Lion and the Nightingale.
Hagia Sophia turned the symbol of imperial and sacred prestige for the Ottoman empire – it stood alongside in significance with the Kaaba in Mecca and the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem.
Inside conversions additionally befell throughout Ottoman rule. Islamic roundels – that includes the names of God, Prophet Muhammad, the primary 4 caliphs, and the prophet’s two grandsons – have 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 underneath the Mosaic of the Theotokos, “as a result of the course of Mecca is in the identical approach in direction of the east, there was no requirement of shifting the course or focus inside the Church”, mentioned 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 have been additionally added all through its historical past underneath the Ottomans.
“The constructing itself affected the buildings that have been to come back 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 non secular buildings all through the Muslim world.”
The trendy period
Because the Ottoman Empire declined firstly of the twentieth century, Turkey turned 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 became a museum in 1934.
Genc mentioned this was strategic political continuity for the importance of the constructing.
“What Ataturk did in 1935 is a type of continuity within the new fashionable Turkish society. Simply as Islam is the continuation of Christianity, secularism is the continuation of Islam in its fashionable model. The formation of the republic got here as a result of modernised Islamists of that period.
“However the extra non secular sections of the society have been upset, simply how Christians have been when Mehmed II transformed the monument right into a mosque within the fifteenth century,” he added.
For Turkish conservatives right now, 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 resolution as properly – it was sudden and temporary. Erdogan, too, made a sudden and temporary announcement over Twitter to alter it again right into a mosque,” Kaya mentioned.
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 the town subsequent to Hagia Sophia, and was demolished in the course of the republican period.
Talking on the inauguration ceremony, Erdoğan mentioned his authorities was happy “to offer again the town one other essential construction whose traces have 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 mild up the colossal area, and a turquoise carpet covers the ground as folks pray tarawih.
Hamza Cheroui, 32, a vacationer visiting from Belgium, mentioned he was ecstatic about its conversion. As a Muslim residing within the West, Hamza mentioned, Erdogan’s resolution was largely criticised by folks holding “anti-Islamic sentiments” in Europe.
As a frequent customer to Hagia Sophia through the years, the area “feels extra spacious and clear than it did as a museum”, he informed Al Jazeera.