I am impressed by Erdogan’s vainglorious show of “achievement” to convert Agia Sophia into a mosque, and proudly read verses there from the Quran. I am equally impressed by the masses of devout Muslims that attended condoning and encouraging him. Yet it appears that they understand little of their Prophet’s scriptures. They forget that Agia Sophia means “The Holy Wisdom of the Almighty” a concept acceptable to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Their only difference is the teachings of the prophet each follows.
According to Mehmet Hayri Kirbasoglu, professor at the Department of Theology of Ankara University “the 40th verse of Surah “The Pilgrimage”… "clearly says that one shouldn’t touch churches, monasteries, synagogues and shrines of other religions, since Allah’s name is remembered there".
Under the circumstances why did such devout Muslims clearly disobey the Quran scriptures?
Mehmed the Conqueror claimed the title "Caesar" of the Roman Empire (Qayser-i Rum), based on the fact that Constantinople had been the seat and capital of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire since its consecration in 330 AD by Emperor Constantine I. Mehmed II viewed the Ottoman state as a continuation of the Roman Empire for the remainder of his life, seeing himself as "continuing" the Empire rather than "replacing" it.
Constantinople was since officially called Kostantiniyye which was used into the 20th century. The name Istambul is derived from the Greek «εις την πόλη» or “to the city” it is a destination and could mean any major city.
Mehmed the Conqueror should have known of the Quran scriptures but regardless turned Agia Sophia into a mosque.
Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk”, probably attempting to right the Ottoman past, wisely legislated Agia Sophia should be a museum where all should feel comfortable.
Erdogan, discounting Quran scriptures not to his liking, blasphemed reading verses of the Quran on Friday August 24th 2020.
“The Heavenly Eye of Justice sees All” (Ancient Greek proverb. Many churches have this painted on their Temples for the faithful to remember.).
George A. Gratsos Ph.D.
Notes: Turning Hagia Sophia Into Mosque is a Political Issue
"We are forced to say that we are faced with a completely internal political issue. This is not a matter of religion, but of politics, and even publicity", says Mehmet Hayri Kirbasoglu, professor at the Department of Theology of Ankara University. "The work carried out, consultations and drafting of this decision are quite evident here. However, there haven’t been any forecasts regarding short- and long-term consequences of this".
Erdogan first hinted at the possibility of transforming the former Byzantine-era cathedral into a mosque in March 2019, ahead of the municipal elections. A day later, at a Justice and Development Party (AKP) rally in Istanbul the Turkish president pledged to return Hagia Sophia "to its original state and call it a mosque" as a response to the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.
Erdogan’s latest move came amid Israel’s effort to incorporate Judea and Samaria in accordance with Donald Trump’s "deal of the century" which was subjected to harsh criticism by Ankara for its supposed violation of Palestinian rights.
It’s not about religion, it’s manifestation of power, deems Kirbasoglu citing the 40th verse of Surah (a chapter of the Quran) “The Pilgrimage” that "clearly says that one shouldn’t touch churches, monasteries, synagogues and shrines of other religions, since Allah’s name is remembered there".
Though Erdogan’s move is likely to receive high praise from neo-Ottoman nationalists, the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque is unlikely to solve Turkey’s problems such as "corruption, unemployment, unequal distribution of income, polarization or hate mongering", the professor argues.
He adds that the site’s museum status would be more acceptable from the perspective of world heritage. "There is no second Hagia Sophia. It has such a feature. It had been completed just 30 years before the Prophet was born,” Mehmet Kirbasoglu underscores.
Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion that, at its core, teaches the oneness of God (Allah), and that Muhammad is his final messenger. Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.
Islam originated in the early 7th century CE Arabian Peninsula, in Mecca, and by the 8th century, the Umayyad Caliphate extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus River in the east.
The followers of Islam, Muslims, believe in one God, Allah, and believe Muhammad was his prophet. They also believe Adam, of the Bible’s Old Testament, was the first prophet.
Other prophets include Abraham, Moses, Noah, David and Jesus.
The word islam, which means submission, was not at first the name of a religion founded by Muhammad. It referred, rather, to the original religion of all mankind – and even of the universe itself which, like us, was created to serve Allah.
Earlier prophets and their followers were all Muslims (submitters to Allah), though Muslims do tend to conflate the general and specific meanings of the words Islam and Muslim.
Some prophets received scriptures from Allah, notably the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the Gospel of Jesus. Their messages and books, however, became corrupted or were lost.
Miraculously, the Qur’an (“recitation”) revealed to Muhammad – the very word of Allah – will not suffer this fate, so there is no need for further prophets or revelations.
Seeing the words for god in Arabic (“allah”), Aramaic (“elah”), and Hebrew (“eloah”) written in a Hebrew script seemingly confirms that these are in fact the exact same word and it is easy to see how someone could be easily confused.
Από το 537 (ο ομώνυμος ναός του 360 που είχε ανεγερθεί στο ίδιο σημείο, απαλλοτριώθηκε προς θεμελίωση του υπάρχοντος) μέχρι το 1453 λειτουργούσε ως βυζαντινός χριστιανικός καθεδρικός ναός της πόλης, με εξαίρεση την περίοδο 1204–1261, κατά την οποία ήταν ρωμαιοκαθολικός ναός. Μετά την άλωση της Κωνσταντινούπολης μετετράπη σε ισλαμικό τέμενος, ενώ το 1934 σε μουσειακό χώρο (Ayasofya Muzesi).
The modern Turkish name Istanbul is attested (in a range of variants) since the 10th century, at first in Armenian and Arabic (without the initial I-) and then in Ottoman sources. It derives from the Greek phrase "στην Πόλη" "meaning "in the city" or "to the city", reinterpreted as a single word;
Since Kostantiniyye official name was used into the 20th century.
The first use of the word "Islambol" on coinage took place in 1703.
Mehmed the Conqueror
After the conquest of Constantinople Mehmed the Conqueror claimed the title "Caesar" of the Roman Empire (Qayser-i Rum), based on the fact that Constantinople had been the seat and capital of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire since its consecration in 330 AD by Emperor Constantine I. The claim was only recognized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Nonetheless, Mehmed II viewed the Ottoman state as a continuation of the Roman Empire for the remainder of his life, seeing himself as "continuing" the Empire rather than "replacing" it. This assertion was eventually abandoned by his successors.
Mehmed continued his conquests in Anatolia with its reunification and in Southeast Europe as far west as Bosnia. At home he made many political and social reforms, encouraged the arts and sciences, and by the end of his reign, his rebuilding program had changed the city into a thriving imperial capital. He is considered a hero in modern-day Turkey and parts of the wider Muslim world. Among other things, Istanbul’s Fatih district, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge and Fatih Mosque are named after him.
Kostantiniyye official name was used into the 20th century
The first use of the word "Islambol" on coinage took place in 1703 were folk-etymological adaptations of Istanbul created after the Ottoman conquest of 1453 to express the city’s new role as the capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. It was first attested shortly after the conquest, and its invention was ascribed by some contemporary writers to Sultan Mehmed II himself. Some Ottoman sources of the 17th century, most notably Evliya Celebi, describe it as the common Turkish name of the time. Between the late 17th and late 18th centuries, it was also in official use. The first use of the word "Islambol" on coinage took place in 1703 (1115 AH) during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III. The term Kostantiniyye still appeared, however, into the 20th century.
Before the Friday prayers, Erdogan recited from the Quran inside the reopened mosque, choosing from both the Surah Al-Fatihah and the Surah Al-Baqarah.
Then Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), went up to the pulpit with a sword and read out the Friday sermon, or khutbah.
“Hagia Sophia is the conquest’s symbol and the entrustment of its Conqueror who endowed it on condition that it remains a mosque until the last day,” Erbas said in the khutbah with reference to the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, who conquered Istanbul.
Top imam reads khutbah holding a sword
Leading the first Friday prayer performed in Hagia Sophia 86 years later, Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey’s top religious authority, read the khutbah [sermon] with a sword in his hand on the pulpit.
The ritual of reading the khutbah with a sword, which is a tradition dating back to the Ottoman era, has different meanings depending on the way the sword is handled and where it is used.
The sword held in the right hand reveals “its intention to use it” and aims to scare the enemy, according to the narratives.
The sword held in the left hand, like in the sermon, aims to give confidence to the allies.
This tradition will continue in every Friday prayer in Hagia Sophia, said Erbas.
The World Council of Churches, a worldwide Christian organisation, warned the decision would sow division.
Unesco said it regretted the move, which further enflamed tensions with neighbouring Greece, home to millions of Orthodox followers.
Why tensions have flared between Turkey and Greece
Erdogan: Turkey’s pugnacious president
But Mr Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right.
"After 86 years, Hagia Sophia will serve as a mosque again, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had indicated in his deed," he said.