Hagia Sophia, the Grand Mosque, reopened for Muslim worship after an 86-year hiatus with Friday prayers and a magnificent congregation. The squares filled by people from Turkey and all over the world with great awe and excitement witnessed a historic day. It was not Hagia Sophia that was liberated after 86 years of enslavement but this congregation that was forbidden from uniting with it. Thus, Hagia Sophia, to which that congregation ran to embrace with great longing, seemed, in all its solemnity, calmness, and witness, to greet with the same longing those who came.
How many generations does 86 years equate to?It is not a very long time in human history; it is considered a very short period of time for Hagia Sophia’s age as well. However, for the last century, it has been the time of a suffering on the account of this nation, which every day felt as long as a century and a suffering encountered by the whole Islamic world. It is as though the entire weight of this long suffering was burdened on Hagia Sophia’s old but sturdy chest. But Hagia Sophia carried this burden with patience and resistance. For years, it tolerated the indifference, the disrespect of those who do not know it, tourists who disregarded its status as a place of worship and toured it like it was dead, like an object of the past.
Perhaps this was not the case for every visitor, but for most travelers, Hagia Sophia was a dead place of worship – a place of worship whose function was locked down, a place of worship that was buried alive into history. Yet, Hagia Sophia was built so people could worship God and remember God inside it. The perfection and freedom of its existence could be possible when it united with its congregation, and surely the fact that it was buried alive could not fit into any history.
There is a lot Turkey and Muslims have to say to the world through the Hagia Sophia decision, but some of that which needs to be said will first be addressed to the so-called Muslim world.
All Muslims worldwide received the reopening of Hagia Sophia to Muslim worship with great excitement, because the know very well what this step signifies. If Hagia Sophia is opened for worship to God, then this means the way to Jerusalem and Masjid Al Aqsa’s freedom is also opening. This step means the end of the interregnum for Muslims worldwide. The reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship, the reinstatement of its status as a mosque not only reignites the fire of hope for Muslims but all those who are oppressed, victimized, suffering, and exploited.
In this state, Hagia Sophia sounds the call to prayer not only for non-Muslims but primarily to all Muslims to pull themselves together, wake up and stand for prayer.
Unfortunately, before saying anything to the world, today, Muslims themselves are in an unwary state. Muslims' ears and hearts are not receptive enough to Islam’s cause or call, which emerged as a mercy to the worlds. Therefore, the message the Islamic world has to give to the world through Hagia Sophia first needs to be comprehended, embraced and put into practice by Muslims themselves, in other words, those who are going to carry the message.
Yet, the Islamic world is currently very far from the spirit of Hagia Sophia. In spite of Islam, which upholds human rights above all other rights, the majority of human rights violations are seen in Islamic countries. They have nothing left from the kindness, grace and sensitivity of a prophet who says, “He who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry is not a true believer.” The food leftover from the tables of the administrators and rich of certain Islamic countries that possess the world’s wealth with the natural resources bestowed to them by God and thrown into the trash are enough to feed the starving people on a whole continent. Yet they neither stop their extravagance nor do they display any sensitivity towards the starving people of the world.
The freedom of religion, faith, ideology, and expression, which has become symbolized in Hagia Sophia’s presence, signifies nothing to leading Islamic countries. Today, Islamic scholars, the intelligentsia are arbitrarily held in dungeons in leading Islamic countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. They face extrajudicial killings or alternatively, their lives are destroyed through show trials. Human life has no value.
The current prevailing understanding is that of the age of ignorance, with those who have the power looting and seizing others’ properties, authorities, and dignity. The political equivalent of this pro-looter understanding today is putschism. The coups staged against the Arab peoples, who took action to reach spring in pursuit of their freedoms, honor, and livelihood, now comprise the administrative vision in a significant number of Islamic countries.
Can the call to prayer echoing from the minarets of Hagia Sophia be heard through this vision?
Thus, while the entire Muslim world comprehends the reopening of Hagia Sophia Mosque for prayers withal their heart, mind and soul, a strange statement came from Egypt’s Mufti Shawqi Allam: “Churches and mosques must be preserved around the world, as has been the case during the entirety of Egypt's history. Hagia Sophia’s conversion to a mosque is impermissible.”
The sensitivity displayed by a country that recently turned thousands of living people into corpses regarding the conversion of churches into mosques is very touching.
In fact, all of the segments that caused complete chaos in the Islamic world with their coups and plots displayed this brazen-faced attitude with respect to this matter. Of course, there is no use stating the fact that Hagia Sophia was not converted into a mosque from a church today, but rather reverted into a mosque from a museum, or that Hagia Sophia was taken over by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror 567 years ago as the personal property of the Byzantine king, and that it was in a state of ruins, and Sultan Mehmet had it repaired, having it almost rebuilt from scratch.
Our message to them and the entire Muslim world is that they should listen to the call to prayer rising from Hagia Sophia and not ignore the sound that will revive them.
There is no sense in returning to Jahiliyyah after believing, after the conquest of Mecca, and that’s where you will find the message of Hagia Sophia as well.