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Hagia Sophia reconnects modern Turkey with the legacy of the Ottomans

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There is no doubt that Turkey’s decision to annul the 1934 Council of Ministers edict to convert the Hagia Sophia Mosque into a museum has pleased Muslims around the world. The mosque, it has been confirmed, was the personal property of Sultan Mehmet II, and he decreed that it was to be a religious endowment for which any change is forbidden, including a change of use. Declaring it to be a museum in 1934 was, in other words, illegal.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has adopted the court’s decision and issued an order to open Hagia Sophia for worship and turn its administration over to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. When the call to prayer was duly performed at the mosque, thousands prayed there in celebration. Tickets were neither bought nor necessary; only ritual ablution.

Prior to 1934, the call to prayer had been performed in Hagia Sophia for nearly 500 years, ever since the Ottoman Sultan conquered Constantinople in 1453 and offered to buy the building and land from the Christian authorities. His offer was accepted after he had kept the cathedral open in consideration of the feelings of the congregation and priests. The deed confirming this is still in the archives in Ankara. Only after the purchase was completed did the Sultan add four minarets in the Ottoman style and Arabic calligraphy of the names of Allah and His Prophet, Muhammad, peace be upon him.

READ: The court ruling has overturned a historic injustice; Hagia Sophia was already a mosque

With the defeat of the axis powers in World War One, in which the Ottoman Empire stood alongside Germany, Istanbul was occupied and prayers were banned in Hagia Sophia. It was the founder of the secular Republic of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, who........

© Middle East Monitor