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Hagia Sophia will become a mosque again, it is both Turkey’s and an Islamic right

18 27 149

Turkey’s top administrative court, the Council of State is likely to announce today the restoration of the Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque reversing an 86-year-old decree by the Council of Ministers under the presidency of the republic’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Once the largest and most important cathedral in the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was initially an Orthodox Christian church for almost a thousand years on the orders of Byzantine emperor Justinian in today’s Istanbul, former Constantinople, named after the emperor Constantine who commissioned the original structure. The fall of Constantinople to Islam was foretold by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and successive Muslim armies had sought to fulfil this prophecy, starting with the Umayyad caliphate as early as the 7th century. As part of its turbulent history, the Hagia Sophia was even converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral for almost 60 years during the Crusader occupation in 1204 during the 4th Crusade.

However, the city’s capture would be overseen by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453, the Hagia Sophia was converted into an imperial mosque in the empire’s new capital, where it functioned as such for some 500 years before the demise of the caliphate in 1924 in the aftermath of the First World War.

In line with Ataturk’s drive for secularisation in the nascent Turkish republic and as a goodwill gesture to the Orthodox Christian world, the church was made into a museum. However, although Turkey is technically a secular state, it is also an overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country, one that is also highly nationalistic too. It is therefore unsurprising that there have been campaigns for decades to restore the ancient building to a mosque. There are also Islamic jurisprudential rulings to consider on the permissibility in altering the status of a mosque, or masjid.

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© Middle East Monitor