First Juma Prayer Offered At Hagia Sophia After 86 Years

Only 1,000 People Were Allowed Inside The Mosque

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Large crowds have gathered in the city of Istanbul at the Historical Museum of Hagia Sophia has been reopened for Friday’s Juma prayer for the first time since the Turkish government has ruled to convert the site from a museum into a mosque. The Muslim population in the region is excited and was waiting for the opening. This 1,500 year old UNESCO world heritage site was made as a museum in 1934, but when Turkish courts invalidate its status, stating that any other usage of Hagia Sophia other than converting it into a mosque would possibly be an illegal act. Due to this, on Friday for the first time, first Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia in the history of its existence.

Hagia Sophia as a mosque

This decision regarding the conversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque was widely criticized by many political and religious leaders across the world. The Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan quickly responded to the rulings, stating that he would ready the historic site into a complete mosque and ready for offering prayer by 24 July. The first Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia was done successfully, in which Muslim worshippers were seen to be joining inside the mosque around midday. Only 1,000 individuals were allowed into the main halls before passing from a security checkpoint. The rest of the people joining in the prayer laid out their prayer mats outside.

The museum of Hagia Sophia was originally built as an Orthodox Cathedral for Christians and now has been converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire’s conquest nine centuries later. Even though a large portion of the population is very happy regarding the first Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia, not all are happy with this news. The opposition party of Istanbul is calling this move to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque from a cathedral as a political agenda, rather than a religious one.

According to the Greek Prime Minister, the change of status of Hagia Sophia by the Turkish government is evidence of weakness, rather a move of power and force. He also sent his condolences to millions of Greek Orthodox Christians that are sorrowful by hearing this news.

Outside the walls of Hagia Sophia

As the First Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia on 24 July, tens of thousands of women and men were present at the site, waiting for the call of prayer, for which numerous individuals had traveled across Turkey to visit the mosque. As only 1,000 people were allowed inside the premises of Hagia Sophia, the rest of the worshippers took places on the pavement and grass outside the gates. Some of the lucky individuals were able to find shelter under a tree.

Across the entire city, the security was tight to prevent any unwanted incident that could harm the people present or the historic site. Even though a large part of the Turkish society was against this change, the enthusiasm and emotion of the individuals present outside the mosque were palpable. The first Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia after it was converted into a mosque from an orthodox cathedral is the moment for Turkey to strengthen their independence.

On Thursday, the Governor Yerlikaya has advised those individuals who would be attending the first Juma prayer offered at Hagia Sophia to bring a prayer mat, a face mask, understanding and patience with them, that would help prevent further transmission of coronavirus infection in the area. To help certain individuals, healthcare staff would be made available on the site.

Inside the Hagia Sophia, a turquoise colored carpet was laid across the floor for the preparation of prayer. All Christian relics had been completely covered up with drapes or were obscured by lightening.

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