Significant Facts About Hagia Sophia Mosque In Turkey
The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, has been the site of a major controversy recently. It was reconverted into a Sunni mosque by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently. Previously, Turkey’s first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had taken away its status as a mosque in 1931 and converted it into a museum in 1934.
Historically, Hagia Sophia has been an important site of major religious, political and artistic events. It was built in the sixth century as a Byzantine Church and later became a Catholic Church in the 13th century. It was then turned into a mosque by the Muslim conqueror of Istanbul (then Constantinople), Mehmed II, in 1453.
There is an ongoing heated debate about the merits of restoration of Hagia Sophia’s status as a mosque, after nearly a century of its existence as a museum. Turkish people as well as the global community are reacting strongly to this change. Whereas the Turkish president firmly maintains that it is an internal matter, the global community feels that this conversion is a violation of the historic site’s cosmopolitan relevance. This is all the more relevant as Hagia Sophia is also deemed to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The building has magnificent architecture and was built by an Ottoman architect called Mimar Sinan. The architect made this building unique by adding minarets, thereby ensuring its status as a monument symbolic to both Christianity and Sunni Islam. The foundations of the building are very strong, making it survive numerous earthquakes. The building presents a square view and, for the most part, three aisles split by columns are seen hung over galleries.
Political and religious debates have arisen all this time to focus upon who actually owns the Hagia Sophia Mosque. The Turkish president issued presidential orders for its conversion in July 2020. Its conversion into a mosque holds controversial debate as to whether Hagia Sophia really belongs to Turkey or the whole world since it labeled as a world heritage site. It also stays a controversial point as to whether the Turkish government has a right to mess up with its legacy of being a museum in the past.
Hagia Sophia is labeled as a symbol of a modern Turkish nation where Turkish flags and symbols of Sunni Islam are interconnected. This conversion to a mosque is indeed full of contentions for a multi-religious and multi-ideological society of Turkey. Christians as well as those of secular political leanings (regardless of their religion) largely disapprove of this decision, whereas a large number of Muslims are embracing the change. Yet, for a society with such fragile religious stability as Turkey’s, it will be ill-advised to continue experimenting with this site. A reconversion back into a museum may well prove to be an even bigger disaster than the one currently averted.