Turkey’s President Erdogan formally announced the conversion of museum into a Hagia Sophia mosque on Friday. The high court called the decision of 1934 an unlawful decision. Turkey’s scholar Nicholas Danforth said that:
“ Its conversion into mosque is an all too appropriate symbol for the rise of right wing nationalism and religious chauvinism around the world today”.
Historical Background of Hagia Sophia
In first half of 4th century, the Constantias II inaugurated Constantine’s Church on the location of Pagan temple, Magna Ecclesia in Latin. Which burnt down in 404 during riots.
Theodosius II ordered to renovate it in 405, which was according to the standard architectural structure of Byzantine period. And it was again destroyed in Nik revolt.
In 6th century, Justinian suppressed riots and ordered its rebuilding. He hired Anthesium (a mathematician and physicist) and Elder Isidore (a professor of geometry and mechanics). These were known as “Mechanikoi” which means masters of science and mechanics. They created one of the most astonishing monuments. It was inaugurated in 537. During the period of 6th century to 14th century, several earthquakes damaged Hagia Sophia badly.
Muhammad prophesied that ‘the first Muslim to pray in Hagia Sophia would go to paradise due to which this became the ambition of Muslim leaders to get Hagia Sophia. In 1453, Mehmet II the Sultan of Ottoman Empire conquered it. Later in 1934, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk order the transformation of this mosque into a museum, which was opened in 1935 again.
Facts About Hagia Sophia
Following are some facts:
- In Greek language, Sophia means wisdom and If we convert Hagia Sophia into English language it means “shrine of the Holy God”.
- Only the dome of Patheon in Rome is bigger than the dome of Hagia Sophia in the world.
- In Istanbul, the Blue Mosque and the Sultan Ahmad Mosque are viewed as an inspiration of Hagia Sophia.
- Hagia Sophia has both the Islamic and the Christian features.
- Inside the museum, 40 windows are made for worshipers to sit.
- It is visible from far distance because of its huge infrastructure.
- Several earthquakes damaged it a lot. Renovations are going but this needs more finance and care.
On this matter, Turkish president face several backlashes from international community on one hand and on the other hand he gain popularity among Muslim nations. The World Council of Churches who has 350 member churches, wrote down a letter to President Erdogan, a chunk from a letter is: “By deciding to convert Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reserved that positive sign of Turkey’s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division. President Erdogan responded that: “ Like all mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims”. Further he said that: “Turkey had 435 churches and synagogues open for worship while few buildings our ancestors built in Eastern Europe and Balkans stand today”.
UNESCO said that World committee would review the status of Hagia Sophia. And revocation of its status will cause serious effects on the value of this museum which is earning a wealthy profit by visitors.
He commended the opposition by saying that it is a whole national and sovereign matter of his country. On the other hand Greece, France, USA, Russia, Cyprus, Pope Francis and EU all recorded their statements against this decision of converting museum into a mosque. While Hamas and Northern Cyprus supported the idea and welcomed the decision.
There also exists a same case, by the end of 20th century the religious riots occur in India which causes a demolition of 16th century mosque. Some Hindus believed that was built on the base of temple and it’s their right to revoke a status of temple instead of mosque, which sometimes weaponized by Hindu Nationalist rulers.
Now, the states in the world are becoming more sovereign and nationalist in the perspective of realism, where they want to practice their own decisions which are beneficial for their national interests, same as the decision of Erdogan. On the other hand liberals have a view that, for making a world better place it is a need of time to abolish the differences and come to the point of mutual interests, which are beneficial for whole of humanity rather hurting feelings of any sector or group in a state.
In this respect, different solutions or views are available all over the globe. People have a opinion that it should not be convert into mosque or a church rather it should maintained the status of museum a neutral status. While some of people have a view that its alright to act freely in your own sovereign state and it is the best decision to revoke the status of mosque and also open the mosque for all kind of persons, Muslims or non- Muslims pilgrims those can visit the place both as a museum and a mosque. Whether people accept it or not, but this is a set pattern of states and system that who has the power to amend the statuses, will amend and other have to accept it.