Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Making evaluations on re-opening Hagia Sophia for worship, the President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş said, “One of the most important things which make us happy is that all of our citizens have welcomed the decision with great excitement and been very happy about it.”
The President of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş made evaluations on re-opening Hagia Sophia Mosque for worship.
Attending the live broadcast of A Haber television channel, the President of Religious Affairs Erbaş expressed his satisfaction with this decision and said that Hagia Sophia Mosque has turned back to its original status with the decision of the Council of State and the Presidential decree.
Stating that the Hagia Sophia Mosque is the biggest symbol of the conquest of İstanbul, the President of Religious Affairs Erbaş said, ”We are going to be able to establish prayer at every part of the Hagia Sophia starting from 24 of July, Friday. One of the most important things which make us happy is that all of our citizens have welcomed the decision with great excitement and been very happy about it. I suppose that there is no other subject about which the majority of our nation has such big expectation.”
Upon a question, President Erbaş talked about the frescoes and icons within the Hagia Sophia Mosque,
“There is no problem with them. When we start to establish prayer as of 24th of July, we are going to, somehow, cover with curtain or blacken those pictures with light by utilizing technological devices and remove the curtain or deactivate the light reflected after the prayers, in this way, the mosque is going to be at service of the visitors at the same time. Our High Board of Religious Affairs found this practice appropriate, so it will be perfectly fine. If Allah permits, we are going to figure this point out by utilizing a nice system."
President Erbaş noted that the name of the mosque is not going to be changed but is going to stay as ‘’the Great Hagia Sophia Mosque’’ which is its original name.
Drawing attention to the fact that people who are going to attend the Friday prayer in 24th of July should mind the rules which require wearing mask and paying attention to social distance due to Covid-19, President Erbaş said, "As of tomorrow, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Foundations, and the Presidency of Religious Affairs are going to start team work on the precautions that should be taken. If Allah permits, there will take place a nice opening at Hagia Sophia Mosque and we are going to start our prayers as the Friday prayer on that day."
President Erbaş notified that the religious officials who are going to be commissioned at the Hagia Sophia Mosque have been determined and added, "We have determined the hodjas who are going to be commissioned at the mosque. If Allah permits, 2 imams and 4 muezzins are going to be also appointed in the following days. We have chosen these imams because they can recite the Holy Qur’an beautifully, have beautiful voices, and have a good level of religious knowledge. Our muezzins also have pleasant voices; we are going to commission the muezzins who have left nice impact on the people when they recite adhan in İstanbul."
"We acted independently while making the decision about Hagia Sophia"
Another question was about the fact that the day of re-opening Hagia Sophia for worship because 24th of July is also going to be the 97th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne, President Erbaş answered the question of whether this coincidence is an important step for Turkey’s independence or not,
“We do not need such thing. We have protected our independence for centuries all the time. Our nation is in a perfect harmony with the word independence… We have always acted independently while making decision about the status of Hagia Sophia and we are going to act independently in the future. Everyone should respect the decision which we have made with our free will. If Allah permits, of course, the fact that the re-opening is going to be done in 24th of July has a meaning. It is going to strengthen the independence of our nation for sure. If Allah permits, it is going to be a blessed action for everyone."
"All parts of the mosque is going to be available for use easily"
President Erbaş mentioned the adjustments to be made for visit of the Hagia Sophia Mosque by foreign tourists and made the following evaluation, "There is not going to be a problem about that. We all know that all of our historical mosques such as Sultan Ahmet, Suleymaniye, and Fatih are visited by hundreds of thousands tourists. What is important there is to make planning in a way that the awe and peace of the ones who establish prayer are not harmed. And this can be ensured very easily. Tourists may visit the mosque unless they walk in the parts divided for prayer or in front of those who establish prayer. I believe that there will be no problem about this."
Uttering that the arrangements for preparing Hagia Sophia Mosque are going to be determined by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Foundations, and the Presidency of Religious Affairs, President Erbaş said, “We are going to make the final decision in the following days but I would like to express clearly that all parts of Hagia Sophia are going to be easily available for both worship and visit.”
It was asked if there is any plan for carrying some movable symbols from Hagia Sophia to a museum, President Erbaş answered this question as follows, "Of course the ones which should stay in the mosque are going to be kept in the mosque but, for sure, those which do not necessarily need to stay at mosque are going to be exhibited somewhere else and in this way visitors can examine them in suitable environments.”
"Re-opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is a matter of our independence"
Mentioning the explanations on re-opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque which took place at foreign media organs, President Erbaş continued his words,
"We are an independent country. The re-opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque is a matter of our independence, it falls within the scope of our internal affairs. Therefore, we respect the discourses from various countries about this matter but they are not binding for us. We are going to exert our best effort for utilizing Hagia Sophia in the most beautiful way and for the goodness of humanity. After some time, I believe they are going to give up on these reactions. That is to say, Hagia Sophia is the heritage of humanity, it will not lose this quality just because it is going to be turned into a mosque. Today Sultan Ahmet and Suleymaniye mosques also have the same characteristics. Therefore, there is no difference between them.”