On July 10, 2020, The Council of State, top administrative court of Turkey, annulled the Hagia Sophia’s museum status and reinstated it into a mosque.
The history of Hagia Sophia
The history of Hagia Sophia (Divine Wisdom) goes way back to 4thcentury when the first church was built by Emperor Constantine 1 in 325. It has undergone destruction and renovation in the past. Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1 (527-565) ordered its construction and it was opened for worship in 537 AD.
It was initially an Orthodox Christian church, then converted to Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1204 for almost 60 years. Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 conquered Constantinople and turned it into a mosque. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey converted it into an interfaith museum. In 1985, it was designated a World Heritage Site. However, an urge to reclaim Hagia Sophia as a mosque was always there among the Muslims of Turkey.
Concerns and Decision
Orthodox Christians of Greece and Russia have expressed their concerns on the decision but Turkey sticks to its decision by saying it’s their internal matter and they are better equipped to deal with the situation. The president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has assured that it’ll remain open for both Muslims and non-Muslims; and the mosaics of Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ will not be altered. The first Friday prayer inside the premises will be held on 24th July, 2020.
The decision to revert back its status to mosque has won hearts of millions of Muslims globally. However, few are skeptical about the judgment and consider it a blow to inter-religious tolerance and dialogue. Erdogan is a staunch Islamist, and is always assertive in his stance regarding persecution of Muslims around the globe. The failed attempt on 15th July, 2016 (coup attempt) was a slap on liberals and victory of public trust in him. He seems to be a visionary leader, who knows how to make a political move, whether it’s for his career or for his countrymen.