Muslims Perform First Friday Prayer At Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Mosque In 86 Years

Hagia Sophia

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan joined thousands of Muslims at Hagia Sophia on Friday for the first prayers there since he declared the monument a mosque once again. Hagia Sophia is a sacred place for Christians and Muslims 1,500 years.

Erdogan and his top ministers knelt on blue carpets at the start of a ceremony. It marks the return of Muslim worship to the ancient monument. They were wearing white facemasks as a precaution against COVID-19.

Earlier, crowds formed at checkpoints around the historic heart of Istanbul where massed police maintained security. Once through the checks, worshippers sat apart on prayer mats in secured areas outside the building in Sultanahmet Square.

“We are ending our 86 years of longing today,” said one man Sait Colak, referring to the nearly nine decades since Hagia Sophia was declared a museum and ceased to be a place of worship. “Thanks to our president and the court decision, today we are going to have our Friday prayers in Hagia Sophia.”

First Friday Prayer At Hagia Sophia

A top Turkish court announced this month it annulled Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum. Turkish President Erdogan immediately turned back into a mosque a building which was a Christian Byzantine cathedral for 900 years before being seized by Ottoman conquerors and serving as a mosque until 1934.

The president was set to attend Friday prayers shortly after 1 pm (1000 GMT) with several hundred invitees for the ceremony in the sixth-century building. A large screen and speakers were set up to broadcast proceedings to the thousands gathered outside.

As crowds grew, leaving little space for social distancing, Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said authorities had stopped people entering the area due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

On Twitter, he called for patience and said the mosque would be open for prayer until Saturday morning.

‘God is greatest’

Here is how people on social media reacting after the first Friday prayer at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Mosque.

On Friday morning, the interior echoed to the sound of Quranic recitations from white-robed clerics, sat on blue carpets freshly laid this week ahead of the prayers.

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