Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on late Friday hailed the reopening of Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque after 86 years, following a Turkish court ruling.
While the ruling has created what is being dubbed as a Muslim-Christian split by analysts, it is clear that the Muslim world is ecstatic over the reconversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque after it was converted into a museum by the Kemalist regime of Turkey.
Prime Minister Imran Khan hails move by Turkey
“Felicitations to the Republic of Turkey, and H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on this historic day after the first prayers in 86 years were held at Hagia Sophia [Grand] Mosque,” Khan said on Twitter.
Apart from the prime minister, several other Pakistani politicians and lawmakers, including the head of mainstream religious party Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Sirajul Haq, and Chief Minister of the most populous Punjab province Usman Buzdar also congratulated the Turkish government over the landmark move.
Felicitations to the Republic of Turkey and H.E President @RTErdogan on this historic day after the first prayers in 86 years were held at the Hagia Sophia Mosque. #AyasofyaCamii pic.twitter.com/8wH4U1RZuM
— Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) July 24, 2020
The first Friday prayers held in Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque on Friday marked the first acts of worship there in 86 years.
Read more: Muslim world hails Hagia Sophia conversion
Thousands of people took part in the traditional Friday prayers both inside and outside the historic mosque in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest metropolis.
Before the Friday prayers, Erdogan recited from the Quran inside the reopened mosque, choosing from both the Surah Al-Fatihah and the Surah Al-Baqarah.
Pakistan backs Turkey over conversion of Hagia Sophia
A local legislator in Pakistan welcomed earlier a recent decision by Turkey to reconvert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia into a mosque after serving decades as a museum.
“We hail President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his courageous decision on the status of Hagia Sophia Mosque. It is not only in accordance with the wishes of the people of Turkey but the entire Muslim world,” said Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the speaker of the state assembly of Pakistan’s largest Punjab province.
Elahi, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-I-Azam) which is a coalition partner of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, underlined in a statement that the Hagia Sophia Mosque is a part of the common cultural legacy of the entire Muslim world, according to local broadcaster ARY News.
On Friday, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 cabinet decree that had turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum.
The court move paved the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years.
TV channels in Pakistan, during the Friday prayer in Hagia Sophia.
— Selami Haktan (Eng) (@slmhktn_eng) July 24, 2020
The court ruled that the architectural gem was owned by a foundation established by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and presented to the community as a mosque — a status that cannot be legally changed.
The Hagia Sophia was used as a church for centuries under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. It was turned into a mosque following the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. But in 1935, a cabinet decision had converted Hagia Sophia into a museum.
Why has Hagia Sophia been reconverted into a mosque?
The iconic monument served as a church for 916 years until the conquest of Istanbul, and a mosque from 1453 to 1934 – nearly 500 years – and most recently as a museum for 86 years.
One of the most visited historic buildings in Turkey by domestic and international tourists, Hagia Sophia was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985, during its time as a museum.
On July 10, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after an 86-year hiatus.
In the new era for Hagia Sophia, Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate will oversee religious services at the mosque, while the Culture and Tourism Ministry will supervise restoration and conservation work.
The architectural treasure will also be open to both domestic and foreign tourists free of charge.
GVS News Desk with additional input by other sources