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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Cries of the Seagulls

One of the most exhilarating and inspiring moments of Islamic history, outside the prophetic period and what followed it, is the conquering of the city of Constantinople. This event marks the beginning of the Ottoman expansion into Europe.

It comes also as welcome relief to readers of history, as on the other side of Europe, the Spanish caliphate is flickering like a candle about to go out. So this event occurs as Islam is setting on one part of Europe and dawning on the other side. The Ottoman Sultan Muhammad or Mehmet, as the Turks say, heard the narration about the conqueror Constantinople, "Verily, you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!" Imam Ahmed. (please see )

He was a young man at this point and when he conquered the city he was only twenty one years old! One of the first things he did was to change the Hagia Sofia into a masjid and ordered the call the prayer to be announced. The church was changed into a masjid and this continued for a nearly five hundred years until the Turkish republic changed it into a museum in 1935.

Since then it has been given to non-Muslims and they have removed the carpets, the decorations, most of the calligraphy and everything else. To the Muslims credit, they plastered over the pictures of Jesus (upon him peace) Yahya and other pictures. When they changed it into a masjid, they did not destroy what was previously there. This is a common feature in Islamic history, Muslims would use the best of the people that they came into contact with and used what the people were good at. They did not destory what they came into contact with.

The Byzantine researchers have removed almost everything that made it a masjid. It stands now as a cold building, devoid of life, devoid of a spirit, devoid of a soul. The only thing that remains in the masjid are the amazing wooden boards that have the divine name Allah (mighty and majestic), the name of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the names of the four rightly guided khalifs, Hassan and Hussain (may Allah be pleased with them all) written on them.

The divine name is obscured by elaborate scaffolding that extents from the centre of the prayer area up to the main dome. As they chip through some of the most beautiful calligraphy that I have ever seen, in search of a picture of Mary the mother of Jesus.

In Spain, the masjid of Cordoba was changed into a church at the command of the Christian rulers after the removal of the final khalif in Spain.

I remembered the thoughts of a famous author who saw it and was repulsed by the injustice done by the work of the builders on the masjid. Nothing that the author wrote in his three hundred page book affected me like the paragraph he wrote on this. I knew if I ever went there that maybe I would feel the same repulsion but, at least, I would be prepared for it.

So it would not be a shock, I would have prepared myself. Nothing prepared me for what I saw in Hagia Sofia, every cell of my being was nauseated. One of the party who went with us and told us that it was turned into a museum, I did not believe them. When I saw this with my own eyes I was horrified. I knew that secularism was very deeply rooted into the Turkish experience but there are some lines that cannot be crossed. This was a line that had been crossed.

I knew that Kemal had cancelled so many things but after his death, other political parties came and changed a lot of things back to how they were. The main difference between the Hagia Sofia and the Masjid in Cordoba was the masjid was on land "re-conquered" and there was little we do about it. The Christian leaders had broke the agreement to allow the Muslims worship without hindrance and maintain their places of worship. The Hagia Sofia was given up, here you go, you want it? You can have it.

I could understand if it was a non Muslim country but in a Muslim country, I could not except it.

The following narration gave me much needed solace. Abu Hurayra reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ''Have you heard of a town of which a part is in the sea?'' ''Yes.'' they said. He said, "The last hour shall not occur till 70,000 of the children of Ishaq shall attack it. When they come to it, they (Muslims) will not fight with arms, nor throw arrows. They will only say; There is no god but Allah, Allah is the greatest, and then on of its sides will fall down. They will recite for the second time : there is no god but Allah, Allah is the greatest, and then another of its side will fall down. After that they will say it for the third time: there is no god but Allah and Allah is the greatest, and then it will be opened for them and they will enter and acquire booty. While they will be dividing the booty, a proclaimer will come to them and say, "The Dajjal has come out!" Then they will leave everything and return." (Muslim)

Istanbul is city that has parts divided by waters. In any part of the city you will be close to water and the seagulls come so close, that you can hear them and see them.

I was walking down a city lane (closeby) and I thought that I heard a child cry but looking around, there was no child visible. Then I realised it was not a child it was seagulls, their cries were unlike anything that I heard. I had heard seagulls before but they did not sound like any seagulls that I had heard before. It is something that I will not forget in a hurry. The cries of seagulls...

This is a picture of how the masjid used to be...

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