Source: The Guardian
By Bethan McKernan in Istanbul
Turkish president recites Qur’an at monument as Greece declares day of mourning
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has led worshippers in the first prayers in Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia since his controversial declaration that the monument, which over the centuries has served as a cathedral, mosque and museum, would be turned back into a Muslim house of worship.
The Turkish leader and an entourage of senior ministers arrived for the service in the heart of Istanbul’s historic district on Friday afternoon, kneeling on new turquoise carpets while sail-like curtains covered the original Byzantine mosaics of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Erdoğan began the service with a recital from the Qur’an before the head of Turkey’s religious authority, Ali Erbas, continued the formal prayers for hundreds of specially invited attendees and the call to prayer rang out from the building’s minarets.
“This is Hagia Sophia breaking away from its chains of captivity. It was the greatest dream of our youth,” Erdoğan said before the reopening. “It was the yearning of our people and it has been accomplished.”
Outside, in Sultanahmet Square, about 350,000 people joined the president in worship. Many had arrived on buses from all over the country the night before, camping on the square overnight. Hundreds of excited people pushed past police crowd control lines on Friday morning, eager to be a part of the historic occasion.
Suggested reading and viewing by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The following is a message for both the Muslims and the Christians all 3.8 billion of them, high and low and including myself:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)