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July 29, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8870

Turkey's Religious Affairs Minister Bears Sword, Praises Turkish Conquerors In Sermon In Hagia Sophia Mosque

July 29, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8870

In a July 10, 2020 decree, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan converted the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque and placed it under the authority of the country's Ministry of Religious Affairs.[1]On July 24, Friday prayers were held for the first time in 86 years in the Hagia Sophia Mosque's main space. Before the prayers were performed, President Erdoğan recited verses from the Quran.[2] Diyanet minister Ali Erbaş went to the minbar ("pulpit") bearing a sword and gave a sermon that, among other things, praised several Turkish conquerors, including Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who conquered Istanbul in 1453, and Sultan Alparslan, who won the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, which opened Asia Minor to Turkish settlement.[3]


Diyanet minister Ali Erbaş holding a sword, in the Ottoman tradition, as he gives the sermon in the Hagia Sophia.

Regarding the sword, he later told journalists: "This is a tradition in mosques that are a symbol of conquest. For 481 years without interruption, [imams] went with a sword [to the minbar]. Inshallah, we will continue this tradition from now on."[4] The period from the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 to the conversion of the Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum in 1934 lasted 481 years.

An implied condemnation in the sermon of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, secular founder of the Republic of Turkey, has provoked strong reactions from the country's secularists. Meral Akşener, leader of a smaller opposition party, the İYİ party, said: "In history there has never been someone who was an enemy to Atatürk and a friend of the Turks. Shame on you."[5] Aytun Çıray, who is deputy party leader for the İYİ party, has filed a criminal complaint against Erbaş.[6] The Bar Associations Union of Turkey called on Erbaş to resign, saying: "History will not forgive those who attack Atatürk and the republic from their seats in which they sit due to the republic."[7] Opposition CHP parliamentary group leader Özgür Özel said: "Ali Erbaş, I swear that you will pay the price for sitting in that chair and reading out a damnation of Atatürk."[8] The Atatürk Thought Association announced it was suing Erbaş.[9]

Following are excerpts from the sermon:

"Greetings To Sultan Alparslan... Greetings To Mehmed The Conqueror"

Diyanet Minister Ali Erbaş said in his sermon: "Today is the day that once again the sounds of 'Allah is the Greatest,' 'There is no god but Allah,' and blessings on the prophet echo in the domes of the Hagia Sophia, and the calls to prayer rise up from its minarets."

Citing a hadith about Constantinople, now Istanbul, he said: "Blessings and peace be on Muhammad, who, by saying: 'Constantinople will definitely be conquered. How great is the commander who conquers it and how great is that soldier!' gave the good news of the conquest." He also prayed for blessings on Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, a companion of Muhammad who died during the first Arab siege of Constantinople, which lasted from 674 to 678.

Marking the occasion by praising Turkish conquerors, Erbaş said: "Greetings to Sultan Alparslan, who, with the belief that conquest is not molestation but restoration, not destruction but reconstruction, opened the doors of Anatolia to our nation, and to the martyrs and veterans who made this soil into our homeland and to all those who knead our land with faith. Greetings to Akshamsaddin, the physician of knowledge and wisdom who embroidered the love of conquest in Sultan Mehmed's heart, and who, on Friday, June 1, 1453, led the first Friday prayer in the Hagia Sophia." Akshamsaddin, as well as being an Ottoman religious scholar, was tutor and advisor to Sultan Mehmed II, who led the Ottoman army that conquered Istanbul in 1453.

Erbaş continued: "Greetings to Mehmed the Conqueror, whose dwelling place is paradise, that young and discerning sultan who was bound from his heart to the verse 'if you have made a decision then trust in Allah; verily He loves those who trust Him,' to his brilliance in history, literature, science, and art, who produced the most advanced technology of the age, who made ships move across land, who with Allah's blessing and grace conquered Istanbul and then did not let any harm come to even a single stone in this great city."


President Erdoğan reciting verses from the Quran.

"The One Who Transgresses It Will Be Damned"

Erbaş greeted 16th-century Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, saying: "Greetings to Mimar Sinan, the master of architects, the great artist who decorated the Hagia Sophia with minarets and who made fortifications allowing it to stand for centuries."

In a statement that has provoked strong opposition among secularists in Turkey, Erbaş said: "Sultan Mehmed The Conqueror made into a vakıf [i.e., endowment] this magnificent temple, which was the apple of his eye, providing that it be a mosque until the Day of Judgment, and entrusted it to the believers. In our religion, property that is vakıf is untouchable, and will burn those who touch it. The requirement of the one who made it an endowment is irrevocable, and the one who transgresses it will be damned. For that reason, from that day to this one, the Hagia Sophia has been a sacred place not only of our country but, at the same time, of the ummah of Muhammad." In 1934, the government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk passed a law converting the Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum.

Erbaş said: "The doors of our Hagia Sophia mosque will, just like the Süleymaniye, Selimiye, Sultanahmet, and the other mosques, be open to all of Allah's slaves, without discrimination."

 

[1] Resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2020/07/20200710M1-1.pdf, July 10, 2020.

[2] Youtube.com/watch?v=3_7TlDgvn8Q, July 24, 2020.

[3] Diyanet.gov.tr/tr-TR/Kurumsal/Detay/29715/diyanet-isleri-baskani-erbas-yeniden-ibadete-acilan-ayasofya-i-kebir-cami-i-serifinde-ilk-hutbeyi-irad-etti, July 24, 2020.

[4] Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/son-dakika-haberleri-ayasofyada-tarihi-gun-diyanet-isleri-baskanindan-kilic-gelenegiyle-cuma-

hutbesi-41571990, July 24, 2020.

[5] Sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/iyi-parti-genel-baskani-meral-aksener-grup-toplantisinda-41-5956448, July 28, 2020.

[6] Sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/iyi-partili-ciray-diyanet-isleri-baskani-erbas-hakkinda-suc-bulundu-5954980, July 27, 2020.

[7] Sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/turkiye-barolar-birligi-diyanet-isleri-baskani-erbasi-istifaya-davet-etti-5953876, July 26, 2020.

[8] Sozcu.com.tr/2020/gundem/ali-erbasin-sozlerine-siyasilerden-tepkiler-gelmeye-devam-ediyor-5952081, July 25, 2020.

[9] Yenicaggazetesi.com.tr/ataturkcu-dusunce-dernegi-acikladi-ali-erbasa-dava-aciyorlar-291459h.htm, July 25, 2020.

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