ISTANBUL: Call for prayer from loudspeakers is heard for the first time from Hagia Sofia in Istanbul after the stunning edifice was once again turned into a mosque.
Brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the the 15-century-old structure that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the decree revoking its status as a museum.
Following a court ruling, people awaiting outside it chanted “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great!) when the news broke.
A video of an imam calling on the faithful to pray from Hagia Sophia is posted on Twitter and a crowd of Muslims later prayed at the UNESCO cultural site.
First prayers at Hagia Sophia
Erdogan said that the first prayers at famed Sophia will be held on July 24 for Jumma (Friday) prayers after 86 years.
“God willing, we will perform Friday prayers all together on July 24 and reopen Hagia Sophia to worship,” Erdogan said an a televised address to the nation.
“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Turkey‘s highest administrative court issued a ruling Friday that paves the way for the government to convert Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia – a former cathedral-turned-mosque that now serves as a museum – back into a Muslim house of worship.
The Council of State threw its weight behind a petition brought by a religious group and annulled a 1934 cabinet decision that changed the 6th century building into a museum. The ruling allows the government to restore the Hagia Sophia’s previous status as a mosque.
History of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia-Turkey’s most popular tourist site has a long and complicated history.
It began in the year 537 when it was built on the order of Byzantine emperor Justinian I as the great Christian cathedral of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
When Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople) was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1453 it was converted to a mosque and the Friday prayers was performed inside Hagia Sophia by the victorious conqueror.
During the rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1930s, the nearly 1,500-year-old monument was re-opened as a museum in a drive to make Turkey more secular.