ISTANBUL: Turkey’s iconic Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque reopened for worship on Friday for the first time in 86 years.
Ahead of the Friday sermon, the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş used an Ottoman sword to climb up the staircase of the minbar (pulpit) of the historic Hagia Sophia.
Imam Erbaş read the special khutbah, or sermon, titled “Hagia Sophia: Sign of conquest, our trust in Fati̇h (Sultan Mehmet),” before the collective prayer.
When questioned why the sword was used in delivery the sermon, Imam Erbas responded saying that it is a tradition in mosques that are the symbols of conquest.
Two green flags were also hung on the minbar (pulpit) of the mosque as a symbol of conquest.
In his sermon, Erbaş said, “The longing that caused deep pain in the hearts of our people has come to an end.”
Salat and Salam be to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) who gave the good news about the conquest by saying, “One day Constantinople will be conquered. Great is the commander who will conquer it, and great are his soldiers!”
“Today is the day when takbirs (Allahu akbar), prayers, and salavats (salutation upon the prophet of Islam) resonate in the domes of Hagia Sophia, and the adhan (call for prayer) rises from its minarets,” Erbaş stated.
“Today is the day when believers stand up in prayer with tears of joy, bow down in submission and prostrate thankfully. Today is the day of honor and humility,” he added.
Prior to the inaugural prayers, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also recited verses of the Holy Quran.
It was reported that some 350,000 people attended the Jumma (Friday) prayer around the 1,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site.
On July 10, the Turkish State Council annulled its status, saying any use other than as a mosque was “not possible legally”.
The reconversion sparked anger among Christians and tensions between historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece.