From the last couple of days, there is a heated debate going on social media across the globe regarding the conversion of Aya Sophia Museum into Mosque. The debate revolves around the religious-political and legal implications of this move. It is concerning how the International media and certain segments across Europe and even in some parts of the Muslim world are making this non-issue an issue. It is interesting to see How this particular event is getting more International media coverage than the amount of coverage issues like Annexation of West Bank, Cyber attacks on Iranian nukes, Kashmir curfew, Nile crisis, Libyan Civil war, got collectively. But that is a separate topic but when talking about this kind of Media “framing” and “agenda-setting” let us not forget the theory of clash of civilization. This issue itself is a prime example of how a segment within the Muslim world, having an identity crisis tackled this event. How the Secular and Liberal world views have influenced their approach.
Many such so-called advocates of “Freedom” “Liberty” and “Justice” became Muftis soon after this incident and now are giving ruling based on the Liberal World view. Without knowing the fact that Islam has its own values, beliefs, principles. Islam has its code of Life which also covers dealing with Inter-Faith Harmony and subjects of Mutual existence. A Code of life which emphasizes a different approach as compared to Liberalism, Communism, etc. This is the reason why such people without knowing the historical background, legal and Islam jurisprudence, are implying Islamic ruling of “to safeguard Ahl ul Kitab, and their properties,” (once a dhimma agreement has been reached) to this particular case.
These people are very poor in terms of Knowledge when it comes to history, political science, and the Usool e fiqh. This is general Hukam but when talking about Shariah law or deriving any ruling you do not just consider one aspect. These Pseudo liberal Muftis must restrain from passing any ruling on such sensitive issues. Having said that we will not go into details of Islamic ruling on Conversion as from Conversion of Kabah to destruction of “Dhu’l-Khalsah” ( Ka’bat al-Yamaaniyyah) and list of activities which were carried out on the order of Prophet P.B.U.H after the conquest of Makkah including sending Khaalid ibn al-Waleed (may Allah be pleased with him) on a campaign to destroy al-‘Uzza all of the campaigns which were based on political grounds. The point is that Islam is not strict but is very flexible so do its Laws which not only address a case but also keep in mind the long term social, cultural, military, and political implications of every judgment. You cannot judge without considering all those.
Is it a Religious or a Political issue?
Media is presenting it as a religious issue rather than a political one. When you investigate the history of Aya Sofia. It was not just a religious center as presented by many -especially by those who are being influenced by the Western Historians. In 1204 during the fourth crusaders, it was converted into Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The Hagia Sophia was severely damaged during this period. Moreover Historically Greek Orthodox was the official religion of the Byzantines, that is why it was considered as a religious center but it was the place where emperors were crowned which again backs the argument that it was the political center rather than just a religious center. The decision of converting the Church into Mosque by Sultan Mehmet II had political and cultural implications for decades to come. Sultan Mohammad Fateh remunerated for the property with his own money and the ownership was given to Muslims as a permanent endowment. The title is recorded and saved in Turkish museums.
The Charter is as follows:
“All the things I have explained and designated here have been set down in written form in the foundation charter in the manner appointed; the conditions may not be altered; the laws may not be amended; they may not be diverted from their original purpose; the appointed rules and principles may not be diminished; interference of any sort in the foundation is interdicted, like Allah’s other interdictions May the curse of Allah, the angels and all human beings be upon anyone who changes even one of the conditions governing this foundation!”
Fatih Sultan Mehmed || Hagia Sophia Foundation Charter
Fatih Sultan Mehmed before the start of war offered them deal ‘to surrender and remain in possession of their properties and live in peace’ but they refused. After the Conquest Sultan bought up the Church from Greek Orthodox Church (Emperor Property) converted it into Masjid, handed it over to Muslims Ummah. But after 450 years a Leader comes in and against the will changes its status but now when the owners (The Muslims and Turks) are asking for ownership this is against the spirit of Inter-faith Harmony?
The start of Crisis
What if I tell you the real crisis started when in 2017 US congress tried to interfere in this because of the “Free Agia Sophia Council” organization. The organization was lobbying for the converting Hagia Sophia into an Orthodox church. But it was all good with Inter-Faith Harmony and National Sovereignty? This new campaign by Islamophobes of taking the world to Pre-Islamic Era be it in India or the rest of the world is irrational. This Pre-Islam idea means you must also back off from the contributions of Islamic civilization to the world of art, science, Culture etc. Starting from Heritage of Taj Mahal, India to the culture of coffee houses during the Ottoman empire- A never-ending list.
Legal case of Aya Sophia and its Implications
The court judgment clearly states that “properties of charitable foundations cannot be transferred under any circumstances.” Some apologetic Muslims are now worried about its implications for the rest of Muslim heritage in Europe and Elsewhere. For such people, Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Babri Masjid in India, and many other historical sites that are running under Auqaf will be ruled under the same law. This is not an illegal status change, but this move has reverted the illegal conversion into Museum which was against both civil and Islamic Law.
So, this is a flawed argument that this will open the gates of hate and is going to have consequences as if the whole world were waiting for that to happen?
Islamophobia, hypocrisy, and Europe
Islamophobia is deep-rooted in different societies across the globe. So, let us not fall for this trap which keeps us away from our heritage. Moreover, when it comes to Safeguarding such places Let us not forget about what is happened in Europe to Muslims and Muslim heritage.
– Fethiye Mosque in Athens now an expo hall
– Tzisdaraki Mosque in Athens now a ceramics museum
– Hamza Bey Mosque in Thessaloniki now a movie theater
– Alaca Imaret Mosque in Thessaloniki now a museum
– Yeni Mosque in Thessaloniki minarets destroyed and now an expo hall
Other parts of the world
– Babari Masjid, Indian now will be converted into a Temple.
– Jerusalem status, the end of the two-state solution.
World Heritage and Religion
The following are few examples of how different Places across the globe despite being World heritage serve as an active place of Worship. This is not something new, but I guess because it is about Muslims, so it is a world crisis now.
– Notre-Dame de Paris, France: Active Church and UNESCO World Heritage
– St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican: Active Church and UNESCO World Heritage
– Taj Mahal, India: Active mosque and UNESCO World Heritage
– Former Masjid (Mosque) now called “Cathedral of Cordoba”, Spain: Active Church and UNESCO World Heritage.
Colonization of Turkey and the Muslim World
This is not part of the Islamization of Turkey but is part of the restoration of Turkish Pride which is a legacy of the Ottoman Empire. Even we must now take on this colonized Mindset, that does not just include the Legal or bureaucratic system in the Muslim world still being governed under British law but also includes this Gora Angraiz Superiority complex. The Complex of considering the Western civilization superior to all other civilizations including Islamic and Chinese civilization. Despite the ban on Niqab, ban on the building of Minerals on Mosques, conversion of Mosques into Museums they still are champions of Freedom and liberty. But a single incident anywhere in the Muslim world makes the whole Muslim community as Intolerant, Reggresive, and Extremist. Never hear about terms Like Christain Terrorists even though Knight templars attacked Mosque in NewZealand. Never heard about Buddhist Terrorism despite UN-recognized Ethnic cleansing being carried out by Buddhists in Burma, never hear about terms like Hindu or Jewish Terrorism why we only have terms like Muslims and Islamic Terrorism? The answer is in the “Clash of Civilizations”.
Side Note: Many Muslims Scholars agree that Sultan Mehmed || (The conqueror of Constantinople) was the blessed Ameer who fulfilled the Prophecy of Conquest of Constantinople.
The Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said, ‘Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will her leader be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!’ [Musnad Ahmad, Al-Hakim, al Jami’ al Saghir]
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Author: Talha Ahmad (Editor in Chief)
About Author: Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist. He is an independent Geo-Political Analyst, commentator, and keen observer of International relations. Talha Ahmad opinions have been featured in different News-websites like Daily times, Pakistan Today, Global Village Space, Morning Mail. He can be reached on twitter @talhahamad967.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.