ISTANBUL – A Muslim cleric has for the first time in 85-years recited the Holy Qur’an in public inside the Hagia Sophia.
A verse from the Holy Qur’an was recited late Friday at a ceremony in the Hagia Sophia to mark the opening of a new exhibition “Love of the Prophet.”
It was read by Ali Tel, imam at the Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque in Ankara, the official Anatolia news agency said.
A church for over 1,000 years and a mosque for 500 more, Hagia Sophia is the most spectacular building in Istanbul. It was turned into a mosque after Constantinople was taken by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453.
In the 20th Century, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum accessible to all by the secular founders of modern Turkey.
The ceremony was attended by top Turkish officials including the head of the country’s religious affairs agency Diyanet, Mehmet Gormez.
The exhibition inside the Hagia Sophia is a show of calligraphic work in devotion to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and runs until May 8.
On several occasions in recent years, tens of thousands of Turkish Muslims gathered to pray outside Hagia Sofia, urging Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to reopen the museum to serve as a Muslim house of worship.
But the Turkish government has assured on several occasions its rejection of this request, as any pledge to reopen Hagia Sofia as a mosque was threatening criticism from nationalist voters. Approximately 99 percent of Turkey’s population is Muslim, the majority of whom are Sunni Muslims.
Turkey has thousands of mosques, the most famous of which is Blue Mosque, which is marked with its blue tile work ornamenting its interior walls.