Thousands of people gathered today around the Hagia Sophia Mosque to attend the first Friday Prayer in 86 years following the reconversion of the Istanbul landmark into a mosque earlier this month.
A Turkish court ruled that Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia will be converted from a world-famous museum back into a mosque. The change has long been sought after by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who signed a decree opening the building for worship and paving the way for its reconversion to a mosque. This change has also been one of President Erdoğan’s campaign pledges during the Istanbul municipal elections last year. 
President Erdoğan declared the Hagia Sophia Mosque open to Muslim worship after a top court ruled that the building’s conversion to a museum in 1935 by modern Turkey’s founding statesman, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was illegal.
The iconic monument had been used as a church for 916 years under the Byzantine Empire but was later converted into a mosque in 1453 by Sultan Mehmed II, after the Ottoman Empire conquered Istanbul.
The building then underwent necessary restoration work to emulate the characteristic features of mosques, including the addition of minarets for the call to prayer.
It was then changed to a museum in 1935 by then-president Atatürk under the Turkish Republic, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
However, in recent years, Turkish leaders, including President Erdoğan, had called for it to be used as a mosque again, enjoining the recitation of the Qur’ān in its vicinity on special occasions.
President Erdoğan, joined thousands of worshippers inside the Hagia Sophia Mosque, alongside cabinet minister and other top officials, as large crowds gathered outside.
During the first sermon in the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Head of Diyanet (the Directorate of Religious Affairs), Ali Erbaş delivered the first sermon holding a sword.
The following is the full transcript of the first Friday prayer sermon since the Hagia Sophia’s restoration to a mosque. 
May the blessings and help of Allah and the peacefulness and divine abundance of Friday be upon you!
In this blessed hour, in this sacred place, we are witnessing a historic moment. Hagia Sophia Mosque is meeting with its congregation in the light of Eid al-Adha being casted upon us on this third day of one of the hajj months of Dhu al-Hijjah. The longing of our nation, which has turned into a heartbreak, is coming to an end today. Endless thanks and praise be to Allah the Almighty!
Today is the day when the recitations of takbir, tahlil, and salawat echo again under Hagia Sophia’s domes, and the adhan and salat rise from its minarets. Today we are experiencing a day similar to when 16 muazzins echoed the sounds of Allahu Akbar all around from the 16 minaret balconies of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque), right across us, 70 years ago, and the reunion of our mosques with adhan after 18-year-long separation. Today is the day when believers stand for prayer in tears, bow down to ruku in peace, and go down for prostration in gratitude.
Today is the day of honor and humbleness. Endless thanks and praise be to Allah the Almighty who enabled us to have an honorable day like today, to gather in mosques as the most sacred places on earth, and to appear before Himself (swt) in this Great Hagia Sophia.
Salat and salam be to Prophet Muhammad (saw) 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!”
Salam be to the spiritual architect of Istanbul, who hit the roads to become the one who attains this glad tiding, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari in particular, the Companions of the Prophet, and those who followed their gracious footsteps.
Salam be to Sultan Alparslan, who opened the gates of Anatolia to our nation with the belief that conquest does not mean attacking but rendering prosperous, and means building rather than destroying; to our martyrs and veterans who have made it our homeland and entrusted it to us; and all sultans of the hearts who have remolded our geography with faith.
Salam be to Akshamsaddin, the wise scholar who embroidered the love of conquest in Sultan Mehmed’s heart and led the first Friday prayer in Hagia Sophia on June 1, 1453.
فَاِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّٰهِۜ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّل۪ينَ
Salam be to that young and determined ruler Mehmed the Conqueror (Fatih Sultan Mehmed – May Allah let him in Paradise), who was attached from heart to the verse “And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]”; a genius of history, literature, science, and arts; produced the most advanced technology of his era and had the ships move over land; conquered Istanbul with the permission and help of Allah; and then did not allow anybody to cause even the slightest harm to even a piece of pebble in this honorable city.
Salam be to the father of architecture, the great artist, Sinan the Architect, who refurbished Hagia Sophia with minarets and reinforced it so that it has survived for centuries.
Salam be to all our brothers and sisters in all corners of the world who have been longing for and celebrating with joy the reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship.
Salam be to our prominent people who have worked their hearts and souls out, from past to present, to ensure that Hagia Sophia meets its adhan, iqamat, wa’z, khutbah, prayers, recitations, scholarly activities, and great congregation having their places in the rows.
Salam be to our scholarly and intellectual people and prominent leaders full of wisdom and benevolence who describe Hagia Sophia as “our room of spirituality and jewelry in our own home” and instill hope and patience in hearts and minds by saying, “Hagia Sophia will be definitely reopened! Wait on, o young people, wait on! Let some more mercy rain down. A flood comes just after every rain. What more would I want other than be a string of straw in that flood’s flow! Hagia Sophia will be reopened, like a dear old book!” May Allah’s mercy be upon all of them!
Hagia Sophia, with its age being over fifteen centuries, is one of the most valuable places of worship, knowledge and wisdom in the history of humankind. This age-old place of worship is a magnificent expression of servitude and submission to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror endowed and entrusted this outstanding place of worship as the apple of his eye to believers on condition that it should remain a mosque until the last day. Any property that is endowed is inviolable in our belief and burns whoever touches it; the charter of the endower is indispensable and whoever infringes upon it is cursed. Therefore, from that day to the present, Hagia Sophia has been the sanctuary of not only our country but also of Prophet Muhammad’s ummah.
Hagia Sophia is the place from which the boundless mercy of Islam is once again declared to the whole world. Mehmed the Conqueror said to the people who took shelter in Hagia Sophia after the conquest and waited worriedly for what was going to happen to them, “From this moment on, do not be afraid for your freedom and life! The property of no person will be looted, no person will be oppressed, and no person will be punished because of their religion.” and acted accordingly. It is for this reason that Hagia Sophia is the symbol of respect to belief and of the morality of coexistence.
The reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship is a requirement of loyalty to its historical accumulation. It is the return of a sacred place, which had embraced believers for five centuries, to its original function.
The reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship is the evidence that the Islamic civilization, the foundation of which is tawhid, the building block of which is knowledge, and the cement of which is virtue, continues to rise in spite of all drawbacks.
The reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship means that all sorrowful masjids, first and foremost the Masjid al-Aqsa, and oppressed believers on earth are able to get lifeline support.
The reopening of Hagia Sophia to worship is the determination of our noble nation, who holds the faith and love of the homeland above everything, to build a solid future with the spiritual power passed down from the ancestors.
Our mosques are the source of our unity, amity, brotherhood, faith and serenity in our civilization. The Almighty Allah (swt) states regarding those who build and maintain mosques and masjids, “The mosques of Allah are only to be maintained by those who believe in Allah and the Last Day and establish prayer and give zakat and do not fear except Allah, for it is expected that those will be of the [rightly] guided.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
What could be more crestfallen than a mosque, the minarets of which are silent, the minbar of which is deserted, the dome of which is mute, and the garden of which is lonely? Due to the hostility to Islam that rises each passing day, there are mosques in various parts of the world today that are attacked, closed by force, and even bombed and destroyed. Hundreds of millions of Muslims are facing oppression.
I would like to show Mehmed the Conqueror’s this great attitude regarding Hagia Sophia five centuries ago as an example to the world and call on all humanity to say “Stop!” to such anti-Islamist discourses, actions, and any kind of oppressions.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
We as believers who regard the meaning of Hagia Sophia as a lofty cause and sacred entrustment need to work to ensure that compassion, tolerance, peace, tranquility, and benevolence prevail all around the world.
This is the reason why the Prophet of Islam (saw) and other prophets were sent, which means peace, salvation, and salam.
So, what we need to do is to work day and night to ensure that benevolence, rightfulness, and justice dominate the world. We need to be the hope for salvation of humanity that is in the swirl of great problems. We need to maintain justice in geographies surrounded by oppression, injustice, tears, and despair. We need to heed the call, “O Muslims! Understand, live by, and spread Islam so correctly and properly that whoever comes to kill you should spring to life because of you!”
We believe that “all people are either brothers and sisters in religion or equal in creation”, as expressed by Ali (ra). We believe that the earth is our shared home. We believe that all members of this home, regardless of religion, ethnicity, skin color, or country, have the right to live freely and humanely in safety within the framework of universal values and moral principles.
Under the dome of Hagia Sophia, we call on all humanity to uphold justice, peace, compassion, and rightfulness. We call on to defending universal values and moral principles that protect human dignity and make us the most honorable creature. As a follower of the Final and True religion which declares that the life of each person regardless of gender and age is inviolable, we call on humanity to cooperate and collaborate in protecting the life, religion, reason, property, and generation of all people. This is because today we need more than ever to unite our hearts with our dispositions, our reason with our conscience, humans with humans, and humans with the nature.
As I conclude this historic khutbah, I would like to make a call to the entire world from this honorable place:
The doors of Hagia Sophia Mosque will be open to all servants of Allah without any discrimination just like the doors of Suleymaniye Mosque, Selimiye Mosque, Sultan Ahmed Mosque, and other mosques of ours. The journey to faith, worship, history, and contemplation in the spiritual atmosphere of Hagia Sophia Mosque will continue uninterruptedly Insha Allah.
May Allah the Almighty enable us to duly serve Hagia Sophia Mosque that has a special place in our glorious history and an exceptional value in our hearts. May Allah (swt) bless us with the honor of properly respecting a mosque like Hagia Sophia that is magnificent cap-a-pie. May Allah (swt) regard particularly His Excellency and all authorities who made efforts in the protection of our culture and identity, and all people praying for and sharing our happiness today, as those people whom He (swt) loves and with whom He (swt) is pleased.
A Return to the Golden Ages
Turkey today has witnessed drastic changes ever since the abolishment of the Ottoman caliphate and the rise of the Zionist-sponsored secularist Mustafa Kemal “Atatürk”.  “Atatürk” came to power and imposed decades of secularism on the Turkish people. Turkey endured a staunchly secularised political climate for a number of years but is currently undergoing a remarkable transitional period of removing itself of the tyranny that has suffocated it.
In recent years, under the leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Turkey has reversed the hijab ban, built more than 17,000 new mosques, reinforced family values, clamped down on alcoholism, and formed many other policies in line with Islamic principles. 
In February 2018, President Erdoğan also said that the Republic of Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire. During a memorial ceremony to mark the anniversary of the death of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, President Erdoğan stated:
“The Republic of Turkey, just like our previous states that are a continuation of one another, is also a continuation of the Ottomans. Of course, the borders have changed. Forms of government have changed … But the essence is the same, the soul is the same, even many institutions are the same.” 
The Turkish people have come a very long way since the abolishment of the Ottoman caliphate, an event that certainly marked a turning point in history – one that was so momentous that mankind can feel its aftershocks until the present day. However, even with the vicious decades of secularism that were enforced following the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, the Turkish people have used every means to preserve and uphold their Islamic identity against the toxic secular “Atatürk”-driven assault against the deep-rooted values of the Turkish people.
 TRT World