Re-visiting Hagia Sophia


brown and black cathedral ceiling

 

Today, Hagia Sophia’s entrance is not as crowded as it was when it was newly opened. We can finally visit her. We pass through the check point. A policeman stopping the queue says: “First we will empty the place, people just finished their prayers. And then we will disinfect the whole space. It will take one and half hours.”

We decide to have lunch somewhere until Hagia Sophia is ready to receive us. Women and men queue up separately. It looks like the sensitivities of the majority has been considered. Although I am afraid of burning under the sun for many hours in the queue, the women’s side starts flowing towards Hagia Sophia like a river. The woman behind me constantly steps on my shoe. They push each other with the excitement and curiosity boiling in their bodies, sweating as well. I remember how we used to enter when it was a museum. Same crowd. But there is a clear difference when it comes to the level of enthusiasm of the visitors. These women are moving and being moved with a raw and primitive force in their bodies. I feel intimidated by this untamed force. I take off my hat and put on my veil. I am ready to meet Sophia. Am I really? My heart is pounding, my tongue repeating the prayers that I repeated God knows how many times.

I greet Hagia Sophia, my hand on my heart. The middle-aged woman in front of me has already taken out her mobile phone to make a photo of the newly put sign at the entrace: “The Great Mosque of Hagia Sophia.” The first words of the visitorswhentheystepinare “Ohhowbeautifullycoolitisinhere.”Wetakeoff our shoes. It feels magical to step on the marbles. I feel the place deeper. Smooth, very soft. It feels like stepping on a very thick layer of ice. Roots start coming out of my soles and go deep down into the heart of Hagia Sophia. The officials at the entrance of the main hall are chatting, with zero idea of my experience. Would it make a difference if they saw the roots growing so deep? Would they try to cut them down?

When I enter the hall, my feet meet the turqoise-coloured carpets. It feels like I am being hosted as a guest of honour. Like how the women in the small town I grew up in used to spare a special room for guests and put their best things in there.

When I look around to see the new face of the place, mostly what I see are the mobile phones flying in the air. People are feeling the space through their mobile phones. They use them to perceive the space instead of their five senses. The mobiles became a medium between the lover and the beloved. The mobiles are functioning as clergy meditating the divine encounter. They are having video calls with their families or the people they want to show off to, I think. Whenever they make a selfie of themselves or take photos and videos of Hagia Sophia, they turn the place into an object that is exhibited in a museum. These people who are rejoicing the fact that it is now a mosque are now acting like museum visitors. Where is the peaceful atmosphere of a mosque? Where is its community who knows how to relate to a sacred place?

Children are playing on the carpet. Once Marian lied down under the dome and one by one people did the same until the security guard came and warned them: “Here is a museum, it is forbidden to do such things.” Just look around, it is suspicious to just sit like this in the corner in a secularized place. Our friend did it, closed her eyes while sitting and was warned: “It is forbidden to meditate here.” It really broke my heart to see such a powerful place stripped of its sacredness, that we even have to be scared of closing our eyes here.

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A young boy is lying on the carpet and a bright golden light is beaming on him. He is sitting in a diamond. He is being washed by this light. He is playing with another boy in a deeply innocent joy. Sophia whispers to me: “These young boys are signalling the rise of the conscious masculine power. As long as they are here with me, they will be washed with the light of the sacred feminine. This light will be decoding all the patterns they receive from their ancestors, especially the ones about religion and politics. They will be contributing to the making of the new world.“ I smile and take a deep breath of relief. I can not pass to the side where the qiblah is (direction of Mecca). It is spared for men to pray, there are some still in the prostration. These men are the wounded boys who could not reach the adult consciousness, while physically being in the body of grown-ups. Mother Mary has become their guardian. It makes sense that this place is spared for them, I tell myself, in this way they will be closer to Mother Mary and thus will be healed. Without them noticing. The subconscious is working non-stop. They are infused with the frequency of this special field. No escape.

I feel Mother Mary is doing fine. Many years ago when I visited Rumi’s shrine, I received an inspiration. People visiting the shrine generally share their disappointment with it, expecting something more special. Rumi explained why this is the case, to me and this was the guidance. He said: “Dear, this is the field of the feminine, contrary to the shrine of Shams where people feel the power of the masculine field. The feminine is veiled, hidden behind the curtains of mystery. Only a real seeker can lift this veil. If you don’t know how to do it, you get bored in the feminine field thinking there is nothing to discover there. And this works as a natural selection of who is sincere and who is not.”

Is it the same thing with Mother Mary, now that she is veiled with white curtains in the Hagia Sophia? Is she veiling herself not to burn the ones who are not yet ready to receive the holy power reflected through her presence? If so, what affection and empathy! She might be veiling herself for the sake of the ones who

are willing to see her: She is waiting for the people praying there to make one step closer towards becoming a holy vessel and giving birth to their own Jesus. She is waiting to become their midwife. And it is for sure that if one does not love Mother Mary and know the truth of Jesus, one can not be a true believer of Islam.

As it gets more crowded and the phone traffic becomes more intense, I find it difficult to breathe. Using a mask is not making things any easier. People on duty are walking around to warn people who are putting their masks down, mostly old people. It feels almost like a circus. I find a spot to sit (one of the areas touched by sun beam) and chant a surah from the Quran; the surah of expansion; both for myself and for Hagia Sophia. I feel that it might be challenging even for her to host that many of her children.

I am sure these visitors did not visit the monument when it was a museum for many possible reasons. Maybe because of the expensive tickets, or they lack the culture of visiting museums. They might not have the necessary cultural and social background to be interested in its art and history. I see very clearly that the profile of the previous audience differs a lot from the profile of visitors right now. And in fact, both groups are very similar to each other in some ways. I do not believe that the visitors of the museum times with their secular and modern background are better or more respectable than the ones right now. I realized that the museum visitors are as unaware of Hagia Sophia’s spiritual dimensions as the visitors of the mosque. Both of them are mainly focused on the worldy facade of it. Because they are the children of modernity who mainly relate to things on the surface and lack the culture and traditions to acquire an adult consciousness.

The newcomers are not aware because they are the children of a religion traumatized by patriarchy. Therefore, regarding the consciousness level the audience did not change. How they appear to be relating to Hagia Sophia has changed according to their background.

The women visiting now are mostly covered. A lot of men are wearing traditional Islamic clothing (shalvar and turbans), holding stick in their hands. There are small

girls covered, holding their teddy bears. The elders of Anatolia are meeting Hagia Sophia, most probably for the first time, with all their lacks, traumas and deeply ingrained destructive patterns. Sophia is welcoming Anatolia as it is. These people must be praying in a church structure for the first time in their lives. Though it looks like a great challenge, it is also a great opportunity for transformation; for both sides.

I would like to express it one more time that when I write these words I try not to judge people based on their consciousness level and clothing. In fact, I find some women very beautiful who are fully covered in black, which represents nothingness in its essence, gracefully and modestly. I admire them as much as I admire beautiful women who wear their white summer dress on tanned skin. The point is not how we appear. The point is the willingness to see how divided and polarized we have become and slowly ready ourselves to listen to each others’ truth. I can not imagine a better place than Hagia Sophia for this to happen.

I pass to the women’s section and take a deep breath. Here it is more spacious. I always feel very

page5image20278240nurtured in women-only spaces. I get the same taste in the women sections of the mosques as in women circles or feminine retreats. Women, old and young, pray, chant mantras with their tasbihs, read from the Quran. These women who are the places for the direct manisfestation of the feminine have so much responsibility in this space. It looks like they have already started working. Knowingly or unknowingly. I hope they will gain more awareness in time why it matters to pray here and what it means to pray here in its essence.

A small boy sitting next to his praying mother is playing games on the mobile phone. A small girl is imitating her mother’s prayer postures and in the end walks like a funny spider on the carpet, this is her special posture for prayer. Another two boys stick their foreheads to each other and one of them imitates a voice in English: “Bless your heart.’

A mother is calling her son, “Kadiiiir, pose for me; I am making a photo of you.” I remember the conversation I had with a dear friend the other night, it was about one of the attributes of god, al-Qadir, which works through all the creatures. Even through this small boy, as his name indicates. Another mother is fixing her daughter’s skirt which is so out of fashion, before they start praying. A deep voice in my heart screams: “I promise you, dear girl, I will design you clothes for prayers. In them, you will look like a queen. For meeting the Beloved, you will be wearing your best clothes and it will give you great joy and excitement for this date.”

In one moment, there are lots of stories emerging. After a while it becomes difficult to follow each one of them. I decide to close my eyes by putting my sunglasses on. Afterwards I see a woman behind me, with closed eyes as well. Now we are allowed to do this. I take off my sunglasses.

I am inviting all of us to take off the glasses we are used to wear and see the newly emerging stories from a fresh state. I believe Hagia Sophia deserves this kind of witnessing and so do the people of this land.


Yazar

Aslınur

Through writing and translating, by painting and crafting, and by hosting pilgrimages and online classes, Aslınur desires to contribute to the revival of Anatolian wisdom culture. Anatolia literally means ‘full of mothers.’ In ancient times, this geography hosted societies in which a matriarchal culture flourished. Anatolia is a cradle of civilizations and religions, a place of cultural cross-pollinization. However, this wisdom has been largely forgotten. But the potential of Anatolian culture is still alive. Turkey needs to remember its Anatolian heritage right now, especially its feminine aspects. In college, she received training in English and Turkish Literature. This helped her connect West and East through the power of words. She received her MA degree at the Islamic theology department to immerse herself into Anatolian Sufi literature. This made her discover another passion: Translating texts of Anatolian Sufism from the past into languages of today, such as modern Turkish and English. For her, this is a sacred work towards collective healing and peace.

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