M’sians in Istanbul among those performing terawih prayers in Hagia Sophia for first time in 88 years

KUALA LUMPUR: Terawih prayers, which Muslims perform every night during the holy month of Ramadan, have returned to Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia mosque for the first time in 88 years.

The iconic structure, with priceless frescoes and artwork within, was built in the year 532 CE and converted into a museum in 1934 before regaining its status as a mosque in 2020, when it was supposed to open for worship on July 24 of that year.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic had derailed the opening until just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began this year, when it was announced that Hagia Sophia was now open to all Muslims who wanted to perform the special evening prayer during the fasting month.

Malaysians living in Turkey are eagerly waiting in anticipation to get to Hagia Sophia and participate in the Ramadan itineraries lined up for the congregation.

One of them is student Ahmad Haziq Husaini Muhammad, 23, from Istanbul University who felt happy when he heard the announcement, and at the same time reflected on the history related to the magnificent building.

“Happy because after so many years, the iconic historical building has now finally reopened as a mosque and is accepting Muslims who would want to perform terawih prayers during Ramadan.

“The reason why I looked back is because Hagia Sophia has a rich history and of the tribulations the Muslims in ancient years underwent in freeing Constantinople (now Istanbul) from Rome,” said Haziq, who is also the president of Malaysian Students Association in Turkey (Masat) when contacted by Bernama.

“In my opinion, for all Muslims who have the privilege to come and perform terawih at Hagia Sophia, they should seize this opportunity and experience the Ramadan vibes themselves.

“I can guarantee the feeling is not the same as back in our hometowns,” said the third-year Islamic Theology student, who performed terawih at the mosque recently.

Concurring with Haziq, Norhamiza Yasmin Mohd Amri, 22 from the Altınbaş Üniversitesi was among those thrilled at getting to Hagia Sophia and even encouraged her friends to join her for the terawih prayers.

With the news on Hagia Sopia and the endemic phase of the Covid-19 in Turkey that she gleaned via social media, Ramadan is something different this year for Norhamiza.

“Besides, people around the world also come to Turkey for their vacation during Ramadan,” said Norhamiza Yasmin, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Business.

She felt that the opening of Hagia Sophia, which was added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 1985, will allow more positive vibes and attract more tourists from around the world to visit the place and perform terawih.

Both Haziq and Norhamiza Yasmin said during the first week after Hagia Sophia opened its doors for the terawih prayers, the large congregation spilled into the compound and the aura was something totally unique.

Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia Merve Kavakci said she personally encouraged every Muslim around the globe to visit Istanbul, particularly to pray at Hagia Sophia.

“It is quite an experience, I must say. Furthermore, I encourage any believer, Muslim or not, to go and visit Hagia Sophia and ruminate there.

“For history buffs and art lovers, Hagia Sophia offers one of a kind experience as you travel through time and space.

“Hagia Sophia, with its new status, is emblematic on how cultural and historical artefacts can be well preserved leaving no room for destruction of humanity’s universal values,” she said. – Bernama