In this exclusive interview with the great-grandson of Caliph Abdülhamid II, deputy editor of 5Pillars Dilly Hussain discusses the restoration of Hagia Sophia Mosque and its significance in Islamic revival in the region with Sehzade Abdülhamid Kayıhan Osmanoğlu.
DH: What does the restoration of Hagia Sophia to a mosque mean to you both politically and religiously?
Sehzade Osmanoğlu: The conversion of Ayasofya is the proclamation of Turkey regaining its national independence and getting free of the tutelage. Ayasofya is of great importance for Muslims. The value of Ayasofya gained more importance by the actions and the words of my Great-Grandfather Fatih Sultan Mehmet.
He played a crucial role in carrying Ayasofya to the present day.
If he did not turn it into a mosque and Sultan Suleyman and Selim II did not add minarets to support the building, Ayasofya would not be here today. Ayasofya has seen multiple civilizations and has been of a great importance for each one of them.
In every corner of Ayasofya, there is a mark from the Ottomans. In its garden lies five Ottoman sultans – Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmed III, Sultan Mustafa I and Sultan İbrahim.
We had to unfortunately visit the tombs of these sultans with a ticket. We have been saying for many years in every platform that we do not want to enter Ayasofya with tickets, but with wudu. Alhamdulillah, we are glad that this day has become a reality.
DH: Millions of Muslims inside and outside of Turkey believe the restoration of Hagia Sophia to a mosque is a positive sign for Islamic revival in the region. Would you agree with this sentiment?
Sehzade Osmanoğlu: I agree, of course. Everyone will eventually see that while the Muslims around the world are persecuted, there is Turkey here to defend their rights. Unfortunately, Muslims around the world are left unprotected.
While the Jews are protected by anti-Semitism laws, attacking Muslims has become almost an awarded behavior. The enemies of Islam are very happy for this. Now with this symbolic move it’s been shown that a powerful “roof” exists for the Muslims around the world to seek refuge in.
DH: Do you believe Turkey has a responsibility and a greater role to play in the Muslim world given that the Ottomans and Seljuks ruled this region for over a millennia?
Sehzade Osmanoğlu: This was an ignored mission during the formative years of The Republic. But it was inevitable for this mission to reappear because this is a mission testified by history. The reason we have been governed by the administrators of the foreign-external powers was to delay and prevent this historic mission. But this order has changed with recent domestic and national policies.
Just as the Turks in history were a beacon of hope for the freedom of the persecuted, today, their grandsons, the citizens of the Turkish Republic carry the same mission. Because this nation always helped and sided with the oppressed against the oppressors.
They have been their guardians. They did not leave them with their “destiny” and never doubted to help them in every possible way they could and did their best.
The Turkish state’s understanding is based on the principles of justice and tolerance which has guaranteed freedom and peace. The Turks, throughout history, have been exemplars of just and merciful governance. The Turkish nation has never in history sided with the tyrants and always stood with the oppressed.
Whether it’s before Islam or after Islam, before coming to Anatolia or after, inside and outside, there are lots of examples of the “tolerance” of the Turkic nation. One of the most important evidences are Armenian, Greek and Assyrian sources. These sources testify that Turks always showed tolerance, justice and provided freedom of faith and thought to members of different races and religions.
DH: What’s your thoughts on those who have criticised this decision by stating it’s not good for interfaith relations with Christians and political relations with the West?
Sehzade Osmanoğlu: “Interfaith dialogue” is part of the mission of the Catholic Church to bring back all humanity to the Church again. It is a project to actualise the words of Pope John Paul II: “In the first millennium, Europe was Christianised. In the second millennium America and Africa Christianised. In the third millennium, let’s Christianise Asia.”
The involvement of Fetullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ) in this mission is clear evidence that the organisation is managed by external hands. But the Muslims will never fall for this. Why? Because Allah informed us that He Himself will protect the Qur’an and Islam. For this reason we are at ease and in peace. Everyone will eventually face what they did and receive their penalty. No one should forget that Allah is watching everything they do.
DH: Are you in contact with any of your relatives from the Ottoman household who live outside of Turkey? If yes, how do they feel about the restoration of Hagia Sophia into a mosque?
Sehzade Osmanoğlu: As you’d appreciate I did not have the chance to talk to all of them but the ones I’ve been in contact with found the decision positive and were happy about it. They are of course such people who can appreciate and understand the importance of the legacy of our Great-Grandfather Fatih Sultan Mehmed.