Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

Saturday 2 April 2022

First Tarawih prayers in Hagia Sophia Masjid, Istanbul-Turkey, after a lapse of 88 years

The night before the first Ramadan 2022 was a rare night in the life of Istanbul, Turkey when the Muslims flocked the famous Hagia Sophia masjid to perform the Tarawih prayer for the first time after a lapse of 88 years.

Hagia Sophia masjid was closed to public after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and was converted into museum in 1934 by the then Turkish president Kemal Ataturk. The venue remained a museum till its status as a masjid was restored in 2020 by the present Turkish president Erdogan. However, the Tarawih prayers was not held for two years and it was Ramadan 2022 that brought the good tidings for the Muslims to perform Ramdan specific Tarawih prayers.

The masjid was jam packed by the believers and was an awe inspiring moment to witness them performing the prayers. Seeing is believing. Watch the video below:
May all masjid around the world remain open to believers and sound of Adhan spreads all around. May Allah help us to follow the commands of Allah contained in the Qur'an and sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for not being a good Muslim but also be a useful member of our society. Aameen

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. We should also follow the Sunnah of  Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which augments what is written in the Qur'an.

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Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, WhatsApp or any means on Social Media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Qur'ān - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Islam and life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Cyprus

Cyprus is an island state, tucked up in the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea, with a historically mixed population of Greeks and Turks, plus other smaller minorities. It passed from the Republic of Venice to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 1500s, came under British administration in 1878, and was annexed by Britain in 1914. The Republic of Cyprus became independent from Britain in 1960.

Islam was introduced to Cyprus when Uthman the 3rd Caliph conquered it in 649. Muslims lived over the whole area of Cyprus. Most of the Turks settled in Cyprus during the Ottoman rule in 1572-1878/1914. The Ottoman Empire gave timars (land grants) to soldiers under the condition that they and their families would stay there permanently. During the 17th century the Turkish population grew rapidly, partly because of Turkish immigrants but also due to Greek converts to Islam.
Area in brown is The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus [Map]

Until 1974, Turkish Cypriots (the Muslim community of Cyprus) made up 18% of the whole islands population. Since 1974, the Muslim population has been bolstered by settlers from Turkey who are almost exclusively Muslim.  Today there are an estimated 264,172 Muslims based in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, proclaimed  so in 1983, about 22.57% of the total Cypriot populations as per 2016 estimate. There is a United Nations buffer zone between the two main parts of the island, which are also separated by physical barriers, shown in yellow in the map above.
Hala Sultan Tekke [Photo: Dickelbers, Wikimedia Commons Wikipedia / Wikipedia]

A grave in the shrine Hala Sultan Tekkesi is attributed to Um Haram, an aunt of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). She is said to have accompanied a expedition  and had died here. Hala Sultan Tekke complex is composed of a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery, and living quarters for men and women. The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and may have referred to an earlier feature of the location. Umm Haram's tomb is located behind the mosque wall of the Qibla (in the direction of Mecca / Makkah).

The Cyprus landscape s dotted with shrines and landmarks dating back to 16th century and later. These include the famous 16th century Arabahmet Mosque in Lefkosia, tthe Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, Selimiye Mosque and the Haydarpasha Mosque; former Catholic cathedrals left from the Crusader era, which were meant to cater exclusively to the Catholic minority which ruled the island and were converted to mosques after the Muslim conquest in the Middle Ages.
16th century Arab Ahmet Mosque [Photo: Michal Klajban, Wikimedia Commons Wikipedia]

Northern Cyprus is home to a significant part of this Muslim population, and is therefore very Muslim-friendly and is frequented by Muslims from across the globe.  Though, Turkish Cypriot society is markedly secular though, at least formally; adherents to the faith subscribe mostly to the Sunni branch, with an influential stream of Sufism underlying their spiritual heritage and development. and was entombed at the present.
Flag of Turkish Cyprus from Shacolas Tower (Ledra Street Observatory) Nicosia by A. Savin, Wikimedia Commons, 2017.Copyleft Free Art Licence.

While there are not many Halal restaurants in the mainland Cyprus, it is possible to locate some eateries that serve Halal dishes. If unable to find any Halal restaurants in Southern Cyprus, Muslim visitors are sure to find numerous restaurants serving suitable vegetarian and seafood dishes, as both make up a huge part of Cypriot cuisine. However, Northern Cyprus is the best place for Muslims to find Halal food. Delicious Turkish dishes as well as Cypriot specialties are served at most restaurants. Must-tries include Halloumi cheese, kebabs and the famous Turkish Delight. 

The segregation of Cypriot Turks and Greeks has effected that most of the Muslims in the territory controlled by the Republic of Cyprus are Arab immigrants and refugees, unrelated to the Turks historically living in the area. But even in the Northern Cyprus, the Muslims are more secular than ordinary Muslims. The increasing influence of Turkish government to spread the Sunni Islam is not very welcomed. 

When it comes to Islam, there are many voices to b e heard. Majority of the Turks in the Northern Cyprus are generally secular, liberal and not much religious. As per one report: "Turkish Cypriots are seen as being among the most liberal Muslims in the western world. Most enjoy alcohol – attributing their penchant for whisky to colonial rule under the British. The majority also abhor the idea of women wearing headscarves and frequently joke they would only go to a mosque to attend a funeral. In such circumstances, Islamization has been met with trepidation.":
“The Turkish Cypriot community is secular. We are not a fundamentalist Islamist community.” Sener Elcil, head of the Turkish Cypriot Teachers Union, told AFP at his Nicosia office. “We don’t want Sunni Islam imposed on us but they are working systematically to radicalize the system and change the fate and culture of Turkish Cypriots,” he told the Guardian. “All this is alien because culturally, we are very close to the Greek Cypriots.” 
His comments came last year when the plans were afoot for the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to come and inaugurate a huge four pillared Hala Sultan mosque in Haspolat (called Mia Milia by Greek Cypriots), in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Hala sultan mosque in Haspolat , July 5, 2018. (Photo: Matthieu CLAVEL/AFP)

Last year, mass rallies have taken place outside the Turkish Cypriot parliament, attended mostly by young people deploring Ankara’s attempt to mould their culture into one more in tune with Islamic norms. Among points of grievance were the attempts by Turkey’s ruling neo-Islamist AKP party to impose single sex swimming pools at universities.

However, religious leaders brush off the criticism as left-wing dissent. Cyprus’s vice grand mufti, Imam Shakir Alemdar, who is based in the island’s south, says inter-faith dialogue has been so successful it has helped lay the foundation for future hope.
“Hala Sultan mosque and all matters of religion in the north has some criticism from leftist groups but they criticize anything and everything when it comes to religion, especially Islam,” he said. “There is not only criticism but also a lot of support.”
So the threat to Islam is not from without but from within - a tussle between secularism and real Islam. The older Turk generation is till trying their best to bring the younger generation back to the fold of Islam from its secular outlook. Watch the video below and see these efforts are underway:
Let us hope and pray Islam exists in Cyprus in its true form and does not get polluted merely due to resistance to the growing Turkish influence, which otherwise dolls out millions of euros each year for upkeep of mosques, Islamic schools and also for the well being of the Muslims in general.

Author's Note: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
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Thursday 17 January 2019

World's Youngest Hafiz-e-Quran

Islam was revealed at a time when most of the people of Arabia were illiterate. Even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the last messenger and prophet of Allah was illiterate. So whenever, a revelation was made to him by Allah through His angel Jibraeel (Gabriel), the Prophet of Allah would recite the recently revealed verses to His trusted companions who would remember these by heart. And thus a time came when a large number of companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had remembered the entire Quran by heart. 

And when the second caliph Umer decided to preserve the Holy Quran in textual form, the hundreds of Huffaz or the memorizes of the Holy Quran were his main source of collecting the bits and pieces besides some written verses on camel skins and cloth.

Although, after compilation of the Holy Quran in the text form, reading of the Holy Quran became easy, the remembering of the Holy Quran has never ceased and today a sizable number of Muslims are the Huffaz, plural of Hafiz (someone who remembers the Holy Quran by heart). The memorizing of the complete Holy Quran which comprises 114 Surahs (chapters), containing 6,236 verses (comprising some 80,000 words or 330,000 individual characters) is indeed a gigantic feat, yet many make an effort to memorize it and are generally successful. It takes something between three to six years to memorize the entire Quran.

It is generally the belief of Muslims that anyone who knows the Quran by heart and follows the lawful and the banned according to the Holy Quran, he will be sent to Heaven by Allah. Those who cannot memorize the whole of the Holy Quran, do make an endeavour to memorize as much as they can, specially the shorter surahs of the 30th Part / Juz of the Holy Quran. Huffaz are highly respected within the Islamic community. They are privileged to use the title "Hafiz" before their names.

While memorizing the Holy Quran by adults is a dream of a majority, there are large number of parents who want their children to be Huffaz even at the very early tender ages. Thus it may not be surprising to see even small children are in forefronts to become Hafiz and memorize the Holy Quran with extreme religious zeal and fervour. In January 2018, Turkey sent 2000 children to perform Umrah on state expense who had the honour of memorizing the Holy Quran.

This post today is also to also to endorse and commend a you boy from Algeria who at this tender age has memorized the Holy Quran and has the honour of being the youngest Hafiz of Quran today. Farah, who is hardly three years of age has his name added to  encyclopedia Guinness Book of Records for memorizing the Holy Quran. Watch the video below of his final test for setting the world record.
This is something very unique among all other faiths where the Holy Scripture is preserved not in text form but into the hearts of the believers as young as Hafiz Abdur Rahman Farah of Algeria. He is now a role model for many Muslim children around the world to follow his suit.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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Friday 30 November 2018

Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Cuba

It has been awhile that I have been sharing the presence of Islam and Muslims in Non Muslims countries and to share their experiences as minority and their emergence with main stream dominating population. Recently a friend reading my series on the subject, shared a documentary by BBC about life and living of Muslims in Cuba, which gave me a cue to write about Muslims in Cuba. The very opening scene of the documentary shows a man, clad in shalwar and qameez - the traditional dress of Pakistan, leading the prayer of a very small group of Muslims further intensified my interest in Cuba and I was amazed to find that it were the students from Pakistan which first became a sizable Muslim community in Cuba.

The Muslims first stepped on the Cuban soil in the 16th century, generally Moors from Muslim Spain. The Muslims, mostly traders from the Middle East started doing business of sugar for many generating. Many stayed, mostly in Havana or around Santiago de Cuba, the second-largest city at the far east of the island. 

While Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959 and instituted a communist government, all other religions and their religious places were were shuttered and religious schools of all kinds were forced to pack up and leave the island and everyday Cubans took to praying to God in private. In recent years, there has been some relaxations and religious freedom is creeping in at a slow pace.

The presence of Muslims today in Cuba is mostly attributed to students that came to Cuba for higher studies. A large group of students from Pakistan, besides Rwanda and Nigeria, served as the vanguard for other students to follow the suit in the 1970s. It is said that the dominant population that went to study at Cuba was the Pakistani students who were about 936 in strength. 

During the 2005 massive earthquake in Pakistan, in which over a hundred thousand perished, Cuba sent more than 2,000 doctors and other medical specialists to help the earthquake affected areas. The following year, it offered 1,000 scholarships for young people from across Pakistan and were given scholarships by the government.

According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, out of  a total population of 11 million, there were then 10,000 Muslims in Cuba who constitute 0.1% of the population. By 2012, most of the 10,000 Cuban Muslims were converts to the religion. Ninety-nine percent of Cuban Muslims are converted to Islam and not descendants of Arabs.

This journey of Islam in Cuba has not been easy. Hajji Isa, formerly Jorge Elias Gil Viant, a Cuban convert and artist, a Cuban revert says very proudly: 
"Many brothers from other countries have said to me that we Cuban Muslims are the real Muslims, because it is so much harder to observe here than in a country where many people share the same beliefs and practices." 
Embracing Islam by former Froilan Reyes, now Hassan Jan, 43, is interesting. For a fun loving audio technician at the University of Medical Sciences in Santa Clara, his life changed in 2010 when during month of Ramadan, he was required to work with a group of Pakistani medical students studying at the university. "At first I was very uncomfortable working with them," he admits. But his interaction with the Pakistani students induced in him a quest to embrace Islam.Seven months later, he converted and changed his name. "Allah showed me through the way they behaved that Islam was something else: Islam is peace, it's the will of God. Allah gave me the opportunity to understand that. It was a gift for me," says Hassan. The first reaction came from his wife who was first hesitant. "I didn't want to convert because of the things people said - that they abused the women. But I read, I read a lot, I looked for books so that I could understand better," she says. She converted five months after her husband and changed her name to Shabana.

For one Ahmed Abuero, 48,  the transition was a difficult one who converted after reading Malcolm X's biography 17 years ago. "It was difficult at the beginning because I had to stop drinking alcohol, seeing women, playing, eating pork and drinking rum, things every Cuban does," he said. "The night I converted to Islam, I could not sleep. I knew the following day my life would change forever." 

Hajji Jamal who reverted to Islam in 2009 shares his experience of embracing Islam after living a life of a Christian all along: "I was a member of the Baptist church. I knew a lot about Christianity, but I could never really understand the Holy Trinity. Then I met a Cuban Muslim who'd been Muslim for many years, and started to talk with him about Islam. He gave me a Quran to read: 
"It took me a while, but then eventually I did read it and I could see a logic there, it seemed very sincere, very real and it was this which attracted me to Islam." 
Jamal is now an informal representative of Santiago's Muslim community. "We're trying to give the best possible example of Islam, for at the moment there's a lot of negative messages in the media. People generalize, thinking, 'If you're Muslim, you must be a terrorist'," says Jamil

Due to scanty information about Islam, it is difficult for the Cuban reverts to face numerous face challenges, specially the non availability of the halal meat. Thus a Muslim confess: "Food is difficult because everything's forbidden. The meat we eat most is pork, though forbidden in Islam but we do no have any choice. To be honest, it is a bit difficult, but Allah gives you the strength to go on."

Hijab has always been a challenge to Muslim women anywhere in the world and so in Cuba. Some of the Cuban Muslim women who wear a headscarf have faced objections and discrimination from the authorities in their workplace or universities. According to  Shabana, mentioned above, "such situations are usually resolved through discussion and explanations of what Islam is about." Shabana, however, says that for her "it got complicated" and she left her job. She now provides childcare at home for the son of a Muslim student.
Masjid Abdalla, Cuba

Jorge Miguel Garcia, whose Muslim name is Khaled, is a part owner of a café in Santiago which serves as an informal meeting place for the Muslim community besides also being popular with the non-Muslim Cubans. "Unlike other cafés, we don't serve alcohol and that's never been a problem," says Khaled.  
"People who come for the first time always ask me about Islam and I like that, that they are interested. Many come back specifically because they see it as a healthy place where everyone is treated with respect. Those are the principles of Islam: peace, love and submission to Allah."
However, Khaled sells dishes which include pork, but believes that one day to run the café completely in accordance with Islamic precepts.

In 2015, a museum in Calle Oficios in Old Havana was turned into a prayer house with the support of the Office of the Historian, the body responsible for the restoration of central Havana. The makeshift mosque allows Muslims in Havana Friday prayers. Elsewhere, Muslims have shared small places in their homes where Muslims can come and offer prayers. 

Pedro Lazo Torres, known as the Imam Yahya, said there used to be so few Muslims in Cuba that they could hold their prayers inside someone's home. As they grew, their prayers spilled out into the street. Torres is now president of Cuba's Islamic League and says the number of Cubans asking to convert continues to increase. Yahya is presently Imam of a mosque that was inaugurated in June of 2015 thanks to funding from Turkey's president, Erdoğan. Located in Old Havana, the mosque sits next to an Islamic museum, known as The Arab House, and has brand new Spanish-Arabic copies of the Koran.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are in forefronts to help the Cuban Muslims. a Saudi funded language lab operates in both Havana and Santiago and in 2014 had a stand at the Havana Book Fair where literature about Islam and copies of the Quran in Spanish were distributed. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died in January last year, sponsored five Cubans to make the Hajj pilgrimage in 2014 - something a near-impossible dream for most Cuban Muslims. Jamal and Isa (mentioned above) were fortunate to be among the five. "When I arrived at Jeddah, at the airport, the first thing I heard was the sound of prayer, I began to cry, "Jamal recalls.

Despite indifferences and lack of information about Islam and media blasting of "radical Islam", Muslims are continuing their efforts of blending Islamic values and Latin American customs in Cuba by regularly celebrating Islamic festivals of Eid which follows after a month long fasting in Islamic month of Ramadan.

You may like to watch the documentary by BBC on What is it like to be a Muslim in Cuba, which inspired me to write this post:

Photo: Mosque Abdallah | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
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