Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Muslim? Arab? In Turkey?

Turkey is the country with probably the most beautiful mosques. Turkey was once the seat of the most powerful Muslim empires for almost 400 years. Turkey has a lot to offer in terms of history but unfortunately history is written in the past tense.

About 15 years ago I visited Turkey, and I found many everyday things very peculiar over there. As a Muslim whose mother tongue is Arabic I found it most interesting in a country with such a long history of Islam that very few people actually knew how to speak Arabic. I am not talking about the daily Arabic you might hear in Cairo or Damascus, but the Arabic you would use in prayer.

For me what really killed it was when I went to Friday prayers and had to hear the athaan (call to prayer) from a tape player as the Imam (Muslim priest) apparently didn't know how to say it. However, the sermon that followed was in Turkish, but it was hurried. As if people didn't want to be caught in the mosque. It has become inconvenient to be a Muslim in Turkey.

It's amazing to find such a country rich in Islamic history lacking in basic elements. Sad to find that some of the most beautiful mosques over there locked shut by the government. Sad to meet some of the kindest people there (Kurds) who cannot speak their own language because it's illegal yet somehow have an excellent grasp of Arabic, and were more than happy to give us a helping hand.

I guess we were both foreigners.


Syed Sibgatullah said...


RIJJU said...

Disappointing to know how we have lost contact with our roots

سامع وجيب قلوب النخيل said...

I came back from Istanbul a month ago. It was my second visit to Turkey, the first visit was 25 years ago. I remember that first visit quite vividly. So much change has happened over ther, mostly positive change and real progress. Progress is going on. There is so much new building and constructin going on. I saw people have become a lot more relaxed. The best change I felt was in transportation, As Turkey is now well connected by a modern transportation network , some of which is as advanced as any European network. I saw the Turks much more attached now to their own heritage and Islamic history than they were before. When I was walking near the blue mosque, I saw a olunteer Turkish folklore band and thousands of people gathering around to hear and sing along the chants and Islamic Anasheed they inherited from their Ottoman grandfathers.

al-Hajji Umar said...

Soory you had such a disappointment in Turkey. I'd like to share a few observations that may help. First, I'm certain you know how the Turkish political agenda was decidedly secular to the point of being anti-Islamic. Arabic was discouraged. Liturgical Arabic, if you will, is problematic as many people recite without any awareness of what they are actually saying, even in general.

The point about the call to prayer is a little more nuanced. Some jurists hold that the muadhdhiin and the imaam must be different people.

At any rate, the Turks are struggling like the rest of us. My prayer is that we are all struggling to get it right!