By Muhammed Nuri Erdogan
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's top religious body said Tuesday the frescoes in Hagia Sophia will not hinder prayer.
The iconic monument was first built as a church in the Byzantine period. It has Christian mosaics, including one of Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in its main hall. It became a mosque after Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II conquered Istanbul in 1453.
On Friday, a Turkish court annulled a 1934 Cabinet decree that had turned the Hagia Sophia into a museum, paving the way for its use again as a mosque after 85 years.
The administration of the mosque was given to Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate.
In a statement, the directorate said: "Opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque was met with great pleasure by our people, and the whole Muslim world. Muslims will always cherish those who made it happen.
"Paintings, frescoes in Hagia Sophia are no obstacle to praying in there. In order for Muslims to pray with serenity, these frescoes should be covered with curtains or darkened with the help of black lights," the statement read.
Hagia Sophia will be open for visitors except times for prayer for it has immense historical and cultural value for the whole world, the statement added.
It will be made sure that the visitors enter Hagia Sophia appropriately dressed, considering it will be a place of worship.
"In Islam, physical and spiritual wellbeing of mosques are a responsibility for all Muslims (Holy Qur'an, Surat al-Tawbah, 9/18). They should be kept clean, taken care of, and used as a place to worship Allah only, and to be filled with worshippers all the time (Holy Qur'an, Surat Jinn, 72/18). For that reason, it is upon all Muslims to ensure the physical and spiritual wellbeing of Hagia Sophia, a gift to us from our forefathers," the statement concluded.