The sun slowly and gracefully sinks into the spires of the Topkapi Palace, setting ablaze the backdrop to the delicate spires of the Blue mosque and the dome of the Aya Sophia. I am reminded poignantly that I am in a country where Adhaan is called a few minutes after the Salah time starts and iqamah immediately follows the adhaan, which I am told is the Hanafi tradition.
I have now become a veteran to pray magrib at the mosque next door. I have to figure out when to step out of my abode, which is half block down, and a half a street up from the mosque, to get there exactly when the Imam gives the adhaan.
As I approach the corner of the cobble stone street on which I have to go up I hear a noise of young laughter and snickering. At the curb there are a bunch of teenage boys hanging out smoking and sharing something with each other on their phones. This is one of the posh parts of Uskudar on the Bosphorus where the mosques are empty and the streets and coffee shops are full at Maghreb. This is in remarkable contrast to the two mosques at the ferryboat gateway to Uskudar where the two mosques of the Queen mother and the Queen are always packed to the gills.
I pass a woman in tights and a sweatshirt, her glossy black hair over her shoulders, taking her dog, an Alaskan malamute for a walk. It looks exactly like a wolf. To the boys at the curb and the woman with the dog it is as if the mosque never existed in their neighborhood. Life goes on as usual. Allah gave them these beautiful apartments overlooking the Bosphorus and the gorgeous magnificent architecturally stunning historic buildings on the European side, but gratitude with forehead to the floor does not occur in the masjid at least from them, at least not today or yesterday, or the day before.
As I enter the wrought iron gate of the masjid, which is wide, open and welcoming, the Bosporus turns to sheer gold.
The soft light of the lantern above the door beckons me to come in.
I step through the wooden door with the finely engraved handle .The work of a craftsman who loves his work or is honored to be engraving the handle of the door to the house of God.
The foyer is part hardwood and part carpet. I have noticed that the Turks are very particular about cleanliness and they take it to a fine art in the mosques. They all wear clean socks to prevent their naked feet accidently carrying dirt into the mosque. Shoes are carefully removed in the non-carpeted area and placed in the numerous shelves provided both inside and outside. On leaving the mosque the shoes are put on in the non-carpeted area and long handled shoes horns are available to make it easy to slide the foot into the shoe in the standing position.
Entering, leaving and attending the Jammaa (congregational) prayer is a symphony and you have to learn the notes so as not to be off-key in this group.
I remove my shoes with one easy swoop gently pick them up so they do not drop any dirt around them and place them in the shelf provided. I then enter the sliding glass door on the right into the small women’s prayer area.
There is a large women’s prayer balcony that has never seen enough women at least when I have been in this mosque. Elsewhere yes, there are balconies and womens rooms that are packed with women praying.
Two large windows overlook the men’s musallah, they have a feminine lace shade that is drawn down half way to give privacy to the women and yet enable them to see the Imam and the musallis.
The Imam has very thoughtfully left the window open so that the sound of his recitation permeates the women’s section, however he has such a beautiful resonant voice and clear tajweed that it resounds in the masjed and bounces back to all the musallis as a commandment or an embrace depending on the surah he chooses.
Today he recites Surah Rahman, the beauty of the surah from his recitation truly brings healing to the heart, The gorgeous tiles, lining the walls, the hand painted ceiling, the crystal chandelier, the meticulously placed bricks on the road, the engraved door handle all ask the question “So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” While outside the Bosphorus dutifully opens it’s chest to the ships of communication and bounty bringing naimah (blessings) of Allah back and forth from Asia to Europe all day long.
The Salah ends and he recites the salawaat, after which one can pray sunnah, the timing is perfect for after that he recites the post Salah adkhar dua, followed by prompts for the tasbeeh Fatima, he then says the dua “ Rabi eul Alim hul Wahab”, as if pouring the love and knowledge of Allah into the hearts of everyone in the masjed.
He then recites the Asma al Husna in his melodious reverent voice and I pause in contemplation of their beauty and awe.
Meanwhile if anyone wants to leave he gives natural pauses for them to do so, yet no one leaves.
It is Maghrib, In some homes I am sure dinner is cooking, children and spouses are waiting, perhaps TV programs are waiting but to the few people in the Salah it is as if a net of mesmerization has been cast on them and they sit as the darkness of night floats down to embrace the waters of the Bosphorus and the jewels of the mosques and palaces light up across the water.
I regretfully get up, gather my shoes, step off the carpet use the long shoehorn slide on my shoes and leave the masjed.
The cool air caresses my face as if saying, “Welcome to Uskudar!” Nowhere else can you have a window overlooking the water at the entire scene of the historic Ottoman buildings and a masjed next door where Maghrib is a joy.