At the moment we entered Bursa, I did not realize that the gems of Bursa were dressed in the tatters of modernity. They neither called out to you nor forced you to their light, but if you sought them, their Magnificence and Awe brought you to your knees……….
Night has fallen in Bursa, the lights of the hotel are bright, utilitarian and familiar, it is the Holiday Inn in Bursa, you could close your eyes and be in any of the Holiday Inns in the world.
I rush to wash off the metaphorical dust of the journey, as it has been a luxurious, slow paced, event filled day enroute to Bursa from Istanbul.
The bus loaded with the few enthusiasts who want to visit THE mosque of Bursa, the Ulu Camii tonight weaves through the brightly lit streets of Bursa. It heads towards the part of the city that is being embraced by the soft drizzle of rain. The white bus pours out its enthusiasts and disappears into the traffic.
The age-old brick pavement steadily and generously receives these new feet, foreign shoes and foreign hearts on it as it leads us to the mosque. In the midst of the drizzle, the approach to the mosque is slightly hazy, though the soaring minaret confirms that we in the right place. We look for the women’s entrance, which as it turns out all entrances are for everyone.
I carefully walk up the marble footsteps wet with the rain, and notice that some women from Europe are also respectfully removing their shoes as they struggle to keep their wispy scarves on their well-coifed hair.
There is a straw mat with the picture of a shoe with a stop across it and in Turkish instructs us not to step onto the carpet with shoes. This is universal in all the mosques in Turkey, though is not universal in the Muslim world where I have travelled including the Haram in Mecca. Even in the most sacred of sanctuaries Muslims are disobedient and still track dirt from their shoes or worse sometimes step into the mosque with shoes and then take of their shoes dribbling dirt onto the musallah.
The Turks like nowhere else in the Muslim world impeccably practice the basic Akhlaaq of the Sunnah of cleanliness. It is embedded in their genes whether they come from a religious family or a secular one. Their bodies move with the Grace of the Sunnah instilled into them over centuries of practice and makes for a very clean and harmonious environment in the mosques of Turkey.
I step on the pink carpet and notice that the women are taking their shoes inside behind the leather curtain that shields the inside of the mosque from the elements. I look back at the two fountains with faucets around them for wudu and realize that the rain has stopped.
On the left of the door are neat shelves with numbers; I place my shoes selecting the number of my birth date so I can remember to find it and then I look up and am rooted, mesmerized and ………….
Suddenly and for the first time in my life in all the mosques I have been to in the world, I feel like an Ant in the Kaaba.
The Majesty of Allah is looking down at little me with benevolence but stern irreversible Power (Sariye ul Iqaab). I am rooted with awe, the camera with my zoom lens hangs loosely around my neck my fingers stilled on it, my cell phone almost slips from my nerveless fingers as the calligraphy with the Majesty of Allah stands over me and I like the ant of Suleiman (AS) look up at it and know with my deepest conviction that I can be squashed by HIS majesty in a blink. For minuscule me to be in this mosque is only by His tremendous Rahmah. He Subhanawataala wants me to feel………………the nth of His power, and its relativity to me.
As I move forward like a robot, the arches open into more arches and the black calligraphic letters on the beige wall, monochromatically declaring the Unity of Allah, the Kalima, His attributes and sometimes simply His name stare down at me, creating a distance between me and my Lord, which reminds me of my place in this world and in the Hereafter.
Tourists are busy posing against the fountain and clicking away.
Suddenly I too want to share this immensely powerful place with my loved ones and try to call them, but those across the ocean are oblivious to this beauty and are immersed in their own lives busied with the technical logistical aspects of it.
The adhaan for Isha is called. The women’s prayer section is large and expandable, outside it are a range of bins for selecting, square scarfs, long shawls, skirts and blouses to cover oneself in modesty before standing in front of Him Subhanawataala.
Feeling miniscule like an ant I join the line of women ready for isha Salah. For the first time in my life I do not remember the Salah. I intensely feel this huge presence, which has left a whiff of it in this mosque, and I cannot forget my place in His presence. I feel I am being shown a glimpse of His Qahar, his Jabaar and His Jamaal, all together.
It is perhaps this feeling that was shared in humility by the Ottoman King who built this mosque. His Promise to the Christian woman (his subject) stands as a sentinel in the middle of the mosque, encased in pristine white marble, the crystal clear water in its basin and the tinkling of the water the water fountain remains a testimony of the promise the Ottoman King to the Christian woman.
The story goes as follows:
“I am willing to sell you my house for your mosque but I donot want anyone praying in the area of my house” I paraphrase the words of the Christian women from whom the King was buying the land on which her house stood to build this mosque. It was right in the middle of the area of the land where the mosque was going to be built.
He gave his word and it stands today as Allah commands in the Quran……… and I paraphrase “a Muslim honors his contracts and oaths”
Thus a huge fountain sits in the middle of the mosque the size and area of the house of the Christian woman and thus no one can pray in that area, honoring a promise made centuries ago. No wonder one can see and experience Allah’s Beneficence in every particle of Turkey.
Between the generosity and love of the Turks for their stray cats, the Wakf Trust) for the stray dogs that takes care of them and the care and love for their free birds is a testimony of Allah’s acceptance of their sadaqa and manifestation of His Beneficence where they live.
The prayer ended. As I walked around like a automaton, the size of an ant, over awed by the power of the call of the words and attributes on the walls, centuries of humble submission to the Power of Allah seeped into me from the walls and the floor of this masjid and I prayed to Allah wordlessly and with my heart…………