THE hour of Tahajjud is close to ending when I step over the wooden entrance into the Musallah. I am immediately transported into the world of Allah. The dim light of the electric candelabras is enough to illuminate the overpowering names of Allah and His Rasool painted on the four walls ceiling to floor of the Prayer hall.The pale cream walls of the Ulu Camiirecede into the back ground as the smoky black letters in calligraphy scroll in and out of the names of Allah and reach out to me, imperious and commanding in every swirl of the alphabet. I am overwhelmed by the huge calligraphic commands on the wall and forget why I am here as I stand transfixed with the names of Allah all around me holding me in place. I turn around and round and the kalima, the surahs and the Ayet al Kursi stares down at me mesmering and powerful in no uncertain terms.
My companion touches my sleeve and points to the women’s musallah……….It is time to begin Tahajjud.
Sacred spaces are not necessarily placing of worship but can be defined as places where The Divine speaks to you and you are able to listen…… irrespective of the noise around you.
Ulu Cammi is one such place which is both a place of worship for centuries as well as a sacred space. It is in the city of Bursa which is a two-hour drive or ferry ride from Istanbul.
Have you ever prayed your salah with the feeling that someone is silently watching you. An alertness enters your actions as you try to keep focus. Thus, is the Ulu Cammi……
the time of Tahajjud concluded with the Fajr Azaan. As it resounded off from the cream walls embellished and adorned with the dark letters of the descriptions of Allah which in the early dawn seem to have sprung to life.
I lean back to allow a crowd of Muslim women to pass. They have come in a busload from remote parts of Turkey to pay homage to one of the historically revered mosques in Turkey and yet a well-kept secret from the common tourist who is usually sent upwards to UluDag the mountain, never entering the sacred space in the heart of the city of Bursa.
The women in long dark and pastel floor length dresses, simply draped hijabs , some towing their toddlers with them others bent with age the maps of their lives engraved in the lines of their faces milled around to find the perfect spot for salah. The iqama was called and the last woman arriving fell into line with the perfection of long practiced grace.
The sound of the ayahs being recited in Fajr meld with the letters and kalimas on the wall till all is one and I am fully engulfed in the Divine embrace.
The crowd of women beside and behind me receded as the calligraphic symbols bow down to the Divine mirroring and acknowledging every word of the recitation of the word of Allah by the Imam.
The Imam pauses after the salutations and supplication and there is the moment of silence for private prayer, It is at this moment that I feel peace settle on me and others like the wings of angels engulfing us in a giant comforting hug. Peace permeates into my soul joining me with the myriads of women over the centuries who have stood here in prayer, and supplicated with their hearts, their supplications being absorbed and reverberating in the calligraphy on the walls.
Suddenly I know with certainty that I have found my sacred space in the middle of turmoil.
What I am unaware of is that there will be more to come…………..