I wrote this after we returned from our trip to Turkey . . .
So I’m back from Turkey and I had a wonderful time! There is so much I could share, but there would never be enough time to tell it all; so I will begin by sharing my first impression of Turkey.
As our plane was approaching Istanbul, I eagerly gazed out the window to catch my first glimpse. When I could finally see it, it was amazing and enormous! The first thing that caught my eye were the numerous minarets — too many to count. Of course, these minarets are from all of the mosques. It was a beautiful thing to behold. This being my first time in a Muslim country, I had been highly anticipating this experience, and it did not disappoint.
Many people do not know about Turkey’s rich Islamic history. Today, Turkey’s population is about 99% Muslim. Although there was a time that Istanbul was ruled by the Christian Roman Empire (when it was known as Constantinople), for the last 559 years it has been Muslim. Istanbul was the capital of the Muslim Ottoman Empire, and carries on its Islamic heritage today.
Throughout my time in Turkey, I continued to be amazed at the vast amount of mosques — I’m sure in every city each street had at least one. And to hear the azan from these mosques five times a day . . . it filled my heart with peace and love of Allah. The first time I heard the azan was in the city of my husband’s parents, since we drove straight there from Istanbul. I remember it clearly: we were sitting in the living room visiting, windows open letting in the cool breeze. Suddenly, I began to hear a beautiful voice in Arabic drifting in through the open windows. I listened carefully– yes, it was the azan! And wait– was that an echo? No– another mosque’s azan! The house sat near two mosques, and you could hear the azans of both, one always a few seconds behind the other. My heart was filled with joy as I sat and listened.
Although there were of course many times I was able to sit and listen to the azan while in Turkey, there was one more experience that was very memorable for me. Our first night in Istanbul we stayed in the Fatih area, which was very near to Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. In fact, the Blue Mosque was a short 5-minute walk from our hotel. We stopped there the first night for prayer. It was such an amazing structure! Being able to pray in such an ancient building where millions of Muslims have also come to pray; I’m sure that for me the experience can only be rivaled by that of visiting Mecca or Medina. After prayer, we went and sat in the courtyard. As we were sitting there at night, looking at this majestic courtyard and towering minarets, we listened as the azan for the next prayer started. It was such a moving moment, it is difficult to explain. All I can think to say is my heart and soul were at such peace and joy. I will never forget that moment, or this my first trip to Turkey.