hen Vladimir of Ukraine was looking for a new religion back in AD 987, he sent his envoys to Constantinople. They reported back from Hagia Sophia: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty”. And that’s why the Muslims wanted it so and it fell on 9/11/1453. The date is significant.
Fast foward to 2016.
Ramadan the holiest month of the year for Muslim’s is here. According to Mohammed it is “When , the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” They believe it was during Ramadan that God revealed the first verses of the Koran ,to Mohammed, on a night known as “The Night of Power” (or Laylat al-Qadr in Arabic) and so fast every day from sunrise to sunset, after which they party…hard.
They have lots of rules for the month: they must abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, chewing gum, smoking cigarettes, and engaging in any sexual activity, including taking any vitamin pills or medication during those daylight hours. In some Muslim countries, it is a crime to eat and drink in public during the day in the month of Ramadan, even if you’re not Muslim.
Ramadan is a moveable feast based on their lunar calendar. which only has 354 days. Overtime, their calendar moves backwards compared to the Gregorian calendar and will move into Spring . If that doesn’t tell all I don’t know what does. This year Ramadan started on June 5th, this past Sunday, which for us Orthodox was the 5th Sunday of Lent, the Sunday of the Blind Man. (Pentecost is Father’s Day here in America). The irony is pretty funny.
The Blind Man parable is the basis for the great gospel, Amazing Grace. Click here and listen to the Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa Choir sing it.
So what does all this have to do n the ancient Church of Hagia Sophia? Well for the first time in 80 years, they are reading the Quran for Ramadan there. Why is that upsetting? It is supposed to be a “museum” and a not practicing mosque.