The narrow stone street full of old wooden houses takes you to the magnificent mosque, that fascinates you at first sight. The stray cat on the street under the balcony of a house, that spreads a delicious smell, looks you in the eye without being bothered as you pass by cautiously. Pigeons fly over your head along with the sound of the call for a late afternoon prayer, that tells you whether you are close enough for the glorious construction you saw only in the pictures. You follow the sound as if it was the smell of fresh bread coming from a bakery shop, or the voice of a doe-eyed beloved.

As your steps gather pace, so does the beat of your heart. You see minarets first which shoot up to the blue sky, and a dome shining under the afternoon sun appears later. Pigeons you saw over your head minutes ago are now sitting idly on top of its roofs and walls watching people rushing for prayer. A bunch of them rush toward the food though given by a three-year-old who chases them after throwing the last piece as far as he could. The game continues between the curious boy and hungry pigeons until he is called by his mother pushing a stroller that carries his new-born sibling. They disappear slowly in the narrow street you just came from.

You see the white stone walls surrounding the backyard of the mosque. Trees behind the walls treat their pleasant shadow on the street while they hide Suleymaniye like a big surprise. When you enter the stone gate, you see a green backyard as the reflection of the Garden of Eden. People are resting under plane trees while three old men are performing abolition from the taps attached to the wall. In order to act according to one of the sayings that advise drinking water for healing, you sit with old men and drink water leaking slowly through your fingers. You sit awhile and listen to the sound of the gentle splashing. One of the men whose eyes are closed yet, and mouth open is murmuring a prayer in Arabic. You can hardy catch the first word as he washes his face, hands, arms, and feet three times each.

The word repeatedly reaching you is “Allahumma” meaning “O Allah.” He is asking for something, maybe refuge from sins, or purity for the soul. Refreshed physically and spiritually, the old man heads to the stairs of the temple in order to complete the ritual. He leaves earthly ties behind as his silhouette disappears along with a well-dressed man’s, behind the green curtain hung in front of the door.

You watch the heavy leader curtain standing as if it was a gate for another dimension or a hole swallowing people alive. You go up the stairs faster than the old man, take off your shoes as mentioned in the sign, and carry them inside till you remember their presence in your hands. When you cross to the other side of the leader curtain, the first thing you feel is the shadow and the coolness touching your face. You walk slowly as if you were lost in the middle of an arena feeling fragile and how little you are in the universe. The magnificence of the mosque against your littleness.

As you walk, you feel the red velvet carpet on the ground, a sharp contrast with bright colors of the walls, columns and doom ceiling ornamented with calligraphy and centuries old hand-made ceramics. You head towards a corner to observe the people― old, young, rich, poor, black and white, lined up like the beads of a rosary for prayer in order to present their individual submission to the creator. They bend and rise at the same time like one body when the recitation of the Quran resonates in each corner. Time slows down, and nothing but an unfamiliar beautiful melody is heard for a minute. You are embraced by the spiritual atmosphere, trying to make meaning out of what you are witnessing right now. Suddenly, you find yourself praying unintentionally for refugees, orphans, poor, and people in need all over the world. Your wishes blend with others who complete the prayer. Then, you quietly merge with the crowd heading towards the leader curtain to go back to the busy and cruel world waiting outside.

 

Hediye Özkan

Hediye Özkan

Hediye Özkan is a Ph.D. candidate in Literature & Criticism and teaching associate in the US. Her areas of interests are 19th-century American Literature, autobiography and life writing and women writers. She has presented in many conferences around the world including Oxford, UK, Turkey and the US. Some her publications are: “The Spirit of the Carnival: Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Constantinople.” Interactions 26.1-2 (2017): 143-150, “Does Patriarchy Only Oppress Female: The Role of Masculinity and Fatherhood in Our Social Realm.” Masculinities 1.2 (2014): 135-147 and “How Do They Break the Chains: Solidarity and Unity of Working Women against Patriarchy in Fettered for Life or Lord and Master.” Voices 1.1 (2014): 17-28.

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