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Did George Washington pay taxes to the Ottoman Empire?

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    During the periods of Sultan Bayezid II and Sultan Selim I, the Ottoman Navy was expanding and employing experienced sailors . When Barbaros Hayreddin was made Grand Admiral in 1534, the Ottoman Navy would become the most dominant force in the sea, and it would change the course of Ottoman History. Outnumbering, allied Christian fleets would be indefinitely defeated, and Ottoman Sultans would be called "Sultans of the seas". Ottoman Sea warriors in North Africa ventured beyond the Mediterranean into the Atlantic. Ottoman sea power extended to the point that Britain itself was forced to pay taxes to the Ottomans. And so when America gained its independence from Britain, it was forced to do the same when all of its resisting navy ships were captured by the Ottomans. Despite all the money spent on his navy, George Washington was left with no choice but to sign a treaty in Turkish accepting all the terms of the Ottomans, including tax payments. To this day, it is the only eve

The History, Controversy, & Truth behind the Hagia Sophia


    On July 24, 2020, the Hagia Sophia structure was officially opened as the Grand Mosque of the Hagia Sophia. This decision given by the Directorate of Turkey's religious affairs would prove to be extremely controversial, receiving much criticism from Western states. However, it would ultimately bring the majority of the fellow Turkish inhabitants to full satisfaction. In this article, we will shed light on the history of the Hagia Sophia; the conquest & controversy surrounding it, and of course: whether or not it was right to make the structure a mosque.

Hagia Sophia | History, Facts, & Significance | Britannica
The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque
    

     The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey, which was originally built as a Christian Basilica nearly 1,500 years ago. This ancient structure has survived hundreds of earthquakes and attacks throughout history. It's age, size, architecture, atmosphere, and magnificence make it truly a very unique place in the world. The building was originally constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantius I, in 325 A.D. Although it was originally built as a Basilica for the Greek Orthodox Christain Church, its function has changed several times ever since. The original structure was said to have been built on the foundations of a Pagan Temple (before the making of the Hagia Sophia). Then, later in 404 A.D, it was burned to the ground during the riots that occurred in Constantinople, due to the political conflicts arising in the family of Emperor Arkadious. However, after Emperor Arkadios' reign was over, his son, Theodosios II would rebuild the structure, finishing in 415 A.D. Though, after the 2nd burning of the the Hagia Sophia, during the Nika Revolts, in 532 A.D, Emperor Justinian figured the building could not possibly be repaired. And so, Justinian decided to demolish the entire structure, and build a new one completely from scratch; and so he would. What was very much fascinating about the making of the new building, was the fact that it only took a record 5 years, 10 months, and 4 days to make. However, it was of course, made with the help of no less than 10'000 workers! Even though the structure was to be rebuilt several times after in history, its base; which was built by Emperor Justinian, was to remain forever, and its magnificence would always be admired. Though we may not discuss the history behind the Hagia Sophia without mentioning the very tragic, Sack of Constantinople, in 1204; which is also known today, as "The Fourth Crusade." During this Crusade, the Latin Knights would have the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hagia Sophia looted, and stripped of all its treasury and gold. And so, for the next 57 years the Hagia Sophia would be designated as a Roman Catholic Cathedral. However, when the Byzantines recaptured the city of Constantinople, they would revert the structure back to its prominence among Orthodox places of worship. Though, as the result of their financial struggle, the Orthodox were not able to take care of the Hagia Sophia so nicely, and by the early 1400's, it had fallen into ruins.

HAGIA SOPHIA AGAPE: Drawing the Basilica Entire | Byzantine empire, Roman  empire, Fall of constantinople
Hagia Sophia during the Byzantine period
    

    Surprisingly, the story would not end here, and the Hagia Sophia would not remain a Church. As just a little more than 50 years later, in 1453 A.D, Constantinople would be conquered. And the one to conquer the glorious city, was none other than the the famous Ottoman Sultan, Sultan Mehmed Al-Fatih. It was during this time, that the structure of the Hagia Sophia Mosque would be well protected, and even renovated. In fact, it was even said, that the Ottomans had such love and respect for the Byzantine arts, that they had placed them in such a way, that all the works and paintings were kept in an exceptionally well condition. Not to mention, the building was bought with the money from Sultan Mehmet's personal treasury, even though the certain situation did not acquire him to do so. The reason being, the previous emperor who ruled Constantinople, Emperor Constantine, chose not to surrender to the Ottomans, as he relied on the thick walls of his city, as well as his skillful army to protect him. And so after the conquest, there were no terms given by the Ottoman, meaning there was no treaty given to protect the rights of the citizens of Constantinople. Even so, the Ottoman Sultan would show his nobleness and generosity; leaving the homes, churches, and all other properties of the citizens safe. This generosity would ultimately prove to win the hearts of the inhabitants of Constantinople, and bring its population to utmost satisfactory. 

Conquest of Constantinople, Fausto Zonaro | Fall of constantinople, Ottoman  empire, Siege of constantinople
Fatih Sultan Mehmed II conquers Constantinople
    

    Conquering Constantinople had been one of the biggest goals of the Muslims ever since the seventh century. As the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), himself had stated; " Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will that leader be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!" Blessed with accomplishing that miraculous triumph, Sultan Mehmed II was said to have fallen on his knees into prayer upon entering the Hagia Sophia, and perform his prayers twice while the first Athan was called out. After performing the Friday prayer, he subsequently created a foundation for restoring the Hagia Sophia, and allocated a fund of 14,000 gold pieces annually. Also, he wrote a document concerning the Hagia Sophia and its future: "All the things I have explained and designated here  have been set down in written form, in the foundation charter in the manner appointed; the conditions may not be altered, the laws may not be amended they may not be diverted from their original purpose, the appointed rules and principles may not be diminished. Interference of any sort in the foundation is interdicted, like Allah's other interdictions. May the curse of Allah, the angels, and all human beings be upon anyone who changes even one of the conditions governing this foundation." and so, ever since then, no one ever thought that a day would come, and a person would possibly dare to take such a curse upon himself. 
Turkish Supreme Court claims Mehmet the Conqueror “bought” Hagia Sophia, so  it can only be a mosque
Sultan Mehmed II's documents concerning the Hagia Sophia    

    Fast forward 481 years to 1934, and Istanbul is completely shook! The founding father of The Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had greatly devastated the Muslim Population of Turkey. He had taken the Mosque of the Hagia Sophia, and made it a museum. It was even said that ever since the beginning of Ataturk's reign, he had planned on doing this. However, because it was such a secretive decision, Ataturk figured that he had to do every move slowly, and step by step. His first move was to uncover the mosaics in the mosque, despite it being a holy place of worship. Though, the decision was known to the public after a stunning 2 months, leaving the Turkish citizens clueless. And had it not been for the New York Times, they would have known even later than that! That same day, there had been reports of 2 American airmen flying from New York to Istanbul. Later that year, Mustafa Kemal had met with Thomas Whittemore, the founder of the Byzantine institute of America. And though the rumors were not convincing enough to the folk of Turkey, an unhappy fate was to meet them very soon.

Erdogan joins first Muslim prayer in Hagia Sophia as mosque
    
    The news of the conversation landed like a bombshell, everyone was surprised. Even the manager of the museums mentioned in the news report; he didn't even know what was happening. The sudden decision was even criticized by the pro-Ataturk Cumhuriyet daily newspaper in a front page article: "What museum? Hagia Sophia itself is the most beautiful museum, and even alone is a better historical monument. We cannot comprehend the conversation of this monument to a museum." And so, the question many people may ask is; why did Ataturk make such a move? Why did he bother to bring the Turkish population to complete madness? And there are many theories as for why he did this. Some say that it was an indication to the West, that the new regime in Turkey was secular and peaceful. While others claim it was a gesture to the Balkan Pact; which was signed that year with Greece, Yugoslavia, and Romania. Though, in order to take a deeper view on this, we must take a look at Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the Turkish Republic.
    
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - Wikipedia
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk    

    Though today, many Turks around the world may have great respect for Ataturk, and call him the father of the Turks; they cannot possibly reject who he truly was, and how he had effected Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was born a Turk, and his parents were from Saloniki, and were believed to be have been Donmehs. In short, the Donmehs were of Jewish origin, and though they had publicly practiced Islam for about 3 centuries, they had kept their Jewish faith hidden. These Jews, called the Donmehs, had been later known as Crypto Jews. However, their story is a total different topic, and requires an entire separate article; in order for it to be fully covered. And so, though Mustafa Kemal is claimed to have been a Muslim, he may have very well been a Donmeh Jew. Though many may not know, many reporters, journalists, and news sources have the belief, that Ataturk had admitted to his Jewish background many times. As Itamar Ben Avi, the famous Hebrew journalist, and newspaper publisher wrote in one of his chapters of his book, about the many conversations between him and Ataturk. During these conversations, Mustafa Kemal had stated many details about his Jewish identity, however, there are some statements which may appear, as quite a surprise. For example; "I have at home a Hebrew Bible. I remember my father bringing me to a teacher who taught me how to read it. I can still remember a few words of it such as: Hear oh Israel! the lord is our God, the lord is one." Though, it does not come as a surprise that Ataturk may have been an actual Jew, as it would be rather easy to accept, considering where his family had come from, his abundant drinking of wine, his negligence towards the rights of Muslims in Turkey, and of course, his fierce hostility towards Islam. One thing that everybody knew about Ataturk, was the fact that he was focused on shifting the former Islamic State, to a more strict, secular nation, from which the Islamic component would be completely banished. As history had witnessed, Ataturk and his followers moved rapidly to end the religious domination in Turkey. As soon as Ataturk had created this new Secular State, he immediately started abolishing Islamic customs, enforcing Western ideology upon his people, and taking away the countries' sense of freedom, and heritage. For example, he abolished the wearing of a Hijab (Muslim woman's headscarf), as well as the men's traditional Turkish hat, the fez; which they had been accustomed to wearing for hundreds of years. Also, he decreed a change from the thousand years old Turkish-Arabic alphabet to that of the Roman, and opened up mixed schools (for both boys and girls). He even made it illegal for the athans & prayers to be recited in Arabic. In the end, Ataturk's main goal was to westernize Turkey, and secularize all its practices; which was exactly why he made the Hagia Sophia a museum. 

    

    Fast forward 86 years to July 14th, 2020, and Istanbul is again shook! Only this time, there was rather a fire of resurrection in the hearts of all Muslims in Turkey. For the first time since 1934, Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia held Islamic prayer services, after more than 8 decades. The restoration ceremony and prayer was attended by the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan; as well as politicians from the Justice and Development party, and many other Turkish political groups. Even leaders and dignitaries from countries such as Azerbaijan and Qatar were also present from the ceremony. By mid Friday morning, congregants arrived with their prayer rugs, while verses of the Quran were recited over loud speakers. And though not enough people were able to pray inside the mosque due to to social distancing, many joined the prayer from public spaces and rooftops of buildings nearby. And so the Hagia Sophia was to no longer be a museum, and the curse of Mehmet the Conqueror was finally to be lifted; as President Erdogan was to give it its new title: "The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque". 

Demonstrators hail Hagia Sophia's reversion to mosque | Daily Sabah
Turkish people express their happiness, as the Hagia Sophias is once again a mosque

    Although this decision made by Erdogan, and the Directorate of Turkey's religious affairs would enlighten millions of Muslims throughout various countries, it would of course, also bring much of the western countries to dissatisfaction. And so, this is where many arguments would start, as to whether making the Hagia Sophia a mosque again, was right or not. What many Christians would believe is that as soon as the Ottoman Sultan conquered Constantinople, he immediately took the Cathedral of the Hagia Sophia, and made it a mosque. Though, such an argument would prove to be invalid, as even today, there are documents kept from 567 years ago, which prove that the structure of the Hagia Sophia was without a doubt, bought with the personal treasury of the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet II. And even today, there are documents concerning the Hagia Sophia that are still preserved in the Ancient Records Archives of the General Directorate of the Deeds & Cadastral Surveys, as well as the Museum of Turkish & Islamic Arts. These documents which have been stored for several centuries, not only prove that the Hagia Sophia was never taken by force, but also the fact that Ataturk's decision to make the Hagia Sophia Mosque a museum, was in reality, illegal. The reason being, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror was known for not only his excellent military expertise, but also his wisdom, and foresight. And so, after buying, and converting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque; the Sultan then subsequently made the structure a waqf, meaning; an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause. A waqf is such a property, that its ownership belongs to God, and its purpose is but for the benefit human beings. A waqf cannot be sold, nor can it possibly be purchased. Be it a million years, its ownership can never be transferred. Sultan Mehmed made this move specifically so that the Hagia Sophia's status would never change, and so that as long as the structure is standing, it will remain a mosque. That is why it was undoubtably 100% unlawful for Mustafa Kemal to change the status of the Hagia Sophia to that of a museum, for it is such a property that a state can never own, nor can it have any right over it. For Ataturk to do such a thing would result in transgressing the will of Sultan Mehmed, by violating his personal treasury, the Hagia Sophia; which he had left as a waqf. However, it was not just the will of the sultan that he had broke, but also the curse of the sultan, which he had brought upon himself.

 
    After the decision was made by President Erdogan, many opposing Christians started coming up with false claims, and accusations. As a result, many of the arguments made were completely invalid. The biggest one of them being: "the Hagia Sophia was never bought." Such a statement can never be justified, as even today, documents from 567 years ago have been kept ever since the day Sultan Mehmed purchased the structure. These recordings have always been open to the public, in the Turkish museum. With that being said, the purchasing of the Hagia Sophia cannot possibly be denied, for the evidence has always been present, and the argument has never been justified. 

Curse of Sultan Mehmed II on anyone who revert Hagia Sofia to church |  Pakistan Defence
Documents written by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, proving his purchase of the structure
    

    Another claim that many opposers may have is that the Hagia Sophia was made a church, and therefore, it should've remained a church. However, this debate's roots come from complete ignorance, as the Hagia Sophia was originally built on the foundation of a Pagan Temple, not a Greek Orthodox Cathedral. All historians accept this fact, and so this debate is only made by commoners; who unfortunately, tend to not know about this fact. And even then, churches and mosques both, are being bought and converted into other buildings all the time. The question we must ask ourselves is: "since when was there a problem with this, and why should there be?" So in practice, the argument just simply does not make much sense.

Drawing of the original Hagia Sophia dome by E. Antoniades, showing a... |  Download Scientific Diagram

    The 2nd last, and arguably one of the greatest debate made about the Hagia Sophia, is surprisingly, made by a majority of Muslims themselves. The claim that Muslims often make is: "It is against Islam to covert churches/other religious buildings to mosques, Islam is a religion that tolerates other religions." Often, people happen to use the example of the great Caliph Umar, and how he did not pray in the church when visiting Jerusalem; even though he was asked to do so. Umar rejected it and made it clear that he did not want such a thing happening in the future. However, this scenario is completely different from that of the Hagia Sophia. As mentioned before, the Islamic ruling allows the conversion of religious buildings to mosques in 2 scenarios. Either it is by conquest, in which the enemy refuses to Surender, or the building must be bought. The Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem with the terms given, and the surrender of the enemy. And neither did he even attempt to buy the structure. Rather, the better example or scenario (in comparison), would be the example of the Prophet (PBUH) himself. When he had gone to conquer Makkah, no terms were given, and the enemy did not surrender. Though the Ka'bah used to be the worship place of the polytheists, the Prophet Muhammad had immediately ordered for the Athan (call of prayer) to be called on it. And so, without buying the beautiful structure, it was made the house of Allah; it was immediately made a mosque. This by itself, should be enough evidence for muslims to have to accept the fact, that the conversion of the church of the Hagia Sophia to a mosque, was without a doubt, a legal act. But the even bigger surprise, is the fact that even today, there are hundreds of churches that are being bought and made into Mosques. However, why would it be wrong for the same to happen to the Hagia Sophia? And so, the saying that this was not "Islamically or lawfully legal", is a great misconception made by many Muslims today. As many times, people may be tricked by their own feelings, which do not always go in accordance with Islam. Yes, Islam has always allowed and encouraged the preserving of non Muslim's structures and places of worship. However, still, there are situations which may make the action completely fine, in accordance with the ruling of Islam. It is just not right for one to criticize the act, when it was done within the boundaries of the Islamic ruling. Not to mention, the conversion of the Hagia Sophia Cathedral to a Grand mosque, is an idea that the vast majority of Muslim scholars have always agreed with. There are many more evidences regarding that matter, however, going into such depth would be quite unnecessary.

Istanbul's Hagia Sophia sees first Quran reading in 85 years | Al Arabiya  English    

    This last argument, which is by far the biggest argument made about the Hagia Sophia, is a much more debatable argument. It is an argument that is made by UNESCO itself, as well as the significant amount of people supporting it. Their argument is: "The Hagia Sophia should no longer be a religious site, rather it should be a world heritage site." Though, this sentence may sound right, there is one major flaw in it. Yes, perhaps the Hagia Sophia is such a site, that it has seen Christians, muslims, culture, and history. However, if this beautiful site were to be stripped of its religious values, it would be a great injustice! This beautiful structure had belonged to the glorious Sultan, Mehmed II. And it was only he who could change its values. As long as his documents of right of ownership of the Hagia Sophia are there, let alone UNESCO-; be it the Turkish Government: even they cannot change its status. This is a matter of injustice. And for such a thing to be done, would be knowingly violating the right of its owner, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. UNESCO could never hold the power to do such a thing. The Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque is already a world heritage site. Why violate the right of its owner?

Hagia Sophia - HISTORY    

    Now that we are done with all the greatest arguments, there is another thing that must be discussed. "Why did Sultan Mehmet The Conquerer decide to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque in the first place?" The answer for this is very straightforward. At the time, the Hagia Sophia was not just any church, but rather, it was known as the den of the enemy's force. And so, as long as it would remain a church, there would remain the threat of an uprising. It was believed that they could not defeat their enemies without taking down their headquarters, and buying it, to therefore make it their own place of worship. And so, it was absolutely necessary for the Ottomans, to convert the Hagia Sophia Cathedral, to a mosque. It was as if there was a little fire left in Constantinople, and Sultan Mehmet II ended it, so that his city would not be burnt by it. 

Hagia Sophia History - the Church of Holy Wisdom - Hagia Sophia History    

    Of course, we just simply may not finish this article, without discussing the hypocrisy behind the motives of many of those who argue against the recent decision. As unfortunately, we may not even have the same discussion when referring to the mosques in Spain, the Balkans, Jerusalem, Greece, India, China, and etc. The reason being, they have absolutely been destroyed, stripped of their beauty, taken away, and are never to be seen again. What ever happened to UNESCO when the famous Indian Babri Mosque was unjustly taken, and made a Hindu Temple? Why wasn't there a noise made, when thousands of centuries old, Ottoman Mosques were completely destroyed in the Balkans, and never to be seen again? What ever happened to religious rights when the sacred 13th century, Palestinian, Al-Ahmar Mosque was stripped of its magnificence, and made a filthy bar? What was the world doing when the beautiful, historic mosques of Spain were all demolished, taken down, or unrightfully converted into churches/cathedrals? Why don't people ever talk about all the mosques in China, that are currently being razed for no reason? Even to this day, mosques throughout the entire world are unlawfully made churches, temples, bars (filthy places); or even demolished! There are but 3 things that cause such injustices to happen: double standard, hypocrisy; and most of the time, ignorance. 

Cash shortage hampers rebuilding of mosques destroyed by Israel | The  Electronic Intifada
Destroyed mosques in Jerusalem
    
     And so that is why now, when the Hagia Sophia is rightfully made a mosque, people around the world should rather be grateful. We should be grateful that the Hagia Sophia building is not being demolished or taken; but rather, beautified, and cared for: legally and justly. Whether or not we have the same faith, doesn't make a difference. Rather, we should all stand in unity, with our much separate and different beliefs & opinions. Because we are all humans, and we have all come from Adam and Eve. The time we live is just too precious to be used going against one another. This is not what our lives are worth. If only we would realize that we just have too much in common to live so separate. Forget nations, races, colors, and countries: our ancestors were but the same people. We should not work for groups of people, we must work for the world.  We must work for humanity, so that we do not forget our humane. At the end of the day, we are one people, and we always will be. Why does it matter that we do not look, believe, and do the same? It just really just isn't worth it. But what we can do as human beings, is respect one another, put ourselves in each others' shoes; and let not the seeds of ignorance, hypocrisy, and hatred grow in our hearts. For, those are the exact seeds that grow the despair we may see around the world, today. 

More than 300 civil society organizations from 73 countries urge real  reform at United Nations discussions on Corporate Investor Rights | EPSU

    In the end, we have come to the decisive conclusion, that the Hagia Sophia was rightfully made a mosque, and it would otherwise be in violation of the will of its owner, Sultan Mehmed Al-Faith. And what makes the Grand Mosque of the Hagia Sophia such a magnificent structure, is not just its size and beauty; but rather, the fact that its it is open to all cultures, peoples, tourists & travelers, Muslims & non-Muslims (and neither is there even an entry fee). It is already one of the world's greatest historical heritage sites. It is a most perfect masterpiece. It is such a monument, that it was the pride of the emperors, majesty of the Sultans, and a present to the world. It is such a masterpiece, that many have even called it the 'Eighth Wonder of the World'. It is truly a gift from God, open to anyone, and everyone. It is a heritage to the world: it is none other than the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. May the world never be deprived of such a beauty!

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