Theology Under the Blue Mosque
BMH 02 - 02 - 2010

The team caught up on some much needed sleep last night; it was refreshing after a couple days of traveling in a coach. The breakfast in the hotel was decent, though not as filling or diverse as anywhere in Greece. Our tour-guide in Turkey, Nam met us at the hotel and we walked to the Blue Mosque. The hippodrome once stood in the same location; there are three columns remaining in the center of the ring. Before entering,we removed our shoes and placed them in plastic bags, to carry with us through the mosque. There is as large worship space in the center of the Blue Mosque beneath a large dome. The dome is supported by four elephant-like, solid marble columns, but for a Muslim, these columns are imposing on the unification of the spiritual community. All forty of us piled behind a railing and Nam led a discussion on Islam. It was refreshing to hear a Muslim's opinion on Islam rather than from Western media or gossip. Too often our ignorance binds us to a distorted perspective of reality, recently in the extremes of radicalism. Nam discussed the rules and the pillars of Islam, but he also accessed Judaism and Christianity from the perspective of Islam. He described the two religious groups as the “People of the Book” and submissive to God. Through this definition he separated the majority of practicing Muslims from the extremist that label both groups as infidels. Nam described Islam as the straightest path towards the light of God; however, he exclaimed that Islam recognizes all three religions as Abrahamic faiths following the same God. Thus, from the perspective of a Muslim, Christians and Jews follow the same path towards God, only through a more treacherous and winding path. Nam also discussed the Mosque's physical relationship to the community of Islam. A Muslim is not a member of a particular mosque, rather a Muslim is able to pray in every Mosque. This community brotherhood establishes a commitment to thy neighbor, expressed through a tax that radiates from local to regional to global context. Islam is also a personal religion. While there are scholars and preachers, there are no figure heads in the church. Therefore, no decree is binding to the whole of the religion. Accessing my hometown project for its commitment to the community, I found it fascinating that both Christianity and Islam provide a social framework for harmony. If a design is to follow the needs of the community, perhaps it should also look to the religious institutions in the surrounding context for their support.

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