We visit Suleymaniye Mosque, largest in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566. Suleiman spent 10 years fighting in 17 military campaigns. He conquered Belgrade, most of Hungary, and laid siege to Vienna in 1529. His era was considered the Ottoman empire’s high point, the farthest extent of its domain. The Vienna siege failed due to heavy rains, over-extended supply lines, shortage of heavy artillery, and Viennese skillful use of arquebuses (early firearms), long pikes, and defensive positions.
We approach the mosque courtyard in front of the main entrance.
Inside, we view the low-hung lamps, which, in olden-times required refilling with oil. Islamic belief focuses on one God, with the thought that images distract from this idea. As a result, mosques display calligraphy but no human images.
We see a poster explaining Islam to visitors. It portrays the genealogy of the 25 prophets mentioned in the Qur’an. The poster portrays the most important prophets in red: Nuh (Noah), Abrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Isa Al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah), and Muhammad (570-632 CE).
Jesus is regarded as a prophet, sent by God, and Muhammad is a more recent and final prophet, sent by God. Muhammad received the Qur’an, the Muslim scriptures, directly from God.
We spoke with two girls, volunteers who answer visitors’ questions. They said that women and men pray separately to avoid the distraction caused by praying shoulder to shoulder. Both girls said they felt very comfortable wearing the veil covering their heads. It is a matter of custom, tradition, and religion, they said. [Karen asked about children and later noted that the women’s prayer area was in the back, not equal in status.]
I asked a male volunteer about his thoughts about Jesus.
“Of course, one of the prophets in Islam is Jesus,” he said. “…..Islam starts with the Prophet Adam and [goes] to the Prophet Muhammad….”If you are in the time of Jesus, we have to say, ‘There is no God but God and Jesus is his messenger.’ Now we are in the time of Muhammad. That is why we use, ‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is His prophet’….I’m believing all prophets and their books.” [Muslims note that earlier scriptures were not transcribed immediately after the events they describe, unlike the Qur’an which more accurately portrays God’s message.]
The Muslim guy explains the need to refill the oil lamps in olden times. They put ostrich eggs among the lamps because this repels spiders.
The tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent is behind the mosque, in a building among many other graves.
People in Istanbul love and feed stray cats and we saw many among the graves.
We hope to get our visa to China while in Istanbul. On Tuesday, we walked over a mile to a special Metro station to take a train and then a taxi to the Chinese Consulate. We discovered it was closed. We returned on Wednesday and were told that we needed extra documents. The office is open only in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
On the Metro, we watch video displays that provide us information about the Metro system. They have added many miles to it in recent years. We enjoyed the message that ended with the advice which translated means: “Do not cross the line.”
“I’m crossing the line,” I tell Karen.
“Hold on to your cell phone,” she says.
We went to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul.
It is a huge structure, full of shops.
Although serving the needs of the local people, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the most visited tourist attraction in the world. People like shopping more than praying.
“You can’t say that!” Karen says.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 54):
“Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.
Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.
How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.”
Many Christians and Muslims look inside and say, “I know that this is true.” They refer to doctrines accepted through faith. Faith is a valuable tool but it should never be used as a weapon.
Here is what I say: When I worked in the psychiatric hospital, I encountered many patients who described problems in their family, work, or country. They prayed, but these problems did not go away.
I suggest not worrying so much about what others do and say. Accept people as they are. Your family, workplace, country, and universe are not completely in harmony. Neither are you. Everything is unstable.
You can look inside and follow your Inner Way, a path that does not involve words. If you want the universe to sing, sing inside your own heart. Pick a positive song and the universe will sing with you.