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Interviewing the imam of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul

NOTE: Because of server problems it’s been more than a month I can not upload new pictures to the blog. In order not to upload posts without pics I have stopped publishing new material since then, so I’ve decided to publish without pictures and when I fix it I will add them. Excuse me for the inconvenience.

Since I started this journey, almost a year ago, if there is something I love to do occasionally is reading old notes that I wrote for future posts. I have tons of information, valuable by my understanding, that I cannot finish it! This is one of them. A little more than half a year I was crossing the Bulgarian border with Turkey to immerse myself in the Middle East, where I would be the next 4 months. The first big city that I reached was Istanbul and during one of my first walks discovering this amazing city I ended up in Sultan Ahmet Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque. I got surprised when I read a sign that said “If you have any questions about Islam, enters and ask”. I knocked the door, got inside the room and found a man with perfect English, who told me his name was Kizılaslan Ishak, he was the imam of the mosque and he would answer everything I wanted. Without thinking twice, I asked if he minded giving me few minutes to prepare a series of questions and then interview him. He accepted and this was the result.

Jordi Jurado – Good afternoon and thank you very much for accepting this interview.

    Ishak Kizılaslan – Thank you for your interest in Islam.

J.J. – Let’s begin with some really basic stuff. I’ve seen there are 5 pillars of Islam, could you briefly explain them to me?

    I.K. – Yes, the first one is “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”. This is the key of islam, the most important. The second is that in order to correctly worship Allah, you should pray 5 times per day.

J.J. – Sorry but why exactly five?

    I.K. – You have to remember about him at least these times per day. Before sun rises, you should wake up, clean up and worship Allah. At noon you should remember about him again. And like this until sun goes down. You don’t have to see it as an obligation but an opportunity to speak with him. There are many times per day I will be tempted to do many bad things but speaking with him will help me follow the good path.

J.J. – Okay, so what about the third?

    I.K. – The third pillar is to follow Ramadan when, once per year, is done. Finally, the last two are more focused on rich muslims. The forth is about charity, and once a year rich muslims should give 2.5% of their wealth to the poor people. Not to the mosque, not to me, but to the poor people directly. The fifth and last one, is about going at least once in your life to Mecca, but again this applies only to rich muslims.

J.J. – Going back to the fact of praying 5 times per day, does it have to be in the mosque or you can do it wherever you are?

    I.K. – Either way is good as long as you are worshipping Allah, but for men if you go to the mosque he will give you 27 times more reward than if you pray elsewhere on your own. Regarding the women, if they stay at home but they pray there, they will get the same reward than praying from the mosque.

J.J. – Speaking about this, I saw that in the mosque there are two places to pray, one for men and the other for women, why is that?

    I.K. – As we are humans, men and women may feel attracted to each other, so we pray separated for a practical reason: In order not to lose our concentration. That’s why you see two praying zones when you enter to any mosque in the world, so men can pray in front and women behind them.

J.J. – As imam what are you doing exactly here in the mosque?

    I.K. – Basically I’m the one that lead all the prays here. You may stay when we finish and see when I do this if you want. You will see hundreds of muslims praying on their own, and after they will follow my lead and my pray.

J.J. – What about the Muezzin?

    I.K. – He is the one who recites and leads the call to all the muslims to go to pray in the specific hours.

(At this point one guy knocks the door, gets inside and asks one question, which I add also here since I found it quite interesting)

Spontaneous Guy – I’m sorry but I see all this opulence here and I ask myself, how is it all financed?

    I.K. – There is no membership, so it cannot be financed like an enterprise or a club. When something needs to be constructed or done, we announce it and people make small donations until we reach our goal.

(The guy smiles and leaves)

J.J. – Being in Morocco in some mosques they didn’t let me in since I’m not muslim and in some they pretended me to give them money. Do these rules change on all the mosques?

    I.K. – Listen, unless it’s praying time, in any mosque you may want to get in noone can force you to pay anything or stop you from entering. No matter what religion you are part of, when you get inside of a mosque you are a “Guest of Allah”, wherever you are in the world.

J.J. – Why should we take the shoes off?

    I.K. – Even entering our home we take our shoes off, because with shoes we step on everything, but in Allah’s presence we have to be clean, beginning from the feet.

J.J. – I’ve seen that you are really close with each other, when men arrive to the mosque they greet each other effusively. This is also because of religion or just because of ethnicity?

    I.K. – Actually both, because turkish people is so affectionate but even more for the islamic part, because Allah wants us to show love to each other and to hug each other.

J.J. – But also between genders?

    I.K. – No, man to man, woman to woman. Actually are you married?

J.J. – No.

    I.K. – So then, according to Islam, you are not allowed to touch each other, not even mention to have sex. You should get married to keep on being together.

J.J. – Why should woman be that covered but men not at all? I mean, sometimes you get to see men almost naked due to heat, and women next to them totally covered.

    I.K. – Women are beautiful and they have beautiful body, so we may have a sexual desire when we see them. That’s why their beauty should be covered and nobody but her parents, brothers and husband should see her uncovered.

J.J. – What about all those muslims who may believe in Allah as much as you do, but they don’t pray exactly five times per day, don’t follow Ramadan, drink alcohol or have sex without being married?

    I.K. – They will call themselves muslims but they are not. It is not about me, it is not about you, Islam is following the rules of Allah written in the Quran. So if you pray less than 5 times per day, have sex without being married, drink alcohol or break the fast, call it how you want, but it’s not Islam.

J.J. – Now let’s try the other way round, what would Allah think about a non-muslim but that is a good person?

    I.K. – Actually according to Islam, everyone comes to life as muslim, clean, without sins and purified, so everyone is muslim until baptism or death. So even if you never heard of islam, you will be rewarded for the good things, but not punished for the bad things.

J.J. – I’ve listened that a woman menstruating shouldn’t read or touch the Quran. Is that true? If so, why is that?

    I.K. – Yes, it is true. In islam when women are menstruating they will not pray at all, not even from the house, because Allah understands she is passing raw enough and let her stop doing that so it’s easier to pass this. With that said, they are not allowed to go to the mosque or to touch the Quran, but all this because they are not praying, not because they are menstruating.

J.J. – Is there any kind of confession like there is in Christianity?

    I.K. – Yes, there is but there is a difference. In islam to be forgiven from Allah, there is no way you need to go to the iman or whoever to explain him your sin. You just need to speak with Allah directly and follow these three conditions: Being really regretful, stop doing the sin and ask for allah’s forgiveness.

J.J. – Any sin?

    I.K. – Any sin whatsoever can be forgiven by Allah, if before you die you really regret it.

J.J. – What would happen with my past sins if I become muslim now?

    I.K. – You will be as clean as a new-born boy. All your past sins will be removed, while your good things & acts will remain.

J.J. – Wow, looks like it’s time for new religion then!

    I.K. – Of course! You are still not muslims but I invite you to Allah’s religion, your natural religion. So far you didn’t know, but now you do know the truth, so if you reject this invitation and you die without asking for Allah’s forgiveness, you will remain without forgive.

J.J. – Yeah, I think I will keep on being a sinner.

    Your choice! Now I should go since it’s praying time and the worshipers will be waiting for me, but as I said before, if you want you can stay and watch the ceremony, even f the mosque is closed to tourists.

J.J. – Sure thing I’ll stay. Thank you for this and for your time.

    Thank you again for showing interest in Allah’s religion.


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