On a winter day I’m paying a brief visit to it, one of the oldest mosques in Bulgaria, going back to the reign of Sultan Murad I (d. 1389) or Murad II (d. 1451). Hence, first it was known as Sultan Murad’s mosque, and was subsequently named Ulu Dzhumaya Mosque. The building had several entrances; today only the entrance to the north side where the pastry shop is, remains open. The minaret is located on the northeast corner of the building. The southwestern corner of the mosque is decorated with a sundial, installed in 1878. The prayer room is covered by nine domes resting on four pillars. Below the middle dome somewhere in the twentieth century, a cement fountain was made, only to be subsequently removed.
Today the guard does not let me in close to the prayer niche (mihrab), and half of the whole space remains inaccessible for outsiders, being preserved the worshipers. After the usual exchange of the inevitable seliam aleykum, I understand time for prayer is drawing near. The prayer is in ten minutes, I say, for me they would be enough. The interior has been completely renovated and clean, I remember that somewhere in 2006-2008 it was restored with the sponsorship of the “Great Istanbul Municipality”.
Below the drum of one of the domes, I see a portion of Qur’an 59:21: “And those similitudes – We strike them for men; haply they will reflect”. It’not been without the almost usual mistake in writing the Arabic original of the Qur’an. This time it’s found in the typo of the word “similitudes”, “examples” (amthal). The inter-dental consonant ث, similar to the English [θ], is missing its characteristic three diacritical dots above it. That is completely inadmissible, as long as these three dots constitute an essential part of the letter and distinguish it from other similar ones the dots of which have a different number or location (e.g. „b“ – ب, „t“ – ت, „n“ in ligatures – نـ or „y/i“ – يـ).
Several other Qur’anic verses are clearly legible
I see Quran 59:24:
“He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the All-mighty, the All-wise.”
Or Qur’an 62:11:
“But when they see merchandise or diversion they scatter off to it, and they leave thee standing. Say: ‘What is with God is better than diversion and merchandise. God is the best of providers’.”
I see as well one of the most famous Qur’anic verses, the one referring to the Night Journey of the prophet Muhammad, 17:1:
„Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Further Mosque the precincts of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.”
The verse reminds of the famous „Night Journey“ of the Prophet Muhammad on the back of Buraq creature to the throne of Allah. According to the tradition, Muhammad’s ascension to heaven begins from the al-Aksa mosque, the “Further Mosque” in this text. It is not clear when this “distant mosque” in the Qur’an begins to be perceived as Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. This text is also the closest to a text mentioning Jerusalem in the Qur’an, if we assume at all that the mosque in it is al-Aqsa at all.
Unaware of my curiosity, a street dog (Turkish köpek) is standing outside, at one of the entrances, relaxingly absorbing the rays of the winter sun. It remains also negligent of how inappropriate its presence is here, as long as dogs are considered unclean in Islam. Although they are not as frankly demonized as the pigs in the Qur’an, there is debate about exactly what is unclean within a dog. Muhammad in the Sunna said, however, that the angels of Allah do not enter a house where there are dogs, images, idols, or crosses.
While at the same time my thoughts take a different direction
Muslim prayer is approaching, and I quickly leave this space, burdened with history and musings on the future.
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land. Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.