Turkey’s top religious body calls for madrasah inside Hagia Sophia

Turkey’s top state religious authority has said the country should not stop at reverting the Hagia Sophia into a functioning mosque and open a madrasah in the iconic sixth-century site.

The Hagia Sophia has returned as a place of worship after 86 years in a move that is welcomed by the Muslim world, thanks to the efforts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Artı Gerçek news site quoted the head of the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Erbaş, as telling reporters on Saturday.

"(Turkey) should not stop at opening (the Hagia Sophia) for worship, there should be a school, a madrasah (in it),’’ Erbaş said.

"The Religious Affairs Directorate has begun work to (transform) the Hagia Sophia into a mosque which has a school and conducts activities that are beneficial to the whole of mankind,’’ he added.

Erdoğan signed a decree on Friday handing over the Hagia Sophia’s administrative management to the Religious Affairs Directorate, after a court ruled the building's 1934 repurposing to a museum by the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was illegal.

The move has sparked international condemnation, with critics accusing Erdoğan of using the former Byzantine-era cathedral as a political tool. 

"We are working on what is needed next. There is work that we have conducted until now and we will continue building on that to meet any shortcomings. We hope to complete all of this by July 24,’ Erbaş said.

Erdoğan announced the mosque would open for Friday prayers on July 24.