The imposing mosque (cami in Turkish) sits at the
heart of Turunç village - a reference point for
residents and visitors alike.
Five times every day, the call to prayer (ezan)
summons Muslims for mandatory worship.
The exact times are based on a
complex calculation involving the position of the
sun and are
published many years ahead.
The prayer times are:
The Imam summons worshippers with the following words:
Allaahu Akbar (four times - "Allah is Most
Great"). Ash'hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah
(twice - "I bear witness that there is no god but
Allah"). Ash'hadu anna Muhammadan-rasulullaah
(twice - "I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger
of Allah"). Haya 'alas-salaah (twice - "Come
to prayer"). Haya 'alal falaah (twice -
"Come to the good;'). Allaahu Akbar (twice -
"Allah is Most Great"). Laa ilaaha illallaah
(once - "There is no god but Allah")
On a recent visit to Turunç, I had the privilege of meeting
the current Imam - or Hoca as he is more familiarly
called. With Mehmet Gökmen translating, we chatted
over a çay in the Tea Garden just before the
My first impression is that he looks - well, just like a normal guy.
He's informally dressed ... maybe a little studious-looking. If I'd
met him on the dolmuş I would have guessed he was a teacher
- which of course he is: that's the literal translation of
"Hoca"! He has a great smile and is very
patient with my list of questions - and my inadequate
command of Turkish.
Hoca tells me he's been an Imam for 29 years - the last
nine of which have been here in Turunç. I find
out later that he's married with two children - which
answers one question I never got around to asking. His
decision to become an Imam was made very early on - at the
end of his primary school years which I guess means at the
age of about 12. He went on to a special religious
college (Imam Hatip) for four years followed by another four
years at university.
As well as his role in leading the call to prayer - five
times every day - he also officiates at funerals and
religious weddings. In addition he has what we might
call a 'pastoral' role in the community - visiting the sick
and those in trouble and leading religious studies at the
local school. This is one of a number of similarities
that come up as we talk.
With the festival of Kurban Bayram (the Feast of
Sacrifice) approaching, I ask him about its significance
to Muslims. He recounts the story of Abraham and
Ishmael and the ram that was slaughtered. Dredging
into my long-lost Sunday School lessons, I tell him that I
too know that story. He nods: apparently he often gets
that reaction from school children he teaches who have mixed
Turkish-English parents! In Turkey, there are strict
rules for the disposition of the meat from the slaughter -
the family is only allowed to keep 30% and must give the
rest away to poorer people: including, he adds with a smile,
non-Muslims if they choose to.
Our time is drawing to a close but I can't resist one
final question - "How do you think that the influx of
foreign tourists and residents has affected the religious
life of the village?" I ask. He reflects on this, and
his answer when it comes is surprising. "When I meet
foreigners, especially those who have taken the trouble to
understand something of Islam, I am often shown more respect
and courtesy than I get from some Turkish villagers" he
says. He makes sure that Mehmet gets the translation
of this spot on. He reminds me of the cross-faith
Dinner" that he helped organise at the end of
Ramazzan earlier in the year. He describes this as
bridge-building towards mutual respect and peace.
On that uplifting note he invites me to visit the mosque,
observe the call to prayer that is imminent, and take any
pictures I choose. We walk along the main street and
enter the outside courtyard of the mosque along with a few
other worshippers. While we are waiting for the
appropriate time, I see him consulting his smart-phone and,
somewhat irreverently, wonder if there might be a
Call-to-Prayer app he's using: wouldn't surprise me!
Appropriately dressed and removing my shoes I enter the
mosque. By now Hoca has donned a long white robe and
headgear and invites me into the main, male-only, room to
take some pictures. I am understandably tentative but
I see my neighbour Osman among the congregation and he gives
me an approving smile and beckons me forward. Although
there are no images of any sort (that's prohibited by Islam)
the tiled walls and carpets are quite beautiful in their
simplicity. It's a cool and very calming environment.
Hoca directs me to the upstairs - ladies-only - gallery (there
are none present today) where I can listen to the call to
prayer and get some more pictures. The call itself is
quite muted within the mosque and that's followed by an
instruction that summons worshippers to line up for
the beginning of the prayers. Even though Hoca had
told me it would be fine to take pictures of the prayers
themselves, I feel that would be too intrusive. I
observe for a few minutes before quietly slipping out to
reflect on a really interesting and quite moving hour.
Non-Muslim visitors are welcome at Turunç mosque.
If you want to visit at prayer time, as I did, that
is possible but you will need
to make prior arrangements. Obviously remove shoes
and dress appropriately. That means long trousers
and sleeved shirts for men; women should wear slacks or
a dress or blouse and skirt (at least below the knees),
preferably with elbow-length or longer sleeves (no bare
shoulders or upper arms), and a headscarf. There's
a great piece on
Mosque Etiquette on Tom Brosnahan's excellent Turkey
Travel Planner website.