ISTANBUL: A long queue of men and women standing in separate lines extends from an Istanbul mosque to see a centuries-old garment pressed down flat inside an glass exhibition case: the Prophet Mohammed’s sacred cloak made of linen, cotton and silk.
The Hirka-i Serif (the Noble Cloak) was brought to Istanbul in the seventeenth century, at a time when the Ottoman Empire controlled much of the Islamic world deep into today’s Saudi Arabia.
Every year, during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the cloak is put on special display at the Hirka-i Serif mosque in Istanbul, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.
“I was here last year. God willing, I will be here next year as long as I am alive,” 78-year-old Nimet Sahin said, as caretakers warned visitors selfies were not appropriate.
Neziha Polat, 76, said she felt as if she was in Mecca, the holy Islamic city to which all Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage in their lifetimes.
“I come here every year and have the same feeling. Let God not diminish this feeling in our heart,” she said in tears.
From Yemen to Istanbul
The garment had been entrusted to Uwais Al-Qarni, who went in the seventh century to Medina to see Prophet Mohammed but had to return to Yemen due to his mother’s illness without seeing the prophet.
Impressed by the story, Mohammed gave his cloak via companions to Al-Qarni as a present and he received the garment in Yemen.
Al-Qarni had no children and the relic was then preserved by his relatives, Istanbul mufti Hasan Kamil Yilmaz said.
In 1611 Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I brought the holy cloak to Istanbul from Kuasadasi in western Turkey where al-Qarni’s relatives had preserved it.
“Since then Hirka-i Serif has been in Istanbul,” Yilmaz told Agence France-Presse.
And in 1851, Sultan Abdul Majid built the Hirka-i Serif mosque in the Fatih district with the goal of preserving and exhibiting the cloak.