Any visitor to Turkey will be struck by the plethora and variety or religious buildings and ancient shrines. There are temples dedicated to ancient gods, churches or many denominations, synagogues and or course mosques. As civilizations succeeded each other over a period or 8000 years, they each left their religious legacy and, after the monotheistic domination or Anatolia, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed in harmony.
The Hattis, Hittites, I Hourrites, Urartus, lonians, Lydians and. Phrygians all had rich mythologies. Greek mythology began with the Iliad, that epic poem or Homer who was himself a child or Anatolia. Homer was deeply influenced by the cultural environment or his motherland, in particular by the legacy or the Mesopotamian civilisations. The extremely complex Hittite pantheon, dominated by Teshub, the storm god, recognised the goddess Hebat as the partner or
Teshub. She was generally shown standing above a lion, her favourite anima1. Hebat was the supreme matron o f the State, the one person to whom the King resorted in times or danger, she is from the lineage or the great Mother Goddess of Anatolia who gave birth to a hull and took, in later times, the name of Artemis, Aphrodite or Cybele. turkey is the land where the first Christian state, Byzantium, was founded a state that lasted for one thousand years. This land was also where a great Islamic Empire merged, encompassing not only Turks, but also almost all Arabs.
Anatolia was also the first home of Christianity. It is here that Christianity ceased to be considered a Jewish religion, Virgin Mary and the apostle John are believed to have died in Ephesus. And it is in Antakya lat that the disciples or Christ were ailed Christians for the first time, this is the land of the Seven Churches or the Apocalypse and vas the venue for the first seven Councils. Christianity took root and thrived in Anatolia, where it found a historically intense religious and spiritual lifestyle. The Population easily adopted the new religion preached by St Paul, St Barnabus, St Silas and St Timothy, the Church of Ephesus was founded in 54 BC. By the second century, two dioceses had already come into existence, one in Kayseri and the other in Malatya. Cappadocia was Christianized longbefore Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as a legal religion. In the fourth century, monasticism started to expand rapidly and all those who longed for solitude or were escaping persecution round solace in the fantastic landscape of this region, where they could settle in natural grottos
Later, Anatolia became the centre or religious schisms which characterised the early centuries or Christianity, in particular the great theological debate on the relation between the components of the Trinity and on incarnation. Before adopting Islam, Turks living in Central Asia, their original habitat, followed shamanism. This religion conceived or the universe in three layers: the shy, the earth and the underground world. Mountains were venerated because they touched the sky, as were wells because they were linked to the underground world.
Turks also had totemic beliefs; one of their myths considered the wolf to be the forefather or the race. Shamanism was a mixture or religion and magic in which the Shaman, a priest or magician, would fall into a trance before reaching the sky or plunging into the underground for a specific purpose such as predicting the future. The shaman was also the master of fire since his trance was compared to the intensity or a name. The Turks encountered Islam on the frontiers or Central Asia and espoused the religion in the tenth century. This religious shirt was done willingly and the Turks therefore never had the reeling of submission. At the extremity or the empire of the was Mahmut of Gazne, who invaded northern India at the head or a Turkish army? Sometime later, the Seljuks seized the Near-East and Turkish rule extended to Anatolia.
Gazis, dervishes and nomads planted the traditions of Islamic civilisation and administration wherever they stopped. Once it had consolidated its power, the Ottoman Empire, taking over from the Seljuks, dedicated itself to the enhancement or the Islamic faith and values. Turkish Islam was characterised by a very high sense of duty and loyalty. The religious and moral integrity of the Ottoman sultans was exemplary, as evidenced for instance by the self denial of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, who at a very advanced age did not shrink before the rigours of the war in Hungary but died on the battlefield. But it is in the field of justice that Ottoman rule revealed itself to be different from other Islamic states. Full authority was given by the Sultan to the tribunals and judges, who were called upon to apply the law based on the Koran. The judges, called kadi, were the principal authority in the provinces. They were part of the proud hierarchy of judicial and religious dignitaries and ready, when their conscience obliged them, to challenge religious and military authorities.
Another difference of Turkish Islam was that the Turks continued their pre-Islamic mystic traditions, influenced by their former religions, in particular Shamanism, Buddhism and Manichaeism. Turkish Islam was equally more inclined to adapt to modern and Western concepts. Indeed, several reforms were initiated in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, including the adoption of constitutional monarchy. But the gradual decay in the state structure, and the lack of effective leadership which had characterised the Ottoman Empire since the 17th century, prevented the reforms horn along root. Alter the collapse of the Empire, its successor, the Turkish Republic, abolished the theocratic structure of the state and made secularism an immutable constitutional principle. Thismeans that religion is between the individual andGod, and should neither interfere in government affairs nor constitute an official constraint on the individual. Turkish people naturally continue to be deeply attached to the Islamic faith and traditions, a fact reflected by the estimated 65,000 mosques in Turkey.
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