When a Turkish Saudi family approached Zeynep Fadillioğlu about constructing a mosque in memorial to their mother, she knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Turkey is a majority Muslim country with a secular constitution, and from this divergence emerges internal struggles between those with opposing ideologies. Fadillioğlu hopes the Sakirin mosque can be a symbol of unity in the midst of this conflict.
Speaking about this to the BBC about being the first woman to design a mosque in Turkey, Fadillioğlu said, "Especially at a time when so much is being discussed wrongly of Islam not allowing women to have equal rights. The fact that a woman can build a mosque disproves this...I did not face any problems whatsoever. I was more scared myself. I had the prejudice myself, that I would have problems."
During the time of the Prophet Muhammad, women and men prayed together in mosques. These days in Turkey, these places of worship are thought by some to be the realm of men. Drawing on her own experience of praying in mosques, and preserving both contemporary and traditional practices, Fadillioğlu designed a large, open second floor balustrade as a space for women while the expansive first floor is reserved for men.
A modern raindrop chandelier is combined with Ottoman era religious art and glass etched with passages from the Qur'an. Fadillioğlu worked in tandem with theologians and experts in Islamic art, and said the experience was both a spiritual and artistic one. "Even though I'm not really a practicing Muslim, this is a very special project for me," Fadillioğlu told NPR.
The Sakirin mosque opened with a ceremony on May 8th.