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Dhaka Tribune

Meet the Turkish imam welcoming stray cats at mosque

He also loves dogs

Update : 14 Sep 2021, 11:40 AM

At a time when numerous humans do not even thing of homeless or floating people, a young Turkish imam comes up with a completely reverse idea; that too, for the stray cats of Istanbul.

After pictures showing him holding cats inside the Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi Mosque in the city's historical Uskudar district, were posted on social media in early 2016, they became an instant hit.

Imam Mustafa Efe was also seen with a cat even on his prayer mat, in one of the photos, winning the hearts of countless animal-lovers across the world.

Interestingly enough, some of the stray felines roam the mosque even during jamaat (prayers in congregation).  

In January 2016, the state-run Anadolu Agency in a report pictured such a scenario. 

A grayish-colored cat alternated between licking its fur and looking detachedly at more than 300 early-bird worshippers when Efe recited the Quran while leading dawn prayers, it said.

The cat was unmoved by the congregation’s devotion or their youthful imam.

However, neither the imam nor the worshippers were offended by presence of the cat – and many others – there, the news outlet said, adding that the harmony had been in place for a long time. 

Cats and worshippers do not disturb each other and even enjoy one another’s company in the mosque.

“Cats have been with us during prayers and sermons. They do not spoil the peace inside the mosque. Worshippers love them as well,” Mustafa Efe said.

At that moment, there were some 10 stray felines in and around the mosque.

Their numbers vary because the cats are free to come and go; some leave the little cat community and are replaced by felines from elsewhere.

“Cats have been always a part of this community,” said the ailurophile, who joined the mosque’s religious classes in 1990.

Part of the reason for the notoriously free-spirited animals’ loyalty could be that they were fed and sheltered by the mosque.

“This mosque has a food bank for people. A part of this food has been distributed to these cats,” Efe tells Anadolu Agency, adding that worshippers also have helped in taking care of stray felines. 

He welcomes stray cats, particularly during winter. Explaining his decision to do so, Efe said: “It is something any Muslim should do.”

It is natural for Efe but photographs of him with his cats have attracted great interest on social media.

In early 2016, the big-hearted imam posted a video showing a mother cat carrying her babies in her mouth into the mosque.

He then wrote: "Our mosque's Friday guests; a surprise awaits us at the sermon today. The kitty has found the heart of compassion and mercy…"

It appears that he is also fond of dogs as several photos on social media show him with separate dogs. 

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