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Istanbul’s Mosque Embraces Exercise for Body and Soul

Afternoon prayers conclude at the working-class Istanbul mosque, and the attention shifts from the imam to the sport instructor in a white polo shirt.

A dozen worshippers, including the imam, stand on the thick turquoise carpet of Abdulhamid Han Mosque.

They follow the instructor’s movements, raising knees, rotating shoulders, and hopping in place for 15 minutes, exchanging muted giggles and shy glances.

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Since January, this fitness initiative has been active in 11 mosques of Istanbul’s Bagcilar district, offering exercise to the densely populated and deprived community.

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“A person is like a vehicle. Just like we need vehicle maintenance, when we do sport our organs improve,” 66-year-old mosque-goer Servet Arici told AFP, France 24 reported.

Standing next to Arici, the veteran of the group, Huseyin Kaya, 75, said he was delighted to “make every part of my body move”.

“It makes a difference,” the bearded former taxi driver said, his forehead creased with wrinkles under his black skullcap.

The imam, Bulent Cinar, is delighted his mosque was now more than a place of worship, attracting fitness-conscious faithful from neighboring mosques.

“After we do these exercises, the quality of their prayers improves,” the imam said.

“They move more easily. They are rejuvenated.”

Muslims’ approach to sports is often determined by religious, cultural, and ethnic factors.

In general, Islam promotes good health and fitness and encourages both men and women to maintain healthy lifestyles.