Constantinople attracted the sahaba’s (companions of the Prophet Muhammad) attention with the influence of the Prophet Muhammad’s hadiths heralding the city’s conquest. Many sahaba like Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Abbas and Abdullah ibn Zubayr joined the city’s sieges and some of them were buried in Constantinople, most notably Khalid ibn Zayd Abu Ayyub al-Ansarİ and Abu Shayba al-Khudrî. Khalid ibn Zayd Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, famous among the Turks with the name Eyüp (Ayyub) Sultan, was influential in the following campaigns by the Muslims. From Sultan Mehmed II, the Conqueror’s era onwards, mausoleums were built on the sahaba tombs and also for some sahaba, maqams (symbolic tombs and/or mausoleums) were built. The tombs of Khalid ibn Zayd Abu Ayyub al-Ansari and Abu Shayba al-Khudri are the most notable examples.
People, who came with the sahaba and passed away during the sieges, despite not being sahaba were regarded by the Istanbulites as ones and their tombs were seen as “sahaba tombs”, as well. Istanbulites, who couldn’t visit the places these people were born in and came from, continued their ties of affection with those places, so as to speak, through these people.
The interbedded nature of life and death and the closeness of death were felt through these tombs and maqams and the presence of these tombs was regarded as spiritual centers for the people of the particular district and of the city as a whole.
Almost 30 sahaba’s tombs and maqams in Istanbul were valued not only by common citizens; but they were also paid courtto and visited a lot by the sultans and the administrators. The sultans and the administrators had mausoleums built for them and from time to time had these tombs and mausoleums restored and maintained.
The most known sahabi in Istanbul is “Mihmandar-ı Resul” (Host of the Messenger, i.e. Prophet Muhammad) Khalid ibn Zayd Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. The first architectural work built in Mehmed II, the Conqueror’s era in Constantinople was the tomb of Eyüp Sultan and Eyüp Sultan Complex consisting of a mosque, a madrasa (muslim theological school), an imaret (public soup kitchens built throughout the Ottoman Empire) and a Turkish bath (hamam) situated around the tomb. As the result of Sultan Ahmed I’s expansion efforts, the tomb has gained its present-day form and later on Sultan Selim III, Mahmud II and Sultan Abdulhamid II made important contributions to the tomb, as well. With the Girding of the Sword ceremonies (Ottoman version of coronation ceremonies) of the Ottoman Sultans, giving legitimacy to the sultan, being performed here, the tomb occupied an important place in the state protocol of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultans visited the tomb before and after every important event for various reasons.
Following his burial, the tomb of this sahabi became a visiting site for the Byzantines and after the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Empire, it was seen, by the Constantinoplians,as some sort of a branch of the holytowns and cities, and an analogy and paralellism was established between this tomb and Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina. It was prohibited to open taverns, cafés in which people gamble and ortaoyunu (TN: a kind of a street theater) quarters inside the precinct which extended over to the neighbourhood of Ayvansaray, now within the district of Fatih. The people who were going on pilgrimage to Mecca wouldn’t set off without visiting the tomb first. The district of Eyüp sultan has been regarded as the most beautiful spiritual place by foreign visitors. Even some non-muslim dwellers of Eyüpsultan wouldn’t open their shops and businesses without visiting Eyüp Sultan tomb each morning. For some people coming from out of town, the presence of Eyüp Sultan tomb was alone a reason to visit Constantinople. The presence of this sahabi in Istanbul was not only important during the Ottoman era but it also gave Istanbul an important place among the pilgrimage sites today.
Abu Shayba al-Khudri al-Ansari, who was Prophet Muhammad’s foster brother and was around 85-90 years old during the campaign, is one of the sahaba who died as a martyr inside the city walls during the siege. It is reported in the sources that his tomb, built in Mehmed II, the Conqueror’s era following the conquest of the city in the Tokludede Cemetery inside the city walls in Ayvansaray neighbourhood, has been among the visiting sites to which Istanbulites paid as much interest as Eyüp Sultan tomb. Sultan Bayezid II, Çorlulu Ali Pasha and Sultan Mahmud II had the tomb restored and gave importance to its maintenance. The area is also known as “sahaba cemetery” (sahabeler haziresi in Turkish) due to many sahaba who died martyr in the area during the siege of Constantinople. amīd Allah al-Ansarī, Ahmad al-Ansarî, Muhammad al-Ansarî and Ka‘b are the other sahaba who have a tomb around here.
Kocamustafapasha Mosque and Atikmustafapasha Mosque, the latter also known as Jabir Mosque, are two places, which have sahabi tombs inside and around and whose importance and characteristics date back to the Byzantine period and both of which were converted from churches into mosques by Koca Mustafa Pasha. The tomb, which was reported as belonging to a sahabi named Jabir, is under the minbar (the pulpit in a mosque) of the Atikmustafapaşa Mosque. The tomb has been visited immensely both by the citizens and the administrators. The details of Sultan Mahmud I’s visit can be read from the chronicles written by his personal secretary.The other structure, the Kocamustafapaşa Mosque and Cemetery is also among the most visited places in Istanbul. Situated here are the tomb of the kerimeteyn (two daughters), who were reported as being Husayn’s children, the tomb of the aforementioned Jabir’s wife Daye Hatun and also the tomb of the king’s daughter of the time, who converted to Islam with the help of these women.
The tombs of Abu’d Darda, one of which is in Eyüpsultan and the other is near Üsküdar Karacaahmet Dervish Lodge, the tomb of Abu Dhar al-Ghifari in Fatih Ayvansaray Karabaş neigborhood, the tomb of Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri near the Edirnekapı Chora Mosque (TN: now a museum) and the tomb of Amr ibn al-’As inside the Karaköy Underground Mosque are other maqams visited by the Istanbulites.
The sahaba’s tombs inside and outside the city walls around Eğrikapı are other remarkable structures. The maqam tombs of Abdurrahman-ı Shami, one of which is situated inside the Karaköy Underground Mosque and another between the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) and Hagia Sophia Mosque (now a museum), are also among the places visited by the Istanbulites as sahaba tombs and through which they could build a connection with Prophet Muhammad.
Istanbulites have cherished the tombs, graves and maqams of these sahaba, who constituted the Ni‘melceyşevvelûn (the first soldiers who came for the siege of the city) and regarded visiting these places on certain days as a duty; and they have strengthened their devotedness to their Prophet through these places. These holy sites have not only been of great value and importance to the citizens, but for the administrators, as well. Sultan Mahmud II had almost all of these tombs, graves and maqams restored and maintained. Sahaflar Şeyhizade (Prince of the Bibliopoles) Esad Efendi had the restorations performed during this period chronicled and the epitaphs written by Calligrapher Yesarizade Mustafa Izzet Efendi were hung on the tomb doors.
God’s Messenger (Prophet Muhammed) just prophesied about the conquests of many cities and countries, but when it came to Constantiople, he described its future conqueror “ni‘me’l-emîr” (elated/wonderful commander) and his soldiers “ni‘me’l-ceyş” (elated/wonderful army). In late Prof. Dr. Ali Yardım’s words “It is impossible not to hear the sound of the cannon ball which shook the Byzantine city walls, in the intonation of the word “Letüftehanne” (has the meanings of “certainly”, “one day”, “verily” be conquered) in the Hadith about the Conquest of Constantinople4 which demonstrated a short, certain, determined and hopeful expressional harmony.” This hadith gave Constantinople many sahaba, bestowed it a statesman and helped it have a fondled army and finally created civilization, which contains all of these.
The tombs in Istanbul are among the most important components of our civilization. In particular, the sahaba’s tombs and maqams hold a very special place. The tombs of the sahaba, which are like stars landed here, are inseparable today from Istanbul’s identity as a city, just as they were in the past. These tombs assumed the most important historical role of connecting Istanbul to the first periods of Islam and kept this connection in people’s memories alive from those days to the present time.
BOA, A.AMD, 89/17.
BOA, C.BL, no. 398.
BOA, C.EV, no. 24565.
BOA, HH, no. 27472.
BOA, İ.EV, 1318, N.5.
BOA, İ.HUS, 1312, B.97.
BOA, İ.MVL, 17873.
BOA, Teşrifatçılık Defteri, no. 676.
Âsitâne-i Aliyye’de Medfûn Olan Ashâb-ı Kirâm Efendimiz Hazerâtının Makâm-ı Âlîlerini Mübeyyen Risâle, Süleymaniye Library, Nuri Arlasez, no. 301, pp. 44b-46a.
İmamzâde Mehmed Es’ad Efendi, Değeri ve Tesiri Açısından Fetih Hadîsi ve Feth-i Kostantîniyye, prepared by Necdet Yılmaz, Istanbul: Darulhadis, 2002.
İşli, Necdet, İstanbul’da Sahâbe Kabir ve Makamları, Ankara: Vakıflar Genel Müdürlüğü, 1987.
Moravî Zekeriyyâ b. Beşîr, Risâletü’l-mübeşşire bi-bekâi’l-Kostantîniyye, Süleymaniye Library, Esad Efendi, no. 1139.
Uyar, Gülgün, “Bir Risâle, Bir Türbe, Bir Menkıbe: İmam Süyûtî’ye ait Risâlenin Işığında Çifte Sultanlar Türbesi’ne Bir Bakış”, The Journal of Ottoman Studies, 2009, issue 34, pp. 231-282.
Ünver, A. Süheyl, İstanbul’un Mutlu Askerleri ve Şehit Olanlar, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1976.
Yılmaz, Necdet, Coşkun Yılmaz, İstanbullu Sahâbeler, Istanbul: Bilge Yayım Habercilik ve Danışmanlık, 2013.