Istanbul is home to a substantial part of the relics which belonged to Prophet Muhammad, his Companions, and Mecca and Medina (the Haramayn), known as the amanat al-mubaraka (blessed trusts), or amanat al-muqaddasa (sacred trusts); these objects carry memories from the earlier periods of Islam. The Ottomans became sensitive to collecting the sacred relics in Istanbul as this was regarded as a sign of their commitment to the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. They kept these relics in special places reserved for them in order to protect them from being mixed with other items that did not belong to the Prophet.
In Islam, the path to realize faith in Allah passes through believing in His Messenger Muhammad, knowing him, trusting in his personality, embracing his sayings and actions and applying them to one’s own life. The Qur’an states that the measure of a person’s love for Allah depends on whether or not they love the Prophet and take him as an exemplar in their life.1 The reverence of the Companions and the following generations for the Prophet’s exemplary character was not just related to adopting him as an example in religious matters; the deep respect and loyalty to his memory meant that the items that belonged to and were used by the Prophet were protected with great care. Based on Prophet Jacob’s example of using his son Joseph’s shirt to heal his eyes, blinded due to his sorrow,2 Muslim generations also used these items as a source of blessing and healing.3
Starting with their own family members, many Companions led the way in this understanding, believing that having any one of those relics was worth the world, opening special rooms for hadith and sirat books, protecting them respectfully and, in this way, showing their love for the Prophet.4
Starting with Muawiya b. Abu Sufyan, the Umayyads used some of the sacred relics, such as the Prophet’s pulpit, mantle, and standard as the symbol of their caliphate; they were used to strengthen and legitimize their authority in lands they conquered by the sword. The relics which had stayed in the hands of Abbasid caliphs until the invasion of Baghdad in 1258 by Hulagu were later transferred to the Mamluks.
After the military expedition to Egypt in 1517, praying: “O Prophet! Intercede,” Sultan Selim I kissed and personally sealed the sacred relics; these were being kept in gilded bundles on which the phrase Hâzâ muhallefâtü Resûlillah (this is what is left behind by the Messenger of Allah) was written. Together with some other items, most of which were sent from Mecca, Sultan Selim I sent the relics to Istanbul by sea.5 Some of the relics, such as the ones attributed to the Prophet, his Companions, keys to the Ka’ba, the protective case of the Hadjar al-Aswad (black stone), golden gutter (from the roof of the Ka’ba), and first and foremost a red flag that had the phrase nasrun minallah (help is from Allah) written in the kufi style and depiction of a lion on it, were brought to Istanbul after the period of Sultan Selim I.
In 1916, after the Ottoman government’s decision to partially withdraw from the Hejaz, Fahreddin Pasha sent 30 sacred relics which had been kept in the Prophet’s mosque to Istanbul by railroad; this was done to prevent the relics from being looted. Fahreddin Pasha sent the relics to Istanbul under the protection of 2,000 soldiers. When Mehmed VI was leaving Istanbul on November 17, 1922, he refused Zeki Bey’s offer to take the sacred relics with him, saying that they were gifts given to the Turkish people by their ancestors. Likewise, the Turkish committee refused the offer made during the Lausanne peace talks to return the sacred relics that had been sent by Fahreddin Pasha.
The Chamber of the Holy Relics
The 552 m2 structure, located on the northeastern side of the Enderun Square, that is, the third yard in the Topkapı Palace, is where the sacred relics were kept and exhibited in the past and today; this area is known as the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi (Chamber of the Holy Relics). Formerly, after the sacred relics were transferred to the Ottomans they were kept in the Harem-i Hümayun (imperial harem); eventually they were transferred to this area to be exhibited. Thus, this area is also known as the Apartments of the Hırka-i Saadet (mantle of the Prophet) or Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi. This area, which was reserved for sacred relics, particularly during the era Mahmud II, was first established during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II. The rooms underwent some changes, restorations and additions over time.
The Has Oda (privy chamber), where the mantle of the Prophet was kept, constitutes the main section of the building; the arched gate to this area has the kalima-i tawhid (La ilaha Illallah, Muhammadun Rasulullah) written in calligraphy by Sultan Ahmed III. The dome of the Has Oda, which is higher relative to the rest of the rooms, is placed on a frame with twelve arched windows. Verses 45-47 from Sura al-Ahzab (33) are written on a belt with black background around the top of the dome. And below this belt there is a skylight around which Verses 1-8 of Sura al-Fath (18) are written. Couplets from Buisiri’s Qasida-i Burda (Ode of the Mantle) is written in the thuluth style in the belt that adorns the top part of the tiled walls.
The salat-u salam is written in the jali thuluth style on the pediment above the arc of the hall. There is a double door that has geometric motifs inlaid in mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell where this hall leads into the Has Oda. In this room, two of the Prophet’s swords, his bow, and standard are kept, in addition to his mantle; in the fore part of this room some items like the door of Ka’ba, golden gutter, the keys of the Ka’ba, and the swords of the Companions are exhibited. Because the room next to the Has Oda was a type of reception room where the sultan meet high-ranking officials, it was known as the arzhane (presentation/reception room). A letter written by the Prophet, his footprint, his seal, a part of his tooth, hairs from his beard, dirt from his grave, and some other relics are kept in this room.
Behind the anteroom the fountain, on the left side is the section which was used as the dormitory for the Has Oda; above the tiles on the wall are couplets from the Qasida-i Burda. After the nineteenth century, this room started to be known as the Destimal Oda, because special muslin cloths known as destimal started to be produced in this room; these were given to the sultan’s guests visitors as gifts. Couplets were written with special printing techniques in the center and around the borders of the destimal.
In addition the washing and shrouding of the deceased sultans and princes were undertaken under the porticoes that have thirteen domes, which extend in front of this room. After these rituals, the corpse would be placed on a marble platform located on the left side of the main gate the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi; people were asked to forgo any rights they had over the deceased sultan or prince.
There were forty officials who were responsible for cleaning, perfuming and protecting the Apartments of the Hırka-i Saadet. The sultan was considered to be one of those officials and he personally held the keys to the chest of the mantle and the room in which it was kept. Four of those officials would keep guard at night and recite the Holy Qur’an.
The Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi, the most important place for worship and ceremonies from the reign of Sultan Murad III to the abolition of the caliphate. When a sultan ascended the throne, he used this office to accept oaths of allegiance or to perform the marriage ceremonies of his daughters; the sacred standard would be taken from this room when going on military campaign.
When an Ottoman sultan passed away, his successor would take the throne wearing a turban known as the yusufi destar, which was a symbol of the sultanate, and an otter fur cloak; he would accept oaths of allegiance in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi. Then on the fifteenth day after his ascendance to the throne, the sultan would go to the Hırka-i Saadet Dairesi and inspect the registers.6 There were several occasions on which prayers would be performed in this room. For example, on Friday nights after the isha prayer (last of the five prayers), the Holy Qur’an would be recited in this room; in addition a ceremony to mark the hatim (complete recitation of the Qur’an) by the princes and irsal al-lihya (the growing of the beard) prayers for the sultan would be carried out in front of this room.
After the abolition of the sultanate, the custom of continuous recitation of the Qur’an in this room was also abolished. This custom was reintroduced by hafizs (people who have memorized the Qur’an) at the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Haseki Qur’an Recitation Center; the Qur’an began to be recited during the opening hours of the museum in 1980. After March 15, 1991 this practice was implemented by seven imams chosen by the office of the Istanbul Mufti. The custom of 24-hour Qur’an recitation was reintroduced after October 25, 1996.
Two mantles, known also as burda, belonging to Prophet Muhammad have survived until today; both are in Istanbul. Of these, the one that is in Topkapı Palace has become known as hırka-i Saadet while the other one, kept in a mosque in Fatih is known as the hırka-i Şerif; indeed, this is the name of the mosque in which the mantle is kept.
The Hırka-i Saadet was given as a gift by the Prophet himself to Qa’b ibn Zubayr, one of the poets of muallaqat al-sab’a, in return for an ode he recited in the presence of the Prophet when the poet embraced Islam.7 The Hırka-i Saadet is an 124 cm long, wide-armed, black wool mantle, that has a beige wool lining; the mantle was transferred to the Umayyads by the heirs of Qa’b, and from it was then passed to the Abbasids. It was during the Abbasid dynasty that the mantle started to be used as a sign of the caliphate, along with the sword of Prophet Muhammad.8
The Hırka-i Saadet, which was used as a sign of caliphate by the Egyptian Abbasid caliphs, was transferred to the Ottomans after the conquest of Egypt. Today it is protected by being wrapped in seven golden brocaded silk velvet covers. This bundle is placed in a double door case, in a golden drawer, and exhibited on a silver stand.
The Ottoman sultans attached special importance to the Hırka-i Saadet as a sign of the caliphate; they wanted to it to be close to them and developed the habit of visiting it frequently; indeed, they often took it with them, particularly on military campaigns.9
One of the important traditions that developed around the Hırka-i Saadet was the visit carried out on the fifteenth day of the month of Ramadan. If that day coincided with a Friday, the visit would be postponed to the following Saturday. Even after the sultans stopped residing in Topkapı Palace, the Hırka-i Saadet continued to remain in the palace and it was kept either in the sultan’s room or in the Sofa Pavilion. A special ceremony, known as the Hırka-i Saadet Procession, was part of the ceremony that surrounded visits to this holy relic.
On the twelfth day of Ramadan, the Hırka-i Saadet and other sacred relics would be transferred to the Revan Pavilion by the sultan and the officials of the Has Oda; the room would be cleaned, with the walls, niches and doors being wiped with sponges wetted with rose water. Then incense and amber would be burned to perfume the room and on the fourteenth day, invitations would be sent to those who were to attend the ceremony. After the zuhr (noon) prayer of the following day, officials would gather in accordance with their ranks at the place where Hırka-i Saadet was to be visited. Several muezzins and imams, including the first and second imam and the imam of the Has Oda, would recite passages from the Holy Qur’an and the sultan and other guests would visit the Hırka-i Saadet. In this ceremony, which would continue until the early hours of the evening, baklava would be offered to the janissaries and other soldiers, some officials would be presented with a hilat (robe of honor), and destimal decorated with couplets such as “Hırka-i hazret-i fahr-i rusüle/Atlas-ı çerh olamaz pâyendâz/Yüz sürüp zeylini takbîl ederek/Kıl şefîi ümeme arzı niyâz”10 would be given as gifts to the guests.11 Only the right side of the mantle’s collar could be kissed, so that the lips would not touch the fabric of the mantle itself. At the end of the visit, the Hırka-i Saadet would be replaced in the chest by the sultan and it would not be opened until the following Ramadan.
During the visits, the chest in which the mantle was kept would be opened by the sultan himself and the mantle would be taken out of its seven silk velvet covers. The corner of the mantle would be dipped into a bowl of water, which would then be mixed with other water to be distributed to visitors to drink. This custom, which had been open to abuse, was abolished after the reign of Sultan Mahmud II; in its place a new custom of wiping the Hırka-i Saadet with destimal adorned with couplets was introduced; these destimal would be distributed to visitors. The destimal would be placed on the Hırka-i Saadet, and then would be kissed and kept in memory of the visit. There were couplets and inscriptions, printed on with wooden molds, on the destimal. Those who kissed a destimal would take it and place it in their turban or fez. It was also common that a request would be made that when the owner died, the destimal be placed on their chest so that they could be buried with it.
Until the present time three types of destimals have existed. At different times, the following couplets and stanza were printed on these:
Hırkâ-i Hazret-i Fahr-i Rasûl’e
Atlas-ı çerh olamaz pây-endaz
Yüz sürüp zeyline takbil ederek
Kıl şefi‘ü’l ümeme arz-ı niyaz
One of the main dynamics of society for centuries was the visits to the Hırka-i Saadet in the Ottoman palace and the Hırka-i Saadet Processions, with their rich folkloric elements, which were organized prior to these visits. Many writers described their views and feelings about this matter. In the following lines, written by Yahya Kemal in February 1921, the deep respect and reverence for the Hırka-i Saadet that is felt by the Turks is beautifully expressed: “There are two spiritual foundations of this state: the call for prayer recited by Sultan Mehmed II from Hagia Sophia is still being recited! The recitation of the Qur’an in the presence of the Hırka-i Saadet, begun by Sultan Selim is still being recited. O young soldiers of Eskişehir, Afyonkarahisar and Kars! You have fought for these two beautiful things.”
Upon the abolition of the sultanate, the custom of visiting the Hırka-i Saadet was also abolished. After Topkapı Palace had been transformed into a museum, the Has Oda was closed to visits until 1962. Even after this date visits to the Hırka-i Saadet became a formality that lacked spiritual depth. It should be emphasized that there have been some efforts to revive the Hırka-i Saadet visits in accordance with the former customs.
A short time before his death, the Prophet gave one of his mantles to Umar and Ali, telling them that they were to deliver this to Uways al-Karani, who had wanted to visit the Prophet but had been unable to due to his invalid mother. The two Companions carried out this dying wish of the Prophet.14 Those who saw the Prophet’s mantle on Uways al-Karani could not help but ask themselves “where did he get this mantle?”15 The mantle, which according to narrations had been worn by the Prophet during the Miraj (ascension to the heavens), was not produced by normal weaving techniques, unlike the Hırka-i Saadet. The weaving technique is intricate, creating a difficult and complex structure. Even with today’s technology, it would be difficult to weave a fabric this fine. Microscopic analyses has established that linen, cotton and silk were used together to create this fabric.
After Uways al-Qarani’s death, the mantle was inherited by his brother, Shahab al-Din al-Uwaysi; subsequently, the mantle was protected by descendants of this family. The Uwaysi family received respect wherever they went because they possessed the mantle of the Prophet. They were in positions of high esteem in Muslim states and societies. The Uwaysi were moved to Istanbul upon the request of Sultan Ahmed I, and they started to reside in house located across from Akseki Mosque, northeast of the location of the Hırka-i Şerif Mosque. In the early years, people would visit the mantle in the Uwaysi home, but after the beginning of the eighteenth century they started to allow visits during the months of Ramadan in a stone building that had been constructed on the orders of the grand vizier Çorlulu Ali Pasha (d. 1711). As part of this complex, there was also a soup kitchen and a fountain it. After Sultan Abdülhamid I had a single room structure built in the north yard of the Hırka-i Şerif Mosque in the district of Fatih (1780), Hırka-i Şerif started to be kept in this room and was open for visits during the month of Ramadan. This room, known as the Küçük Hırka-i Şerif Dairesi (Small Chamber of Holy Mantle) or the Eski Hırka-i Şerif Odası (Old Chamber of Holy Mantle) was renovated by Sultan Mahmud II in 1812. In 1851 Sultan Abdülmecid decided to build a mosque and a place for visits that would be in keeping with the glory of the Hırka-i Şerif. The Hırka-i Şerif Mosque was planned as an octagon to be reminiscent of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens.
The Hırka-i Şerif would be visited in the second half of Ramadan by the valide sultan; it was customary for Ottoman state officials to visit the Hırka-i Şerif without any protocol restrictions. After this visit they would distribute a tray of baklava for every ten janissaries. The Hırka-i Şerif visit would start after zuhr prayer and would end at the time when the asr (afternoon) prayer had finished and before the call to isha (evening) prayer. The Hırka-i Şerif was also open to visits after the tarawih prayer until fajr (dawn) prayer on the Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) in the month of Ramadan. These public visits continue today without any protocol, starting after the first week of Ramadan until the eve of the ‘Eid. The increase in the population of Istanbul and improvement in transportation means that many visitors from other cities have started to flow to the mosque; even though the visits have been extended to the entire month of Ramadan, there is still a huge crowd, particularly on the Laylat al-Qadr. The method of reserving the third week of Ramadan for men to visit, and the fourth week for women to visit, which had been functioning during the Ottoman Period, has been abolished. As in the past, the Uwaisi family leads the services related to Hırka-i Şerif. Together with the Hırka-i Şerif hairs from the Prophet’s beard and a belt and skullcap attributed to Uways al-Qarani are also exhibited for people to visit.
Sanjak-i Şerif (The Prophet’s Banner)
The Prophet’s Banner was known as Uqab (eagle); it is thought that the cloak was made out of a black robe belonging to Aisha. On the standard is written the phrase La ilaha illallah Muhammadun Rasulullah; this standard is known as the Sanjak-ı Şerif (liva-i saadet). When Sanjak-ı Şerif was transferred to the Ottomans, it was placed in a silver chest and placed in the complex around Eyüp Mosque. In 1730 during the Patrona Halil uprisings, the Prophet’s standard was moved to Topkapı Place and placed in the office of Hırka-i Saadet to protect it from falling into the hands of rebels. Only the cases of the standard were left in the Tomb of Eyüp Sultan.
Name-i Saadet (Letters sent by the Prophet)
The Prophet’s letters which were written on leather and which have survived until today are known as name-i saadet. The Prophet’s letters of invitation to Islam, sent to Muqawqis, the general governor of Egypt, Munzir b. Sawa, the ruler of Bahrain, Harith b. Abu Shamir, the Ghassanid ruler, and Musaylima al-Kazzab, the false prophet, are exhibited today in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi. One of the oldest surviving copies of the Qur’an, attributed to Caliph Uthman, is also kept here.
Muhr-i Saadet (Seal of the Prophet)
When Prophet Muhammad decided to write letters of invitation to the rulers of foreign states, he had a seal prepared as a ring; he wore this on his little finger. This ring had the phrase Muhammad Rasulullah written on it in such a way that the word Allah was written above the rest of the phrase. This seal was used by the caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. The seal was accidentally dropped into a well in Eris and lost in 650-651 (30); subsequently a similar seal with the same phrase was made.16 The rectangular red agate seal, which was found in Baghdad in the 19th century, was sent to Istanbul and is still exhibited in the Hırka-i Saadet apartments; it is thought that this is the second, copy seal.
Kadem-i Şerif (The Footprint of the Prophet)
Footprints of Prophet Muhammad left on stone or brick are known as nakş-ı kadem-i saadet or Kadem-i Şerif. Ottoman sultans respected the Kadem-i Şerif in the same way they respected the other sacred relics. The fact that these relics existed in Istanbul was considered to be an honor and a way of keeping alive the memories of the Prophet. The Kadem-i Şerif, which Sultan Qaitbay in Egypt had put next to his head in his tomb was brought to Istanbul by Sultan Ahmed I; after a dream, the sultan had the footprint duplicated and sent the original back to Egypt. He expressed this in the following lines:
N’ola tâcım gibi başımda götürsem dâim
Kadem-i nakşını ol hazret-i şâh-ı rusülün,
Gül-i gülzâr-ı nübüvvet o kadem sâhibidir
Ahmedâ durma yüzün sür kademine o gülün.17
The Kadem-i Şerif also was a subject of Islamic literature and special poems were written about it, and books were written to explain this phenomenon. Some beliefs, such as houses in which the Kadem-i Şerif existed would not burn down and would always have guests, the eyes of those who see this footprint would never be afflicted by illness, people and jinn could not harm those who rubbed their faces on the Kadem-i Şerif, have led to a number of books being written. An Ottoman scholar, Mehmed Münib Ayıntâbî (d. 1823) wrote a treatise entitled Âsârü›l-hikem fî nakşi›l-kadem in order to explain that this footprint was one of the miracles of the Prophet and how it could be possible to leave the impression of a foot on hard ground like stones. He reserved a section of his treatise to discuss how the Kadem-i Şerif was brought from Damascus to Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid I. Sheikh Seyyid Muhammed Ziyad, who brought the Kadem-i Şerif to Istanbul on his head, was received with much respect by the sultan; as a result, the grand vizier Halil Hamid Pasha had a dervish lodge constructed for the shaikh; this was called the Kadem-i Şerif and was located in Samatya. The Kadem-i Şerif is currently maintained in the tomb of Sultan Abdulhamid I’s tomb.
There are six Kadem-i Şerif of the Prophet in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi, four of which are on stone and two of which are on brick. The one considered to be the most important is kept in a gold frame; this was brought from Tripoli by Army Regiment Commander Ahmed Bey and presented to Sultan Abdülmecid. It is said that this Kadem-i Şerif, the frame of which was made on the orders of Abdülhamid II in 1877, is the one that the Prophet left when ascending to the heavens from the Dome of the Rock during the Miraj.
Sultan Mahmud I took the Kadem-i Şerif that was in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi and placed it in an arch that has twenty sections; this structure is in the qibla direction of the Eyüp Sultan Tomb. After placing the Kadem-i Şerif here, the sultan opened it for visitors.18 There is another Kadem-i Şerif in the tomb of Sultan Ahmed III, and one more in the Bayram Paşa Dervish lodge, located in the complex constructed by the grand vizier Bayram Pasha in 1634-1635; this latter building is also known as the Kadem-i Şerif Dervish Lodge.
Na‘l-i Şerif (Sandal of the Prophet)
The sandals worn by the Prophet are known as Na‘l-i Şerif. The Na‘l-i Şerif, which are described in detail in the hadith sources, are considered important in Islamic literature from two aspects: the sacred nature of the Prophet himself and the sanctity of his feet.19 Sandals worn by the Prophet are also known by other names such as na‘l-i resûl, na‘l-i pâk, na‘l-i mübârek, na‘l-i saadet, na‘leyn-i saadet, na‘leyn-i şerîfeyn and başmak-ı şerif.
In the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi, three Na‘l-i Şerif attributed to the Prophet, brought to Istanbul at different times, are on exhibition. One appeared in Bitlis during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz; a silver case was made for this Na‘l-i Şerif by Pertevniyal Valide Sultan and was added among the sacred relics in 1872. Şirinzade Hafız Sadeddin wrote a 235-couplet poem entitled Na‘l-i Resûl describing how this was brought from Bitlis to Istanbul, the extraordinary incidents experienced on the way and the people’s interest and respect to it.
The other two sandals are similar to each other in respect to their production technique and materials. The shoe known as Başmak-ı Şerif consists of a leather overshoe cut to the level of the ankle; one of the pairs is kept in the Hırka-i Şerif Foundation in the district of Fatih.
Dendan-i Şerif (Tooth of the Prophet)
The Prophet’s partially or completely broken tooth, which occurred in the Battle of Uhud, is known as Dendân-ı Saadet (Dendân-ı Şerif). This was brought to Istanbul after Sultan Selim’s expedition to Egypt and is still kept in a jeweled case that was made on the orders of Mehmed VI Vahideddin.20
In Islamic culture it is said that Uways al-Qarani broke all his teeth out of the sorrow he felt for the Prophet’s tooth being broken in the Battle of Uhud; Uways al-Qarani is also accepted as the father of rosary making, and as a result, the hanging of the following lines in rosary shops became customary:
Besmeleyle açılır her gün bizim tezgâhımız
Hazret-i Veysel Karanî pîrimiz üstadımız21
Sakal-ı Şerif (The Beard of the Prophet)
Strands from the Prophet’s hair and beard which have reached to this day are protected in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi, in mosques and houses around the world; these strands are known by some names like lihye-i saadet, lihye-i şerif, sakal-ı şerif. Companions who gathered around the Prophet when he was having a hair cut would try to catch the hair strands before they fell to the ground.22 The Prophet himself also gave strands of his hair and beard to some of his Companions to keep and distribute to their families. It is for this reason that generations of Muslims, starting from the Companions, expected to receive blessings from strands of the Prophet’s hair and beard and, like Khalid b. Walid, they believed that these strands would be influential in winning the battles.23
Evliya Çelebi narrates that there were strands of the Prophet’s beard among the sacred relics brought from Egypt. Ahmed Teymur Pasha (b. 1871- d. 1930) makes a list of the cities of the Muslim world where the Prophet’s beard was kept at the time. He mentions that there were 43 hairs among the sacred relics kept in Topkapı Palace during the reign of Sultan Mehmed Reşad; the sultan sent twenty-four of these to various Muslim cities. Evliya Çelebi informs us that the sultan presented one of these strands to Sultan Jahan Begum during her visit to Istanbul. Abdülaziz Bey narrates that there were large mansions in Istanbul where many strands of the Prophet’s hair were kept. A room on the upper floor of these mansions was organized as a prayer room and the Prophet’s beard would be kept there; it was for this reason that the room was also known as the lihye-i saadet room.” Evliya Çelebi then states how the strands would be exhıbıted for visits.
Today in Istanbul there are 422 strands of hair from the Prophet; these have all been recorded by the Directorate of Religious Affairs. As during the Ottoman period, some of these are protected in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi, while others are in mosques, darwish lodges, foundations and private houses.
In the Ottoman period and today, after the fifteenth day of Ramadan and on other holy nights the packages in which the Prophet’s hair was kept would be opened; visitors would chant takbirs and salat al-ummiyya. Respect shown to cases either by uttering a salawat (greetings to the Prophet) while passing in front or by kissing it, would depend of the size of the crowd. Likewise, it is still a custom to have the strands of hair belonging to the Prophet go to different mosques in the month of Ramadan and on holy nights.
Süyuf-i Mübareke (Blessed Swords, The Swords of the Prophet)
There are about twenty swords housed in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi. Two of these can be attributed to Prophet Muhammad, while one is attributed to Prophet David, and the rest are attributed to the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs and other Companions, such as Ammar b. Yasir. The hilts and sheaths of the swords, most of which are adorned with jewels, were made at a later date. The sword used by the Prophet in the Battle of Uhud was given to Umar; this sword later transferred to the Umayyads, Abbasids and Mamluk Sultan Baibars al-Bunduqdari. It was brought to Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Murad III. Ottoman sultans who followed Ahmed I performed the Girding of the Sword Ceremony with one or both of the swords attributed to Prophet Muhammad, or that belonging to Umar, or Uthman, or with swords that belonged to previous sultans, such as Mehmed I or Selim I.
The bow attributed to Prophet Muhammad is known as Kavs-ı Saadet (kemân-ı Peygamberî). The Kavs-ı Saadet that is exhibited in Topkapı Palace measures 118 cm long and is made from a type of reed known as a neb’. The silver cover for the bow was made on the orders of Sultan Mehmed I.
Asâ-i Nebevî (Bow of the Prophet)
The wooden staff, made from the wooden parts of Prophet Muhammad’s tomb which were removed during the restoration of the Rawda-i Mutahhara, was formed as a memento. The hexagonally shaped staff, which is currently exhibited in Topkapı Palace, is known as Asa-i Nebevi. There are silver joints, and there is a knob on the tip. Another Asa-i Nebevi was made from wooden sections of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca during its restoration, again as a memento.
Kadeh-i Şerif (The Cup of the Prophet)
Cups made from various materials were used by the Prophet to drink water; these are known as Kadeh-i Şerif. They were conserved by the Companions and handed down to following generations. The bowl exhibited in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi is that from which Prophet drank water while resting in the shade of Bani Saida. It is a wooden bowl covered with silver and the story is inscribed on it.24
Kamîs-i Fahrü’n-nisâ (Cloak of the Pride of the Women)
There is a cloak and a simple unembroidered inner shirt that has some verses and prayers written on it exhibited in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi. These clothes belonged to the Prophet’s daughter Fatima and are known as Kamîs-i Fahrü’n-Nisâ. There is also another garment, of camel color, with a blue lining, which has no collars, but buttons: this is also attributed to Fatima.
Kamîs-i Seyyidü’ş-Şühedâ (Cloak of the Master of Martyrs)
In the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi there is a white, short-sleeve, collarless cloak which is attributed to the grandson of the Prophet Hussain. This cloak is known as the Kamîs-i Seyyidü’ş-Şühedâ”. There are eight buttons in the front. There is also a piece of cloth stained with blood; it is thought that it is possible that this is a piece from Hussain’s cloak. This garment is also exhibited in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi.
There are also other items exhibited in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi which are attributed to earlier prophets. Prophet Joseph’s turban, known as Destar-ı Yusufi, has a special place among them. This turban, which has a brown center cone covered with a turban of white cloth would be worn by the sultans during important ceremonies.25
A 122 cm long smooth tree branch, with a knot close to its tip, is attributed to Prophet Moses.
Among the sacred relics, there is a stone container attributed to Prophet Abraham (Noah’s pot). It is 12 cm high with 22 cm diameter and is made from granite. The top is wider than the bottom, and it is shaped like a caldron. The chisel traces can still be seen.
Another item that is protected among the sacred relics is an arm protected in a gilded silver guard and a piece of skull protected in a jeweled case; these are both attributed to John the Baptist.
Some of the sacred relics came from the Haramayn, in particularly from the Ka’ba and the Rawda-i Mutahhara. Among these are keys and locks to the Ka’ba, cases surrounding the Hadjar al-Aswad, the door of the Gate of Repentance, gutters from the Ka’ba, covers of the door of the Ka’ba and from the Prophet’s tomb, flags from the Prophet’s pulpit, covers from the Prophet’s grave, as well as earth from the grave, and the covers to Abu Bakr’s, Fatima’s and Umar’s graves.
The only calligraphy museum in Turkey which works under the General Directorate of Endowments, is located in the district of Beyazıt, Istanbul. It forms a part of the Beyazıt Complex and is known as the Turkish Calligraphy Art Museum. There are 277 pieces, including manuscripts and calligraphy samples inscribed on stones. The training section of the madrasa is organized as a section for the sacred relics and there is the cover to the door of Ka’ba dated 1884 in the middle of this location. Sura al-Fatiha (1), Sura al-Ikhlas (112), Ayat al-Kursi (2: 255), the statement of tawhid, Sura al-Quraysh (106), the basmalah, the 30th verse from Sura al-Naml (27) are embroidered on black velvet in silver and gold threads; at the bottom is a date tree depicted with fruits. The black satin self-patterned cover of Ka’ba is also exhibited in this museum. In addition to these, strands from the Prophet’s beard and some earth from the Prophet’s grave are exhibited along with miniatures depicting Makka, Medina, Mina and Muzdalifa; all of these are places where Prophet Muhammad lived.
It should not be forgotten that the graves and tombs of the Companions of the Prophet, in particular that of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari’s tomb, that carry traces from the Prophet are among the cultural determinants of the world of Istanbul.
Sacred relics that have religious and historical value and are conserved with great respect and care in the Mukaddes Emanetler Dairesi have the greatest material and spiritual wealth in Istanbul. Since the day they were brought to Istanbul, they have given Istanbul an identity of a religious and political center of the Muslim world; in addition, they have become the symbols of the Ottoman dynasty’s legitimacy and continuity. To show their spiritual respect, Ottoman sultans competed to adorn and gild these items that greatly contributed to the construction of Istanbul’s cultural life around prominent Muslim figures and sacred places. Sacred relics are considered to be the manifestation of acceptance of the Prophet’s Sunnah and one of the most important means or reflecting on his teachings in the current day and carry them to the future; thus, they still have the characteristic of being one of the important determinants in Istanbul’s religious life.
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1 Âl-i İmrân 3/31.
2 Yûsuf 12/93, 96.
3 Musnad, VI, 348; Muslim, “Libas”, 10; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqat al-kubra, ed. M. Abdülkādir Atâ, Beyrut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 1410/1990, vol. 1, 351; Dhahabi, Siyar a‘lam al-nubala’, ed. Shuaib al-Arnaût et.al., Beirut 1405/1985, vol. 4, pp. 42-43.
4 Bukhârî, “Wudû’”, 33; “Libâs”, 66; Wâqidî, al-Maghāzî, ed by M. Jones, London: Oxford University Press, 1966, vol. 3, pp. 1108-1109; Balâzürî, Ansab al-ashraf, ed. Suhail Zakkâr-Riyâz Ziriklî, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1417/1996, vol. 2, p. 18; Abû al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzî, al-Wafa bi-ahwal al-Mustafa, ed. Mustafa Abdulwahid, Kahire: Dar al-Ma’rifa, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 555-556.
5 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatname, prepared by Yücel Dağlı et. al., Istanbul: Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, 2007, vol. 10, pp. 122-124.
6 Cevdet Pasha, Tarih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniyye,1309, vol. 4, pp. 236-237; Tayyarzâde Atâ Bey, Târih, Istanbul 1292, vol. 1, p. 93.
7 Ibn Qutayba, al-Shi‘r wa al-Shuarâ’, ed. Temîm Şeyh Hasan, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Ulum, 1412/1991, pp. 84-85.
8 Hilâl b. Muhassin al-Sâbî, Rusum dar alKhilafa, ed. Mihail Awwad, Beirut: Dar a-Raid al-Arabi, 1406/1986, pp. 90-91.
9 Kâtib Çelebi, Fezleke, Istanbul: Cerîde-i Havâdis Matbaası, 1286, vol. 1, p. 90.
10 The meaning of this is: “For the Hırka-i Saadet of the Glorious Prophet / whirling satins cannot be a doormat / by kissing and rubbing your face to its skirts / present your requests to the intercessor of the Ummah.”
11 Shamdânîzâdah, Muri’ al-tawarih,, ed. Münir Aktepe, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1976, vol. 2, p. 79.
12 The meaning of this couplet is: “Destimal, rubbed on the pure mantle of the Prophet/distributes its scent just like the shirt of Joseph.
13 The meaning of this couplet is: “Imagine the mantle of the Prophet as hundred-petal rose/this destimal is a leaf from the garden of that rose.”
14 Dhahabî, A‘lam al-nubalâ’, vol. 4, p. 29; Farîduddin al-Attâr, Tadhkirat al-awliyâ, tr. Muhammed el-Asîlî el-Vüstânî, ed. M. Adîb al-Jâdir, Dımaşk: Dar al-Maktabi li al-Tiba’a wa al-Nashr, 1430/2009 pp. 43-44; Murtaza al-Zabîdî, Iqd al-Jawhar al-Thamîn, İSAM Library, no. 4622, p. 27.
15 Muslim, “Fadâil al-sahâba”, 225; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqāt, vol. 4, p. 206.
16 Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqāt, vol. 1, p. 369.
17 What would be if I had carried it on my head like my cap?/ the footprint of the sultan of the messengers/ the rose of the garden of the prophethood is the owner of this footprint/ O Ahmed! Do not stop! Rub your face to the footprint of this rose. See: Yâkūt, Mu‘jam al-buldân, Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, nd., vol. 5, p. 168.
18 Shamdânîzâdah, Muri’ al-tawârih, vol. 1, p. 26.
19 Bukhârî, “Fard al-humus”, 5, “Libâs”, 37; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqāt, vol. 1, p. 371; Ibn Asakir, Tarikh Madînat Dimashq, ed. Umar b. Garâmah al-Amrî, Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1415/1995, vol. 22, pp. 409-410.
20 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, vol. 10, p. 71.
21 Our shops are opened with the name of Allah every day/ Uwais al-Qarani is our master
22 Musnad, IV, 324; Muslim, “Fazâil”, 75.
23 Musnad, III, 256; Wâqidî, al-Maghāzî, III, 1108; Muslim, “Hajj”, 323-326; Ibn Sa‘d, al-Tabaqāt, vol. 7, p. 15.
24 Bukhârî, “Ashribah”, 30; Muslim, “Ashribah”, 88.
25 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, vol. 1, p. 104; Cevdet, Târih, vol. 4, pp. 236-237.