Tahirü’l-Mevlevî (Mevlevi Tahir, Mehmet Tahir Olgun) is one of the most notable people in recent history of Turkey. He was born on September 13, 1877 to a Turkish (Istanbul) father and a Circassian mother. He studied at Gülhane Askerî Rüşdiyesi (Gülhane military secondary school) and at Menşe-i Küttâb-ı Askerî (office of military clerks). He occupied important positions both before and after the formation of the Republic.
Tahirü’l-Mevlevî was an intellectual who was exposed to the Ottoman urban culture at Mevlevihanes and in the Fatih neighborhood where he lived. As a child, he received his certificate (ijazat-name) and became a Masnawihan (a reader of the Masnawi) after attending the classes of Mehmed Esad Dede, the sheikh of Galata Mawlawi Lodge. In 1894, he received the Sikke (Mawlawi cap) from Sheikh Mehmed Celaleddin Efendi, and also earned the title of “Dede” by completing his çile (period of ordeal) at Yenikapı Mevlevihane. The Masnawi commentary, composed of the lecture notes of the Masnawi classes, was delivered at Fatih and Süleymaniye Mosques by Tahirü’l-Mevlevî. This commentary has been used as a practical guide for those who desire to gain knowledge of different sources of the Ottoman and Turkish culture. Tahirü’l-Mevlevî attempted to publish a newspaper several times, and also published a journal, the Mahfil (sultan’s gallery in the mosque) in 1920. For this work, he was put on trial in the Freedom Courts (Istiklal Mahkemeleri) but he was acquitted. His vast printed works demonstrate that he was an exquisite poet as well as a sophisticated intellectual. He was also a scholar with a strong grasp of Islamic history and civilization, particularly classical Persian and Turkish literature. His work, Matbuat Âlemindeki Hayatım (My Life in the World of the Press), where he recounts his memories of the press and of the İstiklal Court, is important in regards to understanding recent history of modern Turkey.
Tahirü’l-Mevlevî’s essays in literature and the urban culture of Istanbul, in addition to discourses in journals such as Mahfil and later on Bilgi Yurdu. In the journal Yücel and Şadırvan we encounter his signature essays, entitled Pencere Önünde Tarihî Bir Gezinti (an excursion through history in front of the window). These essays were also published in five consecutive issues of Şadırvan in 1936. This long essay, which also reflects Tahirü’l-Mevlevî’s thoughts on history and literature, contains details of what the Fatih neighborhood was like before the public works movement of the Menderes era, which seriously destroyed it.
Tahirü’l-Mevlevî’s passed away on June 21, 1951, and was buried next to his mother at Yenikapı Mevlevi Lodge. We commemorate the memory of this man of science and culture by presenting his essay to the readers.
A JOURNEY THROUGH HISTORY IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW
It is rather early. The drowsiness in the atmosphere has not yet completely faded. Traces of the recent drizzle are twinkling on the leaves and grass. As if the poet Mesihî’s words had come to life:
Eyes of flowers awake from negligent sleep
Every dawn, spring clouds sprinkle water on their faces
Dreams have come true.
I’m sitting in front of a window, facing the slopes of Fatih, on the ridge of Taşkasap. While I’m drinking an infusion from an unknown herb, the lips of the recently risen sun absorb the moisture covering the flowers and the leaves. The pinkish flowers are reminiscent of pür-nakıl (full to capacity) china cups. The quince tree, whose branches caress my window panes, is as fresh as spring and as graceful as life. Butterflies composed of playful white wings fly around each of them. These mischievous little creatures are like the children of the neighborhood, exhilarated by the heavenly wine inside the cups they attack. A light breeze is blowing and chasing them away. However, the breeze that makes them fly away also blows off the delicate leaves of the flowers. A gust of wind composed of flower and butterfly covers the sky. One wants to recite the couplet:
Lightning of desire flowers escalate to heaven
The whirling dome of heaven seems full of stars
The view, curving from east to west through Fatih, Edirnekapısı, Bayrampaşa and Maltepe, is sprawled before me.
The land goes down, inclining slightly towards Sülüklü, Etmeydanı and Haliç (the Golden Horn), and extending to Gureba Hospital and Yeni Bahçe valley. Then it rises gradually, creating a rather clear horizon.
If one looked to these aforementioned places from an elevated point some twenty years ago, the following image of Baki would seem to have come true:
Aigrettes of the pine erect the army on the flowers
Trees set up the tents again on the yard of grasses
However, after the Fatih fire, the lushness of this neighborhood no longer existed, instead it was replaced by stone and ash. The streets that once ran through the neighborhood can now only be seen on maps from that era. Moreover, since the building of houses has been banned on the routes, the old passageways of the neighborhood have been permanently closed.
Fortunately, the embellishing habit of nature hides and adorns these ruins and rubbish under a green veil, at least during the spring. However, the weird-looking stone and concrete piles built here and there in the name of housing spoil and contaminate that natural beauty. I long to walk these streets as they were in older times. I quench this desire by imagining a historical expedition through this limited area visible from my window. I stopped by the madrasa -which has since been demolished- on the road the tram follows. The madrasa was commissioned by Ömer Efendi, a former chief physician.
This used to be a crossroads before the fire. The street originating from Topkapı used to go to Aksaray; Molla Gürani Hill on the right used to go up to Haseki, and Hayrettin Paşa Street on the left used to go down to the Golden Horn.
Molla Gürani Hill, in addition to being renowned for its steepness, is also of great historical importance - Osman the Young was marched through this slope on his way to the Yedikule Dungeon. Additionally, Molla Gürani Mosque was considered to be the Hagia Sophia of the neighborhood, due to its immense size.
Molla Gürani Ahmed Şemseddin was one of the scholars during the era of Murad II. He taught Sultan Mehmed II when he was a child and governor of Manisa; Şemseddin obliged the unruly prince to study by carrying a stick with him during the classes.
The mosque was built in 1471 (876), and when Şemseddin died, he was buried behind the mihrab. The composition entitled Devlet-i Cennet (heavenly state) dates to the death of this scholar, and the ebced2 date is written (893, i.e, 1487).
The zaviye (dervish lodge) of Piri Pasha was also on the upper part of the Molla Gürani Hill. This zaviye, commissioned by Piri Pasha, the last grand vizier to Yavuz and the first to Sultan Süleyman I, was called Koruk Tekke (dervish convent). The following note written by Süruri must have been for one of the sheikhs of this place:
Sheikh Koruk climbed to heaven of four arches
Koruk Tekke was renovated during the reign of Abdülhamid II. After the Fatih fire destroyed this tekke, it was rebuilt in brick. A few shovels of earth from İshak Karamani’s grave -who was buried at Sütlüce, in Eyüp- and the gravestones of Aşir Efendi -who has a library in Sultanhamamı- have been brought here.
Ömer Efendi, who was the chief physician to Ahmed III in 1715 (1127), commissioned the madrasa in front of Koruk Tekke. When Ömer Efendi passed away in 1723, he was buried in the graveyard of his madrasa.
His son-in-law, the poet, chronicler and sheikh al-Islam, Çelebizâde İsmail Âsım Efendi, was also buried next to his father-in-law after Çelebizâde İsmail Âsım Efendi passed away in 1759. Ömer Efendi was also famous for owning a şifa hamamı (healing bath) next to Molla Gürani Mosque. However, this was no longer standing when I was there. Interestingly enough, I have never encountered anyone who has seen it or who talks about its existence.
A public fountain was built on the corner of the madrasa, at the beginning of the road that goes down to Halıcılar. I remember that it was used as a gendarmerie office, and that a few old men wearing gendarmerie uniforms used to live there.
A school made of stone was visible from the public fountain. Although Ömer Efendi’s son-in-law left a legacy that this building be built after he passed away, it has inaccurately been named the Molla Gürani School. This building still stands, and is the primary school at which I studied.
To get to the school, one had to pass a narrow arched gate, climb a staircase of fifteen or twenty steps, and then enter the classroom. The classroom was quite large and domed. The teacher’s desk was in the right corner, opposite the door and his assistant’s desk was on the left. A ball of wax larger than a walnut used to rest on top of the teacher’s lectern. If the piece of wax that marked the place where the child was in the Qur’an would fall off, the teacher would break off a piece of wax from the ball on the lectern, rolling it between his fingers to soften it, and use it to replace the fallen piece. Low desks were situated in the middle of the classroom, and there were small cushions between the desks. We used to sit on these cushions. Two students who had learned the Qur’an by heart would study in the two windows that faced the street.
Since the walls of the school were quite thick and the frames were closer to the outer edge, all the windows were bay windows. Two huge copper pans were placed in the windows, and hot and thirsty children would drink water from them. An old Albanian named Hayrullah sold sahlep (This is a hot winter drink made with the infusion of a powder from the root of a wild orchid in milk) in the mornings and boza (a thick tart drink made from slightly fermented millet) or hoşaf (sweet fruit-stew) in the evenings; he would place his pitchers into the second window.
At the head of the staircase was a basin with a tap; this was filled with water drawn from the well. A shoe rack composed of a few shelves was also situated in the front hall. Children would place their shoes here.
A rectangular brown-painted board hung behind the door. The words geldi (here) and gitti (gone) were written on each side in green paint. When we went to the washroom, we would turn the side with the gitti and when we came back, would turn it to the geldi side. These memories bring back the joys of my childhood.
Our teacher was a man called Hâfız Hasan Efendi. He was the imam of Sarı Musa Mosque and the preacher at Hürrem Sultan Mosque. I vividly remember that he used to teach spelling from time to time. However, he taught words that were related to the profession of an imam such as tabut (coffin) teneşir (bench for corpse) kefen (shroud) pamuk (cotton) lif (loofa). May God rest his soul.
Let’s keep walking down the hill. We could see a large gate adjacent to the wall of the school where an ostentatious mansion sat. This was the mansion of Hayrettin Pasha, and even the street bore the name of this pasha.
Hayrettin Pasha was an educated person from Tunisia. He came to Istanbul after holding several important positions of public service in the beylik of Tunisia. Once in Istanbul, he became the head of the state council. Later, he was promoted to the post of grand vizier; however, after only six months in this post, he resigned. He passed away in 1887. Hayrettin Pasha wrote a book entitled Akvemü’l-mesâlik fî marifeti ahvâli’l-memâlik (the best way to learn about the situation of countries), which was translated into Turkish and French.
Following the road down from Hayrettin Pasha’s mansion, to the right of a little fountain was a large, old mansion. This home belonged to the famous Süleyman Pasha, who served as the minister of the military school. He was exiled to Bagdad after being assigned as the commander of Rumelia, and passed away there.
Continuing on this walk down the hill, you reach a small square at the junction of five or six roads; this small square was called Halıcılar (carpet sellers’) Market. There were many shops in this area, standing under the shadow of a plane-tree. Molla Şeref Mosque was on the right, Madrasa and mosque of Yavuz (The Ottoman Sultan Selim I known as Yavuz Sultan Selim) were on the left and Kilise Mosque was straight ahead.
Molla Şeref Mosque was the work of the Crimean molla Şerefeddin, a member of the ulema class. It was built in 1524 (931). A coffeehouse was built next to it, and a bench was placed in front of the door. The elderly men of the neighborhood used to frequently sit there. When I was a child, I would see a huge man while passing in front the carpet sellers. The large and high Mahmudkârî style fez on his head used to cover his forehead and half of his ears; the white cap under his fez would peek out from the edges to the width of a finger. His large bright eyes, peering out between the pendant eyebrows that covered almost all of his face, his walrus moustache and long beard would hail grandeur and respect wherever he looked. This man wore an Avniyye coat and he would keep his long and large machete next to him when he was sitting, holding it in his hand to lean on when he was slowly walking. He was the infamous Gazi Baba, and was respected by everyone. No one would pass by him without kissing his hand.
The madrasa - which was also a mosque – is located on the road that leads towards Gureba Hospital. It was built by Koca Sinan during the lifetime of Sultan Selim I, and was the sultan’s original mosque. The mosque, known as Sultan Selim Mosque, was commissioned by Sultan Süleyman I in the name of his father. This madrasa and mosque were built right next to the banks of Bayrampaşa Deresi (Stream), which entered through Sulukule and passed through Yenibahçe; the stream went through the grass of the hospital over and then went underground through Halıcılar, Sülüklü, Horhor and Aksaray. The rooms facing the water would be flooded when the stream broke its banks. Moreover, the water flowing from both sides of the valley when the stream flooded during heavy rains would turn the low areas, such as Halıcılar, Etmeydanı, Horhor and Aksaray, into a sea; it was only possible to cross the road on the back of a person or in a cart. I remember that once, when I was hurrying to get to my class at the Darüşşafaka on a winter day, I had to roll up my trouser legs to cross the stream; had to walk this way to get to the other side of the flooded Halıcılar.
I will never understand how a master architect like Sinan built this kind of a building next to a stream. My only assumption is that the stream was further back then, and that it had a damn. It is possible that the damn collapsed due to lack of care, and the water changed the directions.
The fact that this neighborhood is called Halıcılar Mansion suggests that there used to be a sultan’s mansion there, and its surroundings were prosperous, frequented by sophisticated people. Furthering this theory is the fact that Lütfi Pasha’s tomb was to the west of Halıcılar, Hüsrev Pasha’s tomb was to the north and Bali and İskender Pasha’s mosques were a bit further north.
The tombs I mentioned were destroyed by the fire, and Bali and İskender Paşa mosques had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Lütfi Pasha’s ruined tomb is on the left of the road as one goes towards Gureba Hospital. Gureba Hospital was built by Bezmialem Kadın, the wife of Mahmud II and mother of Abdülmecid (Abdülmecid I); this hospital was for the poor. Of her many charity works, the most famous is Dolmabahçe Mosque, which she also commissioned. When Bezmialem Kadın passed away in 1852, she was buried in the tomb of Sultan Mahmud.
Lütfi Pasha was one of the grand viziers of Sultan Süleyman I. In addition to his poetry, the pasha also wrote numerous other works. His most famous works are Âsafnâme (letter to the vizier) and Tarih (history). Tarih was printed at the state printing press with appendices by the late Ali Bey. Lutfi Pasha passed away in 1562.
On Friday mornings, Ottoman music enthusiasts would come together at the coffeehouse next to this tomb. Compositions, nakış (two movement samai), kâr (suite) and semai would be chanted in the old style. The late maestro Hacı Kerami used to have his students practice music in the music room of the sizable coffeehouse on the tramway at Molla Gürani.
Now let’s turn towards the east. The brick mass straight ahead is the Kilise Mosque, a structure dating back from the Byzantines. It was converted into a mosque; at this time the plaster was removed, the bricks were uncovered, two wooden wings were placed in the main entrance; it was left this way due to the ancient nature of the building. It was at one time animals pastured nearby would seek shelter from the sun, and disrespectful ones would rest there. Let’s be content with viewing it from a distance. If we attempt to get closer, we would need to cross the bridge over the water, where, despite drainage being installed, the flow does not stop. Even if we remove our boots, we would definitely sink into the mud that is caused by the water dampening the ground; this water also brings in rubbish from the neighborhood. Let’s walk towards Etmeydanı, imagining we are following the stream.
There is an arch built by layering flat bricks which forms the entrance of the famous Janissary Barracks. Nowadays, it stands, despite being attacked by children, just as it remained stalward against the cannon balls of Topçu Yüzbaşısı (artillery captain) Kara Cehennem (a name meaning “black hell”) İbrahim Agha. It is so low that if a tall man was to pass under it, he would hit his head. Since the ground was elevated to prevent floods at Etmeydanı, the arches became lower. The barracks on the interior side were quite large. The author of Hadîkatü’l-Cevami (gardens of the mosques) once said: “It is situated in the middle of the Yeni Odalar (new rooms),” giving an idea about the vastness of the barracks, as there was quite a distance between the Orta Mosque (also known as Ahmediye Mosque) and the arch. The gate of the barracks was shot at by cannon in 1825, and when the Janissary corps were abolished, the building was attacked with canons. The historian Esad Efendi recounts the attack on the barracks quite accurately in his work Üss-i Zafer (essentials of victory).
I think it would be right for this arch to be cared for instead of being left to rot; it is the final page of janissary history. The mosque in the middle of the slight slope and straight ahead of the arch is Orta Mosque. Orta Mosque, built during the reign of Sultan Süleyman I, was burned down, along with the barracks. After being left in ruins for quite some time, it was eventually rebuilt, most likely during the time that Hayri Bey was the minister of the waqfs. When one studies history, they can see that Orta Mosque is mentioned in most descriptions of the janissary revolts. Osman II, who sought refuge in the janissary corps, was brought there, the second reign of Mustafa I was decided there, and the negotiations about the Edirne Vak’ası (incident) were carried out there.
The single working tap of Orta fountain, commissioned by Damad İbrahim Pasha, is of great benefit to the public. While this fountain was commissioned to have two facades and four mirrors, the mirror stones and history plaques on one side have disappeared. There was a plaque that read Feyzullah Efendi Street nailed on the left corner of the road going towards Sofular from Orta Fountain. The namesake of this sign was the renowned sheikh al-Islam, who was to blame for the Edirne Vak’ası, due to his ambition and greed. The Millet (national) Library is further along this road, on the right. This treasured institution used to be a, and was commissioned by Feyzullah Efendi. Although the municipality wanted to demolish this beautiful building, the late Ali Emire Efendi intervened, and funded its reconstruction. It was completely restored by the ministry of waqfs, and turned into a rich library.
Kıztaşı (maiden’s stone) is surrounded by a small square; it is visible on the right side of the library, somewhat below. This stone is a column measuring 11 m. 20 cm. It was believed to have been erected in the fifth century, and a statue of Emperor Marcian was placed on top of it, thus reaching a height of 21 meters.
After giving the information summarized here, when discussing the Marcian Column- Kıztaşı in his work entitled Eski İstanbul (Old Istanbul) Celal Esad states that:
There was another column in addition to this stone known as Kıztaşı today. This was originally called Kıztaşı. The reason for this name was that there was a statue of the goddess of love, Aphrodite, on the column. Supposedly, if girls passing by it were not virgins, the statue would make this clear. In some works, it is reported that when the sister-in-law of Emperor Justinian’s (565-578) –who was not a virgin - passed by this statue, it announced this to the public through a voice of unknown origin. Hence, the emperor ordered that the statue be demolished.
The primary school (ilk mektep) across from the library used to be a military secondary school (askerî rüştiye mektebi). Every province had a military secondary school in its center; there were seven in Istanbul - Gülhane, Soğukçeşme, Fâtih, Eyüp, Kocamustafapaşa, Beşiktaş and Toptaşı. They were famous for their strict education and serious training, which resulted in excellent students. The military secondary schools in Konya and Erzincan have now replaced these schools.
Gülhane Rüşdiye-i Askeriyesi (military secondary school) functions today as Gülhane Hospital; I completed my secondary school education there.
If we keep the ruins of the city walls that are under the school to our left, and we climb the hill and turn left again, the grandeur and magnificence of Fatih Mosque will emerge before our eyes.
The gate by which one enters the courtyard now only juts out; the side walls of the mosque have been demolished and the courtyard has become a road.
The hazire (gated graveyard) of the tomb is to the right of the gate; but as the musalla stones (where funeral prayers were held) have been taken inside, the funeral prayers are offered here now.
When the musalla stones were in the square, the corpses would be placed on them, and the people praying in the open across from these stones did not create a very pleasant view for the passers-by. It is very good that they had been moved inside.
There are graves of many people who used to hold a superior position in terms of knowledge or rank within the graveyard. Even if we do not know who every one of those resting here, we should learn about the occupant of the grave on the right of the entrance. It is immediately evident from the inscriptions on the grave that this is the final resting place of the late Şeyh ül muharririn (sheikh of authors) Ahmed Midhat Efendi. Hoca Halis Efendi, who at first was opposed to the deceased, later respected him greatly; Hoca Halis Efendi rests near to Ahmed Midhat Efendi.
After Midhat Efendi was elected to the executive board of the Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye (equivalent of the Okutma Kurumu –school board - of today) he used to come to the Darüşşafaka once a week. He would generally spend his nights there so that he could partake in discussions. On one of these nights, in 1915, he felt unwell after the gathering at this institution, and passed away in the arms of Ali Kami Akyüz, who was director of the institution. His funeral procession began from the school on the following day, and his coffin was brought to Fatih on the shoulders of the poor orphans. He was buried after his funeral prayer was offered there and his final prayers were completed by Halis Efendi.
I wrote a date in the ebced style, entitled Nevha (commemoration) for the late Ahmed Midhat. The following are some couplets from that work:
Somehow a virtuous person is not raised amongst us
Look at this plague, even those we have pass away
Intellectuals accompany the land in its downfall
Midhat’s sundown is an agreement of this way
Shame that sun of labor has sunk
A deep darkness shall not end in his place
He, who worked more than a half century and published
Continued to struggle against the world of neglect
His whole life passed in writing and instructing
At the end he himself passed away at a college
The current Fatih Mosque, which Mehmet Akif attempted to describe in the following verses, is not the building that was commissioned by Fatih – it was commissioned later. The author of the Hadîkatü’l-cevami states that the building of the previous mosque was completed in 1470 (875), and it took eight years. He also adds that its renovation started in 1181 (1767-1768) after it collapsed due to an earthquake in 1179 (1765-1766). This renovation was completed in 1185 (1771).
Desires to embrace the divine kingdom
Minarets open their arms heartily and hopefully
The square where Fatih Mosque is located has two sides: the şimal (northern) side is referred to as the Black Sea direction, while the cenub (southern) side is called the Mediterranean direction. We are now standing on what was once the Mediterranean direction, and it used to be a permanent market place. As many of the sellers were Tatars some witty people referred to this place as the little Tatar market; almost all of the shops at this shopping place were tents and kiosks. Any kind of worn-out goods was available in these shops and they were sold at quite cheap prices. It was for this reason that the Fatih neighborhood was legendary as being affordable.
This little market was removed after the Meşrutiyet era, when Dühanizâde Hâfız Mehmed Efendi was mayor of Fatih municipality. A fine garden and pond were built in its place. However, today this garden is no longer here, having left only dust in its place.
The Black Sea direction of the square was a festive place. It used to resound with the cheerful voices of the children who gathered there. Nowadays, we hear roosters and ducks, as the poultry market is set up here on Wednesdays.
I have delved deep into this imaginary excursion but, quite exhausted mentally, a good friend has dropped by. Thus, I will abandon the excursion and relax, drinking coffee and enjoying a great conversation with him.
In the previous issue, I told you how I had come to Fatih Square on an imaginary and historical walk while sitting at my window. My walk ended when an afternoon visitor arrived. My guest made the normal inquiries about my health and wellbeing before asking about my adventures of the day.
“I took a journey while sitting in front of my window.” I said. He looked at me, confused, and asked:
I told him about my imaginary journey in history which had occupied me since the morning, and showed the drawings of the excursion I had made on some papers. I understood that he appreciated what I had done from the smile on his face. Then he uttered some encouraging words:
“My dear brother, do not abandon this excursion. It is both joyful and beneficial! I would love to accompany you if I did not have work to do today!”
I jokingly said:
“We cannot accompany each other!”
When he asked why, I replied:
“You cannot be content with the superficial description of something. You want to learn the minutest details. Therefore, if we attempt to walk together, we will never get anywhere as you would stop to observe everything. And I want to take a long walk.” We laughed.
He said, “Yes, I have a need to carefully observe and inspect my surroundings. Even you would not deny that only by observing one’s surroundings carefully can one really see it. However, somehow you seem to be wandering about the shallows this time. Nevertheless, these shallow places are deep enough to get to some depths. Continue your excursion and allow me to leave.” And he left.
My beloved friend’s thinking was right. It is necessary to be observant of even the slightest details if one really wants to see the world. However, nowadays it is not possible to find time to do such things, and even if there is time, it is difficult to have the patience to make the effort.
Our excursion stopped at Fatih Square. There are two roads going towards Edirnekapı from this point. One of them is Çarşamba Street, which has been joined with the Darüşşafaka now, and the other is Hafız Paşa Street. Some of the numerous gates in the square used to open onto these streets, and the one on the right was known as Boyacılar (painters) Gate, while the one on the left was Çörekçiler (bun-seller) Gate. Let’s follow Hafız Paşa Street and walk through the Malta Market on the left and the small shops in front of us.
This street was called Hafız Paşa Street because a mosque founded by Hafız Pasha was situated on it, just a little below here. The mosque was built in 1595 (1004), but what was once a grandiose structure now sits in ruins.
When Hafız Pasha’s name is mentioned, it reminds me of the time when Hafız Pasha wrote a request in verse addressing Murad IV, asking for help during the Baghdad expedition. The sultan, instead of sending help, sent a response in verse in the same way to his commander-in-chief. I shall recount these two poems which are worth noting as an oddness of military history:
Request by Hafız Ahmed Pasha
Enemies are everywhere, soldiers there are none
Brave servants in the name of religion there are none
The enemy of a bad king is defeated in spirit in this game
Wise soldiers riding war horses there are none
We are in an odd whirlwind, we are desperate, help
Swimmers from the acquaintances there are none
We are in legion to give and take heads in the war
Brave adroit soldiers there are none
We know no laziness to abolish the invention of religion
Troubles of suffering are asked, last judgement there is none
To enter into the burning fire of the enemy
A salamander tested within sorrow there is none
To deliver our letter to Sultan Murat
A pigeon as fast as a divine storm there is none
The response by Murad IV:
Soldiers to help Hafız of Baghdad there are none
You ask help from us for your soldiers there are none
You said you were the queen to defeat the enemy
Now the room to ride the knight there is none
We know that when it is time to talk you are the best
However, a judge to deliver revenge there is none
You talk about chivalry, why is this vileness
You are scared, a hero near you there is none
They destroyed the Muslim infused city from your neglect
Your religion and prophet’s endeavors there are none
God Who bestowed reign unbeknownst
Will bestow Baghdad again, fate there is none
You ruined the army of Islam with bribery
You think that it won’t be heard, the news there is none
To avenge the enemy with the help of God
Myself, the vizier to protect the religion there is none
I assigned a commander like Ali
Prophet Khidr would help, a guide there is none
Do you suppose that the world is empty?
Murat Sultan’s seven states there is none
There is no more surprising a move then writing a poem in the same manner and sending it to a commander who is in desperate need of reinforcements to recapture Baghdad (even when he asks this inappropriately in a poem) instead of sending help.
Hafız Ahmed Pasha’s death, actually his murder, is also both odd and sorrowful.
He was appointed as grand vizier once again in 1630 (1041).6 However, the acting grand vizier, Topal Receb Pasha, had set his eyes on this position as well. Three and a half months later, an insurgence was initiated to secure the grand vizierate of Hafız Pasha for Receb Pasha. Supporters of the insurgency gathered in the square of the palace. They threw stones at Hafız Pasha as he came to the imperial council in hopes to make him fall from his horse. With great difficulty, the Pasha reached the palace and, handing the seal to the sultan, resigned. He boarded a boat from Yalı Mansion in disguise to try to get to Üsküdar. They sent a boat after him and made him turn back. The pasha eventually figured out what was going on, so he walked towards those who were asking for his head on the palace square and punched the first cavalry soldier he saw in the face. The soldier tumbled to the ground, blood spouting from his mouth and nose. They set on the pasha at this point. The body of the poor pasha was riddled with holes, and even his throat was cut by knife.
Sultan Murad, all the while, was crying while watching this scene; nevertheless, he handed the seal to Receb Pasha.
Evliya Çelebi, an intellectual of the time, recounts that “he (Receb Pasha) had Musa Çelebi murdered with the daggers of his supporters, even though he was a friend of the sultan” and then “he himself was smothered to death when it became clear that he was the mastermind behind the murder of Musa Çelebi”, adding, “unfortunately, I was present at the imperial council with my father on that day 27 Shawwal 1042”. Musa Çelebi, whom Evliya Çelebi quotes, was a dear friend of Murad IV. We can infer from the following stanza by the poet Nef’í that he Musa Çelebi was a handsome man:
The disposition of Joseph and Jesus, the beauty of Musa Agha
A flame like the day, as if a kindle of the Tur
No haze ever in his creation
Allah created his body out of light
Never saw such good looks and morals
As if an angel born of a houri
The lucent face and hyaline
Whenever visible from the black sable coat
Beholders compare with the birth at once
Of the universe’s sun of the dark night
If the day and night is friend of the Shah of the worlds
He is a sum of the morals of non-besieged
So generous his personality is that
His creation is no different from a hidden treasure
It always reminds one of beauty with force
As a way to reach the broken hearts
May his intimacy with the sultan be blessed in the world
May Allah protect him here and, in the hereafter,
Murad IV was very affected by the dramatic murder of his friend, and wrote the following varsak (folk poem):
Beauty set off on a journey
My Musa wandered, he did not come back
Did he lose his way?
My Musa wandered, he did not come back
Evliya Çelebi’s music teacher, Dervish Ömer, composed the music to these words, and this started to be sung by the people. Since the sultan’s sorrow increased whenever he heard this song, he banned people from singing it. When Evliya Çelebi stood in the presence of the sultan for the first time, he sang this folk poem after an improvisation in Bestenigar (a classical Turkish music mode). The sultan held his handkerchief to his face and cried while Evliya Çelebi sang the song.
My purpose in deviating from my walk at this point was to share that story.
As known, our literature is divided into two; folk and classical. The members of folk literature – that is, the poets of the Turkish lute - were influenced by the members of classical literature - the poets of the pen - during the eleventh and seventeenth century; they wrote poems with the prosody meter. However, there were still some classical poets who resumed using the syllabic meter in the eighteenth century.
I suppose that the poets of the prosody meter returned to writing with the syllabic meter as Murad IV composed the above varak with two duraklı (caesuras) and eight syllables.
If one goes along the old road, on the left, on the right of the avenue that opens from here, there is a wooden mosque; it is known as Kumrulu Masjid, as there is a drawing of two doves (kumru) on the little fountain in the corner. The author of Hadîkatü’l-cevami recounts that this was built by a charitable act of the architect who rebuilt Fatih Mosque; this architect is also buried in the graveyard of the mosque.
A large mosque known as Nişancı-i Cedid is visible further ahead, within a small market. It was also commissioned by Nişancı Boyalı Mehmed Pasha, a man I mentioned in my essay about Fuzuli’s seal-holder. According to the author of Hadîkatü’l-cevami, the construction of this mosque began in 1584 (992) and was completed in 1588 (997). According to the same source, Boyalı Pasha passed away in 1595 (1004) and was buried in the tomb adjacent to the mosque, facing the road.
In front of us is a small square with a well in the middle. This is the famous Zencirli Well. Once, the handle over it was a long, thick stick, and a giant stone was tied to this stick. They refined this quite simple arrangement later on, and placed an iron column in place of the stick. By making the column iron rather than wood, it was urbanized.
There is an anecdote about Zencirli Well, but I still am not sure if it is fictional or genuine:
One day, Mahmud II was heading towards Edirnekapı. The renowned Said Efendi and Abdi Efendi, two friends of the sultan, were also among the attendants. When they were passing by the well, Said Efendi said to his colleague Abdi Efendi, “O for those old sultans! They would bestow upon their subject, commanding ‘Tell me whatever you wish from me!’” Sultan Mahmud pulled back the head of his horse when he heard this.
He asked, “Said, tell me whatever you wish from me!” Said Efendi wished properly that the sultan live long, but the sultan insisted upon another wish. Understanding that he was on the right track, Said Efendi wished:
“Our Lord, command that they tie your subject Abdi Efendi to one end of this stick and let him draw a bucket of water!” Following the sultan’s sign, Abdi Efendi was immediately taken from his horse, tied to the stick and made to draw water from the well.
Since Abdi Efendi was both a fat and a cowardly man, when the other end of the stick bent towards the well and went up, he rose up as well. His struggles and exclamations made Sultan Mahmud and the other attendants laugh. This was the kind of entertainment in accordance with the taste of that time.
Zencirli Well at Nişancı was a reference point for this neighborhood, just as the Yeşil Tulumbaları (green pumps) are for Aksaray and Unkapanı. The mansions of many scholars surrounded this well. In the following couplet the celebrated Sünbülzade Vehbi notes that he lived here:
The chin well of my love is the lovelock of my beloved
That is why at Zencirli Well I reside
Even if it may seem as if I am showing off, I would like to explain this. I am sure that even if there are people who know what I am going to say here, those who do not know exceed them in number.
Poets of classical poetry used to compare the hair of the beloved to a chain on the mind and as a home for the heart. As in the following couplets by Nedim and myself, respectively:
At the end you enslaved my heart with that hair of yours
So charming that you bond me in fire with that hair of yours
The beloved’s lovelock is the home for the sorrow of poet
Across it I found the place of my heart
They used to call cleft chins çah-ı zenehdan – meaning a well in the chin. And they used to say that the heart would fall into those hollows. In the following verse, Şirazlı Hafız says that the hollow on the chin of his beloved was the source of the water of beauty:
The face of beauty is derived from your chin well
Another Turkish poet, whose name I cannot recall now, also makes use of the term “hollow on the chin” to give an implicit meaning:
I became thirsty and asked for water from the hollow on her chin
An Arab has been waiting, I thought that was a beauty spot
There was a movement called fine deduction within classical poetry and arts – a movement that took the imagination into account when describing real things. There is fine deduction in the above-cited couplet by Sünbülzade. He claims that he lives in the neighborhood of Zencirli Well because he has fallen into a hollow on a chin and is tied by a chain of curls. Yet, of course, the well was a symbol of how he had not fallen literally, but figuratively in love with a woman. If someone requires an explanation, asking that “if fine deduction is indicating a fine reason for something, what is the fineness in the couplet by Sünbülzade?” I would say, “One has to learn that from the deceased!”
The large pit which is currently used as a playground, on the right of the tram route, used to be known as Çukurbostan. There was another hollow garden on the edge of the road going toward Sultan Selim Mosque from Darüşşafaka, and the interior of it was not only a garden, but also a neighborhood with its own mosque. There was a third hollow garden between the Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa and Odabaşı neighborhoods.
It should be noted that the hollow gardens are the legacy of Byzantium, and used to serve as cisterns in the past.
The late Abdurrahman Şeref Efendi wrote an essay entitled “Water shortage in Istanbul”, in the 38th issue of The Journal of the Committee of Ottoman History; here he states that:
As known, Istanbul did not have running water in the past and the need for water in the houses was met by wells and cisterns. Hollow gardens within the borders of Edirnekapı and the neighborhoods of Sultan Selim and Binbirdirek used to be public cisterns.
This historian must have overlooked the hollow garden in Odabaşı, since he did not mention it in this passage.
An ugly screen made of tinplate which has been erected at the edge of the tram route in fact stands in front of a sports field. This monstrosity is in place to obstruct the view of the pitch, thus preventing fans from viewing matches free of charge. Passers-by can see that apparently aesthetic beauty has been sacrificed in the name of profit. When one looks through a disjointed part or hole of this twisted tinplate screen, they can see the ridges of Okmeydanı shaping the skyline. Is it not possible to use this field, where practices took place during the conquest of Istanbul, again as a sports field? Is it not possible to evoke the old memories by building a large stadium here?
Ka’riye or Kahriye Mosque is visible straight ahead, and through a small opening in the tram route. This structure, which was converted to a mosque by Hadim Ali Pasha - one of the grand viziers of Bayezid II - used to be the church of a Christian village. The village was known as Hora, which meant “outside the city”, since it was outside the Byzantine city before the construction of the Theodosius city walls - the ramparts that still stand today. Perhaps the word Hora was translated into Turkish as Karye and this word became Ka’riye or Kahriye later on.
The late İhtifalci Ziya Bey carried out work on this temple, renowned for its precious mosaics. Moreover, Mister Celal Esad’s book Eski İstanbul (Old İstanbul) also demonstrates the plan, mosaics and passages of the mosque and offers quite a bit of historical information.
Tekfur Palace, which strives to preserve its remaining glory despite being in ruins now, stands on the area overlooking Ka’riye Mosque.
The late İhtifalci Ziya wrote a book entitled İstanbul ve Boğaziçi (Istanbul and the Bosphorus), and two volumes of this immense work were printed by the Matbaa-i Âmire (state printing house). There is quite a bit of information on Tekfur Palace in the second volume of this book – which could well serve as Istanbul’s history - and within the historical account of Celal Esad, entitled Eski İstanbul. We learn from these sources that the enthronement ceremony of Baudouin, the first Latin emperor in Istanbul, was carried out within this Byzantine building in 1204.
We are now close to Edirnekapı. Although this area only has a few shops today, it once used to be a huge market. Most of these shops were full of goods related to horses and expeditions. At that time, the borders of our country went beyond the Balkans, and flooded over the Danube shores. Many people used to travel back and forth from these places daily.
This mighty mosque is one of the landmarks of Koca Sinan’s genius. It was built in the name of Mihrimah Sultan, who was the daughter of Sultan Süleyman I and the wife of Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasha.
It used to have a madrasa, a school and a double hamam. The madrasa and school are in ruins now, and the hamam is dilapidated, having since been shuttered up. There is a demolished tomb next to the ruined school which is said to belong to Ahmed Pasha, Rüstem Pasha’s son-in-law, and some of his relatives. Hakani Mehmed Bey’s grave is situated in front of the school, and is sheltered by a tall tree, giving it a look of splendor.
The deceased was the son of Rüstem Pasha’s daughter from another wife, and one of the most famed poets of Sultan Süleyman’s era. His composition İltifat-ı beka (eternal compliment) marks the date of his death, indicating 1015 in the Islamic calendar. In addition to his classical poetry, Rüstem Pasha wrote an exceptional collection of poems, Hilye-i Hakani, expressing a divine love through poetry.
The late Muallim Naci says about this work:
You penned incandescent epithets, curved your title on the heaven
Such parching effect that you cannot even hold back your tears
He also described his grave, almost forty years earlier, in the following lines:
… A proud immense pedigree on the grave has advanced with the right and the pure Hakani for almost three hundred years. It leans on the already ruined and deserted grave in a very touching way. When the eyes of the visitor turn to this pedigree, he is impressed by the grandeur, as if a statue of the owner of the grave had been erected there.
When one looks inside the largest window of the graveyard which adjoins the wall of the school, they can see a round stone painted green; the following inscription can be read: “Allah alone is eternal, al-Fatiha for the soul of blessed Hile Hakanı.” Apparently, Hilye-i Hakani was meant to be written.
The fact that this man attempted to write the title of the deceased on the gravestone as Hilye-i Hakani, but could not even write it correctly is a source of sadness rather than strangeness. This error cuts deep because of the seniority of the person in the grave. If he were to see this inscription, he would be horrified. He would cry, “How unappreciative you people are!” from the depths of his grave.
The following passage, recounted again by Naci, is a clear example of the grandness of the late Hakani:
… the senior clerks of the royal council as well as those prominent in the art of the word used to live on the large avenue around the sacred mosque of Edirnekapı. Hakani used to live thereabouts as well. When he completed the poems of the Hilye and handed it to the grand vizier of the time, he was asked what kind of a gift he would desire to show the appreciation for his work. He said, “I’m old now. I do not have the power to go to Paşakapı from Edirnekapı on foot every day. If I’m allowed, I would love to ride an animal.” However, since those people bearing the title of Hakani were not allowed to ride animals officially at that time … he was instead granted an appropriate house near the Sublime Porte!
Our excursion has gone on for longer than expected. No doubt my readers are also as exhausted as I am. Let’s leave going further on our historical expedition, as the sky is darkening, and the skyline visible from the window is disappearing.
1 Şadırvan, 3/17 (1936), s. 193-195.
2 In the ebced system each Arabic letter is given a numeric value; a word or phrase is used to denote a date.
3 Şadırvan, vol. 3, no. 18 (1936), pp. 235-237.
4 Şadırvan, 1936, vol. 4, no. 19 (1936), pp. 10-12.
5 Şadırvan, vol 4, no. 21 (1936), pp. 92-95.
6 The most elegant date made through ebced was composed for Hafız Pasha’s second grand viziership; this was the verse by Sheikh Ahmed Dede of Galata Mevlevihane: “Hâtem (1041) he-hâfız âmede (1041) bâ-zıll-ı (1041) mahfûz bâd (1041)” (The present seal shaded and protected by the divine help); as we can see, this includes four dates.
7 Şadırvan, vol. 4, no. 22 (1936), pp. 133-136.