Constantinople, wonderful man, wonderful army
September 13, 2012 2 Comments
“Convey my salaams and ask the Muslim armies to penetrate deep, so that they can bury me at the walls of Constantinople” so did say Abu Ayyub Ansari to Yazid, when the commander visited him on his death bed. This event took place circa 675 AD and was the first of many expeditions of the Muslims to conquer Constantinople.
The Muslim armies took to heart Abu Ayyubs request and fought their way to the Wall of Constantinople and that is where Abu Ayyub was laid in his final resting place. That was as far as the Muslims got in the four year campaign and they finally retreated after heavy losses. It was also the furthest they got in the next 700 years. Abu Ayyub, was approximately mid 90s and should not have been with the army at all, regardless of the huge reputation of being a ghazi who fought in all the Islamic wars. Today the locality of Eyup (Turkish derivation) carries huge religious significance and many Turks ask to be buried in the same area as this ghazi.
This is same Abu Ayyub who in 622 played host to the Prophet (saw) at his house in Medina for seven months. You would have heard the story of Qaswa the camel and how she stopped near Abu Ayyub’s house and that same spot became Masjid Quba, the first mosque in Islam. So why was Abu Ayyub in his old age, at the shores of Constantinople?
It is said that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in his discussions on the way forward, had alluded to the importance of the city which will have water in its midst. The logic was obvious, that the city would be a pivotal point in the battle to spread the faith into lands afar. It was also central to the strategy of control of larger areas in two continents and a route into the Black Sea. Such was the importance of the city, which was the seat of Byzantine, that the Prophet (saw) said ‘what a wonderful leader will he be and what a wonderful army’ for the one conquering Constantinople.
So then, through the centuries, Muslim ambitions turned towards this city in Asia Minor. Many expeditions were planned and failed, beginning with the one led by Yazid, in the time of Muawiyyah, in which Abu Ayyub decided to participate – and yes in case you are wondering, this was the same Yazid, who was to cause the happenings of Karbala years later.
Some seven hundred years later another tragic attempt is worth noting. The aspirant was one named Bayazid Yildirim (thunderbolt). He was the Ottoman ruler in late 14th century. Bayazid planned his conquest with great detail and having disposed of a crusade in Bulgaria had established a stranglehold over Hungry and Bulgaria. He then turned his attention to Constantinople and somewhere in late 1390s laid siege to it. Lacking a strong navy and heavy guns, Bayazid hoped to break resistance via a long siege.
He came close. But at a crucial period, when the fall looked imminent, news came that Tamerlane (Timur-al-lung), the King of Samarqand (Mongols and Tartars) was invading his eastern lands. Bayazid signed a deal with Constantinople and turned eastwards. He was never to return. The battle of Ankara in 1402 was a defeat and Tamarlane captured Bayazid, who then after seven months captivity died a broken man. This event has been dramatised in Marlowes play and Bayazid is a tragic character who dies of shame imprisoned in a gilded cage.
This signal event delayed the Ottomans for a half century. The lands broke up for a time and the hegemony of the Sultans was finally established by Sultan Muhammad Fateh. As soon as Muhammad Fateh felt secure, his thoughts turned to the words of the Prophet (saw) and his desire to conquer Constantinople surfaced. Who would not? As he besieged Constantinople, he found yet that the fortifications withstood. So in a maneuver which has been spoken about for these 560 years, he dragged 80 ships across land on greased boards overnight. Next day his navy emerged on the Black Sea towards the unfortified side of Constantinople. The writing was on the wall and on 29/5/1453 Constantinople surrendered after 800 years of desire and effort. Where the Prophets (saw) words, spoken some 830 years before, fulfilled then?
Mythology and research have a different spin to it. Is the wonderful man and army this event at all? Some scholars who have knowledge about the coming events of Armageddon, attribute this to a future event when the Muslims will retake Constantinople in the time of the Mahdi. So this may well be one of the signal events, which shall shape the last war of all wars to occur, between the Mahdi and Dajjal. Only Allah knows and time will tell.