What is the apparent reason for and wisdom behind the fact that the Prophet gave glad tidings for the conquest of Istanbul, not another city?

The Details of the Question

- Is there a special wisdom behind the fact that the Prophet (pbuh) gave glad tidings for the conquest of especially Istanbul, not another city, apart from the apparent reasons? – Why not the other important cities but Istanbul?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Prophet (pbuh) gave glad tidings for not only Istanbul but also other important places that would be a means of service to Islam, Muslims and humanity. Before their conquests, he stated that, for instance, Makkah, Khaybar, IraqQuds (Jerusalem) (Ali al-Qari, Sharhush-Shifa 1/678, 679), Damascus (Waqidi, Maghazi, 2/450) and Iran (Ahmad b. Hanbal, 4/303) would be conquered and they were conquered.

This primarily encouraged the conquest of those places but is also an evidence for the prophethood of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh).

The reason why Istanbul was given so much importance might originate from the fact that its conquest would bring about material and spiritual benefits to not only Muslims and the Islamic world but also the world.

Besides, there is a special praise for the commander who would conquer Istanbul and his army. This is a praise for the Ottoman State, which is represented by the commander and the army that conquered Istanbul. The Ottoman State showed that it deserved this praise by the services it made.

"O ye who believe! If any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him,- lowly with the believers, mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault...”

As a matter of fact, it is stated that one of those praised in verse 54 of the chapter of al-Maida is the Ottoman state. (see Elmalılı, ilgili ayetin tefsiri; Nursi, Mektubat, Yirmi Altıncı Mektup)

Due to those properties and the information to be given below, a special importance was given to the conquest of Istanbul. In addition, Hz. Prophet (pbuh) praised the commander who conquered Istanbul and his army.

What the Conquest of Istanbul Gained the World and the Islamic World

We will deal with the benefits of the conquest of Istanbul from material and spiritual point of view, combine them and indicate some important results:

1. Legal Results of the Conquest

As it is known, before the Conquest of Istanbul, Byzantines were dominant in Istanbul; the Roman Law colored with Christianity was applied. When Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror conquered Istanbul with the help of Allah and the strength of his sword, he enacted a new legal system in Istanbul; this legal system was the Islamic Law. When the people of Istanbul, who were Jews and Christians and who were sick and tired of the violations of the Byzantines related to tax, life and honor, understood that Islam’s principles of justice were applied by the Sultan himself and that they would live comfortably in Istanbul under the security of Islam, they supported the conquest of the Conqueror, let alone resisting it. Some concrete examples seen after the conquest:

The Existence of the Churches in Istanbul is a Result of the Conqueror’s Tolerance

According to the decrees of Islamic law of states, the temples belonging to the People of the Book in the countries that are conquered through peace are not touched. Just the opposite is valid in the countries that are conquered through war. That is, if the Islamic sultan wants, he can eliminate all of the temples and deport all non-Muslims. Istanbul was conquered through war. This decree is the reason why St Sophia and some other churches were transformed into mosques (Cin, Halil/Akgündüz, Ahmet, Türk Hukuk Tarihi, 1/393 ff).

If that decree had been applied throughout Istanbul, all of the churches and synagogues in Istanbul would have been demolished. Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror), who conquered Istanbul with the help of Allah and the strength of his sword, accepted a committee consisting of priests and rabbis into his presence after transforming St Sophia into a mosque. The committee of priests and rabbis told Mehmed the Conqueror that he conquered Istanbul through war and that it was his right originating from the law of states not to leave any churches and synagogues in Istanbul if he wished. However, they asked him to treat them and their temples as if Istanbul had been conquered by peace and wanted their late entrance into his presence to be accepted as a means of this request. Consulting the religious scholars around him, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror accepted their requests and though he had the right, he did not intervene in the churches and synagogues that had not been transformed into mosques.

A fatwa issued by the famous sheikhulislam Ebussuud Efendi of the Ottoman state shows that the real secret of the existence of the churches and synagogues that have survived up to now is Mehmed the Conqueror’s understanding of the freedom of religion and conscience. The fatwa is as follows:

"Did Sultan Muhammad II conquer Istanbul and the towns around it by force? El-The answer: It is known that he conquered Istanbul by force. However, old churches indicate conquest through peace. This issue was searched in 945. A person aged 130 years old and another person aged 110 years old were found; they witnessed that the group of Jews and Christians formed an alliance with Sultan Mehmed II secretly that they would not help the Byzantine rulers and that Sultan Mehmed II would not enslave them, and that Istanbul was conquered like that. Due to this witnessing, the old churches remained as they were. Written by Ebussuud" (Ebussuud, Ma'ruzat, İst. Univ. Library, Turkish Manuscripts No: 1798, vrk. 130/a-b).

As it is seen, the promise of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror “to permit the construction of a church near each mosque” practiced in Serbia was also applied in Istanbul. Does the existence of the Byzantine Patriarchate and the church next to the mosque in Abdi Subaşı District, Fener not show the freedom of religion and conscience in the real sense? Is it not one of the material evidences of this freedom to permit the construction of a Byzantine church opposite Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Edirnekapı? Despite the nice treatment and tolerance of Muslims toward non-Muslims, the Muslim people who remained under the domination of non-Muslims in the previous centuries, especially in Andalusia, and in the land that was abandoned by the Ottoman State in the last two centuries were treated so badly that their freedom of religion and conscience was completely violated; therefore, the treatment of the Muslims and non-Muslims cannot even be compared. That is one of the legal results of the conquest. (Osman Nuri, Mecelle -i Umur, 1/217-218).

Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror did not apply double standard like the Europeans of today. He applied exactly the same things as he promised in theory except for a few mistakes. We understand a living example of this from the following sentences of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, who rendered the rights given to dhimmis a written order and decree, in the edict he gave to the non-Muslims in Galata:

"I am the Great Sultan and great king Muhammad Khan bin Sultan Murad. I swear by Allah who created the earth and the sky and by the clean, bright and pure spirit of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), by the seven original copies of the Quran, by one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets, by the spirit of my grandfather, the spirit of my father, by my head, by my children’s head and by the sword that the people of Galata now

1. will practice their rituals and customs as they did in the past. I will not attack them and will not demolish their castle.

2. I decree that their goods, sustenance, property, cellars, vineyards, mills, ships, boats and all goods, women, children male and female slaves will remain with them; I will not oppose them.

3. They will work. They will travel by sea and land like the people of the other land; nobody will prevent and oppose them; they will be exempted.

Due to these lofty principles that were applied in Istanbul for years after the conquest, the descendants of the non-Muslims of that time still live in Istanbul and do business; however, they dare to insult our Ottoman ancestors, with whose tolerance they lived.

In conclusion, the city of Istanbul, which lived under the arbitrary regime of the Byzantine, the old rules of the Roman Law and the Byzantine judges who dispensed oppression instead of justice, experienced a perfect legal system that did not violate even the rights of ants, let alone human beings, and saw judges like Hıdır Bey, who made Mehmet the Conqueror sit next to the chair of a Byzantine man who complained about him in the court.

Along with the application of the religious decrees in the fiqh books that compiled the decrees of the Islamic Law, more than 80 laws were enacted based on the authority given to ulul-amr by the Islamic Law including Sate Organization Law after the conquest; this application was the first in the history of Islamic Law.

2. The Results of the Conquest in the Field of Ilm (Science)

When Istanbul was conquered, the Christian scholars were still under the influence of priests and they despised the people who said the world was round. Besides, there was not a bright scientific life. With the conquest, Istanbul became the center of the world of science and especially great scholars like Hoca Çelebi, who tried to measure around the world using a measuring stick, and Molla Fenari. Istanbul Palaces, which had previously been the scene of entertainment and illegitimate sprees, began to become the scene of scientific discussions and the celebrations of the presentation of wonderful works written in all branches of science to the statesmen.

Fatih Complex, which was one of the first great universities in the world, was an important fruit of the conquest. All branches of science were studied in this university, from the Faculty of Medicine, in which one of the course books was Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna’s) "al-Qanun Fit-Tibb", to various madrasahs, in which one of the course books was Sayyid Sharif Jurjani’s encyclopedia of kalam and philosophy called "Sharhul-Mawaqif" The Renaissance movements in Europe began as a result of the influence of the scientific atmosphere introduced by the conquest of Istanbul. For, not only the religious schools where religious sciences were studied but also modern schools where technical staff who made Fatih’s cannon balls, which were well-known and heard by everybody, were brought up were established in Istanbul.

Europe started to question itself. What enabled Mehmed the Conqueror to conquer Istanbul were the doors of institutions of science opened wide for scientists and scholars thanks to the encouragement of Islam and his respect to scientists and scholars. What caused them to lose Istanbul was to plunge into the dark well of ignorance that caused them to execute the scientists who said the world went round. In other words, it can be said that the Renaissance movements in Europe started with the conquest of Istanbul. Thus, the conquest of Istanbul meant the conquest of Europe, which had been captivated by ignorance, by science.

After the conquest, Istanbul became a city for scholars in all fields, which had to be migrated to.

3. What the Conquest Gained in Political and Social Fields

As it is known, the Ottoman state was not a state but a kind of chiefdom during the time of Osman Bey and Orhan Bey. Those who ruled the Ottomans were not called sultan or king, but Bey or Emir-i Kebir (Great Amir).  Although Murad I called himself the Sultan, the other states did not regard the Ottomans as an independent state; they used the title Amir in the correspondence (see Feridun Bey, Münşeât, Fâtih Devri Fermânları). Bayezid I partly ended this status but the incident of Timur and the period of interregnum started. It was the conquest of Istanbul by the Mehmed the Conqueror that caused the title the Ottoman State to be accepted by both the groups inside and outside the Ottoman State; after the conquest, both the friendly and enemy states used the title the Ottoman State until it declined.

In that case, we can say that the Ottoman state became a real state with the conquest of Istanbul

We can say that the conquest of Istanbul, which made Istanbul the capital of the only super-state of the world, made a great change in Istanbul socially. First of all, people living in Istanbul were presented a peaceful and fair atmosphere that would last for centuries. While adhans were heard from the minarets of the mosques in Kumkapı, Edirne Kapı and Sultan Ahmed, Christians and Jews in the same Kumkapı and Edirne Kapı went to the churches and synagogues peacefully like the Muslims.

All residents of Istanbul, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, benefited from so many social services and took advantage of so much social help that the zakah money (alms) put in the charity stones sometimes stayed there for days and no one took them. In other words, the social structures improved both Muslims and non-Muslims.

4. What the Conquest Brought in the Commercial and Economic Field

The conquest of Istanbul also changed the world's trade and economy balance. On the one hand, it encouraged the geographic discoveries; on the other hand, it made Istanbul the center of world trade. As far as we understand from the provisions of the Regulations and the Customs Laws prepared at the time of Mehmed the Conqueror, a significant part of the goods of London, Baghdad, Far East and Russia was marketed in Istanbul. Istanbul became the financial center of the Silk Road. Muhammad coins, made of solid gold, became the convertible currency in the world trade.

In Istanbul, trade was based on rules. The merchant to bring goods to Istanbul knew the amount of tax to be taken from his goods no matter what his religion was. Based on the permission given by the Islamic Law, commercial consulates were opened. The edicts of privilege given to the Venetians and Greeks during the time of Mehmed the Conqueror showed them clearly.

To sum up, the conquest of Istanbul was also a conquest for Europe because it started the renaissance movements and showed what justice was to non-Muslims; in addition, it became a source of pride for the people living in the Ottoman State and the Islamic world; and it caused the Ottoman state to be the only super state of the world for four hundred years... (see Osmanlı Araştırmaları Vakfı, web page.)

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Will you explain the hadith informing about the conquest of Istanbul?

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