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Sultan Mohammad Fateh

SULTAN MUHAMMAD FATEH

Naima Sohaib

Muslim Heroes series No. 12

Translated by Asma Farooq

Copyright  2016 Naima Sohaib

Shakespir Edition

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, including photocopying, recording, Internet or any storage and retrieval system without prior written permission from the Publisher.

Available in print at Dawah Books

dawahbooks.com.pk

Translated from the Urdu book “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Azeem Shakhsiat” by Naima Sohaib

Table of Contents

Title Page

Foreword

Sultan Muhammad Fateh – Introduction

Birth

Childhood, Education and Upbringing

Ascension to the Throne

Ottoman Turks and Constantinople

Establishment of the Ottoman Empire

Initial Efforts to Conquer Constantinople

The Significance of Constantinople

Sultan Muhammad Advances Forward

The Decisive Battle

Miracle in the History of Naval Warfare

The Final Attack

And Constantinople is Conquered!

Sultan Muhammad Fateh’s Other Conquests

Death

Sultan’s Character

References

About the Author

About the Translator

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[][] Foreword

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

This booklet is twelfth in a series, translated from a book compiled on Muslim heroes by my dear friend Naima Sohaib. The selection includes Muslim scholars, philosophers, reformers and military generals. It tells us about these unique individuals who selflessly worked for the cause of Islam. I hope that Muslims today will find their stories a source of inspiration.

This booklet is about Sultan Mohammad Fateh, a remarkable man who proved that with perseverance one can overcome any challenge and realize one’s dreams. His greatest accomplishment was to be the leader of the army that was praised by the blessed Prophet (SAW) in a hadith that foretold the conquest of Constantinople.

Sultan Mohammad Fateh was a focused, just, brave and kind hearted man. His tolerance and respect for other faiths was exemplary. In these times of religious intolerance we should all take lessons from his reign in which every citizen regardless of his faith enjoyed complete peace and security.

Sultan Fateh is remembered not only for his conquests but also for his endeavors in the fields of education and public service. He had great love for literature and poetry and held scholars and learned men in high esteem. His dynamic personality makes him one of the great heroes of Muslim history.

May Allah reward Naima Sohaib for her encouragement, Sohaib Umar for patiently editing this piece of work and Farooq Saeed, my husband, for his constant support.

Asma Farooq

Sultan Muhammad Fateh

The Great Ottoman Caliph whose miraculous conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul) made history in world naval warfare

[]Introduction

Sultan’s name was Mohammad Sani but in history he is remembered as Sultan Mohammad Fateh. His lineage is as follows:

Sultan Mohammad Sani bin Sultan Murad (the second) bin Sultan Mohammad (the first) bin Sultan Bayezid Yaldram bin Murad (the first) bin Sultan Urr Khan Ghazi bin Osman Khan (founder of the Ottoman dynasty).

Mohammad Fateh was the 7th sovereign of the Ottoman Empire.

[][]Birth

Sultan Mohammad Sani was born on 20 April 1424, 26 Rajab 831 A.H.

[]Childhood, Education and Upbringing

Mohammad’s father Sultan Murad was a just, determined, kind and generous Muslim ruler who strictly adhered to the Shariah. His people were happy with him as his reign was one of peace and prosperity. Sultan Murad was renowned for his welfare work.

From the beginning Sultan Murad made sure that his son received the best education and upbringing. He paid handsome salaries to the best teachers and scholars of the time to teach his son all the prevalent sciences. Mohammad Sani was not only intelligent, he also had a great zeal for learning. His teachers acknowledged his intelligence and extraordinary abilities. At a young age he became proficient in Arabic, Persian, Latin, Hebrew and Greek (apart from his native language Turkish). Besides religion he had a special interest in Greek philosophy, history and eastern culture and civilization. He used to read with great interest about kings especially conquerors like Alexander the Great and was an ardent admirer of his heroic adventures.

He had a natural inclination towards poetry and whilst still a young prince had become a great connoisseur of poetry under the guidance of his teachers. He had memorized the best poetry written by Turkish, Arab and Persian poets. Mohammad was quick to excel in the art of writing and speaking. Apart from this he would also take interest in learning the skills of warfare.

The Ottoman sovereigns were not inclined towards a life of luxury; infact apart from being rulers of the state they were also army generals. Mohammad had inherited his courage and valor from his ancestors. His own father Sultan Murad was a brave warrior. Mohammad learnt from his father the tactics of warfare planning and strategy as well as how to manage the government and the politics.

During his reign, Sultan Murad was constantly at war with his enemies. The reason behind this was not his greed to expand his territory but his enemies forced him every time to wage war against them. As soon as his enemy would concede defeat he would put down his weapons and would strictly abide by all peace treaties. Tired after 22 years of conflict, he entered into a peace agreement for ten years with the king of Hungary. On the way back he received the news of the death of Alauddin, his oldest and extremely capable son. This news shook him up so much that he decided to permanently separate himself from the affairs of the state. Sultan made his other son Mohammad the king, who was at the time only fourteen years old, and left for Asia Minor where he devoted himself to the remembrance of Allah.

As soon as the news spread that the Sultan’s young and inexperienced son had ascended the throne, the Christians launched an attack disregarding the peace treaty. As a result of this there was great bloodshed in the coastal areas of the Black Sea. When Sultan Murad was given this news he was moved to tears. He put his prayer mat on his horse, gathered an army of forty thousand men and proceeded to Varna where he inflicted a crushing defeat upon the crusaders. Once again Murad handed over the throne to his son and went back to Magnesia. A few years later he had to again come back to power to curb rebellion in the army. For the next six years he ruled with great pomp and splendor. Around this time Mohammad got married to the daughter of a convert. For the next six years, in his capacity as heir to the throne, he gained experience by working in different departments of the state. And finally, after being crowned twice before, he returned to the throne permanently at the age of 21 years.

[]Ascension to the Throne

Sultan Murad Sani passed away on 3rd February 1453 (856 A.H.). On hearing the news of his death, Mohammad Sani, without any hue and cry, arrived in Galli Poli from Magnesia where he was residing at that time. For fear of rebellion he kept the news of his father’s death a secret. During his father’s life, whenever he took control of the affairs of the government, Prime Minister Khalil Pasha and his allies always complained of his attitude. They thought that he did not take into consideration anyone’s suggestion in front of his own opinion. Even though their criticism gave him a chance to rectify his mistakes, he knew that if he did not handle things wisely his succession could be in danger. He waited for a suitable time to announce his father’s death and immediately thereafter his coronation ceremony took place. At the age of 21 he had already gained practical experience to bear this heavy responsibility. Showing great prudence and insight he did not remove any of the senior officials from their existing positions. He also appointed new people on the basis of their ability and aptitude.

In the last six years not only had Sultan Mohammad learnt how to govern the state but had also become an experienced general. However, the king of Constantine still considered him to be inexperienced. He started to create trouble at the borders. He sent an envoy to Sultan’s court who delivered this message in a rude manner: “If the Sultan does not increase the stipend of this Ottoman prince (who was in his custody) we will ourselves put him on the throne of the Ottoman Empire.”

When Sultan got this message in Asia Minor he was busy punishing a few rebellious members of the elite ruling class. Patiently he heard this threatening message and ignored it for the time being. Everyone knew that war was now imminent.

[]Ottoman Turks and Constantinople

Before we give an account of Sultan Mohammad Fateh’s greatest achievement, it is necessary to understand the conditions prevailing at that time.

In the 11th century Muslims gained real strength in Asia Minor as a result of the Seljuk conquests. However, passing time saw the decline of the Seljuk Empire and mutual disputes deprived it of its original glory.

In the midst of the 13th century a few Turk families from the ‘Oguz’ tribe fled from Khorasan fearing attacks by Ganges Khan. Unable to find shelter for some time, they finally started their journey towards Asia Minor to seek refuge with Seljuk Emperor Alauddin. When they reached Angora they saw a huge cloud of dust that had covered the horizon. When Artughral, their tribal leader, climbed the top of a mountain he saw two armies engaged in heavy fighting. One army was much less in number than the other and it seemed that soon it would flee after being overcome by the bigger army. Since it was usual among the Turks to help the weaker party, Artughral and his men joined the smaller army and helped them win the battle. After the battle ended Artughral realized that his timely assistance had actually helped Alauddin Seljuk avert defeat at the hands of the Tartars.

The attacks by the Tartars had caused destruction in the entire Islamic world and now they were at war with Sultan Seljuk in Asia Minor. To show his gratitude Sultan Alauddin Seljuk gave Artughral a flourishing and fertile piece of land, next to the borders of the Greek empire. After some time Artughral, serving as the deputy of the Sultan, defeated the Greeks and the Mongols. Pleased, the Sultan rewarded him with more land and named his state ‘Sultanooni’. Artughral was also nominated as the commander of a section of the Sultan’s army. He would choose the finest and the bravest young men from his state for his army. After seeing their strength and courage on the Greek borders, the Christians were terrified of this small but courageous army. After Artughral passed away the Sultan handed over his territory to his competent son, Osman, who would later become the founder and the first sovereign of the Ottoman Empire.

Osman always stayed loyal to the Seljuk rulers even though their government became weak with time and there was much dissension among the deputies.

[]Establishment of the Ottoman Empire

After the death of the last Seljuk emperor many chieftains founded small states of their own. Osman also declared his independence and thus laid the foundation of a vast empire which would be included amongst the great powers of the world within 150 years. In less than 300 years the Ottoman Empire became the greatest empire of the world in its strength and expanse. This empire lasted for around 625 years and came to an end when in 1924 Ghazi Mustafa Kamal Pasha Ataturk announced the creation of a democratic state in Turkey.

After the end of the Seljuk Empire ten small states had been created. Within a short span of time Osman had absorbed all the neighboring areas into his empire. The span of his conquests had brought him so close to Constantinople that Kaiser had to request the Tartars for help. Osman’s son Urr Khan exhausted the Tartars by inflicting a series of defeats upon them.

Sultan Osman was on his death bed when Barosa, a key city, was conquered. The advice that he gave his son Urr Khan before dying gives us an insight into his character, approach and strategy. He said:

“Do not be cruel or tyrannical. Be fair and just to people so that they are happy and the country prospers. Expand your state through victories so that Allah’s message spreads in every direction. Always keep the scholarly and learned men close to yourself and listen to their advice. Make the adherence to Shariah and its implementation your focus. Always strive to inculcate good character in your people and give it preference over all matters. In this way mankind will develop and prosper. The only aim of my life was to spread Islam and to put ethics into practice. You should also make this the purpose of your life.”

After Osman Khan’s death his son Urr Khan took control of the state and focused his attention on expanding the empire. In Europe he clashed with the Greeks but he managed to defeat them. He also gained control of Adrianople and later it was made the capital.

The Ottoman emperors that succeeded him managed to even conquer Serbia, Bulgaria and Albania. The Christians of Europe formed an alliance against the fourth Ottoman caliph Bayazid the first. In 1396 the Christian allies suffered a crushing defeat in the battle of Nicopolis at the hands of the Ottoman army. Now Sultan Bayazid became even more confident and started a siege of Constantinople. This worried the Europeans immensely and they decided to call Timur from Asia to confront Bayazid. Timur who was himself a great conqueror agreed to fight against another Muslim ruler only to prove his supremacy over him. Bayazid was forced to lift the siege and subsequently the most deplorable battle in the history of Islam took place at Angora. Bayazid’s army of 120,000 was up against Timur’s force of 500,000. Bayazid was defeated and captured in this battle. According to some reports, Timur kept him in a cage where he died after eight months.

The Battle of Angora apparently caused the decline of the Ottoman Empire. It started losing territories one after the other and was soon dispersed like scattered beads. The Greeks gained courage by this and started interfering at the borders. When Timur left to invade China, Bayazid’s sons started fighting for the throne and eventually Sultan Mohammad (the first) emerged victorious. Not only did he re-establish the Ottoman Empire but also organized his armies to fight against the Europeans.

After Sultan Mohammad (the first) died his son Sultan Murad Sani ascended the throne. Sultan Mohammad Fateh was his son. During Sultan Murad Sani’s reign the Ottomans had absolute control over the Balkans. They also conquered Venice, Greece, Hungary and Albania. After the historical victories at Kosovo and Varna, Sultan Mohammad Fateh’s father had control in Europe extending to River Danube except for Constantinople. He left the world with the wish to conquer Constantinople in his heart.

[]Initial Efforts to Conquer Constantinople

Before we give an account of how Constantinople was conquered it is necessary to mention the importance of this city and the previous efforts that had been made by the Muslims to conquer it.

Since the time of Hazrat Ameer Muawiyah the Muslims wanted to capture this city, as the Prophet (SAW) had predicted the conquest of the city at the hands of Muslims. The Prophet (SAW) had also given glad tidings of forgiveness to the first army that attacked Constantinople. He said: “The first army amongst my followers who will invade Caesar’s city will be forgiven their sins.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Allah had also given the Prophet (SAW) knowledge of the fact that the first army would not succeed. In another hadith he gave glad tidings of victory and said: “Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. This victorious army would be good and so would be its leader.” [Al Musnad Ahmad, Hakim, Ibne Shaiba]

This is the reason why the Muslims wanted to conquer this city since the time of the righteous caliphs.

In 48 A.H. Amir Muawiyah sent the first Muslim army through land and sea routes to Constantinople. Several prominent companions of the Prophet (SAW) namely Hazrat Abu Ayub Ansari, Ubadah bin Samit, Abu Darda, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Zubair and Abdullah bin Abbas were part of this expedition. However, the wall of the city was very strong and the Muslims were also unable to tolerate the harsh winter. Abu Ayub Ansari died during the siege and asked to be buried under the city wall inside the enemy territory. A few other Muslims were also martyred and the city could not be conquered.

Two attempts were made during the rule of Banu Umayyah while during the rule of Banu Abbas, caliph Haroon Rashid himself led an army of 100,000 to Constantinople. However, the queen made peace with him by agreeing to pay a yearly tax. When the Ottoman Empire was founded in Asia Minor, it faced constant hostility from the European kings. Apart from Constantinople, the whole of the Balkans was conquered by the Ottomans. Bayazid Yuldrum was the first Ottoman emperor that laid siege to Constantinople. Later, Mohammad’s father Sultan Murad made an attempt to conquer the city but he also failed and left the world with this unfulfilled wish in his heart.

[]The Significance of Constantinople

The importance that this city had from the start for the Ottoman Empire can be understood by a dream that is mentioned in the books of history. Once when Osman, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was staying at the house of his spiritual leader ‘Addahbali’ he saw a dream. Osman saw a crescent rise from the bosom of Adahbali and after becoming a full moon sank into his own bosom. After that a great tree sprang from his side and started growing bigger till it spread over land and sea. From the roots of this tree gushed the four great rivers of the world: Tigris, the Euphrates, Danube and Nile. The branches of this great tree were supported by the four great mountains of the world: Caucasus, Taurus, Balkan and Atlas. Then a strong wind blew and the leaves of the tree which were sword shaped started pointing towards a great city. This city which was at the junction of two seas and two continents seemed like a ring set with two sapphires and two emeralds. Osman was about to wear this ring when he woke up. Later he narrated this dream to his mentor Addahbali who gave him the good news that one day he would be the founder of a great empire, that Muslims would benefit from his children and that he (Addahbali) would give his daughter in marriage to him.

This dream did come true! The city that Osman saw in his dream was actually Constantinople (Istanbul) on which the people of east and west had their eyes for the last one thousand years. Its geographical location, moderate climate, safe ports, spacious markets, clean roads, high rise buildings, magnificent churches, strong forts and its commercial and cultural importance had made it prominent in the world. Constantinople was instrumental in introducing the Roman law and the Greek philosophy to the world. Its libraries and educational institutions were famous around the world and its ports were full of well stocked ships from far and near. Thousands of people from Russia, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Albania, Hispania and various Asian countries resided in Constantinople making it an international city. This is why the outside world in every era had its eyes on Constantinople and the city had to put up with incessant attacks of the enemy.

Being in a constant state of war had damaged its economy and military power. The king of Constantinople always had the role of a dictator who in addition to possessing political authority also served as the spiritual leader of the people. The fourteenth century did not prove too good for the Christian leadership of Constantinople. Christian states belonging to the Roman Catholic sect seized many of the territories from the Greeks. Constantine, the king of Constantinople, tried his best to form an alliance of the Christian states in order to get rid of Turkey from Europe but his efforts proved futile. By the end of his rule his state was limited to a few miles and Constantinople was a capital which was a country in itself. In addition the army, the tribal leaders, government officials and even the clergy were all conniving by nature.

Despite these conditions, Constantine never missed any chance to inflict harm upon the Turks. Breaking treaties with the Muslims seemed to be part of their tradition. Even though he had made peace with Sultan Mohammad’s father, Constantine started threatening him soon after his father’s death.

[]Sultan Mohammad Advances Forward

At this point the first thing that Sultan Mohammad did was to tighten his control over all internal matters of the Empire. After that he decided that the time to conquer Constantinople had come as it was hanging like a sword over the Ottoman Empire. Besides, the prophet’s prediction was also something that he had in his mind.

This thought troubled him so much that one night he couldn’t sleep at all. Restless, he sent for his minister Khalil Pasha, who was perplexed at being beckoned at such an odd time. On his arrival the Sultan said: “Can you see what grief and sorrow has done to me? I turn sides the whole night but still can’t get any sleep. I just ask for one thing from you, that you give me Constantinople.” Khalil Pasha comforted him, knowing that the Sultan was sincere in his desire and that true passion could make the impossible into possible.

As a first step, the Sultan reached truce with a few Christian states and also started the construction of a fortress ‘Anatolia Hisar’ just five miles away from Constantinople. The purpose of building this fortress was to keep an eye on the movements of the Christian navy and also to block all routes of aid and assistance. As the walls of the fortress became higher, Sultan started storing modern weapons and ammunition. Huge cannons were also built to protect the fortress. Sultan started receiving threats from the Christians and the situation became tense to the point that an army came and attacked the fortress. However, the army deputed at the fortress defeated them and the Christian forces retreated leaving behind their dead.

When Constantine saw the turn of events he knew that the Sultan was intent on attacking the city. He therefore approached the Christian states and asked them for help in the name of religion. It is important to make clear that at this point in time the Christian world was divided into two sects that were old adversaries:

#
p<{color:#000;}. Catholics who followed the Roman Pope.

#
p<{color:#000;}. People of Constantinople who were influenced by the Greek Church.

The Pope did not agree to offer any help; instead he insisted on his old demands and said that this matter cannot proceed any further till the Greek Church unites with the Catholic Church. Constantine realized that he had no choice but to agree to this demand. Thus in the presence of 300 priests, Saint Aya Sophia and the Roman Church became an alliance. As a result of this agreement a vast majority of the people of Constantinople grew angry with their king. They were convinced that this alliance would bring upon them the wrath of God. Even Constantine’s deputy and the commander in chief of his army were so displeased that they thought it would have been better to give up their land to the Turks than agree to the insulting demands of the Pope. After all these efforts that he made to save his land, all that Constantine got from the Christian states was a few hundred soldiers and some gifts of wine. The underlying reason behind this was both the fear of the Turks and religious/sectarian prejudice.

As part of preparations for war, the Caesar of Constantinople had started storing grains and food provisions. The city of Constantinople was triangular in shape with two of its sides surrounded by water. One side was called the Golden Horn and the other strait of Marmara (Propontis). Thus it could be attacked by land from only one side. Three great walls which were wide and fortified with towers were built to protect the city from attacks. These walls were 60 feet apart and there was a very wide and hundreds of feet deep trench between them. In the 5th century B.C. these walls had been constructed by the then emperor and they had safeguarded the city during 21 sieges.

Thick steel chains had been tied in the sea around the port to stop any ship from entering the port. When the people of the city wanted to allow any ship into the port they would loosen the chain into the deep sea.

Sultan had complete knowledge of all the preparations and the safety measures that were being taken to protect the city. He knew that in order to conquer this city he would have to successfully bomb these walls. Therefore, instead of depending on ordinary cannons he asked a Christian engineer to design a much bigger cannon that could shoot two and a half feet balls. At the same time he also issued orders to build small and easy to move cannons. He was also preparing a fleet of 180 warships to besiege the city by sea. Sultan also feared that Constantine’s two brothers based in Greece might send him some kind of assistance. He sent soldiers to take control of a strategic area, thereby cutting all sea contact between Greece and Constantinople.

[]The Decisive Battle

After finishing all the preparations Sultan Mohammad Fateh finally reached Constantinople on 16 April 1453. The morale of the army was very high and everyone was anxious to conquer the city. The army was accompanied by scholars who were keeping the soldiers motivated. Before hoisting the flag on his headquarters Sultan and his fighters offered prayers and asked Allah for help and victory.

Before the commencement of the battle, Sultan had sent a message to Constantine asking him to handover the city so they could avoid any kind of bloodshed. Constantine rejected this offer. The truth is that Sultan’s opponent was also a courageous and brave man. Before the start of the siege he was advised to leave the city with his family. Enraged at the suggestion, he said that his life and death was for Constantinople and that he would never leave his people in their time of need.

The siege started immediately after Constantine refused to hand over the city peacefully. Constantinople was surrounded from both land and sea. Since the wall near the gate of Saint Romanus was relatively weak both the armies were especially focused on this area – Turks in attacking the wall and the Christians trying to defend it. There was fierce fighting between the Sultan’s elite force ‘Yani Chari’(also called Janissary) and the Christians. Sultan’s heavy cannons would damage the city walls but the Greeks would repair them right away. At one point Sultan took his army to the edge of the trench and found ways to cross the trench to reach the city wall. The Christians drove them back by lighting oil and throwing it at them. Subsequently, Sultan came up with a new strategy. He built tall wooden towers affixed with wheels and at the top of these towers long ladders were tied. These towers were then rolled to the edge of the trench and one end of the ladder was lowered to the other end to make a bridge. When the Ottoman army tried to climb up to reach the city wall, the besieged Christians threw balls of fire and torched the towers. Thus this strategy also failed.

On 18 April there was fierce battle between the Greeks and the Ottoman army. The Greek soldiers defended themselves valiantly and the Turks were forced to retreat. On the same day when the Turkish naval fleet moved forward to damage the massive Greek naval ships, it met with heavy bombardment and had to bear great losses. They were also unable to cut through the chains around the harbour. Two days later, when ships carrying aid arrived from Geneva the Turks surrounded them in the sea. However, suddenly the wind blew in such a manner that the Italian ships managed to make way between the Ottoman ships and entered Constantinople’s harbour.

[]Miracle in the History of Naval Warfare

Despite repeated failure of his strategies, the Sultan became even more determined and increased his efforts to conquer Constantinople. Now that his navy and army had failed despite their best efforts he would worry day and night as to what his next course of action should be. After a great deal of contemplation he came to the conclusion that if they attacked from the direction of the Golden Horn their chances of success would be high. The reason for this was that on this side of the port the city wall was not very high and neither was the trench very deep. However, the problem was that there was a strong chain and a fortified Greek naval fleet protecting the entrance of the Golden Horn. Sultan wanted that somehow his ships should enter Golden Horn without clashing with the Greek navy. For this a strange idea came in his mind; a part of his fleet should be transported by land to Golden Horn. The ten mile long strip of land between the strait of Bosphorous and Golden Horn had an uneven terrain with scattered clusters of small trees. Sultan wanted the ships to be transported through this strip to reach the harbor (see map on the next page).

His engineers were perplexed at this suggestion but he managed to convince them. They leveled the terrain and then cut trees from the forest and made planks from the trunks. After this thousands of animals were sacrificed and their fat was used to grease these planks. They were then laid out in a way that ships could be mounted on them and glided into the harbour.

The night of 22nd April was a hard one for the people of Constantinople. The Ottomans were bombarding them relentlessly with fireballs so that their attention would be focused on that side. On the other hand, Sultan’s men were successful in transporting around seventy to eighty boats and small ships into Golden Horn overnight by gliding them through the planks.

When the people of Constantinople woke up in the morning they were terrified and shocked to see the Turkish fleet in the harbour. There was fear and confusion everywhere. They could not comprehend how such a large number of ships could have come so close without moving the heavy chains and the strong fleet of warships. On hearing this news Constantine became weary with shock and grief. The unbelievable miracle of naval history had taken place. Nevertheless, he ordered his ships to launch an attack on the Turkish ships. The issue though was that the massive Greek ships could not even enter the shallow waters in which the small Turkish ships were anchored. Thus their strength became a weakness for them.

[]The Final Attack

After 51 days of siege, the Sultan decided to launch the final and decisive attack on Constantinople. Earlier he had already made an offer to save Constantine and his people. He had sent one of his chiefs, Isfandayar Oghli, with the message that if the city is handed over to him he would guarantee the safety of all the people and that Constantine would be given the freedom to go the Turk occupied peninsula of Morea and to rule over it according to his own will. They were also informed that if they reject this offer, there would be no guarantee for the safety of their lives and property.

The camps of the Ottoman army were lit up the whole night on 27th May. The soldiers were busy praying and great zeal and fervor could be seen everywhere. On the other hand the people of Constantinople were dejected after the arrival of the Ottoman ships in the harbour and news of the imminent attack had also reached them. They remained restless and uneasy that night.

Constantine went to the church at Saint Sophia with his men and women and asked God for forgiveness. Then he gave a passionate speech. His manner reflected that he was convinced of losing Constantinople. He wandered in the rooms of his magnificent palace where he and his predecessors had ruled for centuries with great pomp and glamour. Lamenting over his past, the last Caesar left to give orders to his army.

[]…and Constantinople is Conquered!

The Turks attacked before daybreak. Fierce fighting ensued on all sides especially near the door of Saint Romanus. The irregular army of the Turks initiated the attack in order to weaken the defense of the enemy, paving the way for the regular army to launch a formidable attack.

Sultan was on horseback with an iron mace in his hand. When fierce fighting continued till late afternoon, Sultan sent one of his men to his spiritual leader who had come with him for spiritual guidance and prayer. Sultan feared that if today Constantinople was not conquered the Turks would start considering it unconquerable. Hence he ordered his special force ‘Yani Chari’ to move forward and launch a powerful offensive. Agha Hassan, a strong and able bodied member of the Yani Chari together with three other men moved forward and tried to climb the city wall to hoist the Turkish flag. They were all martyred, one after the other, but they managed to make things easier for the other soldiers who swiftly climbed the city wall and hoisted the Sultan’s flag. On the other hand the naval forces also succeeded in climbing a tower and raising Sultan’s flag.

The news of the city’s capture spread like wildfire amongst the Greeks and consequently their defense fell apart. Constantine and his faithful aides tried their best to unite their men and fight on the frontline but their efforts proved futile. Constantine died fighting valiantly. The next day his body was retrieved from a pile of dead bodies. The only reason he was identified was because his red shoes were quite distinct due to a golden eagle engraved on them. The death of the 45-year old emperor closed the chapter of the Constantinian Empire forever.

It was Zuhr time when Sultan Mohammad Sani, the conqueror of Constantine, accompanied by his generals, ministers and the army entered the city with great splendor. They came through the gate of Saint Romanus and then marching through marketplaces reached Saint Sophia. When he reached the door he took off his shoes and rubbed dust on his forehead as a show of humility in front of his Creator. After that he entered the church and was awe struck by its beauty. The clergymen were standing at the sacrificial site to welcome him. Sultan kept the chief officer of the church on his duties. In fact, he gave him the additional responsibility to resolve the judicial matters concerning the Christian community. He was also authorized to give recommendations for the rights of the Christians and to give compensation in case any injustice was committed against them. After doing this, he ordered a man to call out the Azan (call to prayer). Thus for the first time instead of church bells the greatness of Allah’s words echoed in the magnificent Ayah Sophia. The church was converted into a mosque and for hundreds of years it was counted among the most magnificent mosques of the Islamic world. After Ata Turk became the head of modern Turkey he converted the mosque into a museum in 1931 in his zeal to secularize the country and break away from its glorious Islamic past.

After leaving the church, Sultan took a walk around the city. He was saddened to see the palaces of great emperors. He read a piece of poetry which meant that even the palaces of great kings like Kisra and Afrasiab are deserted and are now home to cobwebs and owls.

The palaces of Caesar were laden with the best works of art, antiques and treasures from Asia and Europe, which were now in the possession of the Ottoman Turks.

Sultan Mohammad was 23 years old when he conquered Constantinople. In this regard he can be compared to Alexander the Great and Napoleon who also started their conquests at approximately the same age. After the victory, Sultan sent emissaries to different parts of the Islamic world to announce this blessed news. It sent a wave of happiness throughout the Muslim world.

It is reported that right after the conquest there was some bloodshed and looting but after three days total peace and security were restored. At this point it is natural to wonder why the Sultan did not use his power to stop the bloodshed and looting by the troops. Like Salahuddin Ayyubi why he did not protect the lives and properties of the conquered people which is an important Islamic trait.

The basic reason seems to be the fact that Sultan had not been in power for long and did not have absolute control over all matters. Neither did he enjoy such confidence and loyalty that all his decisions would be accepted without any opposition. If in the beginning Constantine had handed over the city without resistance, then according to Sultan’s offer every Christian’s life and property would have been protected. In this case it would have been easy to restrain the troops as they would have captured Constantinople without any sacrifice. Now that they had put everything at stake for this victory, it was very difficult to control them especially when in recent times their experiences with the Christians had been continuously unpleasant. Also the Turks had not forgotten the atrocities committed against Muslims in Andalus (Spain). After all this, it was difficult to completely curb their emotions.

However, three days later total peace was restored in the city. The Christians soon realized that they were leading a more peaceful and prosperous life now than under their Christian rulers.

[]Sultan Mohammad Fateh’s Other Conquests

The conquest of Constantinople was followed by a series of victories for the Sultan. He was engaged in war during most of his 30 year reign and there was hardly any expedition after which he would not absorb a new region into his empire. Greece, Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Otranto (a city near Italy), Crimea and Carmania were all conquered during his rule.

[][]Death

Sultan was still busy in his conquests when he was overcome by death. He died in 886 A.H. at the age of 51 and was buried in the famous mosque that he had constructed in Constantinople. While the Islamic world mourned his death, Europe rejoiced at this news.

[]Sultan’s Character

Apart from being a monarch Sultan Mohammad was also a great scholar. He had in depth knowledge of Quran and hadith as well as various other sciences. He had immense respect for scholars and his gatherings would be attended by learned men and experts of various fields. Sultan had keen interest in history and was an avid reader of the lives of great conquerors and emperors. His personal library contained thousands of rare and valuable books. When the city of Agwasa, a centre of learning, had to pay tax the Sultan demanded books in place of wealth and property.

He would go himself to attend the lectures of Maulana Alauddin Toosi. He had immense respect for his teacher Alkharani and would send a special ride for him. This is the same teacher who beat him with a stick when he was still a prince. In addition to the madrassahs that were already present in the towns and cities Sultan founded many colleges and even appointed the teachers himself. During his rule he opened thousands of schools that were attached to the mosques. There was not a single village which did not have an educational institute in it and the education of every child was the responsibility of the state. He founded numerous mosques and hospitals in the cities and dedicated large properties for their maintenance.

Sultan was a talented horseman, an expert in military warfare and a clever man who loved progress. He also had complete understanding of the affairs of the state. Although he had inherited bravery and valor from his ancestors, the secret of his success was that he would take advantage of new military inventions and was an expert in devising extraordinary military strategies.

Sultan had a very modest lifestyle and his eating habits were also very simple. Whatever time he had left after resolving the affairs of the state, he would spend it in reading or would sometimes go hunting. His life was far from luxurious and he disliked being lost in gatherings of music and fun. Solitude was very dear to him. He was a reserved man and always kept his distance even with his own Prime Minister. He would never disclose his secrets to anyone. Whenever he decided to attack even his commanders were unaware as to which direction the offensive would start from. Once when his forces were being gathered for an expedition, one of his chief officers asked him where they were headed. Sultan sternly replied “Even if a hair from my beard finds out my plans, I would break it and throw it in the fire”.

Sultan considered secrecy and swift action as keys to success in a battle and this was the reason for his stern attitude. This does not mean that Sultan was an arrogant man. Even in the midst of fierce fighting he would never miss a chance to console the ordinary soldiers of his army.

He was always relaxed in his dealings with his non-Muslim subjects. The orders that he issued after conquering Constantinople stated that the Greeks would enjoy full religious freedom and there was no difference in the treatment meted out to the Turks and the Greeks after the conquest. In those times religious persecution was at its peak because the Muslims and the Christians had been at war for a long time. In the prevailing circumstances sometimes during war he would deal with his enemies severely instead of giving them concessions. However, we can say that overall he was kind and forgiving for both the Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of his empire.

Sultan disliked severity in the implementation of the Shariah. He had great love for the Quran. He regularly attended congregational prayers and never missed his fasts. He was a fair and just man by nature. In his kingdom the judiciary was totally independent. People could bring their appeals to the king but he could not influence the decision given by the court.

It was difficult for the European historians to completely acknowledge the praiseworthy attributes of the Sultan. The conquest of Constantinople had glorified Sultan’s dynamic personality in the Muslim world but on the other hand had become a reason for hatred among the Christian historians. Even though the historians of every era recognized Sultan’s qualities they never erred in making allegations against him. Some would call him cruel while others alleged that he did not honor agreements.

Instead of giving our own opinion in this matter we would refer to the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) in which he particularly praised the army and its leader that conquered Constantinople. After receiving praise from the blessed tongue of the Prophet (SAW) why would Sultan need any historian to reaffirm his greatness?

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[] Reference books

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p<{color:#000;}. Musalman Fatiheen by Ahmad Mustafa Siddiqui

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p<{color:#000;}. Sultan Mohammad Fateh by Ismatullah Khan

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p<{color:#000;}. Usmani Turkon ki Mukhtasar Tareekh by Abdus Saboor Tariq

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p<{color:#000;}. Das Fateh by Saadi Sangarwi

[] About the Author

Naima Sohaib, 40, is the author of “Tareekh-e-Islam ki Azeem Shaksiat”, a 500-page book in Urdu about twenty most prominent Muslim scholars, reformists, revivalists and caliphs of the last 1400 years, including several from the twentieth century. The book is written in easy language, punctuated occasionally by pertinent and thought-provoking comments by the author.

Naima has a Masters in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi and did her B.Sc. in Mathematics from Lahore College for Women. She has also authored several storybooks for children. She lives in Karachi with her husband and four daughters.

[] About the Translator

Asma Farooq has been engaged in da’wah work for several years. She conducts a weekly program for children at an Islamic Center in Hong Kong. Her interest in great personalities of Muslim history led her to the present translation work.

Asma did her bachelor in commerce from DHA College for Women, Karachi. She lives in Hong Kong with her husband and three children.


Sultan Mohammad Fateh

Sultan Muhammad Fateh was a remarkable Ottoman ruler who made history in world naval warfare during his conquest of Constantinople, a city which Muslims had been trying to conquer for centuries. He was only 21 at the time, and his bravery, wit and determination allowed him to achieve what was at the time thought to be impossible. He conquered many lands and was a great warrior, but he is remembered also for his endeavours in the fields of education and public service. His great love for literature, learning and poetry led to the flourishing of these domains within his rule. He also allowed great religious freedom to his subjects, extraordinary specially at his time and an example for us even now. His achievements and dynamic personality make him one of the great heroes of Muslim history.

  • ISBN: 9781370849802
  • Author: Naima Sohaib
  • Published: 2016-09-24 12:50:14
  • Words: 7516
Sultan Mohammad Fateh Sultan Mohammad Fateh