Did You Know?
It is the only city that sits on two continents, was the
embattled capital of three powerful empires, and changed
names as many times as it changed hands. It is a city of
many prophesies and symbolizes the rise and fall of Islam
in many hadith. It boasts a glorious history from the 7th
century B.C. and at least two Sahaba l are buried in the
vicinity of the old city walls.
The city of Istanbul, in modern-day Turkey, was once
Byzantium (or Byzantion) under the Greek empire in 657
B.C. When the Roman Constantine defeated his rival
Licinius in 324, he rebuilt the city into a major cosmopolitan
hub for the arts and sciences; the city was renamed after
him as Constantinople (Constantinopolis). As the capital
of the Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, it was
glorified as the New Roma or New Rome of the East (the
official title by the Greek Orthodox Church of Istanbul to
this day (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Rome). This same
Constantine presided over the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
and attempted to quell the controversy about the nature of
Jesus between Trinitarian and Unitarian Christians. Though
he was pagan, he pronounced Trinitarianism as the official
doctrine of Christianity (Chadwick, Henry; The Early Church,
1993, p. 122).
Later, after the split between the Western and Eastern
Roman Empire in 1054, Constantinople became the official
capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which took the name
of Byzantine and became the home base of the Greek
Constantinople or its Arabic equivalent Qustuntuniya is
also the name the city takes in the prophetic tradition. The
blessed Prophet a said that the first military expedition to
besiege the city is forgiven (Bukhari; Ma qeela fi qital al-Rum).
Since then, many Sahaba l had set their sights on joining
the first expedition to Asia Minor though the situation
looked bleak, if not downright impossible at the time of
the prophesy. Muslims were in no position to think big
when they still had to settle with the widespread discontent
toward Islam and their minority status in Arabia. During
the emirate of Muawiya g, the first expedition set out under
his son Yazid in 43/ 663. Three great Sahaba l, along with
Ibn Umar, Ibn Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, and Abu Ayyub l who
was 80 at the time, inspired by the prophesy joined this
expedition (al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, 8/36). Abu Ayyub al-
Ansari g who fell ill during the expedition bid Yazid to bury
him near the walls of the city. He died shortly thereafter
and was buried roughly 1.2 km northwest of the Wall of
Heraclius (Abu Dawud; Wa la tulqu bi aydeekum). His grave
was miraculously discovered nearly 750 years later by the
Ottoman Sultan, Muhammad the Great, who conquered the
city at the age of 21 in 1453. The tomb is located in the Eyup
District of Istanbul (Eyup is the name Turks use for Ayyub).
The Ottomans traditionally held the coronation of the new
sultan in the Jami Masjid adjacent to the tomb of the great
sahabi for blessings.
In another unfulfilled prophesy about the historic city, the
blessed Prophet a said that the conquest of Constantinople
would be a forerunner to the coming of Dajjal and the al-
Malhamat al-Kubra (Great War) and that they will occur within
a period of 7 months (Abu Dawud; fi Tawatur al-malahim).
The hadith suggests that Istanbul will be overrun by foreign
forces and then recaptured under Imam Mehdi in the End
of Times. And only Allah knows best.