Istanbul: The Gate of the Felicity

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What is the gate of felicity? What is the place of istanbul in islam?

Istanbul is both economically and culturally one of the most important cities in Turkey. In regards to its location, due to being on the commissure between Asia and Europe, it became a land on which many cultures have united and socialized and people from distinct languages, religions and nationalities have lived together.

Istanbul is like the biggest outdoor museum of the world in which hundreds of pieces that belong to Byzantine and Ottoman periods are on display. Istanbul, whose date of emergence goes back to as early as 7th century BC, is one of the ancient cities of the world.

Istanbul has been established by the Megarians as a small colony in 667 BC. After the name of Megarian King Byzas, this new city was called ‘Byzantium’.

Istanbul was declared as the capital city of the empire by Roman Emperor Constantine I in 330 BC and the name of city changed as “Nova Roma” which means “New Rome”.

After the death of Emperor Constantine, the city was named after him and it was called “Constantinople”.

[If a nation has a homeland like Turkey, a city like Istanbul, a picturesque place that has been drawn by God like the Straits, that nation is fortunate.] (Nihad Sami Banarlı, Istanbul’a Dair, p.103)

After it was conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed Khan in 1453, the name of ‘Constantiniyya’ continued to be used. Istanbul was also named by Turks as ‘Asitane (the capital city)’ and ‘Dersaadet (gate of the felicity and the happiness).

Istanbul, the capital city of the great states throughout the history, has become one of the centers in which the world diplomacy has been directed.

It was the capital city of the Roman Empire between the years of 330-395 BC. It became the capital city of the East Rome between 395-1204 and 1261-1453 CE. And it also served as the capital city of the Latin Empire between the years of 1204-1261 CE. Istanbul, which was conquered in 1453, became the head office of the Ottoman Empire until 1922.

O.G. Busbecq, who was a Viennese ambassador in the 16th century, summarized the historical characteristics of Istanbul as follows; “It’s as if Allah created Istanbul to become the capital city of the world.”

Many emperors and commanders were dazzled by the beauty of Istanbul. Napoleon Bonaparte, too, mentioned his feelings for Istanbul as follows; “If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.” Therefore, this city, which was embellished all of the emperors’ dreams, was besieged many times by Sassanids, the Avars, Bulgarians, Muslim Arabs and Russians.

After Muslims began to conquer Asia Minor following the victory of Manzikert in 1071, Christian states united and started the Crusades in order to throw Muslims out of Anatolian territories. In the fourth of those expeditions, the Crusaders surrounded and occupied the city. The city was plundered for days. Thousands of people were murdered and many places of worship were destroyed, including Hagia Sophia. After that invasion, all precious treasures of Byzantine were carried to European countries. Latin Kingdom, established in Byzantine, lasted until 1261.

In 1261, once again Istanbul was captured by the Byzantine dynasty. However, after that date, Istanbul never became as mighty and sumptuous as it had been in the past.

In the following periods, after Ottoman State was founded and gained strength, Byzantine was surrounded by the Ottomans.

Encouraged by one of the sayings of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) heralding the conquest of Istanbul, Muslim states tried to conquer Istanbul several times in order to gain this honor.

First siege of Muslims took place in 668, during the period of Umayyad caliph Muawiya. Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari was martyred during the siege. Istanbul was surrounded three times throughout the period of Umayyads and once during the period of Abbasids.

Istanbul, surrounded by Yıldırım Beyazıd, his son Musa Çelebi, and Murat II during Ottoman period, could only be conquered by Fatih Sultan Mehmed on May 29, 1453, after a siege lasting for 59 days.

Istanbul acquired its real identity and flourished after being an Ottoman city. In fifty years after the conquest, Istanbul became the greatest city of the world.

Yahya Kemal says about Istanbul as a city of Ottoman period:

Istanbul was not founded only by Sultans and public. Many Muslim Turks who moved from various parts of the country, from Konya, Bursa, Erzurum, Hejaz, Baghdad, and from Eastern territories such as Tripoli and Algeria and then stayed and settled down in this city – established it. They did this together with their women, old people, with their arts, traditional music, folk and Ottoman poetries, with its architect; in short with all parts of the country and with all skills and memories they brought from every century of their history.(Nihad Sami Banarlı, Yahya Kemal’in Hatıraları, p. 51)”

At the end of World War I, the period of being a capital city ended with the occupation of Istanbul on 13 November 1918.

After this date, even though Istanbul is not officially the capital city, it has unofficially continued to be the one in the hearts.

Let’s listen to the words of Samiha Ayverdi;

“Turkey, the Glorious homeland created by a great nation longing for thousands of years and fighting for it for hundreds of years, is beautiful, lovely and unique with each and every one of  its cities, plains, mountains and rivers. And Istanbul is the composition of this rich uniqueness.” (Samiha AYVERDI, Istanbul Geceleri, p. 5)

Source: Harun Kırkıl, Read About and Travel Around ISTANBUL, Erkam Publications

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