Istanbul has lot to offer to a tourist. Very few cities in the world can claim history and display history the way Istanbul does. There are innumerable places of historical importance from Byzantine era to Ottoman era. One such place is Eyup Sultan or Eyup (that’s how Ayyub (RAA) is written in Turkish). Eyup Sultan is a municipality and a district of the city of Istanbul extending from Golden Horn all the way to the shores black sea. It is an historically important district for Turks. It is also one of the important stop on the itinerary of most tourists to the city of Istanbul. Eyupsultan district derives both its name and importance from the presence of turbe (Turkish for grave) of Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA). In Turkish it is called Eyup Sultan Turbesi (meaning the grave or tomb of Abu Ayyub). I realised that the Urdu word turbat meaning grave or tomb has come from the Turkish word turbe. Allama Iqbal’s poem “Syed ki lohe turbat” is a good example of that. Here Syed refers to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. During my recent visit to Turkey, I visited the Eyup Sultan on 9 August 2019.
Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA) was a companion of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW). His name is Khalid ibn Zayd ibn Kulayb. He was a prominent Ansar (Helper) who hosted the Prophet (SAW) after Prophet’s Hijra (Migration) from Mecca to Medina. The story of Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA) becoming Prophet’s host is interesting one. When the Prophet (SAW) migrated from Mecca to Medina, it was the wish of every Ansar to host Prophet (SAW) at his house. While the companions were eager, the Prophet (SAW) declared that he will stay in that house where his She Camel (Qaswa) will sit. Qaswa stopped and sat in front of the house of Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari. Thus he became the Prophet’s host in Medina till Prophet (SAW) got his own house built.
Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA) participated in the campaign to capture Constantinople. It was the first Arab siege of Constantinople. The year was 670. He died during the campaign. At that time his age was about 80 years. During that campaign Muslim armies were unable to capture Constantinople. It was later captured and renamed Istanbul. On his deathbed Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA) wished to be buried as near to Constantinople as possible. As per his wish the Muslim army buried him deep inside enemy territory near the walls of the then Constantinople city.
Today his trube is an important place for many in Turkey. The words “EYYUB EL ENSARI (Hz.) TURBESI” are written above the entrance door. There are dresses available for ladies to cover themselves before entering the turbe. On entrance one finds a glass enclosure which contains the hair of the Prophet (SAW). I am not sure about it. There are many places all over the world which claim something similar. I saw something similar at Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar also. After the Prophets (SAW) relics is the turbe and next is the exit door. I saw lots of Turks, particularly, standing and praying in front of the turbe.
Once the Ottomans captured Constantinople, the turbe of Hazrat Abu Ayyub Al Ansari (RAA) became an important place in the Ottomans scheme of things. It is outside the city walls near the Golden Horn. A mosque was built next to the tomb and it is called Eyup Mosque. The Eyup Mosque was built by the famous Ottoman Architect Mimar Sinan during the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror. The main entrance to the Mosque carries the Quranic Verse “The Mosques of Allah shall be visited and maintained by such as who believe in Allah and the Last Day” (9:18, Al Qur’an). There is a courtyard in between the mosque and the tomb. The mosque of Eyup was used to host the coronation ceremony of the Sultans. Today the area surrounding the tomb and the mosque is called Eyup district. I was told by my tour guide, Mr. Serkan (True Blue Tour) that every Friday, a marching band plays Ottoman military music. It would not be out of place to mention that Ottoman military bands are thought to be the oldest version of marching bands in the world. I was also told that during the month of Ramadan people from various parts of Istanbul come to the Mosque for prayers and lot of shops come up and whole place becomes lively.
Besides the tomb and the Mosque, the Eyup district is also known for its graveyard. The graveyard is in the vicinity of the tomb. It was the ardent wish of those higher up in Ottoman hierarchy to be buried near the companion of the Prophet (SAW) thus making it the most sought after cemetery not only in Istanbul but in the whole of Turkey. Today it is not only the oldest but also the biggest cemetery in Istanbul. One peculiar feature of graves in Turkey is the tombstone which is specially carved according to the profession and the position of the dead. There are different types of tombstones in the cemetery. The path behind the mosque leads to the cable car. A 2-3-minutes ride of the cable car will take you to another important Istanbul landmark – Pierre loti hill.
Note: I personally don’t visit individual graves. However, this was the grave of one of the most important Sahabi e Rasool (SAW). I do visit graveyard as per the hadith of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW). The visit allowed me to understand the importance of the place for Turks and its importance in the history of Turkey.
For reference and more details see:
- https://islamicana.com/2012/07/25/the-sahaba-of-istanbul-1/. Accessed on 21 November 2019.
- Al Qur’an
- https://www.theguideistanbul.com/eyup-pierre-loti-hill/. Visited on 20 November 2019.
- Ekinci, E.B.(2015, May 28)The conquest of Constantinople: The heralding in a new era, Daily Sabah. Available at: https://www.dailysabah.com/feature/2015/05/29/the-conquest-of-constantinople-the-heralding-in-a-new-era. Accessed on 15 November 2019.