In the name of Allah,
One of the most well-known sultans of the Ottoman Empire was Mehmed II, popularly known as “Mehmed the Conqueror,” who ruled from 1432 until 1481. Even though he was just 21 years old, he managed to overthrow the Byzantine Empire and seize Istanbul (Constantinople). Mehmed the Conqueror drastically overhauled the Ottoman Empire’s governance following his conquest of Istanbul. The conquest was a turning event not just in world history but also in Turkish and Islamic history.
Does the capture of Constantinople fulfill the prophecy of Prophet Muhammad?
It is difficult to definitively identify this historical occurrence as the fulfilment of the prophecy. The prophecy may allude to Constantinople’s capture by Mehmed II the Conqueror in 1453 or to the conquering of Constantinople that will take place before the end of this world (Ahmad; Hakim, al-Mustadrak). Additional hadiths (Tirmidhi 2239, Dawud 4294, Muslim 2920a, Muslim 2897) about the conquest of Constantinople appear to be referring to a future triumph during the time of the Imam Mehdi and Prophet Isa (peace be upon him), rather than the conquest by Mehmet II (Islamweb.net- 290122).
Significance of Constantinople
With its location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and its importance to global trade, Constantinople was among the most significant cities in the world in the 15th century. Although the Ottomans had already taken over huge portions of Europe and Asia, they still needed to take Constantinople in order to get rid of a bothersome obstacle in their way and go even farther into Europe. Additionally, the city provided safety to those who opposed the Ottoman government, particularly their outraged family. In fact, several of them had started their attacks from there.[i]
What motivates Mehmed to conquer Constantinople
Along with being a religious matter, the conquering of Istanbul was a geopolitical one. Istanbul served as a powerful signal of opposition to Islam’s spread to the West. Muslims believe that God had prepared Istanbul for them to conquer. Mehmed the Conqueror’s military efforts throughout his reign contributed to the Ottoman Empire’s expanding frontiers after the capture of Istanbul.[ii]
The city was invaded on several occasions, yet it was never destroyed. In the early Umayyad era, when the Muslims invaded, Abu Ayub Ansari (R.A) was killed in that battle. He is buried there behind the city wall. The grave was repeatedly targeted for destruction by Christians, but they were unable to do so for fear of offending Muslims. Following the victory, Sultan Mehmet constructed a mosque next to the cemetery that became known as Jami Ayyub.[iii]
He was extremely meticulous in completing all the necessary diplomatic and military arrangements for the capture of Constantinople. This was demonstrated by the peace agreements made before the conflict broke out between the Ottomans and the number of enemy states. As an example, he concluded peace treaties with Serbia, Bulgaria, and Hungary before attacking Constantinople[iv]. He ratified peace agreements in favor of Venice and Hungary to maintain their neutrality. He ordered Urban, a renowned gunsmith from Hungary, to create cannons of a caliber that was never seen in Europe before.
On the other side, Caesar Constantine urged the pope of Rome to put aside disputes and take up arms against Muslims. He promised the Roman Pope that he adhered to the Roman Creed and that the Roman Church would govern the Constantinople Church. This incited the whole Christian world, and they joined in opposition to the Muslims.
Mehmed II developed a separate fund on the financial front to generate state money to cover the costs of the war. It was determined to impose new taxes and increase the ones that were already in place. For instance, he instructed his men to collect tolls from passing ships and to protect the Rumeli Hisar Fort as soon as it was finished. He also increased the protection money made to give by Ottoman-protected nations.[v]
Mehmed II amassed a 100,000 strong army. He put up a formidable ground army in addition to a fierce naval force. For instance, in the Conquest of Constantinople, 145 warships of various classes were sent out to obstruct the movement of the enemy ships. He constructed enormous canons that could blow up the walls of the fortifications around Constantinople.[vi]
The walls of Constantinople were largely regarded as being the strongest in all of Europe in the fifteenth century. The land walls were spanning 4 miles (6.5 km). The taller of the two reached heights of up to 40 feet (12 metres), with a base as much as 16 feet (5 metres) thick.[vii] In the thousand years since they were built, these walls have never been broken through. Constantine, emperor of the Byzantine Empire, gave the order to lay a chain of mail over the harbour as security. He had faith that the city’s fortifications could repel the maritime assault and hold against Mehmed’s land forces until help arrived from Europe.
The Ottomans started their artillery fire on April 6 1453 which resulted in the destruction of a portion of the wall. However, the Byzantines resisted them and were able to restore the walls. His naval force was unable to get close to Constantinople’s defences. Anyone else would have lifted the siege and postponed the work to a later occasion in light of these failures and setbacks. Mehmed was resolved to capture the Golden Horn and force the Byzantines to submit. He took the bold choice to move the battleships from the Bosphorus to the Golden Horn via land[viii]. This was extraordinary, unusual, and incomprehensible. The decision led to his triumphant opening of Constantinople.
Following the Conquest
May 29, 1453 marked the conclusion of the Constantinople siege. Over 40000 enemies died during the campaign, while 60,000 were captured as prisoners. The Sultan provided complete security for the Christian people, ensuring that their assets and possessions were secure. They were given responsibility over all Christian churches and shrines save the Hagia Sophia. As he arrived in the city leading a procession, he proceeded straight to Hagia Sophia and turned it into a mosque. After that, he created charity organizations and gave the mosque 14,000 gold ducats annually for maintenance and care[ix].
Mehmed II gained unparalleled fame, reputation, and tremendous power as a result of the conquest of Constantinople. His conquest of Constantinople and the lands in Anatolia and the Balkans, which served as the Ottoman Empire’s core for the following four centuries, demonstrate his ability as a military leader.
Mehmed II, the Conqueror widened the Ottoman Empire by conducting the siege of Constantinople in 1453 and expanding it into the Balkans. He proclaimed himself Kayser-i Rum after this westward march into the centre of the ancient Eastern Roman Empire. He referred to himself as “the master of the two lands and the two waters” (i.e., Anatolia and the Balkans, the Aegean and Black seas), a description that represented his conception of the empire.
[i] Hasan, Masudul (2010). History of Islam, Volume 2, revised edition. Adam Publishers & Distributers, Page 209
[ii] Genc, Nurullah., Iyigun, N. Oyku., Yalcintas, Murat., (2015, March). EURASIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, MEHMED THE CONQUEROR AS A CASE STUDY ON TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP, page 26
[iii] Najeebabadi, Akbar Shah (2001). The History of Islam, , revised by Safi-Ur- Rahman Mubarakpuri, Vol 3. Darussalam publications.page 420
[iv] Jamsari, Ezad Azraai., Isa, Ammalina Dalillah Mohd., and Ashari, Mohamad Zulfazdlee Abul Hassan, (2014). Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Ottoman’s Great Strategic Planner. IDOSI Publications. Page 2159
[v] Jamsari, Ezad Azraai., Isa, Ammalina Dalillah Mohd., and Ashari, Mohamad Zulfazdlee Abul Hassan, (2014). Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Ottoman’s Great Strategic Planner. IDOSI Publications. Page 2159
[vi] Jamsari, Ezad Azraai., Isa, Ammalina Dalillah Mohd., and Ashari, Mohamad Zulfazdlee Abul Hassan, (2014). Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Ottoman’s Great Strategic Planner. IDOSI Publications. Page 2160
[vii] Hudson, M. (2022, May 22). Fall of Constantinople. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Fall-of-Constantinople-1453
[viii] Jamsari, Ezad Azraai., Isa, Ammalina Dalillah Mohd., and Ashari, Mohamad Zulfazdlee Abul Hassan, (2014). Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Ottoman’s Great Strategic Planner. IDOSI Publications. Page 2162
[ix] Inalcik, H. (2022, November 29). Mehmed II. Encyclopedia Britannica.https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mehmed-II-Ottoman-sultan