The Sahaba of Istanbul [5] The Ayvansaray Coast

South of Eyüp is the area of Ayvansaray. In this quiet residential neighborhood lie a number of tombs, but for this post we will focus on three noteworthy sites located by the Ayvansaray Coast along the waters of the Golden Horn. They are the tombs of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī (Muhammed el-Ensari), Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī (Ebuzer Gifari), and Jābir b. ‘Abd Allāh (Cabir bin Abdullah).

The Ayvansaray Coast before the Estuary Bridge over the Golden Horn

Yavedud Caddesi, a major thoroughfare, runs south out of Eyüp and passes beneath the towering Estuary (Haliç) Bridge. The road then becomes Ayvansaray Caddesi as it runs by the shrine complex in front of the old city walls, which we discussed in Part [4]. A block beyond the complex is a one-story building on the side of the street that houses the grave of Muhammad al-Anṣārī. The site can also be reached by ferry by disembarking from the Ayvansaray ferry station and cutting through the green space of Haliç Parkı.  The white stone building is just on the other side of Ayvansaray Caddesi. The grave can be seen through a large window and should be open to the public for visitations.

The stone building housing the grave of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī

The stone building housing the grave of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī

Like the previously discussed Abū Aḥmad al-Anṣārī and Ḥamīd Allāh al-Anṣārī, it is difficult to confirm the precise identity of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī given the fairly generic names provided. Nonetheless, one person of the many possible Companions of the Prophet presents himself as a strong candidate, Muḥammad b. Maslama al-Anṣārī (d. 43/663). He appears in numerous accounts as participating in many of the raids and campaigns of the early Muslim community and was personally sent by the Prophet on a number of occasions. Biographies consistently note his slaying of Ka’b b. al-Ashraf. After the Prophet’s death, Muḥammad b. Maslama appears to have served both the Caliphs ‘Umar and ‘Uthmān while avoiding the civil strife (fitna) that ensued afterwards.

The tomb of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī

The tomb of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī

There are conflicting reports, however, about the date of his death, although all the sources agree that he died in Medina rather than the Byzantine frontier. Al-Ṭabarī, under the year 43 AH, reports, “In Ṣafar of this year (May 15 – June 12, 663) Muḥammad b. Maslamah died in al-Madinah. Marwān b. al-Ḥakam led the prayers over him” (al-Ṭabarī, History, 18:32). Ibn Sa’d reports his death in Ṣafar of the year 46 AH and also states that Marwān b. al-Ḥakam led the funeral prayer (Ibn Saʿd, Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 3:410). The sources agree that Muḥammad b. Maslama was 77 years old when he died. Finally, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr reports both the preceding dates of death and then adds the year 47 AH as a third possibility (Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, 3:1377). Given his widely reported death in Medina, it is possible that another Muḥammad al-Anṣārī rests here.

Hazreti Ebuzer Gifari Camii

Hazreti Ebuzer Gifari Camii

Next, the mosque of Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī (d. 32/652-3), appropriately named Hazreti Ebuzer Gifari Camii, lies further inland. Several winding and uneven blocks away from Ayvansaray Caddesi where the tomb of Muḥammad al-Anṣārī lies sits this modest house of worship. Adorned with a single minaret, the mosque is enclosed by a low wall topped with an ironwork fence. The actual tomb rests outside of the mosque lying beneath the open sky and is easily visible from the sidewalk.

The tomb of Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī visible from the street

The tomb of Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī visible from the street

Concerning Abū Dharr’s life, J. Robson provides a summative overview in the second edition of Brill’s Encyclopaedia of Islam:

Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, a Companion of Muḥammad. His name is commonly given as Djundub b. Djunāda, but other names are also mentioned. He is said to have worshipped one God before his conversion. When news of Muḥammad reached him he sent his brother to Mecca to make enquiries, and being dissatisfied with his report, he went himself. One story says he met Muḥammad with Abū Bakr at the Kaʿba, another that ʿAlī took him secretly to Muḥammad. He immediately believed, and is surprisingly claimed to have been the fifth (even the fourth) believer. He was sent home, where he stayed till he went to Medina after the battle of the Ditch (5/627). Later he lived in Syria till he was recalled by ʿUthmān because of a complaint against him by Muʿāwiya. He retired, or was sent, to al-Rabadha, where he died in 32/652-3, or 31. He was noted for humility and asceticism, in which respect he is said to have resembled Jesus. He was very religious and eager for knowledge, and is said to have matched Ibn Masʿūd in religious learning. He is credited with 281 traditions, of which al-Bukhārī and Muslim rendered 31 between them.

Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī was also given special recognition within the Sufi tradition, a point attested by his inclusion in John Renard’s Historical Dictionary of Sufism (2005), which has since been republished as The A to Z of Sufism (2009). Abū Dharr’s entry reads:

Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī (d. c. 32/653). Companion of the Prophet, ascetic, transmitter of Prophetic traditions, possibly one of the Helpers in Medina. His humility and simplicity were such that Sufis likened him to Jesus, who relied entirely on God. Tradition has it that a central theme in his public discourse was that those who have great wealth – indeed, any  wealth at all – and refuse to spend in the cause of God will be punished for their lack of generosity. His piety was such that he was said to have engaged in the ritual prayer several years before he even met the Prophet. Some sources emphasize his personal intimacy with the Prophet, and that relationship together with his renunciation of wealth commended him to Sufis as a model of piety. (Renard, The A to Z, 23)

Author AbdulWāhid Hāmid provides even greater detail in the first volume of Companions of the Prophet. For instance, he claims that, “Abū Dharr was the first person to greet the Prophet with the greeting of Islam. After that, the greeting spread and came into general use” (Hāmid, Companions, 1:128-9). A short, but illustrative series of tales also concludes his biographical entry in this work:

Once a man visited him [Abū Dharr] and began looking at the contents of his house but found it quite bare. He asked Abū Dharr:

“Where are your possessions?”

“We have a house yonder (meaning the Hereafter),” said Abū Dharr, “to which we send the best of our possessions.”

The man understood what he meant and said: “But you must have some possessions so long as you are in this abode.”

“The owner of this abode will not leave us in it,” replied Abū Dharr.

Abū Dharr persisted in his simple and frugal life to the end. Once the amīr of Syria sent three hundred dinars to Abū Dharr to meet his needs. He returned the money saying, “Does not the amīr of Syria find a servant more deserving of it than I?”

In the year 32 AH, the self-denying Abū Dharr passed away. The Prophet, peace be upon him, had said of him: “The earth does not carry nor the heavens cover a man more true and faithful than Abū Dharr.” (Hāmid, Companions, 1:131-2)

While it appears that Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī died in al-Rabādha, a Muslim settlement in Western Arabia that later went into decline, it is clear that his religious significance continued to have great weight amongst the Ottomans of Istanbul to warrant a tomb there.

The grave of Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī

The grave of Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī

Swinging back towards the shores of the Golden Horn just two blocks away from Ebuzafer Camii and a block from Haliç Parkı is another mosque, Hazreti Cabir Camii. This small structure is easily recognized with its simple, white minaret and wood-paneled front. Inside the mosque and located off to the side in the main prayer space is the tomb of Jābir b. ‘Abd Allāh (d. 78/697). The grave lies hidden behind a dark green velvet curtain that is further barred by a golden gate.

Hazreti Cabir Camii

Hazreti Cabir Camii

‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Lakhnawī provides a succinct account of Jābir’s life that draws upon a number of sometimes differing reports:

He went on expeditions with the Prophet nineteen times but he was not present at Badr. He died in Madīnah, but some say Makkah, in 78 AH, and others say 79 AH and even 74 AH. That is how it is in Is’āf al-mubaṭṭa’ of as-Suyūṭī. Jābir is Abū ‘Abdullāh Jābir ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn Ḥarām ibn ‘Amr ibn Sawād ibn Salamah al-Anṣārī one of the most famous of the Companions. He was present at Badr – according to what is said – and what came after it. His father was one of the twelve leading men [to pledge allegiance at al-‘Aqabah]. Jābir became blind at the end of his life, and he died in Madīnah in 74 AH, but some say 77 or 78 AH, and he was the last of the Companions to die in Madīnah. Thus it is in Jāmi’ al-uṣūl. (al-Lakhnawi, Rijal, p. 82)

M.J. Kister’s entry in Brill’s Encyclopaedia of Islam provides more extensive information. Concerning Jābir’s death, Kister writes:

Djābir died at 78/697 at the age of 94 (other reports, however, give varying dates). He is said to have been the last survivor of the group of 70 Anṣār who attended the ʿAḳaba Meeting, thus fulfilling a prediction of the Prophet. The prayer over his grave was performed by the governor of Medina, Abān b. ʿUthmān, or according to another tradition, by al-Ḥadjdjādj b. Yūsuf when he came to Medina after his victory over ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr.

More intriguing is the rich Shī’ī remembrance of him:

In Shīʿī tradition, Djābir was granted an exceptionally high rank. The ḥadīths recorded in Shīʿī sources on his authority touch upon the fundamental tenets of Shīʿī belief: the mission of ʿAlī, his qualities, his authority over the believers, the graces granted him by God, the divine virtues of his descendants and the duties of allegiance and obedience incumbent upon the believers. It was the imām al-Bāḳir who asked Djābir about the Tablet which God sent down to Fāṭima and which Djābir got permission to copy. In this Tablet God named the imāms and established their order of succession. It is noteworthy that, according to some versions, the imām compared the copy of Djābir with the Tablet in his possession and stated that the copy is a reliable and accurate one. In another story, Djābir confirms the accuracy of the unusual report about the hidjra as told him by the imāmDjābir is credited with the ḥadīth about the appointment of ʿAlī as waṣī, which forms the base of the Shīʿī interpretation of Sūra LIII, 1-4. 

It appears that Jābir b. ‘Abd Allāh, like Muḥammad b. Maslama and Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī who preceded him, likely passed away far from the environs of Constantinople. Nevertheless, these modest grave sites scattered along the Ayvansaray Coast continue to attest to the sustained attention and devotion that the remembrance of these Companions command.

The secluded resting place of  Jābir b. 'Abd Allāh

The secluded resting place of Jābir b. ‘Abd Allāh

Hāmid, AbdulWāhid.1998. Companions of the Prophet, New Revised Edition. 2 vols. London: MELS.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr. 1992. al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb, 1st edition, 4 vols. Beirut: Dār al-Jīl.

Kister, M. J.. “D̲j̲ābir b. ʿAbd Allāh.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 24 June 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/djabir-b-abd-allah-SIM_8480>

al-Laknawī, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥayy. 2004. Rijal: Narrators of the Muwatta al-Imam Muhammad. London: Ta-Ha Publishers, Ltd.

Muḥammad b. Saʿd al-Zuhrī. 2001. Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr. 1st edition, 11 vols. Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī.

Renard, John. 2009. The A to Z of Sufism. Lanham, UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Robson, J. “Abū Ḏh̲arr.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 24 June 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/abu-dharr-SIM_0173>

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XVIII: Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Mu’āwiyah. Translated by Michael G. Morony. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

To access the other posts in the series:

The Sahaba of Istanbul [1] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari

The Sahaba of Istanbul [2] The Underground Mosque

The Sahaba of Istanbul [3] Eyup

The Sahaba of Istanbul [4] The City Walls of Leo and Heraclius

The Sahaba of Istanbul [6] Galata/Eminonu/Sultanahmet (forthcoming)

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The Sahaba of Istanbul [4] The City Walls of Leo and Heraclius

The city walls of Istanbul stretch from the Marmara Sea in the south to the Haliç or Golden Horn in the north. It is at the foot of these walls that a large number of Companions are reportedly buried. In this fourth post we visit four graves collected together just outside of the section of the wall that is located by the waters of the Golden Horn in a shrine complex lying between the neighborhoods of Eyüp and Ayvansaray. The tombs therein are those of Abū Shayba al-Khudrī (Ebu Şeybet ül-Hudri), Abū Aḥmad al-Anṣārī (Ebu Ahmed el-Ensari), Ḥamīd Allāh al-Anṣārī (Hamidullah el-Ensari), and Ka’b (Kab). It is a brief 15-20 minute walk down from Eyüp or a single stop on the ferry, which runs up and down the Golden Horn.

Signposts to the companions buried in the shrine complex by the city walls

Signposts to the Companions buried in the shrine complex by the city walls of Leo and Heraclius

Two of these Companions and the previously discussed Abū Ayyub al-Anṣārī are mentioned by Roger Crowley in his account of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople:

The [Ottoman] men were reminded that they were following in the footsteps of the companions of the Prophet killed at the first Arab siege of Constantinople. Their names were passed from mouth to mouth: Hazret Hafiz, Ebu Seybet ul-Ensari, Hamd ul-Ensari, and above all Ayyub, whom the Turks called Eyüp. The holy men reminded their listeners, in hushed tones, that to them fell the honor of fulfilling the words of the Prophet himself:

The Prophet said to his disciples: “Have you heard of a city with land on one side and sea on the other two sides?” They replied: “Yes, O Messenger of God.” He spoke: “The last hour [of Judgement] will not dawn before it is taken by 70,000 sons of Isaac. When they reach it, they will not do battle with arms and catapults but with the words ‘There is no God but Allah, and Allah is great.’ Then the first sea wall will collapse, and the second time the second sea wall, and the third time the wall on the land side will collapse, and, rejoicing, they will enter in.” (Crowley, 1453, 194)

The shrine complex that presently hosts our four graves is in fact situated between two sets of walls, each respectively named after the Byzantine potentate who oversaw their construction, Heraclius (d. 641 CE) and Leo V (d. 820 CE). John Freely describes the area as follows:

The citadel between the walls of Leo and Heraclius is in its own peculiar way quite fascinating. At one end of the citadel there is a small Muslim graveyard which contains the graves of Ebu Şeybet ül-Hudri and Hamd ül-Ensari, two martyred Companions of the Prophet. (Sumner-Boyd and Freely, Strolling through Istanbul, 358)

City Walls by the Golden Horn

The city walls by the Golden Horn between Eyüp and Ayvansaray

Upon entering the gardened complex there is a separate stone building off to the right that shelters the grave of Ka’b. One can enter to see the tomb housed between an edifice of wood and glass. The tomb of Ka’b appears to have once been located inside Yavedud Camii, a nearby mosque, but was moved at some point to its present location in the shrine complex. As for the Ka’b resting therein, it is entirely unclear which Ka’b is intended.

The tomb of K'ab

The tomb of K’ab

The earliest possibility is Ka’b b. ‘Umayr al-Ghifārī (d. 8/629) who died before the Prophet Muhammad. It is reported of him:

Muḥammad bin ‘Abdullāh al-Ẓuhrī narrated. “The Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallallāhu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) sent Ka’b ibn ‘Umair al-Ghifārī (Raḍiallāhu ‘Anhu) along with fifteen persons [on a mission]. When these people reached Dhāt-Aṭlāh, a place on the border of Syria, they found a great assemblage of the people. They exhorted them towards Islam. But they showered arrows in reply. When the Companions of the Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallallāhu ‘alaihi wa Sallam) saw that, they fought desperately but all of them were martyred except one injured Companion who somehow escaped in the darkness of the night and returned to the Messenger of Allāh (Ṣallallāhu ‘alaihi wa Sallam). (Kandhlawi, Hayatus Sahabah, 245)

Alternatively, Ka’b al-Aḥbār b. Māti’ (d. ca. 32/652-3) was a Jewish convert to Islam to whom a great deal of Isrā’īliyyāt is attributed. Little in his life indicates that he ventured into Byzantine territory and the debates over the date of his death and his burial site all indicate places other than Constantinople like Homs, Damascus, Giza, and Medina. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 39:206-7; Ibn Saʿd, Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 9:449; Schmitz, EI2)

The grave of Ka'b

The grave of Ka’b

The last two significant Companions known by the name Ka’b were both poets. Ka’b b. Mālik (d. 50/670 or 53/673) was one of the members of the tribe of al-Khazraj present at the second meeting of ‘Aqaba and later became known as one of the poets of the Prophet. His place of death is unknown, though like the two preceding personalities he too died before the first Arab siege of Constantinople. Ka’b b. Zuhayr was a Meccan antagonist known for his disparaging poetry against the Prophet who eventually converted and continued to compose poems but now in support and praise of the Muslims. While his date of death is uncertain, Basset vaguely reports that “he appears to have lived to a ripe old age.” (Basset, EI2)

At the opposite end of the shrine complex is another building set in front of a small cemetery. The building itself houses two tombs, the first of which belongs to Abū Shayba al-Khudrī. Brief mention is made of him in Ibn Ṣalāḥ al-Shahrazūrī’s (d. 643/1245) treatise on hadith Kitāb Maʿrifat al-anwāʾ ʿilm al-ḥadīth in the chapter on paidonymics:

Those who are known by their paidonymic [kunyā] and their names are not known and it is not known whether this appellation is their paidonymic or something else… Other examples from the Companions are… Abū Shayba al-Khuḍrī, who died in the siege of Constantinople and was buried there. (Ibn Ṣalāḥ al-Shahrazūrī, An Introduction to the Science of Ḥadīth, 250)

It appears then that Abū Shayba al-Khudrī was indeed amongst the Companions that came to and died before the city walls of Constantinople.

The grave of Abu Shayba al-Khudri

The tomb of Abu Shayba al-Khudri

He is also mentioned in al-Istīʿāb by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 463/1070) as follows:

Abū Shayba al-Khuḍrī heard the Prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, say, ‘Whoever says there is no god but God sincerely, he will enter Paradise.’ He died in the land of Rūm… Khalaf b. Qāsim transmitted to us that: al-Ḥasan b. Rashīq transmitted to us saying: Abū Bishr al-Dūlābī transmitted to us that: Yazīd b. ʿAbd al-Ṣamad transmitted to us saying: Ibn ʿĀʾidh transmitted to us saying: al-Walīd b. al-Ḥārith transmitted to us saying: Abū Dāwūd Sulaymān b. Mūsā al-Kūfī transmitted to us on the authority of Yūnus b. al-Ḥārith al-Thaqafī: I heard Mashras transmit on the authority of his father who said: Abū Shayba al-Khuḍrī the Companion of the Messenger of God, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, passed away when we were at the siege of Constantinople. We buried him where he lay. (Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istīʿāb, 4:1690)

The tomb of Abu Ahmad al-Ansari

The grave of Abu Ahmad al-Ansari

Across from the tomb of Abu Shayba al-Khuḍrī and laying out in the open air is the grave of Abū Aḥmad al-Anṣārī. The grave is easily recognized given the great tree that grows forth from his resting place and the well marked sign hanging above. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain any biographical information for Abū Aḥmad. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Just around the corner and in the same building containing the tomb of Abu Shayba al-Khuḍrī is another room with the tomb of Ḥamīd Allāh al-Anṣārī (the provided Turkish appellation of Hamidullah el-Ensari is somewhat ambiguous in terms of determining its Arabic equivalent). It is possible that the person meant is Ḥumayd b. Nāfiʿ. Ibn Saʿd (d. 230) mentions that he was a client (mawlā) of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī adding, “He transmitted on the authority of Abū Ayyūb and went on Ḥajj with him” (Ibn Saʿd, Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 7:300). Ḥumayd’s place of death, however, is not given.

The tomb of Hamid Allah al-Ansari

The tomb of Hamid Allah al-Ansari

Basset, R. ” Kaʿb b. Zuhayr.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 20 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/kab-b-zuhayr-SIM_3733>

Crowley, Roger. 2005. 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. New York: Hyperion.

Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr. 1992. al-Istīʿāb fī maʿrifat al-aṣḥāb, 1st edition, 4 vols. Beirut: Dār al-Jīl.

Ibn Ṣalāḥ al-Shahrazūrī. 2006. An Introduction to the Science of Ḥadīth: Kitāb Maʿrifat al-anwāʾ ʿilm al-ḥadīth. Translated by Eerik Dickinson. Reading: Garnet Publishing.

Kandhlawi, Muhammad Yusuf. 1989. Hayatus Sahabah: The Lives of the Sahabah, 2nd edition, 2 vols. New Dehli: Idara Isha’at-e-Diniyat, Ltd.

Muḥammad b. Saʿd al-Zuhrī. 2001. Kitāb al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr. 1st edition, 11 vols. Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī.

Schmitz, M. ” Kaʿb al-Aḥbār.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 20 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/kab-al-ahbar-SIM_3734>

Sumner-Boyd, Hilary and John Freely. Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2010.

Watt, W. Montgomery. ” Kaʿb b. Mālik.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 20 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/kab-b-malik-SIM_3732>

To access the other posts in the series:

The Sahaba of Istanbul [1] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari

The Sahaba of Istanbul [2] The Underground Mosque

The Sahaba of Istanbul [3] Eyup

The Sahaba of Istanbul [5] The Ayvansaray Coast

The Sahaba of Istanbul [6] Galata/Eminonu/Sultanahmet (forthcoming)

The Sahaba of Istanbul [3] Eyup

For the third post in the series we return to the area of Eyüp along the Golden Horn to visit three other tombs that lie in close proximity to the mosque complex of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī (d. 52/672). The reported tombs belong to Abū Dardā’ (Ebu Derdaǧ), Adham (Edhem), and Khayr al-Dīn (Heyrettin).

The grave of Abū Dardā' (d. 32/652)

The grave of Abū Dardā’ (d. 32/652)

While I have discussed the importance of Eyüp in the first post of this series, John Freely provides a succinct summation that is worth recalling here:

Turks rank Eyüp as the third most sacred place in the Islamic world after Mecca and Jerusalem. This is because it is the reputed burial-place of Eyüp (Job) Ensari, the friend and standard-bearer of the Prophet Muhammad. Eyüp is said to have been among the leaders of the first Arab siege of Constantinople from 674 to 678 and to have been killed and buried somewhere outside the walls. The tomb of Eyüp was miraculously discovered during the Turkish siege of Constantinople, and after the Conquest Fatih built a külliye there. Thenceforth when a sultan came to the throne he was girded with the sword of Osman Gazi at Eyüp’s tomb – a ceremony equivalent to coronation, which continued down to the end of the Ottoman Empire. (Freely, Istanbul, 186-7)

The tombs of the three Companions of the Prophet with whom we are presently concerned can be reached in less than a ten minute walk from the Eyüp Sultan Mosque. Head south from the mosque complex down Zalpaşa Caddesi passing Zal Mahmut Paşa Camii on your left. Shortly thereafter, also on the left, you will find the gated garden tomb of Ebu Derdaǧ or Abū Dardā’ (d. 32/652).

The tomb of Abū Dardā' (d. 32/652)

The tomb of Abū Dardā’ (d. 32/652)

‘Abd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī in al-Ta’līq al-mumajjad states:

Abu’d-Dardā’ ‘Uwaymir ibn ‘Āmir, but some say ‘Āmir, of Banī Ka’b ibn al-Khazraj al-Anṣārī al-Khazrajī. There is considerable disagreement on his name and lineage, and he is most known by his kunyā, and ad-Dardā’ was his daughter. He was a faqīh and an ‘ālim, and was present at those battles after Uḥud. He resided in Shām and died in Damascus in 32 AH, but some say 31 AH, and some say 34 AH. It is thus in the book Jāmi’ al-uṣūl. (al-Lakhnawi, Rijal, p. 32)

A.J. Arberry’s entry in the second edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam states:

His name and genealogy are given as ʿUwaymir b. Zayd b. Ḳays b. ʿAʾis̲h̲a b. Umayya b. Mālik b. ʿAdī b. Kaʿb b. al-Ḵh̲azrad̲j̲ b. al-Ḥārit̲h̲ of the Balḥārit̲h̲ family of the Ḵh̲azrad̲j̲. Some sources give his name as ʿĀmir instead of ʿUwaymir, and for his father’s name instead of Zayd we find variously ʿĀmir, ʿAbd Allāh, Mālik or T̲h̲aʿlaba, while some give him the nisba al-Rahānī. He was a younger contemporary of Muḥammad who is generally listed among the Companions (Ṣaḥāba) though some sources raise doubts as to the legitimacy of this. He did not become a Muslim till after the battle of Badr and it is noted that he was the last of his family to become a convert to Islam. Some list him among those present at Uḥud. When Muḥammad established “brotherhoods” between the Emigrants and the people of Medina he was the “brother” chosen for Salmān al-Fārisī. A certain number of traditions are reported on his authority and are given in the Ḏhakhāʾir al-Mawārīḥ, iii, 158-62. The Ṣūfīs claimed him as one of the ahl al-ṣuffa [q.v.], quoting a number of sayings of an ascetic or pietistic character from him, which is probably the reason why in the biographical dictionaries he is called a zāhid and one to whom ʿilm was given. These sources also say that he became known as the sage (ḥakīm) of the early Muslim community. He is reported as having said that before Islam he was a merchant, but after his conversion found that business life interfered with strict attention to cult duties (ʿibāda) so he gave up business. His great reputation, however, was as an authority on the Ḳurʾān. He is listed as one of the few who collected (djamaʿa) revelations during the Prophet’s lifetime, and a small number of variant readings from him is recorded in the ḳirāʾāt books. During his stay in Damascus, where he was sent to serve as a ḳāḍī, he made it a practice to gather to the mosque groups to whom he taught the Ḳurʾān, thus becoming the true father of the Damascus School later headed by Ibn ʿĀmir [q.v.]. He died at Damascus in 32/652, or thereabouts, his tomb and that of his wife Umm al-Dardāʾ being shown there near one of the gates.

To reach the next tomb continue down Zalpaşa Caddesi until you reach a fork. Take the righthand road called Abdurrahman Şerefbey Caddesi a short way until you reach a stone building on the right that completely encloses the tomb of Edhem or Adham. The tomb building is located at the intersection of Abdurrahman Şerefbey Caddesi and Arapcı Hayrettin Sokak. The tomb lies behind a large piece of ironwork and glass window.

The tomb of Edhem

The tomb of Edhem

As for this tomb, there does not appear to be a Companion known by the name Adham. A sign in the window mentions a person by the name of Halid/Khālid and the year 46/666. Al-Ṭabarī mentions that ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, the son of the famous Khālid b. al-Walīd (d. 21/642), possibly led a campaign against the Byzantines in 46 before being killed by poison later that same year. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 18:88-9). Notably ‘Abd al-Raḥmān had led an earlier campaign into Byzantium in 44 as well (al-Ṭabarī, History, 18:71). The sign may have mistaken ‘Abd al-Raḥmān for his father Khālid who also reportedly participated in fighting against the Byzantines during his lifetime. Thus the tomb may have been thought by later Muslims to have belonged to a Companion who partook in the second campaign of ‘Abd al-Raḥmān. However, according to Haskan Mehmet Nermi it appears that the designation of the grave as a Companion’s burial site is entirely incorrect and that it properly belongs to an Ethem Baba who died in 1460 CE (Nermi, Eyüp Sultan Tarihi, p. 149).

Arapcı Hayrettin Camii

Arapcı Hayrettin Camii

At this same intersection but across the street is the Arapcı Haryettin Camii.  At the back of this mosque on the righthand side of Arapcı Haryettin Sokak is the tomb of Heyrettin or Khayr al-Dīn. This grave, like the tomb of Abū Dardā’, is outdoors and visible through an iron grill. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain any information concerning this last supposed gravesite of a Companion aside from its designation as such a place. The tomb appears to have been constructed in 890/1456, a few years after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (Nermi, Eyüp Sultan Tarihi, p. 32).

The tomb of Hayrettin

The tomb of Hayrettin

Freely, John. 1996. Istanbul: The Imperial City. New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Jeffery, A. ” Abu ’l-Dardāʾ.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Fairfield University. 18 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com.libdb.fairfield.edu/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/abu-l-darda-SIM_0171>

al-Laknawī, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥayy. 2004. Rijal: Narrators of the Muwatta al-Imam Muhammad. London: Ta-Ha Publishers, Ltd.

Nermi, Haskan Mehmet. 1996. Eyüp Sultan Tarihi. Istanbul: Eyüpsultan Vakfı Yayınları.

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XVIII: Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Mu’āwiyah. Translated by Michael G. Morony. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

The grave of Heyrettin

The grave of Heyrettin

To access the other posts in the series:

The Sahaba of Istanbul [1] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari

The Sahaba of Istanbul [2] The Underground Mosque

The Sahaba of Istanbul [4] The City Walls of Leo and Heraclius

The Sahaba of Istanbul [5] The Ayvansaray Coast

The Sahaba of Istanbul [6] Galata/Eminonu/Sultanahmet (forthcoming)

The Sahaba of Istanbul [2] The Underground Mosque

For the second post of this series (Part 1) we turn momentarily from Eyüp to cover perhaps the best known tombs after that of Abū Ayyub al-Anṣārī. The site is located in Galata in the Yeraltı Camii or the Underground Mosque, a site previously mentioned in our treatment of Strolling Through Istanbul.

The seaside entrance to the Yeraltı Camii with signpost to the tombs

The relevant excerpt from there reads:

Towards the rear of the mosque we find the tombs of two sainted martyrs, Abu Sufyan and Amiri Wahabi, both of whom are supposed to have died in the first Arab siege of the city in the seventh century. Their graves were revealed to a Nakşibendi dervish in a dream in 1640, whereupon Sultan Murat IV constructed a shrine on the site. (Sumner-Boyd and Freely, Strolling Through Istanbul, 412)

There appears to be some confusion as to the names of the persons buried here given that the signs currently posted throughout the Underground Mosque (Amr bin As, Vehb bin Hüşeyre, and Süfyan bin Üyeyne) differ from those given by Sumner-Boyd and Freely.  Hasluck, whose work appears in the 1920s, also uses different names in his interesting record:

The building seems to have been identified by the discovery in it of alleged Arab tombs, now attributed to saints named Amiri, Wahabi (left of entrance), and Sufian or Abu Sufian (right of entrance). The latter tomb is the most important of the group and occupies a separate compartment within a grille; it is evidently associated with Sufian, one of the Arab warriors who took part in the first Arab siege (672-7) by Moawiya. It is frequented as a pilgrimage by Turkish and Armenian, occasionally by Greek, women. For a small fee the guardian lays on the tomb a new garment of handkerchief, which, having remained there forty days, is an infallible love-charm, if worn by the man it is desired to attract. Women desirous of children wear round their waists a handkerchief which has been consecrate in a similar way. (Hasluck, Christianity and Islam Under the Sultans, 2:727)

It appears that Sumner-Boyd and Freely relied on Hasluck and confused “Amiri, Wahabi” as a single name when Hasluck rather intended to designate two different ones: Amiri and Wahabi. Furthermore, that one of the tombs might be called Abu Sufyān, rather than just Sufyān, is explained by Hasluck in a footnote which states, “Abu Sufian was the title of the caliph Moawiya.”

The Gated Enclosure to the Tombs of Wahb and ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ

Greater detail is given in Namık Erkal’s relatively recent architectural study of the mosque, which was once the Fort of Galata under the Byzantines and then a Leaded Magazine (Kurşulu Mahzen):

In the reign of Mahmud I (r. 1730-1754), it was by the prophecy of a Nakshibendi sheikh from Damascus that the relics of three martyrs from the siege were discovered by the wall of the Magazine in leaded coffins, to further elevate the Islamic connotation of the site -and bring a new reading on the term “leaded”. It was said that the relics were found buried on the side of a wall in a chamber the gate of which was “leaded” by the Umayyads during the siege… There were three coffins within the mosque, one of them being a separate tomb and two others within the Hall behind the rails. (Erkal, “The Corner of the Horn,” 215-6)

The footnote at the end of Erkal’s passage reads:

The relics are said to be of Vehb bin Huseyre (inside the rails, who joined the second Umayyad siege); Amr bin As who is the conqurer of Egypt and who was dead at the time of Umayyad sieges but is believed to visit his tomb within the mosque; Süfyan bin Uyeyne, resting in the Tomb was born in the 8th century and died in 814. The tomb has been constructed and restored several times. (Erkal, “The Corner of the Horn,” 216, fn. 105)

For the sake of this post, I will proceed as if the persons ascribed to the tombs in the Underground Mosque are in fact the ones designated in the presently found signs.

ʿAmr b. al-‘Āṣ (d. 43/663-4) and Wahb b. Hushayra

Near the back entrance of Underground Mosque and off to the side is a gated room bearing two side-by-side tombs bathed in green light. Supposedly therein lie ʿAmr b. al-‘Āṣ (Amr bin As, Turkish) and Wahb b. Husahyra (Vehb bin Hüşeyre, Turkish). ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ is best remembered for leading the Muslim conquest of Egypt. As al-Ṭabarī memorializes for “The Events of the Year 43 (April 15, 663 – April 2, 664)”, he also served for the remainder of his life as its governor:

In this year ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ died in Egypt on Yawm al-Fiṭr (January 6, 664). He has been its governor for ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb for four years, and for ‘Uthmān for four years minus two months, and for Mu’āwiyah for two years minus one month. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 18:32)

The tombs of Wahb and ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ

In his early life, ʿAmr b. al-‘Āṣ was among the Quraysh who opposed the Prophet Muhammad. He was famously sent with ‘Abd Allāh b. Abī Rabī’a to entreat the Negus of Abyssinia to send back the Muslim Emigrants who had fled there. After the Battle of the Trench but before the conquest of Mecca, ʿAmr b. al-‘Āṣ became Muslim. He relates the story of his conversion in Ibn Isḥāq’s biography of the Prophet:

Yazīd b. Abū Ḥabīb from Raṣhid client of Ḥabīb b. Abū Aus al-Thaqafī from Ḥabīb told me that ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ told him from his own mouth: When we came away from the trench with the mixed tribes I gathered some of Quraysh together, men who shared my opinion and would listen to me, and said: ‘You know that in my opinion this affair with Muhammad will go to unheard-of lengths and I should like to know what you think of my opinion. I think that we ought to go to the Negus and stay with him. If Muhammad conquers our people we shall be with the Negus and we should prefer to be subject to his authority rather than to Muhammad; on the other hand, if our people get the upper hand they know us and will treat us well.’ They thought that my suggestion was excellent so I told them to collect something that we could take as a present to him; as leather was a product of our land which he most valued we collected a large quantity and took it to him.

While we were with him who should come to him but ‘Amr b. Umayya al-Ḍamrī whom the apostle had sent concerning Ja’far and his companions. He had an audience with the Negus, and when he came out I said to my companions that if I were to go to the Negus and ask him to let me have him, he would give him to me and we could cut off his head; and when I had done that Quraysh would see that I had served them well in killing Muhammad’s messenger. So I went to the Negus and did obeisance as was my wont. He welcomed me as a friend and asked if I had brought anything from our country, and when I told him that I had brought a large quantity of leather and produced it he was greatly pleased and coveted it. Then I said, ‘O King, I have just seen a man leave your presence. He is the messenger of an enemy of ours, so let me have him that I may kill him, for he has killed some of our chiefs and best men.’ He was enraged, and stretching out his hand he gave his nose such a blow that I thought he would have broken it. If the earth had opened I would have gone into it to escape his anger. I said that had I known that my request would have been distasteful to him I would not have made it. He said, ‘Would you ask me to give you the messenger of a man to whom the great Nāmūs comes as he used to come to Moses, so that you might kill him!’ When I asked if he were really that great he said: ‘Woe to you, ‘Amr, obey me and follow him,  for by Allah he is right and will triumph over his adversaries as Moses triumphed over Pharaoh and his armies.’ I asked him if he would accept my allegiance to Muhammad in Islam, and he stretched out his hand and I gave my allegiance. When I went out to my companions I had entirely changed my mind, but I concealed my Islam from my companions.

Then I went off making for Muhammad to adopt Islam, and met Khālid b. al-Walīd coming from Mecca. This was a little while before the occupation of Mecca. I said, ‘Where are you going, Abū Sulaymān?’ He said: ‘The way has become clear. The man is certainly a prophet, and by Allah I’m going to be a Muslim. How much longer should I delay?’ I told him that I too was travelling with the same object in view, so we went to Medina to the apostle. Khālid got there first and accepted Islam and gave his allegiance. Then I came up and said, ‘O apostle, I will give you my allegiance on condition that my past faults are forgiven and no mention is made of what has gone before.’ He said, ‘Give allegiance ‘Amr, for Islam does away with all that preceded it, as does the hijra.’ So I gave my allegiance and went away. (Ibn Isḥāq, The Life of Muhammad, 484-5)

As for Wahb b. Hushayra (if the ascribed name is correct) he appears to have been a minor Companion who partook in one of the early Umayyad attacks on Constantinople. As I have fallen short on sources, I would appreciate any references to his life or a reliable identification.

The tomb of Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna

Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna (d. 198/814)

Located in a separate room is a tomb bearing the name of Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna (Süfyan bin Üyeyne, Turkish). It is possible that the tomb has been misidentified since Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna’s years of life puts him later than the generation of the Companions. The actual person buried here may be another (Abū?) Sufyān. Nevertheless, Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna is a revered figure in the Islamic tradition. From Kufa, Sufyān was a noted hadith transmitter, exegete, and jurist. He studied with al-Zuhrī (d. 124/742) and went on to teach al-Shāfi’ī (d. 204/820). Al-Ṭabarī’s biographical entry on Sufyān states:

Sufyān b. ‘Uyayna b. Abī ‘Imrān. His kunyah was Abū Muḥammad; he was a client of the Banū ‘Abdallāh b. Ruwayhbah, [a clan of] the Banū Hilāl b. ‘Āmir b. Ṣa’ṣa’ah. Sufyān’s father, ‘Uyaynah, was a functionary of Khālid b. ‘Abdallāh al-Qasrī. When Khālid was dismissed from [his office as governor of] Iraq and replaced by Yūsuf b. ‘Umar al-Thaqafī, the latter pursued Khālid’s functionaries, so they fled from him. ‘Uyaynah b. Abī ‘Imrān went away and settled in Mecca.

According to Ibn Sa’d > Muḥammad b. ‘Umar [al-Wāqidī]: Sufyān b. ‘Uyaynah told me that he was born in the year 107 [725-6]. He had pursued knowledge at an early [age] and became a ḥāfiẓ. He lived a long life, until his peers died and he outlived them.

Sufyān related: I went to the Yemen in the years 150 [767-8] and 152 [769-70] while Ma’mar [b. Rāshid] was still alive. [Sufyān] al-Thawrī preceded me [there] by a year.

According to Ibn Sa’d > al-Ḥasan b. ‘Imrān b. ‘Uyaynah, Sufyān’s nephew: I was with my uncle on the last pilgrimage he made [to Mecca], in the year 197 [August 813]. When he was at Jam’, having prayed, he lay on his mat and said to me: “I have arrived at this place for seventy years, and each time I said ‘O Lord, do not make this the last time that I visit this place.’ I feel embarrassed before God about asking Him this so many times.” Sufyān returned [from his pilgrimage] and died the next year, on Saturday the 1st of Rajab 198/February 25, 814. He was buried at al-Ḥajūn. He was ninety-one years old [when he died]. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 39:265-6)

The back entrance to the Yeraltı Camii

Erkal, Namık. “The Corner of the Horn: An Architectural Review of the Leaded Magazine in Galata İstanbul.” Middle East Technical University (METU) Journal of the Faculty of Architecture 28.1 (2011): 197-227.

Hasluck, F.W. Christianity and Islam Under the Sultans, Volume I and II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929.

Muḥammad b. Isḥāq b. Yasār. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh. Translated by A. Guillaume. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Sumner-Boyd, Hilary and John Freely. Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2010.

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XVIII: Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Mu’āwiyah. Translated by Michael G. Morony. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XXXIX: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors. Translated by Ella Landau-Tasseron. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

To access the other posts in the series:

The Sahaba of Istanbul [1] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari

The Sahaba of Istanbul [3] Eyup

The Sahaba of Istanbul [4] The City Walls of Leo and Heraclius

The Sahaba of Istanbul [5] The Ayvansaray Coast

The Sahaba of Istanbul [6] Galata/Eminonu/Sultanahmet (forthcoming)

The Sahaba of Istanbul [1] Abu Ayyub al-Ansari

The city of Istanbul, once Constantinople, purportedly hosts the tombs of many Sahaba, the revered Companions of the Prophet Muhammad.

Though the city did not fall until 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (d. 886/1481), Muslims forces campaigned against the city during the earliest decades of Islam’s irruption onto the world stage. The fifth Caliph Mu’āwiya (d. 60/680) directed a major campaign against Constantinople in the year 49/669, less than forty years after the Prophet’s death. In these earliest of days, it was often at the very walls of the city itself that some Companions of the Prophet reportedly breathed their last breath.

The present post is the first of a series that will document the lives and alleged burial sites of many of these Sahaba.* By some counts, more than thirty such tombs are spread across the city. During our last visit to the city in May of 2012 we visited many- but far from all- of these in order to properly locate and photo-document them. It is hoped that this series will facilitate the future visits of other travelers and to shed further light on Istanbul’s importance for the tradition.

Eyüp Sultan Camii

Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī

Just beyond the city walls and alongside the Golden Horn is the district of Eyüp, named after the tomb and mosque complex built around the burial site of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī (d. 52/672). Our guide to the city John Freely reports:

The mosque of Eyüp is the holiest in Istanbul; indeed after Mecca and Jerusalem it is perhaps the most sacred place of pilgrimage in the Islamic world. This is because it is the reputed burial place of Eyüp (Job) Ensari, the friend and standard-bearer of the Prophet Muhammed. Long after the Prophet’s death, Eyüp is said to have been one of the leaders of the first Arab siege of Constantinople from 674 to 678 and to have been killed and buried somewhere outside the walls. When some eight centuries later Fatih Mehmet besieged the city, he and his advisors, as Evliya Çelebi writes,

“spent seven whole days searching for the tomb. At last Akşemsettin (the Şeyh-ül Islam) exclaimed, ‘Good news, my Prince, of Eyüp’s tomb!’ Thus saying he began to pray and then fell asleep. Some interpreted this sleep as a veil cast by shame over his ignorance of the tomb; but after some time he raised his head, his eyes became bloodshot, the sweat ran from his forehead, and he said to the Sultan, ‘Eyüp’s tomb is on the very spot where I spread the carpet for prayer.’ Upon this, three of his attendants together with the Şeyh and the Sultan began to dig up the ground, when at a depth of three yards they found a square stone of verd antique on which was written in Cufic letters: ‘This is the tomb of Eba Eyüp.’ They lifted the stone and found below it the body of Eyüp wrapped up in a saffron-coloured shroud, with a brazen play-ball in his hand, fresh and well-preserved. They replaced the stone, formed a little mound of the earth they had dug up, and laid the foundations of the mausoleum amidst the prayers of the whole army.”

This pleasant story, though still current and recounted in one form or another by the guides and guidebooks, seems rather unlikely – apart from its supernatural elements – because it appears that the tomb had always been known and respected even by the Byzantines. Various Arab historians note that it was made a condition of peace, after the first Arab siege, that the tomb should be preserved. An Arab traveller during the reign of Manuel I Comnenus (r. 1143-80) mentions it as still existing in his day, while another traveller, Zakariya al-Kazwini (ca. 1203-83), relates that “this tomb is now venerated among them (the Byzantines) and they open it when they pray for rain in times of drought; and rain is granted them.” If the tomb was still extant in early Palaeologan times [dynasty begins 1259], it seems improbable that it should so completely have disappeared before the Turkish conquest. Probably, Fatih restored or rebuilt it on a grander scale. (Sumner-Boyd and Freely, Strolling Through Istanbul, 363-4) 

Remarkably, the early historian al-Ṭabarī (d. 311/923) corroborates Freely’s account of Byzantine Christians visiting the tomb of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī. Furthermore, al-Ṭabarī’s attestation forwards the popular phenomenon to the early 4th/10th century:

It was reported that the Greeks frequent his grave, renovate it, and pray there for rain in times of drought. (al-Ṭabarī, The History of al-Ṭabarī, 39:40)

Philip K. Hitti provides a slightly different account than Freely of the burial place’s discovery as well as offering some details concerning Abū Ayyūb’s final campaign:

Tradition asserts that in the course of the siege abu-Ayyūb  died of dysentery and was buried before the walls of Constantinople. His legendary tomb soon became a shrine even for the Christian Greeks, who made pilgrimages to it in times of drought to pray for rain. During the siege of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks, the tomb was miraculously discovered by rays of light… and a mosque was built on the site. Thus did the Madīnese gentleman become a saint for three nations. (Hitti, History of the Arabs, 201-2)

The Courtyard of Eyüp Sultan Camii. The tomb of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī lies in an alcove just behind the tree.

Returning to the immense historical chronicle by al-Ṭabarī we find the following about Abū Ayyūb listed among “The Events of the Year 49 (February 9, 669-January 28, 670)”:

The raid of Yazīd b. Mu’āwiyah against the Byzantines occurred during this year. He reached Qusṭanṭīniyyah accompanied by Ibn ‘Abbās, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn al-Zubayr, Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 18:94)

Then later under “Those Who Died or Were Killed in the Year 52 (January 8, 672-December 26, 672)” al-Ṭabarī states:

Among them was Abū Ayyūb. His name was Khālid b. Zayd b. Kulayb b. Tha’labah b. ‘Abd b. ‘Awf b. Ghanm b. Mālik b. al-Najjār. All [the biographers] are unanimous that he was one of the seventy Anṣār who swore allegiance to the Prophet on the night of the ‘Aqabah meeting. The Prophet established the bound of brotherhood (mu’ākhāh) between Abū Ayyūb and Muṣ’ab b. ‘Umayr. Abū Ayyūb participated in [the battles of] Badr, Uḥud, and the Ditch and all the [other] events on the Prophet’s side.

Abū Ayyūb died when Yazid b. Mu’āwiyah raided Constantinople during the caliphate of his father, Mu’āwiyah. His grave is at the foot of the fortress in Constantinople, in the Byzantine territory. (al-Ṭabarī, History, 39:40)

As al-Ṭabarī has related, Abū Ayyūb was among the first Muslims of Medina. In fact, as Ibn Isḥāq and al-Balãdhūrī report, the Prophet took up residence with Abū Ayyūb when he first arrived in the city and stayed there until the mosque’s construction was completed (Ibn Isḥāq, The Life of Muhammad, 228-30; al-Balãdhūrī, The Origins of the Islamic State, 19).

More on the life of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī can be found in a modern pietistic compilation by AbdulWāhid Hāmid. We will conclude this post with an excerpt from the end of his account given his appropriately memorializing tone of Abū Ayyūb:

The last campaign he took part in was the one prepared by Mu’āwiyah and led by his son Yazīd against Constantinople. Abū Ayyūb at that time was a very old man, almost eighty years old. But that did not prevent him from joining the army and crossing the seas as a ghāzī in the path of God. After only a short time engaged in battled, Abū Ayyūb fell ill and had to withdraw from fighting. Yazīd came to him and asked: “Do you need anything, Abū Ayyūb?” 

“Convey my salāms to the Muslim armies and say to them: ‘Abū Ayyūb urges you to penetrate deeply into the territory of the enemy as far as you can go, that you should carry him with you and that you should bury him under your feet at the walls of Constantinople.'” Then he breathed his last.

The Muslim army fulfilled the desire of the companion of the Messenger of God. They pushed back the enemy’s forces in attack after attack until they reached the walls of Constantinople. There they buried him. (Hāmid, Companions of the Prophet, 1:157-8)

Visitors and pilgrims gathered before the tomb of Abū Ayyūb al-Anṣārī.

*I say “alleged” simply because the history of such sites are more rich and complicated than they initially appear. Several of these sites, for example, were in fact places of veneration for the city’s Christians as well, well before the arrival of the Ottomans. Rather than wrestling with questions of historicity, the posts of this series will focus more on what the available narratives and sources have to report about the Companions supposedly buried in Istanbul. And to encourage more curious readers, I refer to English-language sources or English translations of primary sources wherever possible, though this may not always be maintained throughout the series. Finally, I try to provide dates both in the ḥijrī (Islamic calendar, AH) and Common Era (CE).

al-Balãdhūrī, Abū l-‘Abbās Aḥmad b. Jābir. The Origins of the Islamic State: Kitāb Futūḥ al-buldān. Translated by Philip Khūri Hitti. Beirut: Khayats, 1966.

Hāmid, AbdulWāhid. Companions of the Prophet, Book One, New Revised Edition. London: MELS, 1998, 153-8.

Hitti, Philip K. History of the Arabs. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Muḥammad b. Isḥāq b. Yasār. The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh. Translated by A. Guillaume. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Sumner-Boyd, Hilary and John Freely. Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City. London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2010.

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XVIII: Between Civil Wars: The Caliphate of Mu’āwiyah. Translated by Michael G. Morony. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.

al-Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr. The History of al-Ṭabarī, Volume XXXIX: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors. Translated by Ella Landau-Tasseron. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

To access the other posts in the series:

The Sahaba of Istanbul [2] The Underground Mosque

The Sahaba of Istanbul [3] Eyup

The Sahaba of Istanbul [4] The City Wall Beside the Golden Horn 

The Sahaba of Istanbul [5] Ayvansaray Coast

The Sahaba of Istanbul [6] Galata/Eminonu/Sultanahmet (forthcoming)

Strolling Through Istanbul

Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City is the essential guidebook for any curious visitor to Istanbul. Originally written in 1972 by the late Hillary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely, the book has since been revised by Freely and reprinted in 2010. Sumner-Boyd was a professor of Humanities at Robert College, Bosphorus University. Freely, originally a New Yorker is currently a professor of physics at Bosphorus University in Istanbul and author of over forty books and guides. The authors, who are intimately familiar with Istanbul, have outlined several walking tours in and around the city and bring attention to the major historic sites as well as many others often overlooked by tourists. Sumner-Boyd and Freely go beyond simply mentioning historic locations but animate each stop along the stroll with vivid historical descriptions, biographical sketches, and architectural interests. Through their well crafted prose they guide the eye to the more unique aspects of each location. Their engaging personalities and love for the city comes through in their writing making them the ideal tour guides to Istanbul. The walking tours are divided into geographic sections for a total of 23 chapters that span up the Golden Horn to Eyüp, along the Bosphorus, and down to to the Prince’s Islands. Despite its considerable size, a generous 487 pages, this book is always tucked into a bag and towed around the city. It’s through this guide that we discovered such gems as the Yeraltı Cami (Underground Mosque), Namazgahs (open air prayer spaces), and the serene Küçük Aya Sofia Camii.

Yeraltı Cami 

Leaving Karaköy we begin walking along the seaside road, which is always bustling with pedestrians rushing to and from the ferry station. About 200 metres along, past the ferry pier, we turn left and then left again at the next street. A short way along on our right we come to the obscure entrance of Yeraltı Cami, the Underground Mosque. This is a strange and sinister place. The mosque is housed in the low, vaulted cellar of keep of a Byzantine tower or castle which is probably to be identified with the Castle of Galata. This was the place where was fastened the one end of the chain which closed the mouth of the Golden Horn in times of siege. Descending into the mosque, we find ourselves in a maze of dark, narrow passages between a forest of squat passages supporting low vaults, six rows of nine or 54 in all. Towards the rear of the mosque we find the tombs of two sainted martyrs, Abu Sufyan and Amiri Wahabi, both of whom are supposed to have died in the first Arab siege of the city in the seventh century. Their graves were revealed to a Nakşibendi dervish in a dream in 1640, whereupon Sultan Murat IV constructed a shrine on the site. Then in 1757 the whole dungeon was converted into a mosque by the Grand Vezir Köş Mustafa Paşa.

The Underground MosqueThe interior of the Underground Mosque.

Namazgahs 

In the centre of the square, Kadirga Liman Meydanı, there is a very striking and unique monument. This is the namazgah of Esma Sultan, daughter of Ahmet III, which was built in 1779. It is a great rectangular block of masonry, on the two faces of which are fountains with ornamental inscriptions, the corners having ornamental niches, while the third side is occupied by a staircase which leads to the flat roof. This is the only surviving example in Stamboul of a namazgah, or open-air place of prayer, in which the kıble or direction of prayer is indicated but which is otherwise without furniture or decoration. Namazgahs are common enough in Anatolia and the remains of at least two others can be seen in the environs of Istanbul, one in Okmeydanı overlooking the Golden Horn and the other at Anadolu Hisarı on the Bosphorus; but this is the only one left in the old city.

Ironically one is no longer allowed to pray here.

SS. Sergius and Bacchus 

At the end of this lane, we come to one of the entrances to the courtyard of the beautiful Küçük Aya Sofya Camii, the former Byzantine church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus. The church was begun by Justinian and his Empress Theodora in 527, five years before the commencement of the present church of Haghia Sophia. It thus belongs to that extraordinary period of prolific and fruitful experiment in architectural forms which produced, in this city, buildings so ambitious and so different as the present church, Haghia Sophia itself and Haghia Eirene…

In SS Sergius and Bacchus, as in almost all of the surviving Byzantine churches of the city, we must simply use our imagination in order to recapture the extraordinary beauty of its original condition. The walls, like those of Haghia Sophia, were revetted with veined by variegated marbles; the vaults and domes glittered with mosaics. “By the sheen of its marbles it was more resplendent than the sun,” says Procopius, “and everywhere it was filled profusely with gold.”