The conquest of Istanbul is a topic that has been in discussion for 565 years, but cannot be concluded. First, the Byzantines and Greeks who lost the city wrote about it. Then the Turks and other Muslims shed light on the conquest of this grand city. Even though there are those who complain from time to time and those who describe the conquest as the last day of the world, we have been feeling the same excitement about the conquest for almost six centuries. In saying we, I mean both Turks and all Muslims, regardless of where they are in the world.
The conquest of Istanbul is the common historical denominator of all Muslims, who have become disconnected in the last few centuries, with each one drifting to another side, who have adopted new ideas and ideologies or who have fallen prey to imperialism and rewritten their history. The conqueror is, without a doubt, their common hero. The conquest and the conqueror is hope that the entire Muslim world, from the east to the west, north to the south, which presents an untidy image and is struggling with irreparable problems, may become united and stand up on its feet once again.
Motivation of the conquest
The conquest of Istanbul made it on the agenda of Muslims centuries before the conquest, based on Prophet Muhammad’s glad tidings. This great motivation mobilized Muslims numerous times for the conquest of Istanbul. However, this holy conquest that was longed for was Sultan Mehmed II’s fortune and gained him the title of “The Conqueror.” This title, which was not given to any Muslim commander who made major conquests before, was, without a doubt, embraced. Hence, the conquest of Istanbul and Mehmed the Conqueror became the Muslim world’s joint happiness and commander.
The verse in the Quran that gives the news that Byzantine will be defeated and the hadith on the conquest of Istanbul, rendered the conquest holy in the eyes of Muslims. Thus, other Muslims’ desire to conquer Istanbul many times before Turks was a result of this. Throughout the Medieval Age, in which Muslims ran from one victory to another and made conquests, the psychological effect of not being able to take over Istanbul, despite sieging it, was not so great. Because back then, they would suffice with other victories. As a matter of fact, those victories gave a greater opportunity for them to believe narrations that Istanbul would be conquered.
As of the 12th century, the Muslim world lost its golden days. Just like today, it was faced with a political mess. It was divided into statelets, each one against the other, in the clutches of the occupying forces of the time. Muslims, who were afflicted with weaknesses and concern, started to question everything belonging to them, including their faith. Despite their bright past, ambiguity and desperation were dominant in the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the Crusades that formed against the Muslim world and the long-lasting wars by this alliance further increased Muslims’ pessimism.
Until a short while ago, Muslims, who had achieved wonders in science, philosophy and art, started to repeat themselves and even forget their previous knowledge, with pagan beliefs beginning to dominate their everyday lives. As the Mongolian invasion that wreaked havoc in the East created disasters, in Andalusia, the fortress of Muslims in the West, Muslim cities were being taken over by Christians, one by one. Toledo, Cordoba and Sevilla were no longer Muslim cities. The project to unite Spain and turn it into a great big Christian city started to be implemented step by step as of the mid-13th century.
The dream city Istanbul was conquered at a time when pessimism was dominant over the Muslim world. While this conquest gave the glad tidings of rebirth, it was the greatest response to those trying to eliminate the last Muslims in Andalusia. This is why the conquest of Istanbul still represents revival for Muslims.
In a different approach, this conquest was also the harbinger of the Ottoman Peace idea that would later be established by the Muslims and largely ensure the unity of the Muslim world. This conquest, which is sanctified in the eyes of all Muslims who embraced Ottoman dominance or were left outside of it, and the conqueror who made the conquest happen, was always remembered with gratitude.
Common history of the Muslim world
Turks and Arabs have, from time to time, had tides in their four-century common history. The incidents that took place in a geography that was controlled from a single center after dozens of centers mushroomed, were sometimes discussed with scientific analyses, and sometimes through emotional approaches. While almost every era of the common history is evaluated with different criteria, solely the conquest of Istanbul and Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror have continued to always be remembered in goodness and admiration.
Let us repeat. The conquest and the conqueror are the common denominators of the Muslim world. At a time when there is so much division and history is used as a tool of separation, the conquest and the conqueror are the sole uniting elements. Therefore, the conqueror and his era need to be reinterpreted outside classic narrations and re-read according to modern understandings. Today, we need to contemplate on how the conqueror thought about the conquest, rather than how he conquered. A group of Malaysian academics, with a Fatih (Conqueror) study group they founded among themselves, started to research topics such as his way of thinking, his leadership qualities that can be adapted to the present, his approach that was innovative to the extent of thinking about the Dardanelles Gun. Of course, there are similar studies in Turkey as well, and they must be continued. However, this common denominator of the Muslim world should not be considered an area of research of history alone. This common denominator should be turned into a driving force for rapport, cooperation and to build a new civilization between Muslim countries.
Of course, the universal contribution of the conquest of Istanbul should also never be forgotten. The Conqueror taking under his protection the Orthodox Christians, who were ignored by the Catholics, and giving them vast freedoms, his treaty to the people of Galata, the decrees he gave to the clergies of Jerusalem who wanted to sense his justice over them, as well as the Bosnian Franciscans post-conquest, despite it not yet being Ottoman territory, should be narrated to the world every day in the context of human rights.
In addition to the scholarships Turkey grants to foreign students, it should also create a special Fatih Scholarship. This scholarship, of which only one will be assigned to every country per year, should be granted to the highest-achieving students regardless of their field, and the Conqueror’s message should be spread to all of humanity.