Istanbul: Eyup Sultan

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

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Image: Ryan Mayer’s document.

15 minutes walking past the reddish city wall ruins, our white bus stopped in a gray blocked car park. From the windshield there was a mound of high ground covered by green fences. Behind it were gray tombstones and large shaded trees. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the tomb of Eyup Sultan.” Zeki’s brief before the bus door opened with a hissing sound, “Deeessshhh.”

As if to welcome us, the sun was shy as had shown strength. It rises even higher and exudes warmth on the body that was wrapped in the cold of Istanbul’s morning. An old, white bearded man with a blue cap pushed a cart full of brown bread. “Marhaba (how are you)? Simit? “He asked.

I stared in amazement at the pile of brown bread that was covered in sesame. Simit looks like a big donut but it tastes different. More tough than donuts, simit is usually eaten using a layer of jam. Eating a simit for two Lira may fry our stomach.

After all the pilgrims gathered Zeki lead us to the entrance of Eyup Sultan’s grave. Passing the path flanked by two hill graves higher than the size of an adult, I can feel how old the ranks of gray green stone that we stand on. From the green fence gap came cute little cats. Some are yellow, black, or gray. Every of them meowing as we passed and soon became spoiled when called. Apparently these cats are fed by the pilgrims, the evidence is a trace of simit rim spread around the wall.

“Wow, cat feed by a sausage.” Farel shouted. Feeling curious, I turned to him. It turned out that Farel and his two cousins, -Audrey and Rayhan-were watching a white-bearded Turkish grandpa giving some pink sausages to a fat gray cat. “meow,” said the cat as he grabbed the sausage from the grandpa.

We continued our journey until arrived at a small gate separating the tomb area by a small field in which stood a mighty banyan tree. This large tree seemed to separate the mosque and the tomb of the Eyup Sultan who stood face to face.

“Essalam alaekum,” a petite grandpa greeted me.

“Alaikum salaam.” I replied while shaking his hand tightly.

Another grandpa emerged, this time I started the greeting, “Assalamualaikum.”

He immediately stopped and looked at me with sparkling eyes. His gray mustache moved as his mouth opened, “Alaeikum selaam.” He replied in a proud tone, like a commoner shaking hands with the governor.

That’s Turkish for you; 99% of them are Muslims, both secular and religious. Zeki once told me that there are hardly any Turks who are Christians. Even if exist then it is very surprising. “Christian is only foreigners.”

The secular Turks hardly ever pray or practice the Islamic Shari’a but they are proud of their religion. Almost similar to the situation in Indonesia, but we can be proud because the number of Muslims who pray (especially congregation in the mosque) in our country more. The religious Turks radiate a great Islamic spirit. Speech, “Selam alaekum.” Ordinary delivers from oral when they meet us, a stranger whose religion is the same as them. They also usually wear more polite clothes and more which hide their private part. Religious Turkish women also wear looser clothes and wrap their beautiful hair-blond, brown, or black-with hijab (veil). They look elegant with shar’i clothing that juxtaposed with various motifs of boots are amazing eye-catching.

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Image: Ryan Mayer’s document.

We were guided by Zeki to the entrance of Eyup Sultan’s grave. This one character is none other than one of the Companions of the prophet Muhammad. His home had the honor of being the first residence of the Prophet when he moved to Medina. Named Khalid bin Zaid bin Kulayb, this companion is better known as kun’yah or his nickname Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari. In the span of time between 674-678 AD, Abu Ayyub participated in the siege of Constantinople led by Yazid bin Muawiyah. There he became ill and died. Before his death, Abu Ayyub had a will to be buried in a place closest to the city of Constantinople. So his will was executed and he was buried in the area which is now the Eyup District. Over time, the Christian Greeks heard the news of this his tomb and not a few of them made it one of their shrines. When the Turks began to strengthen their influence in Anatolia, they also frequently made pilgrimages to the tomb of Abu Ayub.

To enter this greenish-walled mouseleum we must remove the footwear and then pass a small door. Entering the red carpeted room and wall decorating flower and calligraphy motifs; pilgrims split into two groups that clustered around two glass-lined spaces. On the left side there is a large room that has two trellised windows. Inside is a stone-lined stone building that is the tomb of Abu Ayyub. On the right side of the room is a window that sticks to the wall. People crowded around to photograph some of Abu Ayyub’s relics stored in the frames and glass tubes.

Satisfied with sightseeing and praying for the great companion, I went out. Apparently Granny Sri and Granny Uti, two of the eight members of Mr. Nugie’s family were sitting on the marble floor of the mosque.

“Have you checked in?” I asked.

“Done. We’re waiting for the others.” Said Granny Sri.

“I’m enter the mosque, ok?”

“Please.”

I opened the entrance of the mosque made of thick brown fabric. It takes effort to shift it, because the fabric is so large and thick. I do not feel as it a fabric but wood.

The interior of the mosque is dominated by red colored carpet combined with dozens of yellow light coming from the chandelier that hangs on the ceiling. An officer was cleaning the carpet with a vacuum cleaner while some adult men were performing their prayers. I myself was not sure to pray because I remembered some hadith of the Prophet about the ban on making the grave as a mosque.

عَنْ جُنْدَبٍ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَمُوتَ بِخَمْسٍ وَهُوَ يَقُولُ إِنِّي أَبْرَأُ إِلَى اللَّهِ أَنْ يَكُونَ لِي مِنْكُمْ خَلِيلٌ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى قَدْ اتَّخَذَنِي خَلِيلًا كَمَا اتَّخَذَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا وَلَوْ كُنْتُ مُتَّخِذًا مِنْ أُمَّتِي خَلِيلًا لَاتَّخَذْتُ أَبَا بَكْرٍ خَلِيلًا أَلَا وَإِنَّ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ كَانُوا يَتَّخِذُونَ قُبُورَ أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ وَصَالِحِيهِمْ مَسَاجِدَ أَلَا فَلَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْقُبُورَ مَسَاجِدَ إِنِّي أَنْهَاكُمْ عَنْ ذَلِكَ

From Jundab, he said: Five days before the Prophet peace be upon him died, I heard him say: “I break away to God that I have a lover among you. Because Allah has made me His beloved as He has made Abraham to be His beloved (4: 125-pen). If I make a lover among my people, surely I have made Abu Bakr as a lover. Behold, verily the people before you used to make the graves of their Prophets and their pious as mosques! Remember, then do not make the graves as mosques, forbid I forbid you from that! “Sahih. HR. Muslim (no.532)

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا قَالَتْ لَمَّا اشْتَكَى النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ذَكَرَتْ بَعْضُ نِسَائِهِ كَنِيسَةً رَأَيْنَهَا بِأَرْضِ الْحَبَشَةِ يُقَالُ لَهَا مَارِيَةُ وَكَانَتْ أُمُّ سَلَمَةَ وَأُمُّ حَبِيبَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا أَتَتَا أَرْضَ الْحَبَشَةِ فَذَكَرَتَا مِنْ حُسْنِهَا وَتَصَاوِيرَ فِيهَا فَرَفَعَ رَأْسَهُ فَقَالَ أُولَئِكِ إِذَا مَاتَ مِنْهُمْ الرَّجُلُ الصَّالِحُ بَنَوْا عَلَى قَبْرِهِ مَسْجِدًا ثُمَّ صَوَّرُوا فِيهِ تِلْكَ الصُّورَةَ أُولَئِكِ شِرَارُ الْخَلْقِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ

From ‘A’ishah – may Allah have bless her -, she said: “When the Prophet sallallaahu’ alaihi wa sallam  (peace be upon him)was sick, some of the wives of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam mentioned a church they saw in Habashah (Ethiopia) land, called Mariyah Church. Formerly Ummu Salamah and Ummu Habibah -may Allah bless the two-ever come to the land of Habashah. Both mention about its beauty and the statues / pictures that are in it. So the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam raised his head, then said: “They are, if there is a pious person among them die, they build a mosque on his grave, then make a statue / picture of that person in it. They are the worst men in the sight of God. Shahih. HR. Bukhari (no 1341) and Muslim (No. 528).

أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ وَعَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَا لَمَّا نَزَلَ بِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ طَفِقَ يَطْرَحُ خَمِيصَةً لَهُ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ فَإِذَا اغْتَمَّ بِهَا كَشَفَهَا عَنْ وَجْهِهِ فَقَالَ وَهُوَ كَذَلِكَ لَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْيَهُودِ وَالنَّصَارَى اتَّخَذُوا قُبُورَ أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ مَسَاجِدَ يُحَذِّرُ مَا صَنَعُوا

From ‘A’isha and Abdullah ibn Abbas – May Allah blessed them – said: “When death came to the Messenger of Allah –peace be upon him-, he began laying striped woolen cloth on his face, when he was hard to breathe because of it, he opened it from his face, when in such circumstances, then he said: “God’s wrath upon the Jews and Christian, they made the graves of their Prophets as mosques”. He warned what they had done. Shahih. HR. Bukhari (no 435, 436), and Muslim (No. 531).

When the visit was over Zeki collected us under acertain tree which became the meeting point. After satisfying the pilgrimage as well as perpetuating the gray pigeons that fly around the small fountain, we went back to the bus. In the middle of the road Dr. Keiko came up to me and asked in a low voice, “How does the law of praying here (in the graveyard)?”

I paused before answering the young doctor’s question that looked very easy going behind the long black john and his red jacket. “If we pray mercy to person inside the tomb it is allowed due to the Prophet encouragement; that visiting the grave could remind us to death.”

She nodded.

“But if we pray in the sense of asking the dead to be granted blessing or protection; or make them (the dead) as representative to Allah, clearly forbidden as it is part of polytheism.”

She paused for a moment. Her round eyes looked dreamy to the huge gravestone on the hill. Seconds later she nodded again. (I did not realize that some of the other worshipers were listening).

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