Turkey’s Geo-Political Role & the Second Conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul)
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ on 1st and 2nd Conquest of Constantinople
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ predicted the conquest of Constantinople when Muslims hardly exercised any control over the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, at the time of this prophecy, the only place Prophet ﷺ and his companions controlled was a very small town called Yathrib (now Madinah). It wasn’t until 1453 CE when the fulfillment of this prophecy happened at the hands of Ottoman Turks. They were able to take it from the Romans who had ruled the city for over 1000 years. There are 2 ahadith (narrations) that give news of the conquest. Some Islamic scholars believe that the first is a reference to the 15th century Ottoman conquest, while 2nd one will happen in near future:
First Conquest – This conquest happened at the hands of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed Fatih II: Abdullah (r.a) said, “While we were (gathered) around the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and we were writing, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was asked: ‘Which city will be conquered first - Constantinople or Rome?’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘The city of Hiraql (Heraclius) will be conquered first’ - i.e. Constantinople."' – The Prophet’s reference to it as “the city of Hiraql” i.e. 7th century Roman Emperor, implies its Byzantine control, which came to an end with the conquest in 1453 CE.
Second Conquest – The Second Conquest has yet to take place and will be in the future, when the last hour approaches. The reason why 2nd conquest is connected to the last hour because other signs mentioned in the narration are signs of the last hour such as “the great war”, “dajjal” “flourishing of Jerusalem”, that are either in process or will happen in future. For instance, “flourishing of Jerusalem” may be in process as several Arab states like Jordan, Egypt, and recently Bahrain, UAE, Sudan, and obviously behind the scenes Saudi Arabia, have accepted Israel’s illegal sovereignty over Palestine. Israel has unilaterally declared Jerusalem, a disputed territory, to be its new capital and USA has even moved their embassy to the city, and so have other countries. The following few important narrations pertain to the second conquest, which can help us analyze how this might occur:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “The flourishing state of Jerusalem will be when Yathrib (Madinah) is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the great war comes, the outbreak of the great war will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when the Dajjal (Antichrist) comes forth….” One of the Prophet’s companion Anas bin Malik (r.a) said: "Constantinople will be conquered with the coming of the Hour." The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “There will be a treaty between you and Banu Asfar (The Romans), but they will betray you and will march against you with eighty banners, under each of which there will be twelve thousand troops.” Likewise, in another narration the Prophet ﷺ said “The Romans will enter into a peace treaty with you, then you and they will fight another (force) as enemies, and you will be victorious…. Then the Romans will prove treacherous (breaking the treaty) (and will gather) for the fierce battle.” Another Prophet’s companion Jabir (r.a) said: "Dajjal will not appear until you have fought the Romans."
These narrations teach us few significant points: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine will gradually be accepted by more regional states thus making it stronger politically and economically. Secondly, “Yathrib (Madinah) will be in ruins” most likely implies to a civil war in Saudi Arabia as a result of harmful policies of its ignorant and arrogant kings. The plunge in global oil prices due to Coronavirus pandemic is already taking its toll on Saudi economy, the significant cut in hajj & umrah travelers, its involvement and failure in Yemen war coupled with local dissent and political tussle between royal family members, a civil war may be on the horizon. Out of this chaos, and the civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and adjoining Muslim lands, will come out a strong political force of Muslims that will make an alliance with Romans, who at that time will be in control of Constantinople (Istanbul) i.e. Turkey. Together they will fight a third enemy, probably an adversary in the Muslim world. Some traditions collected in the books considered weaker in hadith category like Al Fitan by Nuaym Ibn Hammad, identify this adversary as “Sufiyani” and his army. But after that fight is over and righteous Muslim gains strength, Romans will decide to fight them which will result in the Great War and 2nd Conquest of Constantinople.
This 2nd conquest of the city by a Muslim army can only be imagined against 2 possibilities: First, if the city was taken back by Romans from the Muslims, after the first conquest (1453 CE), via a military attack and then remains under complete control of Roman authorities. Second possibility is if the Muslim control over the city is replaced, through a coup, with an extremely pro Roman govt turning Turkey in to a client state with no independent policy of its own whatsoever. Both cases would be considered a loss of Muslim control.
Who are the Romans?
At this point, a question arises in our minds “Roman empire ended almost 600 years ago, then who are these Romans?” Romans are the modern European nations. The Prophet ﷺ himself identified Al Rum (Arabic) or “Romans” to Europeans when he said: "Sam was the father of Arabs, Ham the father of the Ethiopians, and Yafith the father of the Romans." Yafith or Japheth, as pronounced in the Bible, and his descendants settled in the European lands as is found recorded throughout the history in Biblical, Arabic and Near Eastern traditions. Several modern European powers considered themselves to be the right successors of the Roman Empire such as Russia, United States and recently even countries like France and its allies. After 16th century when Russia emerged as a political power it considered itself as legitimate successors of Roman Empire, declaring themselves “third Rome” and the prime protector of the Orthodox Christians and other neighboring Christians against Ottomans and Persians. Modern Russia’s foreign policy in many ways is a continuation of that main objective. The founding fathers of the United States of America were also inspired by Roman empire in many ways like The Eagle is the symbol of both, and Latin Roman inscriptions can be found on all 13 original states’ seals, as well as the Great Seal of the United States: Annuit coeptis (“He approves of the undertaking”) and Novus ordo Seclorum (“A new order of the ages’) adapted from a poem written by a Roman writer in the first century B.C. Recently France declared its organized efforts to counter Turkey’s influence in the Mediterranean sea as “Pax Mediterranea” in a joint statement with leaders of Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Cyprus. It was a reference to the Pax Romana or “Roman Peace” in the Mediterranean region during Roman era, which France with its partners sees themselves forming once again.
Turkey’s Transition from Secularism to Islamic Revival
Currently a Turkish Muslim government has complete authority over Constantinople (Istanbul) and the country, and one can say it has been this way since the first conquest in 1453 CE, except for the temporary period when it came into the hands of the Europeans after World War 1. After the abolishment of the Ottoman Caliphate, Turkey became a secular republic but remained independent in its governance and policies. After World War 2, Turkey decided to become a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a military alliance formed to counter USSR.
A Secular Turkey adopted an extreme position against any sort of public display and expression of Islam. The secular reforms, enforced by Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkey, was to such extreme that if any person was found reciting Quran in public would be arrested. Muslim women were banned from wearing Hijab in education and government institutions, sufi lodges were banned, religious students were discriminated against and even Adhaan (call to 5 times prayers) in Arabic was banned. When AKP, the Islamic party of Turkey came into power through a victory in the 2002 elections, a reversal of all anti-Islamic policies became effective. Islam became increasingly tolerated in the public sphere. The 21st century Turkey, under AKP government and its leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is particularly keen to revive its Islamic culture and traditions like Ottoman period. One of the major reversals of all was converting Hagia Sophia back to a masjid, earlier declared as a museum by Ataturk. For this action Turkey received condemnation from all sides of Europe. Being a member of NATO, an alliance of Western European countries, many of whom are known for colonizing the Muslim world, and are presently fighting their individual, and in some places collective “war on terror” primarily aimed at Islam and Muslims, makes it evident that if not today, surely tomorrow, will not tolerate Turkey’s latest ambitions.
Turkey, under Erdogan, is also busy promoting Islamic culture and history within the country and throughout the Muslim world, through its extremely inspiring dramas series that are being watched in Muslim homes from Gaza all the way to Bangladesh, such as Magnificent Century, Dirilis Ertugrul, Kurulus Osman, Yunus Emre. Within just few years, they have quite successfully countered years of Hollywood, Bollywood and impact of similar industries, that depicts Muslims as “terrorists” and Islam as a threat, promote women nudity and exploitation, use of drugs and alcohol as fashionable, also organized crime, corruption, and similar vices. One can tell the impact of the Turkish Islamic series when French President Macron accused Turkey of being “regional imperial power” that has “historical fantasies” while ignoring its own imperialism and colonial fantasies. India put a ban on these dramas within its own territory especially Muslim occupied Kashmir, and Saudi & Emiratis fearing about their youth being “brainwashed”, paid $40 million to have a non-Muslim British director come and produce a series that depicts Ottoman Turks as barbarous. Apart from this, TRT World, Turkey based international news channel launched in 2015 under Erdogan, has become a voice for Muslims, vibrantly reporting on issues impacting Islam and Muslims, most importantly educating viewers on history topics, regional conflicts and Islamophobia in the West. In recent years TRT has been quite successful in covering issues unlike mainstream international media.
Conflict of Turkish Foreign Policy with NATO & Russia
The souring of Turkey’s relationship with some NATO members became evident since Turkey started pursuing a more independent foreign policy, being at extreme odds with the policies of the group’s members like USA, France, Greece, especially in regards to Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
Recently Turkey has been at serious odds, and at times even military faceoff with some NATO members. After Turkey’s involvement in the Syrian war, Germany, USA and Netherlands deployed Patriot Missile System in 2013 at the country’s request in case of any aggression from Syria. In 2015 as Bashar Al Assad was about to be toppled by rebel groups, backed by Turkey, Qatar and others, Russia entered the war to prevent this from happening. The same year Turkey shot down a Russian bomber that entered its airspace. The Patriot Missile system deployed since 2013 were removed for servicing earlier in 2015, before the Russian incident. After the incident, for few years Turkey insisted to access the technology to build its own. When it noticed that NATO states were not interested in providing technology access to its own member, it decided to acquire S-400 missile system from the world’s 2nd largest weapons manufacturer and exporter, Russia. Meanwhile Turkey also adopted friendlier policy with Russia in many areas of Syrian conflict. This irked USA who immediately put a halt on its sale of F-35 to prevent Turkey from purchasing S-400. But Turkey went ahead despite warning from NATO member states, who feared that an S-400 will provide Russian access to NATO’s regional airspace. At this point it’s also important to mention that USA is a backer of Kurds in Syria who are allies of Kurds fighting an insurgency against Turkey since 1970s, causing deaths of thousands of Turks and Kurds. Turkey continues to protest this American support of Kurds. Due to such points of conflict between US and Turkey, Mathew Bryza, former US ambassador to Turkey recently said in an interview on Al Jazeera that “the word Turkey has become toxic in Washington.” In fact, the new US President Joe Biden, prior to his election openly claimed to support Turkish opposition and Kurdish parties to help remove Erdogan’s government, if necessary. Its important to note that Erdogans government successfully failed a 2016 coup attempt by supporters in military and government of exiled, and US based, Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen. Turkey demanded extradition of Fethullah but US refused on the basis of not enough evidence of his involvement in the coup.
With the discovery of new gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and exploration of that area by several regional states, Turkey found itself at odds with Greece, a NATO member, and also Egypt, backed by Saudi & Emiratis, both major opponents of Turkey in Middle East. Greece is a country that has several small islands that are close to Turkey’s coastline which overlaps their exclusive economic zone i.e. coastal area where they have exploration rights as per UN Law of the Sea 1985, signed by Greece and other countries but not Turkey. Due to this reason Turkey and Greece have been working for many years to come to an equitable agreement of sharing resources which is permitted for them to do as per same law. The situation became worst as France got involved. Currently French gas companies along with French military are assisting Greece in gas exploration, while Turkey’s naval forces are assisting its own exploration efforts. France deployed 2 fighter jets and naval frigate in support of Cyrpus and Greece against Turkey. Greece deployed its military on several of its islands bordering Turkey’s mainland and this all resulted in the East Mediterranean gas crises. This crisis also includes Turkey’s support for UN recognized Libyan GNA government and treaty with them to explore Libya’s offshore Mediterranean gas reserves which also overlap Greece’s exclusive economic zones near its several islands. As a reaction Greece signed deal with Egypt in the same water territory that prevents Turkey-Libya deal. A view of the map of Greece’s islands near Turkish coastline will prove how unfair their claims of economic exclusive zone against Turkey is: Greek Claims in the Eastern Med - Map Greece condemned Turkey’s deal with Libya and so did France, who supports Libya’s opposition that controls Western part of the country ruled by army general Khalifa Haftar, a US citizen. Interesting to note that Russia and UAE too are strong backers of Khalifa Haftar, with Russia providing military support through a its private security firm called Wagner Group that has thousands of mercenaries fighting on ground. These are assisting Haftar forces fight GNA forces backed by Turkish army personnel. Hence Turkey’s role in Libyan conflict and Mediterranean Sea is very important to keep in view.
Additionally, Turkey has openly supported Azerbaijan, a Turk nation, in its ongoing war with Armenia, against its illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh region, which legally belongs to Azerbaijan. Russia, strong ally of Christian Armenia, has its military base and a defense pact with the country. France, with its Islamophobic president Macron, condemned Turkey’s role and its support for Azerbaijan and demanded that it stay neutral. With Azerbaijan gaining victory in Nagorno-Karabakh against Armenia 2 days ago, Turkey hailed it as a victory of its own because this will allow Turkey access to South Caucuses region, the Russian backyard. This is also where Turkey is at extreme odds with 2 European powers: France & Russia.
Possible Outcome in Future
Hence all this boils down to the following, if not as is, that Turkey’s independent foreign policy, which it has all the right to pursue like other countries, will gradually cause more friction with European powers, who will most likely take action in either one of the 2 ways: hardcore EU sanctions that France is already pushing for, and a coup de tat i.e. a foreign backed protests resulting in overthrowing of the Islam oriented government, appearing as a “revolution” in the mainstream international media. A secular regime similar to Ataturk’s will form the new government but will be extremely subservient to European interests. If that foreign backed drama failed, then we can expect a direct military takeover of the country in case of Turkey’s confrontation with a group of NATO members or may be even Russia. If that happens then that will be a major development towards the 2nd Conquest of Constantinople by a Muslim army, after it defeats an alliance of “Romans” in a great war.
 Recorded in Musnad Ahmad and in Al Bidayah Wa Al Nihaya by Imam ibn Kathir - The Prophets Intimated That The Muslims Would Conquer Constantinople Before Rome - pg 71
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