Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah
Question: Assalamu alaykum
Has the hadith regarding the Muslim’s conquest of Constantinople been fulfilled?
Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question.
The Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said, ‘Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will her leader be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!’ [Musnad Ahmad, Al Hakim, al Jami’ al Saghir]
Like many portents described to us by the Prophet ﷺ, it is not possible to conclusively identify one historical event as being the fulfilment of the promise. The above tradition regarding the conquest of Constantinople could apply to its conquest at the hands of Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453, or it could be referring to the conquest of Constantinople that will occur during Armageddon.
Further hadiths concerning the conquest of Constantinople in the last days certainly seem to be support the opinion that the above hadith we mentioned refers to this future conquest at the time of the Mehdi and Sayyidna ‘Isa (peace be upon him), rather than the 1453 conquest.
The ‘Fall’ of Constantinople in 1453
In May 1453, the Ottomans, led by Mehmed II, defeated the Byzantine Empire and took control of Constantinople, the capital of the Empire. They renamed the city Istanbul. Mehmed was 21 years old at the time, and Istanbul has remained in Muslim hands ever since. European Historians refer to this conquest as the ‘Fall of Constantinople’.
The Conquest of Constantinople at the time of the Mahdi
There are many hadiths which mention the details of the last days, the great battles that will take place, and the conquest of Constantinple.
In a rigorously authenticated hadith, we find details of these events, in which the Prophet ﷺ described the Muslim army in those days, ‘They [the Muslims] will then fight and a third of the army would run away, whom Allah will never forgive. A third which would be constituted of excellent martyrs in Allah’s eye, would be killed, and the third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerors of Constantinople’ [Sahih Muslim]
The Prophet is also reported to have said, with various weak narrations, that ‘The great Malhamah, the conquest of Constantinople, and the coming of the Dajjal occur in (the span of) seven months.’ [al Tirmidhi, abu Dawud]
It is stated that at the end of times, the Mahdi will lead a huge army to face the Dajjal and his followers. This momentous battle is known as al Malhama al Kubra, the Great Slaughter. After fierce combat, and at the point when the Mahdi will find himself encircled by the enemy, The Prophet `Isa will descend, lead the Muslim armies, and slay the Dajjal. Soon after this, the Muslims will take Constantinople by peaceful means. ‘They will conquer Constantinople with Tasbih and Takbir and will acquire such spoils of war as has never been seen before.’ [Ibn Majah]
In conclusion, it is not possible to categorically say which event the Prophet ﷺ was referring to in the initial hadith we mentioned. As such, it is safer to refrain from holding a fixed opinion on the matter, and not affirm or reject any of them decidedly.
However, it is valid to incline towards one interpretation over another. Certainly, the various reports concerning the conquest of Constantinople during the last days at the hand of the Mahdi and Sayidna ‘Isa, renders this interpretation very viable. And Allah knows best.
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.