Constantinople Falls to Muhammad II - History

Constantinople Falls to Muhammad II - History

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The Byzantine Empire came to an end when the forces of Muhammad II captured Constantinople. Muhammad's forces had been kept at bay by an iron chain that kept his ship away. He brought 70 small ships overland. In addition Muhammad had 250,000 troops and a 1,200 pound cannon that breached the wall of Constantinople. When the walls were breached on May 29th the city fell and over a thousand years of Byzantine rule ended.

The Rise of the Turks and the Ottoman Empire

The restored Byzantine Empire was surrounded by enemies. The Bulgarian Empire, which had rebelled against the Byzantines centuries earlier, now matched it in strength. A new empire arose in the western Balkans, the Serbian Empire, who conquered many Byzantine lands. Even more dangerous to the Byzantines, the Turks were once again raiding Byzantine lands, and Asia Minor was overrun. With the theme system a thing of the past, the emperors had to rely on foreign mercenaries to supply troops, but these soldiers-for-hire were not always reliable. Anatolia gradually transformed from a Byzantine Christian land into an Islamic land dominated by the Turks.

For a long time the Turks in Anatolia were divided up into a patchwork of small Islamic states. However, one ruler, Osman I, built up a powerful kingdom that soon absorbed all the others and formed the Ottoman Empire.

In the century after the death of Osman I, Ottoman rule began to extend over the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans. Osman’s son, Orhan, captured the city of Bursa in 1324 and made it the new capital of the Ottoman state. The fall of Bursa meant the loss of Byzantine control over northwestern Anatolia. The important city of Thessaloniki was captured from the Venetians in 1387. The Ottoman victory at Kosovo in 1389 effectively marked the end of Serbian power in the region, paving the way for Ottoman expansion into Europe. The Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, widely regarded as the last large-scale crusade of the Middle Ages, failed to stop the advance of the victorious Ottoman Turks. With the extension of Turkish dominion into the Balkans, the strategic conquest of Constantinople became a crucial objective.

The empire controlled nearly all former Byzantine lands surrounding the city, but the Byzantines were temporarily relieved when Timur invaded Anatolia in the Battle of Ankara in 1402. He took Sultan Bayezid I as a prisoner. The capture of Bayezid I threw the Turks into disorder. The state fell into a civil war that lasted from 1402 to 1413, as Bayezid’s sons fought over succession. It ended when Mehmed I emerged as the sultan and restored Ottoman power.

When Mehmed I’s grandson, Mehmed II (also known as Mehmed the Conquerer) ascended to the throne in 1451, he devoted himself to strengthening the Ottoman navy and made preparations for the taking of Constantinople.

History Bytez

Mehmed II or Mohammed II (30 March 1432 – 3 May 1481), best known as Mehmed the Conqueror, was an Ottoman sultan who ruled first for a short time from August 1444 to September 1446, and later from February 1451 to May 1481. At the age of 21, he conquered Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and brought an end to the Eastern Roman Empire. Mehmed continued his conquests in Anatolia with its reunification and in Southeast Europe as far west as Bosnia. Mehmed is considered a hero in modern-day Turkey and parts of the wider Muslim world. Among other things, Istanbul’s Fatih district, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge and Fatih Mosque are named after him.

When Mehmed II ascended the throne again in 1451 he devoted himself to strengthening the Ottoman Navy, and made preparations for the taking of Constantinople. In the narrow Bosporus Straits, the fortress Anadoluhisarı had been built by his great-grandfather Bayezid I on the Asian side Mehmed erected an even stronger fortress called Rumelihisarı on the European side, and thus gained complete control of the strait. Having completed his fortresses, Mehmed proceeded to levy a toll on ships passing within reach of their cannon. A Venetian vessel ignoring signals to stop was sunk with a single shot and all the surviving sailors beheaded, except for the captain, who was impaled and mounted as a human scarecrow as a warning to further sailors on the strait.

Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the companion and standard bearer of Muhammad, had died during the first Siege of Constantinople (674–78). As Mehmed II’s army approached Constantinople, Mehmed’s sheikh Akşemseddin discovered the tomb of Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. After the conquest, Mehmed built Eyüp Sultan Mosque at the site, to emphasize the importance of the conquest to the Islamic world and highlight his role as ghazi.

In 1453 Mehmed commenced the siege of Constantinople with an army between 80,000 to 200,000 troops and a navy of 320 vessels, the bulk of them transports and storeships. The city was surrounded by sea and land the fleet at the entrance of the Bosphorus stretched from shore to shore in the form of a crescent, to intercept or repel any assistance for Constantinople from the sea. In early April, the Siege of Constantinople began. At first, the city’s walls held off the Turks, even though Mehmed’s army used the new Orban’s bombard, a giant cannon similar to the Dardanelles Gun. The harbor of the Golden Horn was blocked by a boom chain and defended by twenty-eight warships.

On 22 April, Mehmed transported his lighter warships overland, around the Genoese colony of Galata, and into the Golden Horn’s northern shore eighty galleys were transported from the Bosphorus after paving a route, little over one mile, with wood. Thus the Byzantines stretched their troops over a longer portion of the walls. About a month later, Constantinople fell, on 29 May, following a fifty-seven day siege. After this conquest, Mehmed moved the Ottoman capital from Adrianople to Constantinople.

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follow not your desire for it will mislead you from the Path of Allâh. How to erase sins… [Quran 38:26] “You are Al-Thaahir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, so there is nothing below You.” If there is nothing above Him and nothing below Him, then He is not a body or in a direction, and He does not have physical specification.” (Al-Asmaa’ wa Sifaat 2/391). THE HOLY PROPHET (SALLAL LAAHU ALAIHI WASALLAM) SAID: "ALLAH WILL NEVER ALLOW MY UMMAH TO UNITE UPON MISGUIDANCE AND INCORRECT BELIEFS. ALLAH'S MERCY, BLESSINGS AND PROTECTION ARE WITH THE LARGEST GROUP OF MUSLIMS. AND HE WHO DEVIATES FROM THIS LARGEST GROUP OF MUSLIMS WILL BE THROWN INTO HELL."[TIRMIDHI] Abu Bakr (Radhia Allahu Anhu) was asked to give a commentary about a Verse in Surah Abasa, he said what if I can not give it the true meaning that Allah intended, then which earth will accept me, which heavens will shadow me, where can I go, and what can I do? If those who do not possess knowledge avoid the scholarly discussions, disagreement will end. - Imam al-Ghazali rahimahu Llah "When they see me happy, it Hurts them! Today people are not sad over their issues. They are sad over the hapiness of others" Imam Shafi View more posts

The Guns of Constantinople

Early in 1452, a Hungarian cannon founder by the name of Orban arrived in Constantinople, seeking his fortune at the imperial court. One of a growing band of technical mercenaries who plied their trade across the Balkans, he offered Emperor Constantine XI one of the most highly prized skills of the age: the ability to cast large bronze guns.

For Constantine and the Christian empire of Byzantium that he ruled, these were dark days. For 150 years the Byzantine frontier had been crumbling before the advance of the Ottoman Turks. By the time Constantine assumed the throne in 1449, his impoverished kingdom had shrunk to little more than the footprint of the city, surrounded on all sides by Ottoman land. The new sultan, Mehmed II&mdashyoung, ambitious and hungry for conquest&mdashwas making ominous military preparations in his European capital, Edirne, 140 miles to the west. It was clear he was intent on capturing the prize that had eluded previous Ottoman rulers: Constantinople.

Constantine was extremely interested in Orban&rsquos offer and authorized a small stipend to detain him in the city. But Constantine had few funds available for the construction of new weapons. Bronze cannons were ruinously expensive, well beyond the means of the cash-strapped emperor. Orban&rsquos tiny allowance was not even paid regularly, and as the year wore on, the master craftsman became destitute. So later that same year he decided to try his luck elsewhere. He made his way to Edirne to seek an audience with the young sultan.

At the time, Mehmed was racked by indecision over Constantinople. The city was the ultimate prize it would provide a fitting capital for the Ottoman Empire, and its capture was the subject of ancient Muslim prophecies, attributed to Muhammad himself, that predicted great honor for its eventual conqueror. However, Constantinople had repulsed repeated Muslim assaults from the 7th century onward. Its triangular site made it all but impregnable: Two sides were surrounded by sea, and the third landward side was commanded by the great Walls of Theodosius, a defensive line four miles long, the greatest bastion in the medieval world. In a thousand years the city had been besieged some 23 times, but no army had found a way to crack open those land walls.

Accordingly, Orban&rsquos arrival at Edirne must have seemed providential. The sultan welcomed the master founder and questioned him closely. Mehmed asked if he could cast a cannon to project a stone ball large enough to smash the walls at Constantinople. Orban&rsquos reply was emphatic: &ldquoI can cast a cannon of bronze with the capacity of the stone you want. I have examined the walls of the city in great detail. I can shatter to dust not only these walls with the stones from my gun, but the very walls of Babylon itself.&rdquo Mehmed ordered him to make the gun.

During the autumn of 1452, Orban set to work at Edirne, casting one of the largest cannons ever built, while Mehmed stockpiled substantial quantities of materials for guns and gunpowder: copper and tin, saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal. Workers excavated an enormous casting pit and melted scrap bronze in the brick-lined furnaces, superheating it with bellows and pouring it into the mold.

What finally emerged from Orban&rsquos foundry once the molds had been knocked off was &ldquoa horrifying and extraordinary monster.&rdquo It was 27 feet long. The barrel, walled with 8 inches of solid bronze to absorb the force of the blast, had a diameter of 30 inches, enough for a man to enter on his hands and knees and designed to accommodate a stone shot weighing something over half a ton. In January 1453, Mehmed ordered a test firing of the gun outside his royal palace. The mighty bombard was hauled into position near the gate and primed with powder. Laborers lugged a giant stone ball to the mouth of the barrel and rolled it back to sit snugly against the gunpowder chamber. A lighted taper was put to the touchhole. With a shattering roar and a cloud of smoke, the mighty projectile hurled across the countryside for a mile before burying itself six feet into the soft earth.

Mehmed now addressed the challenge of transporting the gun the 140 miles to Constantinople. Two hundred men and 60 oxen were detailed for the task. The immense barrel was loaded onto several wagons chained together and yoked to the ox teams. The great gun rumbled toward the city at a speed of two and a half miles a day, while another team of engineers worked ahead, leveling roads and building wooden bridges over rivers and gullies. Orban&rsquos foundry continued to turn out barrels of different sizes none was as large as the first supergun, though some measured more than 14 feet.

It took six weeks for the guns to lurch and jolt their way to Constantinople. By the time they arrived, in early April, Mehmed&rsquos army&mdasha huge force of 80,000 men&mdashwas dug in along the length of the land walls. Sappers had cut down orchards and vineyards outside the Walls of Theodosius to provide a clear field of fire. Others dug a ditch the length of the walls and 250 yards from them, with an earth rampart to shield the guns. Within the city walls, a mere 8,000 men awaited the inevitable assault.

Mehmed grouped the cannons into 14 or 15 batteries along the walls at key vulnerable points. Orban&rsquos supergun, which the Greeks called the Basilica cannon&mdash&ldquothe royal gun&rdquo&mdashwas positioned in front of the sultan&rsquos tent so he could critically appraise its performance. Each large cannon was supported by a cluster of smaller ones in a battery the Ottoman gunners named &ldquothe bear with its cubs.&rdquo They could fire stone balls ranging from 200 pounds up to a colossal 1,500 pounds, in the case of Orban&rsquos monster gun. Though eyewitnesses spoke of &ldquoinnumerable machines,&rdquo Mehmed probably had about 69 cannons, a huge artillery force by the standards of the day. They were augmented by more traditional technologies for hurling stones, such as the trebuchet. The latter had been effective in the Muslim capture of crusader castles 300 years earlier, but now it looked like a device from another age.

Installing and readying the cannons was a laborious process. Workers had to erect a massive block-and-tackle system to lower the barrels into position on a sloping wooden platform. Shielding the cannons from enemy fire were a wooden palisade and a hinged door that could be opened at the moment of firing.

The logistical support for this operation was immense. Ships transported loads of black stone balls mined and shaped on the north coast of the Black Sea. The cannons also required substantial quantities of saltpeter. Founders who worked with Orban at Edirne doubled as gun crews, positioning, loading and firing the cannons&mdasheven repairing them on site.

Preparing the big cannon to fire required time and attention to detail. Crews would load gunpowder, backed by a wooden or sheepskin wad pounded tight into the barrel. Next they manhandled a stone ball to the muzzle and eased it down the barrel. Each ball was designed to be a good fit, though an exact caliber match was often elusive. Crews set their aim by &ldquocertain techniques and calculations&rdquo about the target&mdashi.e., trial and error&mdashand adjusted the angle of fire by chocking the platform with wooden wedges. Great timber beams weighted down with stones acted as shock absorbers. Crews then poured priming powder into the touchhole.

On April 12, 1453, lighted tapers were put to the touchholes of the sultan&rsquos guns along a four-mile sector of the front line, and the world&rsquos first concerted artillery barrage exploded to life.

If there is any single moment in the history of warfare at which an authentic sense of awe at the exponential power of gunpowder could be palpably felt, it is here in the accounts of those firing these great guns in 1453. The taper ignited the powder:

And when it had caught fire, faster than you can say it, there was first a terrifying roar and a violent shaking of the ground beneath and for a great distance around, and a din such as has never been heard. Then, with a monstrous thundering and an awful explosion and a flame that illuminated everything round about and scorched it, the wooden wad was forced out by the hot blast of dry air and propelled the stone ball powerfully out. Projected with incredible force and power, the stone struck the wall, which it immediately shook and demolished, and it was itself shattered into many fragments, and the pieces were hurled everywhere, dealing death to those standing nearby.

When the huge stone balls struck the walls at an advantageous spot, the effects were devastating. &ldquoSometimes it destroyed a complete portion of wall,&rdquo an eyewitness reported, &ldquosometimes half a portion, sometimes a greater or smaller part of a tower, or a turret, or a parapet, and nowhere was the wall strong enough or sturdy enough or thick enough to withstand it, or to hold out totally against such a force or the velocity of the stone ball.&rdquo It must have seemed to the defenders that the whole history of siege warfare was unraveling in front of their eyes. The Walls of Theodosius, the product of two millennia of defensive evolution, crumbled wherever it was hit. The defenders were amazed and horrified by what they saw.

Balls from the superguns that cleared the walls traveled up to a mile into the heart of the city, shattering with devastating force against houses or churches, mowing down civilians or burying themselves in orchards and fields within the walls. According to eyewitnesses, the ground was shaken for two miles around, and even the galleys tied up in the harbors felt the explosions through their wooden hulls.

The psychological effects of the artillery bombardment on the defenders were even more severe than its material consequences. The noise and vibration of the massed guns, the clouds of smoke, the shattering impact of stone on stone dismayed seasoned defenders. To the civilian population, it seemed a glimpse of the coming apocalypse. It sounded, according to one Ottoman chronicler, &ldquolike the awful resurrection blast.&rdquo People ran out of their houses, beating their chests and crossing themselves. Women fainted in the streets. Churches were thronged with people voicing petitions and prayers.

The defenders tried different methods to mitigate the shock of the stone balls. Some poured a mortar of chalk and brick dust down the walls&rsquo outer face as a hardened coating others padded the walls with suspended bales of wool, leather sheets and even precious tapestries. These measures made little difference. The defenders also tried to knock out the big guns with their own few cannons, but they were short of saltpeter, and the palisades effectively screened the Ottoman cannons. Worse, the walls and towers proved unsuitable as gun platforms&mdashneither wide enough to accommodate the recoil nor strong enough to withstand the vibrations, which &ldquoshook the walls, and did more damage to them than to the enemy.&rdquo Their largest cannon soon exploded, enraging the harassed defenders so much that they threatened to put the gun master to death for being in the pay of the sultan. Regardless, it was clear that in this new age of warfare, the Walls of Theodosius were inadequate.

Mehmed&rsquos strategy was attritional&mdashand impatient. He decided to breach the walls with artillery fire and launch unpredictable skirmishes to wear down the defenders prior to a final attack. &ldquoThe assault continued night and day, with no relief from the clashes and explosions, crashing of stones and cannonballs on the walls,&rdquo reported a defender, &ldquofor the sultan hoped in this way to take the city easily, since we were few against many, by pounding us to death and exhaustion, and so he allowed us no rest from attack.&rdquo

Managing the great cannon remained difficult work. Loading and aiming were such laborious operations that the Basilica could only be fired seven times a day. The guns could be unpredictable and deadly to their teams. In the spring rain, they proved hard to keep in position, recoiling with the slam of a charging rhino and frequently slipping from their cradles into the mud. The possibility of being crushed to death was only exceeded by the risk of being blown to pieces by the shrapnel of disintegrating gun barrels. The Basilica quickly became a cause for concern to Orban casting on this scale was extremely demanding, and the intense heat of the explosions started to exploit hairline fractures in the impure metal. After each shot, crews soaked the barrel in warm oil to prevent cold air from penetrating and enlarging the fissures.

Their stopgap measure failed. The Basilica soon &ldquocracked as it was being fired and split into many pieces, killing and wounding many nearby.&rdquo Strengthened with iron hoops and pressed back into service, it soon cracked again, to Mehmed&rsquos intense anger. The supergun simply exceeded the tolerances of contemporary metallurgy.

In the end, it didn&rsquot matter. Though the supergun inflicted great psychological trauma, the slightly smaller yet still formidable bombards would do the real damage.

In the early days of the bombardment, a deputation of Hungarians visited the sultan&rsquos camp. One observed the firing of the great cannons with interest. Watching a shot strike the walls at a certain point, he laughed to himself as the gunners aimed a second shot at the same point. He advised them to aim their second shot &ldquoabout 30 to 36 feet from the first shot, but at the same height&rdquo and to position a third shot between the two &ldquoso that the shots form a triangular shape. Then you will see that portion of wall collapse.&rdquo Soon the &ldquobear and cubs&rdquo were working as coordinated teams. Smaller guns would make the two outer hits, then one of Orban&rsquos great guns would complete the triangle in the now weakened central section, &ldquothe shot being carried by such devilish force and irresistible impetus that it caused irreparable damage.&rdquo

The bombardment continued unabated for six days. Despite aiming difficulties and a slow rate of fire, gunners managed to launch about 120 shots a day at the city, concentrating their heaviest fire on the central section of wall. Inexorably, the walls began to crumble. Within the week a section of the outer wall had fallen, as had two towers and a turret on the inner wall.

However, after their initial terror at the bombardment, the defenders had regained heart and now worked unceasingly to repair the damage. They devised an effective ad hoc solution to shore up the outer wall, constructing a makeshift replacement of stakes reinforced with any material that came to hand, including stones, timber, brushwood, bushes and large quantities of earth. The defenders placed barrels full of soil at regular intervals to create firing positions that would absorb Ottoman arrows and bullets. At dusk men and women came up from the city to work all night, carrying timber, stones and earth to rebuild smashed defenses. The resulting earthworks provided a surprisingly effective counter to the devastating impact of the stone balls. Like stones thrown into mud, the cannonballs were smothered, their force neutralized.

As their own artillery was poorly situated for firing heavy balls, the defenders reinvented the pieces as huge shotguns, packing each cannon with five or 10 lead balls the size of walnuts. Fired at close range, the effect was appalling:

[They had] immense power in penetrating and perforating, so that if one hit a soldier in armor, it went straight through both his shield and body, then through another behind who was in the line of fire, and then another, until the force of the powder was dissipated. With one shot, two or three men could be killed at the same time.

Hit by this withering fire, the Ottomans suffered terrible casualties. But to Mehmed, men were a cheap and expendable resource.

On April 18, the sultan judged that his gunners had punched enough holes in the walls to launch a major assault. It failed, with a huge loss of life, but there was no respite his big guns went on firing. Cannons had been used in siege warfare before, but what was unprecedented about Mehmed&rsquos bombardment was its intensity and duration. No other army in the world possessed the materials required to mount a continuous artillery bombardment on this scale. The guns blasted away day and night, and chunks of wall continued to collapse.

For the defenders, the unceasing cycles of bombardment, attack and repair began to blur. Like later diaries of trench warfare, the chroniclers&rsquo accounts become repetitive and monotonous. &ldquoOn the 11th of May,&rdquo recorded a defender, &ldquonothing happened either by land or at sea except a considerable bombardment of the walls from the landward side….On the 13th of May, there came some Turks to the walls skirmishing, but nothing significant happened during the whole day and night, except for continuous bombardment of the unfortunate walls.&rdquo This pattern gradually drained the defenders of energy and morale. By May 28, the guns had been firing continuously for 47 days, expending 55,000 pounds of gunpowder and delivering an estimated 5,000 shots. Gunners had blasted nine substantial holes in the outer wall, only to be replaced piecemeal by the earth stockade. Both sides were exhausted.

Mehmed knew the time had come: On May 29, 1453, he ordered a climactic full-scale assault. At 1:30 in the morning, to the beating of drums and clashing of cymbals, the Ottoman army rolled forward along the whole four-mile sector. Behind them the cannons put up a withering fire. Volleys of stone shot sprayed the walls, peppering the defenders and felling Ottoman troops from behind. The extraordinary noise of the battle was so deafening that, according to one defender, &ldquothe very air seemed to split apart….It seemed like something from another world.&rdquo

After several hours of confused fighting, one of the big cannons landed a direct hit on the stockade and opened a hole. Dust and cannon smoke obscured the front line, but Ottoman troops moved quickly into the breach. Mehmed&rsquos men soon overwhelmed the defenses and sacked and burned the city in a few hours of terrible massacre.

Mehmed had succeeded where all previous Ottoman attempts had failed, and it was the big guns that made the difference. The fall of Constantinople symbolized the end of outmoded medieval techniques of castle construction and siege warfare and opened a terrible new chapter in military history. The use of massed artillery bombardment would prevail all the way to the battlefield of the Somme and beyond.

Mehmed lies buried in a mosque complex in the city he captured. At the door of his tomb stands a stone cannonball.

For further reading, Roger Crowley recommends his own 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West and The Fall of Constantinople, by David Nicolle, Stephen Turnbull and John Haldon. Or listen to a radio discussion on the subject in the BBC audio archives at [].

This article was written by Roger Crowley and originally published in the September 2007 issue of Military History Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to Military History magazine today!

The Ottomans

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said:

مَثَلُ أُمَّتِي مَثَلُ الْمَطَرِ لاَ يُدْرَى أَوَّلُهُ خَيْرٌ أَمْ آخِرُهُ

“The example of my ummah is like the rain. It is not known whether the initial part or the latter part is good.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, Hadith: 2869)

The Ottomans who came in the later part of our history are an example of this hadith because they re-ignited the Islamic conquests which had become stagnant due to the Mongol onslaught, and decline in the Abbasid Caliphs who at that time were based in Cairo, but were ceremonial and not fulfilling their role as commanders in-chief of the ummah.

At the time of Muhammad al-Fateh the Caliph was Al-Qa’im based in Cairo.

The Ottomans were Turkish nomads from Central Asia whose forefathers became Muslim in the time of the Umayyads. During the Abbasid Caliphate many of these Turks were brought to the Caliphate as slaves and formed a slave army. Later they became freed and are known as Mamluks. They rose to become a dominant part of the Abbasid army and a power base in the Abbasid state. Later as the Abbasid Caliph’s central authority weakened, the provinces (wiliyaat) of the state turned in to semi-independent provinces called Sultanates and headed by a Sultan. These Sultans were mainly Turks (Mamluks) who couldn’t be the Caliph because they weren’t from Quraysh which was the predominant opinion at the time, so instead they stayed as Sultans.

Ordinarily the Caliph should appoint and dismiss the governor but the Caliph allowed the Sultans autonomy as long as they continued to give bay’ah albeit in name only. Famous Sultanates were the Seljuks, Ayyubids and later the Mamluks in Cairo where the Abbasid Caliphs took up residence after the Mongol invasion of Iraq in 1258.

During the Mongol invasion many of these Turkish tribes migrated to Ash-Sham and Anatolia and were part of the Seljuk Sultanate. The most dominant of these tribes managed to unite the Turks behind Osman Ghazi and as the Seljuks and other Sultanates went in to decline and disappeared the Ottoman Sultanate was established in 1299 in Anatolia.

The Ottoman Sultans were like the governor-generals of the sahaba who ruled their respective provinces and were also the Ameers of Jihad for their wiliyah. Although the Caliph was the overall Commander-in-Chief appointing the governors and commanders and directing state resources for the battle. As an example, Abu Bakr during the Ash-Sham campaign ordered Khalid bin Walid to help Abu Ubaydah in Syria so Khalid moved his army from Iraq to Syria. Abu Bakr also mobilised the Muslims of Yemen for the Ash-Sham campaign.

The conquest of Constantinople

After the death of his father in 1451, Mehmed took the throne for the second time. The previous encouragement by Zaganos and Sihabeddinto take Constantinople had a big influence on him. However, Europe and Byzantine were not concerned about his plan, since they still remembered his former reign. Mehmed started preparing for the conquest of the city, first by signing a treaty with Venice and Hungary in their favor, so as to keep them neutral. Most of the year 1452, he spent in building the fortress Bogazkesen, later known as Rumeli Hisar. Like this, he was able to control the Bosporus, and build a fleet of 31 galleys. On April 6 1453, he started the siege. The last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Paleologus refused to surrender, so Mehmed, with the help of a huge cannon, opened the city walls and stormed the city, which was looted for three days. This conquest brought him the name the Conqueror. After the looting ended, the restoration of the city began. He deported Muslim and Christian groups in Anatolia and the Balkans, and forced them to live in Constantinople. He restored the Patriarchate on 6 January 1454 and gave back the houses to the Greeks that fled doing the siege in order to encourage them to return and guaranteed their safety. The Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque, and encouraged his viziers to found Muslim institutions and commercial installations in the main district of the city. The ancient walls of the city were repaired and he build a palace for himself.

Mehmed II was forced to modify the system of the government. He implemented new administrative and cultural institutions, which he had inherited from the conquered lands. The new system of government was codified in his Book of Laws, which defined the character of the Ottoman Empire under the influence of the Islam, the Turks and Byzantine.


Mehmed had in fact a considerable interest in encouraging commercial activity and went to great lengths to rebuild Constantinople and recreate it as a thriving commercial center. He set out to repopulate the city, forcefully moving populations in from various parts of his empire, and embarked on an impressive building program, which included the Fatih Cami, the Mosque of the Conqueror, begun in 1463. He was also, according to contemporary accounts, a man of letters, who had various learned scholars at his court. A Latin contemporary, Giacomo Languschi, commented on his interest in ancient history and reported that Ciriaco of Ancona, who had resided also at the court of Murad II, read to him daily from the works of Herodotus and Livy.

A great statesman, Mehmed was much interested in the administration of his empire and in tightening control over the running of the state. He was described by Nicola Sagundino, a native of Negroponte who wrote a report on the Ottoman ruler for Alfonso V, the king of Aragon, in 1454, as having examined with great care the administrative system of his state on coming to power, and as having instituted the necessary improvements. His aim was to centralize power in his own hands, and for this he chose for high office those tied to him personally as slaves, not those from the old established families, such as that of the Ç andarli. The former grand vizier, Halil Ç andarli, was arrested after the capture of Constantinople and later put to death. Such a drive for control aroused opposition, and Mehmed's policies of confiscating land, issuing new coinage, and increasing taxation proved unpopular.

He was also a military leader of considerable acumen, and during his reign the territory of the state continued to increase both in the European and the Asian sections of his empire. In Europe he took Athens (1458), Serbia (1459), the Morea (1460), and Bosnia (1464). During the war with Venice (1463 – 1479) he conquered Negroponte (1470). In Anatolia, Trabzon fell in 1461. In the east, he defeated the Aq-Qoyunlu ruler Uzun Hasan in 1473 and Karaman in 1468. Crossing the Black Sea he captured the Genoese trading colony of Cafa (1475) and reduced the Crimea to vassal status. In 1480 the Ottomans besieged Rhodes, and Ottoman forces landed at Otranto, withdrawing a year later. In May 1481 Mehmed II died and was succeeded by his son Bayezid II (ruled 1481 – 1512).

Mehmed II's reign represents the firm establishment of a major Islamic empire with the flourishing city of Constantinople, later to become the most populous city in Europe, as its imperial capital. The Ottoman Empire was to be a dominant political and commercial presence in the Mediterranean world for many years to come.

See also Constantinople Ottoman Dynasty Ottoman Empire Sultan Vizier .

Early years and first reign

Mehmed was the fourth son of Murad II by Hümâ Hâtûn, an enslaved girl in Murad’s harem. At the age of 12 he was sent, as tradition required, to Manisa (Magnesia) with his two tutors. The same year, his father set him on the throne at Edirne and abdicated. During his first reign (August 1444–May 1446), Mehmed had to face grave external and internal crises. The king of Hungary, the pope, the Byzantine Empire, and Venice—all eager to take advantage of the accession of a child to the Ottoman throne—succeeded in organizing a Crusade. Edirne was the scene of violent rivalry between the powerful grand vizier Çandarlı Halil, on the one hand, and the viziers Zaganos and Şihâbeddin, on the other, who claimed that they were protecting the rights of the child sultan. In September 1444 the army of the Crusaders crossed the Danube. In Edirne this news triggered a massacre of the Christian-influenced Ḥurūfī sect and conjured up an atmosphere of panic and arson. When the Crusaders laid siege to Varna, the reigning sultan’s father was urged to come back from retirement in Bursa and lead the army. The Ottoman victory at Varna under Murad II (November 10, 1444) put an end to the crises. Mehmed II, who had stayed in Edirne, maintained the throne, and after the battle his father retired to Manisa. Zaganos and Şihâbeddin then began to incite the child sultan to undertake the capture of Constantinople, but Çandarlı engineered a revolt of the Janissaries and called Murad II back to Edirne to resume the throne (May 1446). Mehmed was sent once more to Manisa with Zaganos and Şihâbeddin, newly appointed as his tutors. There Mehmed continued to consider himself the legal sultan.

The Ethical Character of Sultan Muhammad Al-Fatih in Leadership

The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire under the reign of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. The success of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih to conquer Constantinople has succeeded in attaining prestige in the history of the development of Islam. Although there are scholarly discussions on the success of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in the conquest of Constantinople, his ethical character&rsquos aspect has not been comprehensively presented. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to analyze and examine the ethical character&rsquos aspect of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in leadership. This qualitative study uses content analysis study design and historical studies. Data collected through texts were obtained and analyzed deductively and inductively. This method of data collection is the basis for identifying an ethical character&rsquos aspect of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih as a determining factor for success in the conquest of Constantinople. Hence, the results of the study show that the success of the Islamic army highlighted the leadership of Sultan al-Fatih in planning the tactics and strategies of warfare, his willingness to take part in the tribulation with the Muslim army in the face of the enemy. His characteristic aspect and noble values led to the conquest of Constantinople.


Ethic, Character, Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, Leadership.


&ldquoEthics&rdquo means first, referring to knowledge of moral or moral principles, secondly, referring to the principle of moral (or akhlaq) or moral values that became a guidance towards an individual or a group such as association, occupation and others (Fauzi & Hasrul, 2017). The formation of characters is irresistible to many important facets of life, namely learning process, gift, talent, and the process of cognitive maturation, affective and psychomotor. There are different views and opinions regarding the factors that characterize the formation of human characters. Characters can be characterized by personality an individual human being, a common individual (the individual in general), a living human body self (private) and distinctive personal character. According to Mujib (2007), character is an organism that includes nature, talents, and the organs in the individual, which determine his own unique or distinctive ways of adapting to his environment. Some flows have different views on the things that characterize the formation of human characters. One of the opinions is that character is determined by carrier. Experience, environment, and education have no effect. This opinion is that of the nativists, spearheaded by the German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). The second opinion is the trend that character education carries a moral education, the type of education that makes a person noble and well behaved, as specifically outlined by Islamic law, in directly dealing with self, others or Allah S.W.T. (Iqbal, 2013).

The weakness in the management of the leadership, military and defense systems of the state is one of the factors causing the collapse of a government. This can be seen through the history of the past civilization that almost all civilizations have been destroyed due to the negligence of the government in managing the country's military and defense system better. With this, it is clear that the military and defense aspects of the country need to be taken care of as both are the most important assets in a country's politics (Ibrahim & Ermy, 2017). For finding the best leader examples, Islamic history has recorded many leaders of good characters, one of whom is Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih. His life story and success in the conquest of the City of Constantinople can be used as motivation and teaching for a new generation to be an example in forming a true Muslim personality. The characters of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, who obeyed the commandments of Allah S.W.T, made him to be respected and feared by his opponents (Amni, 2015). Muhammad al-Fatih is an exceptional leader, an embodiment of all the characteristics of a credible leader needed in the contemporary society of today (Fikri, 2010). There have been some scholarly discussions on the success of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in the conquest of Constantinople though, this study is centrally structured to focus on the ethical character of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, an aspect of him yet to be comprehensively presented. The sole structure and the objective of the paper is thus to analyze and examine the ethical character&rsquos aspect of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in leadership, using a qualitative and analytical study approaches. The qualitative method of using content analysis and historical studies is used to collect data through texts deductively and inductively.

Literature Review

A Brief Biographical Background of Sultan Muhammad Al-Fatih

Al-Fatih&rsquos (1432-1482) real name is Muhammad bin Murad, better known as Sultan Muhammad II, or Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, referring to his success as the &ldquopioneer or conqueror of Constantinople&rdquo (Izrin et al., 2017). He was born on March 29, 1432CE in Adrianapolis (Turkish border-Bulgaria). He was the fourth son of Sultan Murad II, and had himself two sons, Huma and Hatun. The title of al-Fatih (Conqueror) was given to him for his success in liberating Constantinople (Mahayudin, 2014). He was an authoritative Sultan of Uthmaniyyah as an administrator, military chief. He was a man who was proficient in history, geography, astronomy, poetry, and languages. He mastered seven languages Turkish, Arabic, Latin, Greek, Serbian, Hebrew and Persian. He trained on a simple life, was educated with religious knowledge and war science. He officially ascended the throne at the age of 19, on 18 th February 1451CE after the death of Sultan Murad II (8 th February 1451CE at age 47). He died on May 3, 1481CE at the age of 49 (pronounced poisoned by one of his personal doctors, Maesto Jakopa (or Yakop Pasya). His body was interred in Stambul, the old town south of Tanjung Emas, near the historical panorama of 70 Ottoman ships from the top of the hill to the Constantinople City (Talib, 2014).

Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih during his childhood was a mischievous child and did not want to memorize the Qur'an. Sultan Murad II appointed Shaykh Ahmad Ismail al-Kurani as Muhammad al-Fatih's teacher, instructing the latter to be firm and to force his son for learning. He was afterwards not only quick in memorizing the Quran but equally learnt to respect scholars until the end of his life. When he was 12 years old, he was sent to Manisa (the largest training center of Turkish leadership) to study. He was a wise, warrior and obedient to the teachings of religion, as far as he had since been educated with various knowledge. Dozens of teachers taught him religious knowledge and art of warfare. He mastered the knowledge of grammar and balaghah, and was proficient in the field of fiqh. He was trained in the art of war and military sciences by his own uncle, Panglima Tharhan, and he also received religious guidance from the great scholars, one of whom was Shaykh Shamsuddin al-Wali. Although he was 19 years old when he officially ascended the throne, he was already a wise and matured man in administering and managing the Ottoman government (Mahayudin, 2014).

An Ethical Character in Leadership

Constantinople, located at a meeting point between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, and strategically positioned either from geo-trade or geo-politics, was the most prosperous and richest city in Europe for centuries. Napoleon Bonaparte once stated: &ldquoif this world is a country, Constantinople is the most deserving of being the capital of the country&rdquo (Syaari, 2013). Napoleon also once said: &ldquoIf I had control of Constantinople then I would be in control of the world&rdquo (Talib, 2014 Fikri, 2010). Constantinople was built by the Great Constantine Emperor in 330CE and became the capital of the Byzantine functioning as the capital and center of the Byzantine Empire of Eastern Rome for over 10 centuries. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire under the reign of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih marked the end of the Byzantine Empire and gave a blow to the West Christian kingdom, while the Turks strengthened their position in Europe and expanded their dominance in the Balkans and the Mediterranean (Syaari, 2013).

Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih was the only one of the sultan and army chiefs who defeated Constantine IX, penetrated the Byzantine defense line and conquered Constantinople that had never been done by the sultans and predecessors of Islam before (Ezad, 2014). He was appointed to occupy Ottoman Empire in 1451AD when he was 19 years old, after the death of Sultan Murad II (Ammalina et al., 2014). The city of Constantinople was conquered by an Islamic army led by Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih on May 29, 1453CE-20th Jumadal Awal 857AH when he was 21 years old (Talib, 2014 Ammalina et al., 2014 Ezad, 2014, Freely, 2010). After 800 years of the hadiths of the Prophet S.A.W to that effect, it came to reality (Sukki & Muhammad, 2014). In the reign of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, besides being the leader of the state, he also set himself as the head of a wise and full-fledged military force. Almost all of the series of wars he led was successful. The tactics and strategies of warfare adopted include a variety of humanitarian, guarantees as well as preserving the environment (Aziz, 2004) as forbids killing women, children, parents and damaging property (Irwan, 2014). This proves that Islam is a religion that carries the idea of universal grace and salvation. This statement contradicts the views of some communities, especially Westerners who label Islamic religion as terror and sponsors of terrorism (Zuhdi, 2015).

Before Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih opened the Constantine City, he carefully planned and organized the army. He built the walls of Rumeli Hissari to prevent the Roman invasion and build sophisticated military equipment like a large cannon created by Urban (Fahmi, 1993). In addition, he also increased his charity and military training. After preparing the military from physical and spiritual aspects, Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih carried out such a planned attack, he attacked the Constantinople City for 53 days and succeeded in conquering it (Islamweb, 2018). His success in capturing the city was one of the most important milestones in the development of Islamic history (Fahmi, 1993). By practicing the element and the precise spirit of the Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, he succeeded in realizing the hadith of the Prophet S.A.W, where he S.A.W said: &ldquoThe city of Constantinople will fall into the hands of the Muslim army the king is the best king and his army is the best army&rdquo.

Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih once said: &ldquoI am on the verge of journey back to God's side. But I hope I am not worried because I am leaving someone like you. Be a just, righteous and caring leader. Raise your protection for your people without exception. Working to spread Islam, it is the obligation of the caliphs on earth. Prioritize religious affairs from any other matters. Do not be tired and bored to keep going. Do not go as an officer, neither a person who does not care about your religion, nor a person who does not keep away from the great sin and who drowns in sin&rdquo.


This qualitative study uses content analysis study design and historical studies. Data collected through texts were obtained and analyzed deductively and inductively. This method of data collection is the basis for identifying an ethical character&rsquos aspect of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih as a determining factor for success in the conquest of Constantinople.

Results And Discussion

Leadership principles of sidq (trust), tabligh, and fatanah were practiced in the process of promoting the country and reviving the community in showing Islam as a deen (Syaari, 2013). The purpose is to worship God (to have a feeling of self-humility towards Allah, who possesses all the supreme characteristics that qualify Him as Allah, The Supreme Almighty) (Omar et al., 2017). At the young age, his father, Sultan Murad II, had entrusted him to lead an area with the guidance of scholars. Guidance received from these scholars was expected to be a guide to form the thinking of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in conjunction with the real understanding of Islam. It has been applied by Sultan Murad II so his son soon realized that himself as Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih would have a great responsibility someday. Before the death, Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih as a leader had delegated to his heirs, the Sultan Bayazid II to always approach and co-exist with the scholars, always being fair, not deceived by the world's property and really caring for the religion either for personal, and the government. Hence, the results of the study show that the success of the Islamic army highlighted the leadership of Sultan al-Fatih in planning the tactics and strategies of warfare, his willingness to take part in the tribulation with the Muslim army in the face of the enemy. His characteristic aspect and noble values led to the conquest of Constantinople.


The persistence and struggle of Sultan Muhammad Al-Fatih in spreading the teachings Islam has had a profound effect on the Islamic government at that time. His leadership, based on the true faith, the Qur'an, as well as the Sunnah, became the qudwah of all time and should be modeled today. His administration has a great impact on the excellence of Islamic rule, especially in terms of military and defense. The head of military plays important roles in maintaining national security. Among the qualities he possessed as a leader throughout the conquest Constantinople were efficiency, wisdom and high discipline in managing the defense line.


This paper is funded on the research project of the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme &ndashFRGS/1/2017/SSI03/UNISZA/03/1 (RR233). Rekabentuk Model Pembinaan Karakter &lsquoIbad al-Rahman Berdasarkan Pengalaman Pendidikan al-Ghazali, al-Shafie, Ibn Sina dan Muhammad al-Fatih. Special appreciation is owed to Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia (MOHE) and Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) for sponsoring and supporting this research.


Ammalina, D.M.I., Roziah, S., & Mat, S. (2014). Impact of uthmaniyyah scientific advancement in the era of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih (Mehmed the Conqueror) towards the Uthmaniyyah scientific Zenith. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(29), 81-86.

Amni, N.A. (2015). The contribution of Sultan Muhammad al-fatih in siyasah syar?iyyah. USIM: Nilai.

Aziz, N.A. (2004). Nabawiyyah's head: Human beings of all time. Kuala Lumpur, Nufair Street Sdn Bhd.

Ezad, A.J. (2014). Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Uthmaniyyah great strategic planner. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, 20(12), 2158-2163.

Fahmi, A.S.A. (1993). Al-Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih: Fatih al-Konstatiniyyah wa Qahir al-Rum. Damsyik, Dar al-Qalam.

Fauzi, M.H., & Hasrul, M.S. (2017). Al-Ghazali?s thought on ethics of living in the society based on bidayah al-hidayah. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 7(6), 846-857.

Fikri, M. (2010). Era rise of the ottoman. Petaling Jaya: Hijjaz Records.

Ibrahim, L., & Ermy, A.R. (2017). The efficiency of military and defense governance the administration of the prophet Muhammad SAW. UKM: Bangi.

Iqbal, A.M. (2013). Al-ghazali's thought concept of education. Madiun: Jaya Star Nine.

Irwan, S.K. (2014). Wasathiyah concept in battle: Review of Nabawi's guide. Seminar Warisan Nabawi (SWAN 2014) Kali Ke-4. Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.

Islamweb (2018). Muhammad Al-Fatih: About whom the Prophet gave glad tidings.

Izrin, W.M.W.R., Norhasniah, W.H., & Hashim, W.T. (2017). An analysis on the Sultan Muhammad al-fateh?s military leadership based on the traditional theory of just war. The European Proceedings of Social & Behavioural Sciences.

Mahayudin, H.Y. (2014). The history of Islam (500-1918) the 2nd edition of the update. Shah Alam: Oxford Fajar.

Mujib, A. (2007). Personality in Islamic psychology. Jakarta: Raja Grafindo Persada.

Omar, S.H.S., Fadzli, A., Baru, R., & Norhashimah, Y. (2017). The ladder for the thirsty to achieve. Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 25(SI), 1-11.

Sukki, M.O.W., & Muhammad, W.S. (2014). Text pre U STPM download history 2. Kuala Lumpur: Pearson Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

Syaari, M.A.R. (2013). Al fatih style thinking. Batu Caves: PTS Millennia Sdn. Bhd.

Talib, A.L. (2014). Sultan Muhammad Al Fatih: The conquerer of constantinople. PTS Litera Utama Sdn Bhd.

Zuhdi, A.K. (2015). The concept of jihad Yusuf al-Qardhawi in the work of Fiqh al-Jihad. Journal of Islamic Dakwah (al-Hikmah), 7(1), 149-171.

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