Sacred Places for Islam
Turks accepted Islam after the invasion of Arab Muslims in the eighth-century AD. Before Islam, Turks who were nomads in Central Asia were Shamanists. Islamic belief influenced all aspects of Turkish life, and the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires furnished Anatolia with thousands of mosques. Mosques, Mevlana, Eytip Sultan, and Urfa Halil-tir Rahman Lake are the most important religious attractions for Muslims.
Mevlana Complex Konya is an important religious center for Muslims, because of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a mystic, poet, and humanistic philosopher, lived there in the thirteenth century (Edmonds 1998). According to Mevlana, love is greater than any religion. He welcomed everyone, regardless of creed, ethnicity, social status, or past behavior, at his shrine of hope and love (Edmonds 1998). He promoted Sema (the whirling), a religious rhythm as a way to reach God. This movement expresses the souls of Dervishes. Mevlana Dergahi (Dervish Lodge), formerly the Rose Garden of the Seljuk Palace and given to Mevlana’s father as a gift, is now a museum that people visit in order to enhance their spirituality. Mevlana’s tomb is also a place of pilgrimage today. The museum attracted
2,075,000 visitors in 2014 (GDCRM 2014). In remembrance of Mevlana’s death, on December 17 each year, a week-long ceremony begins, including Seb-i Arus (wedding) Night. The area hosts a number of people who want to participate in Seb- i Arus ceremonies on the anniversary of Mevlana’s death.
Eyup Sultan Mosque Considered among the most sacred sites of the Islamic faith, Eytip Sultan Mosque is the first mosque constructed in Istanbul in 1458 after the conquest of Constantinople. The mosque is highly frequented, particularly on Fridays, and attracts attention for its unique architecture and mystical atmosphere (OTPT 2015). It is the burial site of Eytip al-Ansari, the standard bearer and friend of the Prophet Mohammed. It is the most important Islamic shrine in Istanbul, and Muslims visit to make a wish, to pray for their wishes to come true, and to make vows, especially on Fridays and religious days.
Haci Bekta^i Veli Complex Haci Bekta^i Veli, the famous Sufi dervish leader of the Bekta^i order who lived in the twelfth century, taught the Islamic faith to numerous students and was buried at this site. This fourteenth-century complex, located in the province of Nev^ehir, includes tombs of Haci Bekta^i Veli and Balim Sultan; guest houses; a kitchen; a mosque; a wishing tree; and an area for ascetics; as well as famous sayings of Haci Bektas-i Veli (OTPT 2015). A commemoration ceremony is held in Hacibekta^ town in mid-August every year. A total of 228,550 people visited the site in 2014 (GDCRM 2014).
The Great Mosque (Ulucami) The Great Mosque, which is a classic example of Ottoman mosque architecture, is located in the province of Bursa. The mosque was built upon the order of Sultan Yildmm Bayezit and was completed in 1399.
The Green Mosque (Ye$il Camii) The Green Mosque, which is one of the first architectural examples of the Ottoman Empire, was built in Bursa in 1419. Along with the mosque, the complex consists of the Green Mausoleum (Ye^il Ttirbe) and the Green Madrasa (Ye^il Medrese). The madrasa has been turned into the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
Suleymaniye Mosque This mosque, constructed in the sixteenth century, is one of the masterpieces of Mimar (Architect) Sinan (the most famous architect in the Ottoman Empire during sixteenth century). SUleyman (the Magnificent) and his wife, Hurrem Sultan (Roxelane), had their mausoleum built in the garden of the mosque, and Sinan also built his own tomb in the courtyard of Suleymaniye. The mosque complex includes four madrasas (theological schools), a school of medicine, a caravanserai, a Turkish bath, and a kitchen and hospice for the poor.
Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) This mosque was built for Sultan Ahmet I by the architect Sedefkar Mehmet Aga, one of Mimar Sinan’s students, in 1617. According to TURSAB (2014), the mosque attracted 5 million people in 2013.
Selimiye Mosque Selimiye Mosque is located in Edirne province, which was the capital city of the Ottoman Empire prior to Istanbul. Built in 1575 on behalf of Sultan Selim II, the mosque is a masterwork of the famous architect Mimar Sinan.
Haci Bayram Veli Complex Haci Bayram Veli was a prominent Sufi leader known for his immense tolerance. The complex contains a fifteenth-century mosque and memorial shrine (OTPT 2015).
Yu$a Hill (Yu$a Tepesi) On this hill, which is situated north of Beykoz, Istanbul, is a grave and a mosque and is a holy site for Muslims. The grave is about 18 m long and belongs to Yu§a (Joseph).
Topkapi Palace and the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle (Hirka-i Saadet) In a
special section of this palace, there are several Muslim mementos associated with Prophet Muhammad, including the swords of Caliphs Abu Bekir, Ali, Omar, and Othman, wooden gutters from Kaaba, and a gold shield that once covered the Kaaba. The most important items are hair pieces from Muhammad’s beard, one of his teeth, his mantle (there are two mantles, the other of which is on display in Hirka-i §erif Mosque), his footprint, and his seal (Edmonds 1998; Topkapi Palace Museum 2015).
Hirka-i §erif The second Holy mantle belonging to Prophet Muhammad, which he put on during his ascension, is on display in Hirka-i §erif Mosque in Fatih, Istanbul. It can be visited once a year during Ramadan. Muslims assign great importance to the belongings of the Prophet Muhammad, and an estimated one million Muslims (Sabah Newspaper 2013) visit the site to see the mantle every year.
Habib-Un Naccar Mosque and Tomb Habib-Un Naccar Mosque, located in Hatay, was built in 636 AD. It is believed that Islam started to spread in Anatolia from this mosque. Habib-Un Naccar, who was the first to believe in the apostles of Jesus, was a Martyr praised in the Yasin Sura of the Koran. His tomb is located inside the Mosque (OTPT 2015).
Urfa and Halil Ul Rahman Lake According to legend, Abraham was born at this site and hidden from the pagan King Nimrod. Abraham was later thrown into a fire there by the King, but by a miracle the fire turned into a pool and rose garden, and the wood to fish. Thus, this is a holy place for Muslims. It is forbidden to eat fish from the sacred pool; according to legend, if someone eats the fish they will go blind. Abraham is an important figure for all monotheistic religions, and the area is visited by tourists from all three major religions.
Mosques built by the Seljuks and Ottomans in Asia Minor are an integral part of the national heritage of Turkey. Mosques in Istanbul, Edirne and Bursa attract a considerable number of domestic religious visitors each year. There are approximately 444 mosques in Istanbul alone (Egresi et al. 2012b). Some other mosques that have historical and religious importance for the Muslim community in Istanbul are listed below (Presidency of Religious Affairs/The Office of Mufti of Istanbul 2015):