Attempts to Liberate the City
A few words which issued from the Imam of the Muslim nation with respect to the promise from the Allah, All Glory to Him, at the tongue of His messenger (s.a.w.) which made the Muslim lieutenants in different times to compete with pounding hearts to liberate this city so that they can achieve the honour of the above description which Allah has blessed them with at the tongue of His messenger.
The first to besiege Constantinople was Mu'awiya son of Abi Sufyan during the Khilafa of 'Ali bin Abi Taleb (May Allah be pleased with him) in the year 34 (ah), he was followed by his son Yazid in 47 (ah) then Sufyan Bin Aws in 52 (ah) who was in turn followed by Salma during the Khilafa of 'Umar Ibn 'Abdul 'Aziz in the year 97 (ah). It was also besieged during the Khilafa of Hisham Ibn 'Abdul Malik in 121 (ah) and the last siege was during the Khilafa of Haroun Al Rashid may Allah have mercy on him in 182 (ah). The sieges stopped when the Islamic government began to weaken and split and became preoccupied with its enemies internally and externally until the arrival of the 'Uthmany sultans who took turns in besieging it one after the other with no result, until the blessed general came who deserved the description of the messenger (s.a.w.), this happened approximately eight centuries after the first siege. This was on the 16th of Rabee' Al Awwal in 857 (ah) when the 'Uthmany Sultan Muhammad Al Fateh May Allah have mercy with him moved against the city walls with his army of 150,000 Mujahideen who were very keen to achieve the great honour of accomplishing the blessed promise.
However, they did not rely solely on the promise, they also underwent a complete preparation to achieve the victory. The historian Ismail Hami Danshbund, a contemporary of the sultan Muhammad Alfateh narrates: "The sultan would spend long hours every night since ascending the throne, studying the plans of the city, looking for strategic points of defence and attempting to find weak points which he could benefit from and to work on the appropriate plan to attack these points. In addition to this, the Sultan had committed to memory all the previous attempts to liberate the city, the names of their leaders, and the reasons for their failure... He would continue to discuss with his lieutenants and generals what is required for the final attack. He also ordered the engineers to build what is required to facilitate the liberation. They built large cannons which would traject numerous heavy metal balls and bombs weighing as much as three tonnes. In addition to the other heavy artillery which the sultan built himself which were used for the first time in the attack on Constantinople; which had a great effect in the liberation of the city. That was from the material end, however, on the morale end, he took with him many contemporary scholars and Imams who held authority such as Sheikh Alqourany, and Sheikh Khisrawi, who would motivate the soldiers and drive them towards Jihad... As for his enemies, as soon as he reached the walls of the Constantinople, he ordered the call of Azan for Jum`a and commenced prayer. When the Byzantines saw the hundred and fifty thousand Muslims praying behind their leader and the sound of their takbir breaking the horizon, they began to tremble in fear and worry, and their minds were defeated before their bodies.
After the Sultan divided and placed his army, he sent his messenger to the King of Byzantine asking him to hand over the city giving him a full guarantee of safety for its residents, their wealth, their lives, their beliefs, and their honour. The refusal of the King to do this and his declaration of war against the Muslims led to the bombardment of the city for 48 days leading to the demolishing of some of the outer walls, without reaching the inner walls. The city withstood other operations. When king Constantine realised the seriousness of the situation, he wrote to the pope who assisted him with five large ships filled with weapons, provisions, and soldiers.. leading to the increase in morale of the defenders. Their joy did not last for long however, for the next morning, they were surprised with eighty ships inside their gulf which they had blocked with heavy chains and fortified with a large force. However, the sultan through his foresight brought the ships over land by paving a path for them of six miles of large tree branches which he had embalmed with oil so that the giant ships can slide over them with their tens of thousands of soldiers.. until they were brought to the gulf waters behind the enemy defences. At the time that the ships reached the gulf, the ships of the Bizantines were flaming with the fire from the artillery of the Ottomans, despite this, Constantinople withheld one more time.
However, the sultan persisted, and he ordered the digging of tunnels underground to use these to crawl into the city, though the early discovery of these by the Bizantines made them of no effect.
The Military Prowess
With the new morn, the Sultan ordered the setting up of his secret weapon which he had invented himself, which is a giant mobile tower, higher than the walls of the city accommodating hundreds of soldiers. This struck fear amongst the Bizantines leading them to believe that the Muslims were using demons in their battles. After the Muslims broke the middle walls, the defenders were able to destroy the moving towers by throwing chemicals at them. However, the resistance of the city began to weaken, while nightfall had left the Bizantines filled with fear leading them to spend their night in their churches praying their Lord to send to their aid the blue angels to save Constantinople from the Muslims. Whilst the sultan spent his night motivating his armies reminding them of the hadith of the messenger (s.a.w.), and praying for victory from Allah.
Entering The City As soon as the new morn came, the soldiers began their general attack. The Muslims began to erect towers and ladders and to cast projectiles at the inner walls of the city. However, the forts of the city and the desperate defense of its army delayed its liberation, and thousands of Muslim soldiers fell martyrs. When the sultan saw the size of his loss, he ordered the foot soldiers to withdraw. whilst he also ordered a continuation of the bombardment until midday, when he ordered a complete attack and stirred them to this. The Muslim army attacked and some of the Mujahideen were able to enter the city, the first to enter it was the Mujahid Hasan Ulu Badi with thirty of his brothers, however, the arrows rained on them from every side, and they were all martyred, the Muslims then began to retreat, and they almost began to flee.
The Importance of The Leader in The Battle
At this came the essential role of the leader in the battle as the Sultan stood and spoke to his soldiers taking example from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) during the battle of Uhud giving an example of bravery in a few words, saying: "My sons, here I am ready for death in the path of Allah, so whoever desires martyrdom, let him follow me. Then the Muslims followed their leader like the flood from the dam tearing down the obstacles of Kufr until they entered the city and raised therein the word of monotheism... In this manner fell the city of Heraclius which stood stubbornly in front of the Muslims for eight centuries... So they entered it erasing the Byzantine government opening the doors of Europe for the call of Islam. They recorded a white page in our history, realising the promise of the messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) as when he was asked which of the two cities would be liberated first, Constantinople or Rome, he said: "The city of Heraclius (i.e. Constantinople) would be liberated first." [Ahmad, authenticated by Al Albany].
By Br. Muhammad El-Halaby