Introducing the Istanbul’s Selimiye Mosque

Introducing the Istanbul’s Selimiye Mosque
(Monday, October 19, 2015) 11:02

In his work, author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar notes the connection that forms between people and the İstanbul district of Üsküdar once they have spent some time there, writing, “It is strange, but despite the orders that came down to raze Üsküdar Palace, the general landscape of Üsküdar is actually more connected to Selimiye Mosque and the barracks because of the wide and calm streets around it.

There really is a strange and unique sort of character in these streets. Once a name becomes connected with this place, it will never be disconnected.”

Personally, I believe that just as the famous Selimiye Mosque in Edirne is an edifice that needs to be seen and visited, so too is the Selimiye Mosque in İstanbul. Its aesthetic details need to be remembered, and documented. In the case of Üsküdar's Selimiye Mosque, this is a spot that even old residents of this district don't visit that often though. Here, what awaits you is not only this old mosque, but also the tombs of Karacaahmet Sultan and the dervish lodge of Mehmet Efendi.

The ‘Ol Miraciye' was inspired here

The Miraciye was written in the Mevlid form, and has become something traditionally read each Miraç Kandil. It is a very specific type of stylized Turkish art in this sense. In 1698, on the eve of the Berat Kandil, Osman Dede visited the Üsküdar Nasuhi dervish lodge. On the occasion of this visit, one of the leading Üsküdar religious figures at the time, Mehmed Nasuhî Hazretleri, said to Osman Dede, “For the Mevlid Kandil we already have the Mevlid-i Şerif. But there is no special piece written for the Miraç Kandil.” It was then that he asked Osman Dede to write and compose something for that holy night. According to legend, the words for this piece came to Osman Dede in a dream, as spoken to him by Mehmed Nasuhi. Over the following three days, this special Miraç name was written in six different formats.

The period of the formation of the Ottoman state is a time when reality and legend seemed mixed in history. When Orhan Gazi captured Üsküdar in 1352, the story told begins to widen along with the geography dominated by the Ottomans. When Karacaahmet Sultan was told by Sheik Haci Bektas that he should really have his own place, he headed to Üsküdar and set up his own dervish lodge. Karacaahmet Sultan's tomb was built by Gulfem Hatun, the wife of Suleyman the Magnificent. It is said that he died in 1397, and actually, there are many symbolic tombs to him in cities throughout Turkey.

Though he was considered one of the most reformist of the Ottoman sultans, Selim III was actually removed from the throne because of the uprising spearheaded by Kabakci Mustafa. Being “Selimiye” was understood as disbanding the Janissary armies, bringing instead a Western style military foundation prototype. As it is, the mosque, which opened for prayers in 1805, bears an inscription about the “incarnate holy light,” which is a hint as to the mental revolution at hand.

Though head architect Mehmet Arif Ağa began this mosque complex, its final form came through the work of Ahmed Nureddin Ağa. The main building is surrounded on three sides by the inscription of the Fetih Sure. In the courtyard of this complex is located a library built by one of the most important figures of the Republic era, Ismail Hakki Konyali, well worth seeing. Though there is one step missing, the staircase here symbolizes that this Sultan was the 28th of the Ottoman leaders.

The back streets around Selimiye

While touring around this district, you'll find lots of restaurants selling fried liver; while perhaps not quite the same as what you'd find in Edirne, they're good, and worth a try. Also try out one of the many tea gardens in the area. Then head over to see the former Nakşibendi dervish lodge, known as the Çiçekçi Mosque. This edifice is an impressive example of the old “dervish lodge-mosque” formula. In the end, no matter which directions your wanderings here take you, you are bound to come across something memorable, for the poetry of Üsküdar is something different altogether in İstanbul.

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