Continuing our series on Islamic cities, we now delve into Konya, the heartland of the Seljuk Empire, which has hosted many civilizations.
The Cradle of Civilization: Konya
Located in the heart of Central Anatolia, Konya is one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia with a history that dates back to prehistoric times. The archaeological site of Çatalhöyük, which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, has revealed Neolithic Age remains. The discovered wall paintings, dating back to around 7000 BC, provide a significant insight into settled life in the region. The juxtaposition of adjacent houses and the absence of streets distinguish Çatalhöyük from other Neolithic settlements in Anatolia.
Capital of the Seljuks
Konya, previously known as Iconium, has witnessed the rule of various civilizations, including the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, and Alexander the Great. After being invaded by these various powers, the city remained under the Byzantine Empire’s control for a considerable period. Following the Battle of Malazgirt in 1071 and subsequent Islamic conquests into Anatolia, Konya fell under the rule of Islamic states. In 1076, it was established as the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate by Suleiman Shah. This status persisted until 1277 during the period of the Karamanids. After changing hands multiple times between the Karamanids and the Ottoman Empire, Konya was ultimately conquered by Mehmed the Conqueror in 1467, becoming part of the Ottoman Empire.
City of Prophets
Konya is renowned for its strong spiritual atmosphere, housing numerous tombs of prophets and saints. There are varying accounts, with sources claiming that there are between 329 and 379 prophet and saint tombs in the city. It is said that Konya has more prophet tombs than Şanlıurfa, where thirteen prophets are believed to be buried, and Diyarbakır, where ten prophets are believed to be buried. Although not officially recognized as the “City of Prophets,” ongoing research might lead to this title being formally attributed to Konya.
Mevlana and Şeb-i Arus
Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, born in 1207 in Belh (present-day Afghanistan), arrived in Konya with his family due to the threat of Mongol invasions. Following his father Bahaeddin Veled’s invitation from Sultan Alâeddin, the family settled in Konya in 1299. Mevlana, a prominent Islamic scholar, commenced teaching and guiding the people of Konya after his father’s passing. He continued his teachings until his death on December 17, 1273. His passing is commemorated annually as “Şeb-i Arus,” which translates to “Wedding Night.” Mevlana’s tomb has become a museum and a significant attraction for both local and international visitors.
Meeting of Mevlana and Shams
The term “Mecmâu’l Bahreyn,” meaning “the meeting of the two oceans,” refers to the encounter between Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi and Shams Tabrizi in Konya. According to legend, they met on a hill that is now known as Alâeddin Tepesi. This meeting marked the beginning of their profound spiritual connection. Through Shams’ teachings, Mevlana achieved a state of enlightenment, becoming an advocate of love and wisdom. A small monument has been erected at the site of their meeting, commemorating this unique encounter.
Aziziye Mosque: A Window from the Door
Konya boasts the second-largest number of mosques in Turkey, following Istanbul. These include historical mosques such as Kapu Mosque, Şerafeddin Mosque, Sultan Selim Mosque, Alaaddin Mosque, and Aziziye Mosque. Aziziye Mosque, built in the 17th century during the Ottoman era, stands out with its distinct architectural features. Constructed in the late Ottoman Baroque style, the mosque’s most notable characteristic is its windows, which are larger than its doors.
Şivlilik and Lantern Procession
A unique tradition specific to Konya is “şivlilik” and the lantern procession. During the morning of the Regaip Kandil, a significant day in Islamic tradition, Konya residents share treats with children, who visit homes carrying bags. On the evening before this day, children roam the streets with cardboard lanterns, creating a picturesque scene. These lantern-lit festivities foster unity and celebration within the community.
2021 Islamic Solidarity Games
The Islamic Solidarity Games, organized among member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), will take place in Konya this year. Originally planned for the summer of 2021, the event was postponed to August 2022 due to the global pandemic. The games are expected to host around 3,000 athletes from nearly 60 countries, participating in various sports such as athletics, archery, swimming, and more. The event aims to promote international peace and harmony through sportsmanship.