World Bulletin / News Desk
These days we can reach the holy lands of Saudi comfortably within about three hours via air travel... In the days when transportation mode was using animals, in the old days where technology was not developed at all, how was it to go to perform pilgrimage ?
Without any doubt it can be said that it is much easier to go to pilgrimage these days when compared to the past. From Istanbul and many other of our cities, the departing planes take on average three to three and a half hours to arrive in Jeddah airport, where buses transport to Mekka where people can begin to perform the obligatory pilgrimage. How was it possible to go to pilgrimage in the old days when the availabilities we have today were not there ? Until 20 - 30 years ago we remember that the journey to the holy lands was via buses and not planes, where in the city squares there were buses all lined up and the people were farewelling in tears.
Lets look beyond that. Lets go back even further. In the Ottoman times when pilgrimage is mentioned, immediately a three month tiring journey comes to mind. When you also consider the obligations of the pilgrimage, you are looking at nine to ten months away from your homeland and loved ones in return for reunion with your true friend and love. In this article we look for an answer to the question of how it was possible to go to pilgrimage in the Ottoman era, and also to give you some illustrations of the views from a Moslem's point of view when performing the obligatory pilgrimage.
The Ottomans and Hijaz
Many historians of Islam mutually agree that since the times of Mohamed ( pbuh ) and the four Caliphates, the Ottoman state was at the forefront of all Islamic states, being the biggest and also showing the most effort in the spreading of Islam.
After the Ottomans abolished the Mamluk state they became the rulers over all Mamluk lands, and the servants of Hijaz, Mekka and Medina (1517). The compassion and respect shown by the Ottomans for the holy prophet, his family, his followers and the holy lands far exceeds any compliments. This respect goes way back to the times when the State was not the owner of the holy lands. At the time of Yildirim Beyazid Han, presents were sent to the holy lands under the name of 'surre'. Fatih Sultan Mehmed Han did not abstain from any sacrifice in order to prevent any difficulties for the pilgrims on their journey to the pilgrimage. Yavuz Sultan Selim Han who ended the rule of the Mamluk state, opted to be the servant and not the ruler of the holy lands, thereby emphasizing the continual respect of the Ottomans towards the holy lands.
The fact that the Ottomans began immediate constructions after the conquest of Hijaz, was in compliance with the underlying intentions to be servants and also to have an atmosphere of peace for the pilgrims at the time of pilgrimage. During the 400 years following the conquest of Hijaz, due diligence was always displayed.
Pilgrimage in the Ottoman era
Throughout history for the believers who went for pilgrimage by land, there were seven different routes to use that can take them to the holy lands. These seven roads ; were the roads that went to Mekkah from Damascus, Egypt, Aden, Amman, Lahsa, Basra and Baghdad. In the times of the Ottomans, priority was given to two roads from amongst these seven roads - under state control - that were being used. These were the roads of Damascus and Cairo.
For those moslems who wanted to perform pilgrimage from Anatolia and Rumeli, they had to congregate at Damascus until the two groups of pilgrims and the Surre contingents were ready to move. For those pilgrims who wanted to use the Damascus road, they used the Anatolian road which was referred to as 'right arm'. For this reason this road was also called 'pilgrimage road'. This road used the route as follows Uskudar - Gebze - Eskisehir - Konya - Adana - Halep to reach Damascus.
In order for the pilgrims and the Surre contingents to travel securely, many high level officials which were located on the path were deployed which included grand seigneur, sancakbeyi, kadi, mütesellim and yeniceri sedari. In addition, in order for the subsistence and prayers of the pilgrims during their journey which took many days to be provided, there was an immaculate organization. For the pilgrims to obtain their needs and also purchases there were areas of living determined which included suburbs, towns and big villages.
Although the Egyptian group included the Egyptian contingents, most of the pilgrims were conformed from those who came from North and Central Africa. Those pilgrims that came from Istanbul via sea travel also congregated here. Just as in the case of the Damascus convoy, the same amenities and care was taken by high level officials along this path in order to secure against bandits and provide safety and comfort for the Egypt convoy. In the Egypt convoy there were also presents to be given to the inhabitants of the holy land.
The first destination for the convoy from Egypt was Birketul- Hajj. Most of the pilgrims from Egypt congregated here. After commencing from here, for days by land the path was Vadi-i Numan, Sathul-Akabe, Eyle, El-Vech, Yenbu and Rabig which led to the famous road that ended up in Mekkah. Although Damascus and Egypt convoys changed from time to time, they joined together and continued on their journey at places like Medayin-i Salih, El-Ula, Medina and Rabig.
Those Who Used Seaways Came To Egypt
Those moslems from Istanbul and the Aegean islands who used seaway to go to pilgrimage went by ship to come on land in Iskenderiye and from there reached Cairo to join the convoy which had gathered here. Even before Egypt was incorporated into the Ottomans the Ottoman pilgrims used seaway. The ships which carried the pilgrims were attacked from time to time by the Knights of Rodos ( later Malta ).
The Ottoman pilgrims who did not want to use the Damascus road which took longer but was more secure, preferred to use seaway as such until Egypt. Ismail Hakki Bursevi who went to pilgrimage in 1710, first went to Istanbul from Bursa where he stayed for a month, then he went via seaway to Iskenderiye and he reached Cairo from there. In 1685 a Halveti Master in the Ottoman era, Karabas Veli, used the same route via seaway to go to pilgrimage.
Other than the Damascus and Cairo roads, Yemen and Baghdad - Basra roads were also popular. The Yemen road which was also one of the respected pilgrimage roads, does not have much recorded information in the Ottoman resources. Primarily from Yemen, those pilgrims from Asir, Umman, African coast of the Red Sea, Hadramut and the east of Central Africa used the Yemen Road.
The roads from Baghdad and Basra which led to Hijaz from the east of Arabia to the west, were not used frequently due to the political disputes with the Safevi. The pilgrims from Iran generally used the road from Baghdad to Basra and from there to Hijaz. However the Ottoman state made it compulsory for the pilgrims from Iran to use the officially designated routes from Damascus, Cairo or Yemen. This road was opened sometimes, however especially in times of war it remained closed and unused.
After The Opening Of The Suez Canal
After the appearance of steam ships and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, there were important changes in the pilgrimage roads. The traveling by land via camel caravans, gave place to a great degree to sea travel.
The first steam ships began journey via Suez to the Cidde port of Mekkah in the year 1858. After the opening of the Suez Canal, the pilgrims from Anatolia and Rumeli used seaway more often. The pilgrims which departed from Istanbul via ships came onto land at Jeddah and rested for two days, then continued their journey via camel or horse caravans to Mekkah. Damascus road had now lost its old importance, hence in 1882 only 4000 pilgrims used this road. Even the camels were using seaway on the return journey.
During the period of Sultan Abdulhamid Han the second, the Hijaz railroads were constructed both for military transport and for the ease of pilgrimage road. The railroad which reached Medina in 1908, which was planned to be extended to Mekkah and from there to Cidde, was not completed as Abdulhamid Han was over thrown from his throne and the state was in a period of disintegration. From the time of opening, thousands of pilgrims had reached the holy lands using the Hijaz railroad.
The Pilgrimage Journey Of The Poet Nabi
The deceased Nabi was from Urfa. Was one of the greatest and famous representatives of Turkish literature. He had told of his journey to pilgrimage during the years from 1678 - 1679, in his book named Tuhfetul - Haremeyn. The pilgrimage journey of Nabi, was with a particular group who had departed earlier than schedule, and featured sometimes days of stay at some of the locations while passing. Although Nabi and his companions used the route known as Anatolian right arm from Istanbul to Damascus, they changed the road from Damascus onwards to Cairo via Kudsis and joined the Egypt pilgrimage convoy to finally reach the holy lands.
Nabi the deceased. Began his road from Uskudar to Kartal. Reached Eskisehir via Izmit and Iznik roads. From there went to Seyitgazi to visit the shrine of Seyyid Battal Gazi, and later on arriving in Aksehir to visit Mahmud Hayrani and Nasreddin Hoja. Arriving in Konya via Ilgin and Ladik. Visiting many saints like Mawlana, Sultan Veled and Sadreddin-i Konevi. Continuing the road arrived in Antakya via Eregli, Adana and Payas. Here he visited the honorable Habib-i Neccar. From Antakya he made his way to Aleph where he stayed for ten days and then made his way to his hometown Urfa. Nabi who contemplated on the good old days with his relatives and old friends, stayed there for over fifty days. He visited the place where the prophet Abraham (pbuh ) was thrown into the fire by Nimrod.
Nabi the deceased from Damascus onwards arrived in Cairo via Remle, Jerusalem, Askalan, Gazze, Aris, Suez and Salihiye. He stayed for three days in Jerusalem amongst the cities on his route, to visit Masjid al Aqsa.
He was very impressed with Cairo. He also visited the many greats of the past here also one by one. On the 5th of December, 1678 Nabi had joined the Egypt pilgrimage convoy to make his way to Mekkah. Arriving in the holy land of Mekkah via Adiliye, Birketul - Hac, Tih desert, Mount Sinai, Akabe, Bedr i Huneyn and Rabig. After Nabi completed the obligatory rights of pilgrimage, he went to the holy city of Medinah to visit the holy prophet Mohamed (pbuh).
Source : YEDİKİTA MAGAZİNE
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