بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على اشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
One of the incredible achievements of the Mahdi al-Muntadhir عليه الرضوان will be his conquest of Constantinople, which is modern day Istanbul. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said:
لَتُفْتَحَنَّ الْقُسْطَنْطِينِيَّةُ ، فَلَنِعْمَ الْأَمِيرُ أَمِيرُهَا ، وَلَنِعْمَ الْجَيْشُ ذَلِكَ الْجَيْشُ
“You shall conquer Constantinople. What an excellent emir will its emir be, and what an excellent army will that army be.” (Musnad Ahmad)
Now many believe that the prophecy of the conquest of Constantinople has already come to pass. According to this preterist view, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, in this Hadith, praised the Ottoman Turks and their leader, Mehmed II known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet. He conquered Constantinople in 1453 CE, and ever since the city has remained in the possession of the Turks, who are Muslims.
However, I believe that such an interpretation is a mistake. I do not believe that the Prophet praised the Ottoman Turks or Mehmed II, who were not particularly known for their piety or dedication to pure, orthodox Islam. In my estimation, this Hadith is another prophecy regarding the promised Mahdi عليه السلام. But if Constantinople was already conquered by the Muslims and has remained in their possession since the late 15th century, how do we make sense of a prophecy which apparently indicates a future conquest of the same city. Firstly, it is quite possible that some time in the near future the modern day city of Istanbul will be retaken by a non-Muslim force, perhaps the Russians. But a second possibility is that the Hadith about the conquest of Constantinople refer to a battle that shall take place between the army of the promised Mahdi عليه السلام and the forces of the Republic of Turkey. At present, Turkey’s government led by Erdogan is moving in the direction of Islamization, but it is quite foreseeable that the project will ultimately fail and Turkey will remain on the path of ignorant nationalism and secularism. Whatever the case may be, the fact that at present Istanbul is a city in Turkey in the possession of Muslims does not negate the future conquest of that city by the promised Mahdi and his righteous army.
According to a Hadith that is slightly weak due to the narrator Qays b. al-Rabi:
لَوْ لَمْ يَبْقَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ يَوْمٌ لَطَوَّلَهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ حَتَّى يَمْلِكَ رَجُلٌ مِنْ أَهْلِ بَيْتِي يَمْلِكُ جَبَلَ الدَّيْلَمِ وَالْقُسْطَنْطِينِيَّةَ
“If there was only a single day left of the world, Allah Azza wa Jall would lengthen it until a man from my Household took possession of the mountain of Dailam and of Constantinople.” (Sunan Ibn Maja 2779)
This strengthens the view that it is the promised Mahdi عليه الرضوان who shall conquer Constantinople.
According to a Hadith in Sahih Muslim which describes the Malhama, in which the Muslims shall engage the Roman Christians and defeat them, a third of that army shall go on to conquer Constantinople:
وَيَفْتَتِحُ الثُّلُثُ لاَ يُفْتَنُونَ أَبَدًا فَيَفْتَتِحُونَ قُسْطُنْطِينِيَّةَ
“The third who would never be put to trial would win and they would be conquerers of Constantinople.” (Sahih Muslim)
I believe it is this army which the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم described as an excellent army, with an excellent emir, i.e., the promised Mahdi عليه السلام.
According to a report, the great scholar and tabi, Wahb b. Munabbih, stated:
فَإِذَا كَانَتِ الْمَلْحَمَةُ الْكُبْرَى فُتِحَتِ الْقُسْطَنْطِينِيَّةُ عَلَى يَدِ رَجُلٍ مِنْ بَنِي هَاشِمٍ
“When the Great Malhama happens, Constantinople will be conquered at the hand of a man from Bani Hashim.” (Sunan al-Waridatu fil-Fitan of ad-Dani)