Arab Mosque


This monument known as Arap Camii was built by the Islam Arab army in 715 AD. The army was led by Commander Mesleme Bin Abdulmelik and consisted of offspring of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. (S.A.V)

The first call for prayer over Byzantine was heard from this Mosque.

On the 15th August of 715 AD commander Mesleme (RA) layed siege to Istanbul from both sea and land. Despite the siege lasting for more than a year only the Galata was brought under Arab control. An agreement was reached between commander Mesleme (RA) and the byzantine Emperor Leon to build the Arab Mosque.

The Islamic Arab army worshiped in this mosque for the next seven years until it was called to an uprising in Damascus.

After a while the Arab Mosque was turned into a church by Dominican priest. At that time the tower presently used as minaret was constructed as a bell tower. Known as St. Paola, it was linked to the west Roman Catholic Church. After Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottoman in 1453, the building was turned back into a Mosque, the mihrap and minber was added and the name was reverted to Arab Mosque.

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The biggest modification to the Mosque happened in 1731 after the big Azapkapi fire.

It was initiated by Saliha Sultan the wife of second Mustafa and mother of the first Mahmud. In the course of Renovation the building with its wood construction was widened and a separate prayer room for the Sultan (hünkar mahfeli) was added. By this addition the Arab Mosque became a ‘Sultan Mosque’ (Selatin Camii).

Further modifications included the upper windows in Arabic style, the main door and a ‘şadırvan’ (fountain for ritual ablutions before praying) in the courtyard. In 1878 the middle ‘şadırvan’ was renovated to its current state and a cistern was added by Sultan Adile. In the 19 th century the Mosque was hit by several fires but always restored to its original state. The mihrab was moved to the thick historical front wall so that prayers where held facing mecca.

The small room left of the Mihrab is the ‘çilehane’ (literal translation: suffering room) of commander Mesleme (RA). The grave in the courtyard is considered to be of commander Mesleme (RA) even though he has another grave in Damascus.

The 70 windows of the Mosque are ordered in three rows. The decorated wood ceiling is placed around the four Stone walls and on top of 22 wooden pillars. A baroque style mahfel (elevated lodge) is situated on eight marble pillars. The pulpit was brought from Sokullu Mehmet Paşa Mosque at Azapkapi. The mihrab and the pulpit are made of marble. The walls are a mixture of bricks and natural stones. The wooden roof is covered with roof tiles. The mosque is rectangular. In 1913 a ‘son cemaat yeri’ was added to the west side. Under the rectangular shaped minaret with 102 steps there is walkway leading to the courtyard.

On the right wall, according to mecca, there is a marble plate describing the history of the mosque. İt was written in the form of a poem by Hacı Emin Efendi, one of the writers of Divan-ı Humayun in1807. İt consists of 36 verses. İn 1913 during reconstruction gravestones and mummies where found in the basement and moved to the İstanbul Archeological Museum.

On the Mihrab wall frescoes were discovered. On the outside of the west wall a 200 ton water basin was constructed. There is well in the ‘son cemaat yeri’ which is still active. Around the courtyard are living quarters for Imams and Muezzins. Furthermore there is a boarding school for the studies of the Koran, active since 1950.

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