What kind of lessons can the conquest of Constantinople by Muhammad al-Fatih teach us about our responsibility as Muslims today?
Accountability, responsibility, you name it, has always been one of the greatest mysteries in life for me. That is, how do you create a balance between the responsibilities you have in Deen & dunya? Of course, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of articles, videos, graphics, and guides crafted to answer this question in particular, but for me, it never really answered the questions and concerns I had about Deen and dunya.
So it was quite a surprise to me when I found a solid starting point in Life Haqq episode #30 : How did Hagia Sophia Become a Masjid?
Listening to the podcast, I was absolutely amazed and inspired by Muhammad al-Fatih’s upbringing, the history of the failed attempts to conquer the Hagia Sophia, and the final victory. Islamic history has a way of enrapturing you like that. Reflecting on the episode afterwards I asked myself:
What is it about Muhammad al-Fatih’s victory that sparked such a profound interest in me?
Was it his father’s decision to abdicate the throne when his son was 14 years old so he could dedicate himself to his faith? Was it Muhammad al-Fatih’s mentor, who trained him with skills that would push him to be a remarkable person? Was it the prophecy that Muhammad al-Faith himself wanted to fulfill and so spent hours pouring over the failed attempts of the great’s pasts to learn what they couldn’t and equip himself with the tools they didn’t have?
Well, yes, yes, and yes, but what actually drew me in so much was Muhammad al-Fatih’s unwavering faith in the Almighty and how much Muhammad al-Fatih’s belief in Islam pushed him to succeed.
You see, Muhammad al-Fatih wasn’t born as the extraordinary person that he’d become. He was, in fact, a regular boy, one that thought the scholar Molla Gurani was just another tutor and that he could get away with whatever he wanted. He was taught physics, astronomy, latin, persian, and a plethora of other impressive topics to ready him for his place in the world. His ability to fight, his skills and strategy, and his dedication to taking care of his soldiers are just a few things that enabled him to conquer Constantinople at the age of twenty-three. Not to mention the role of Shaikh Shamsuddin, whose steadfast support in Muhammad al-Fatih played an exceptionally huge role in the conquering of Constantinople—at a time when all possibilities to capture the city seemed too dire to consider.
After listening to this podcast episode, I realized something that changed how I view motivation.
That word, motivation, is prone to being thrown around with books about billionaire philanthropists and exquisitely detailed time management processes. It’s been a struggle and a question for many, myself included, because how do you get a constant source of motivation? Where does it come from? How do you replenish it?
For me, I had my answer when I listened to this Life Haqq episode. Before I reveal my thoughts, I’d like you to think about what you think of as motivation. Stop reading the article for a second. Just think about what motivates you. Now reflect about how consistent that motivation is. Is the motivation valve pumping out a steady dose of stamina or does it falter into procrastination? Is it motivation with sincere intentions?
Now ask yourself:
What could be more motivating than pleasing Allah SWT?
Let that sit for a minute.
Our ultimate purpose on this earth is to worship Allah SWT. Our intentions should reflect that purpose. That’s where our motivation should come from. Take a look at the stories of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). Take a look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad SAW. Take a look at the stories of the Muslim Greats that made us all sit and think about how unaccomplished we felt after learning about them.
What do they all have in common? They did it for the sake of Allah SWT. They spent for the sake of Allah SWT, they fought and defended in the name of Islam, they mapped stars and came up with complex algorithms and mathematical theories because they wanted to gain knowledge and better understand the world the Almighty has created. And, in the case of Muhammad al-Fatih, they conquered to fulfill a prophecy that was promised so many years ago—a prophecy that was stated by Muhammad SAW as he struck a boulder in the midst of a battle the Muslims were losing, and declared that the Muslims would conquer Yemen, Syria, Constantinople, while the disbelievers laughed.
This is where accountability comes in.
Picture this: you have to study for a test that’s in two weeks. You know you should prepare well given the time that you have. Your parents have taken it upon themselves to remind you and ask you if you’re studying and how your preparation is going. They are holding you accountable.
Now replay that scenario, except without the constant reminders. How likely would you be to study for that test? How well would you study? When we don’t have something to hold us accountable, we are inclined to do things with less effort. We think, no one’s going to expect me to be responsible, so why should I be responsible?
We cannot do this with our Deen, because we will all be held accountable on the Day of Judgement. We will be asked about everything we did by the Almighty Himself. Doesn’t that spark something inside you? Some innate realization about your purpose on this earth? Don’t you feel like getting up and doing something responsible the second you think about it? We don’t know how long we’ll live to see the next second, and we will be questioned about everything.
We’re going to be questioned about everything—the good and the bad.
So why write an article about Muhammad al-Fatih? Motivation? Accountability?
Muhammad al-Fatih’s story taught me that our motivation should come from the fact that we’re going to be held accountable by Allah SWT on the Day of Judgement. It made me think about how to replenish that motivation, we have so many things we should be doing with genuine sincerity—performing salah, reciting Qur’an & adhkar, learning about our Islamic history through books and podcasts, and so much more. Muhammad al-Fatih had the same number of hours in the day as we did, and yet he had accomplished so much in his lifetime. What are we doing? We might think, we live in a different context, but it’s up to us to decide what we do with what we have. We don’t have the luxury of waiting until it’s too late to ask ourselves if we did the right things with our money, with our intelligence, with our talents, with our time.
We will be questioned, but our motivation to do good works with the best intentions is what will push us to strive more and more for the sake of Allah SWT:
You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah . If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.” (Qur’an 3:11)
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