"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference" - Robert Frost

November 28, 2013

Muhammad Al-Fatih 1453 by Felix Y. Siauw (Book Review)

Hello, dear readers :)
Some of you might have known the fact that I'm interested in history thingy (I wrote about it on my Goodreads account). I got bunch of history books --not bunch, actually, only a little, like Prophet Muhammad's biography (see the review here), the Chinese Kingdom history, and the one that I love the most is Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe (I only read book i, ii and iii though).
Well, I just finished reading a good --a real good one, if not great-- book, book that recently has made me fallen in love with history even more, and I really want to share it with you.
I want to inform you that this maybe not just a review, it's also a quick summary, so it's gonna be quite long post hehehe. I hope you are enlightened by this post. :)


I'm sure all of you might have heard the name "Felix Y. Siauw". Yes, that writer-islamic inspirator. It's his book Imma share here. He wrote a history-biography book titled "Muhammad Al-Fatih 1453"

taken from alfatihbookstore.com
This book is about how Sultan Mehmed conquered Constantinople. How East conquered West. How Islam conquered most of Europe.

Let's start from the Turks.
The Turk clan came from Central Asia. Still related to the Mongols, they are nomadic, and they whorshipped spirits through shaman's mediation.
In the middle of the 6th century, the Turks migrated to the west because of Mongol's pressure and a severe dry season.
While some clans moved to north, the biggest Turk tribe, Oghuz, migrated to Persia, which was just conquered by Muslim. The Oghuz was Turk's first Muslim clan.
The Muslim Turks arose when the Khilafah Abbasiyah asked their help to decrease the Persian's influence who started to against the Abbasiyah.

As time went by, the Oghuz changed into the Saljuk. But in the 13th century, the Saljuk fell into Genghis Khan's hand. The Saljuk then became splitted.
It was Utsman bin Ertughrul --who later be the first built the Khilafah Utsmaniyyah-- who united The Turks and made Turkey became glorious again. The Utsmaniyyah then went stronger and stronger.

In the early 15th century, Sultan Murad II led Turkey. He was a good, brave and smart man. He brought Turk;s dream (which also Prophet Muhammad's dream/bisyarah, too): to free Constantinople. Like his precursor, he tried to conquer Constantinople, but failed.

He had three sons: Ahmed, Ali and Mehmed. Because they're Sultan's children, they were taught to be the best. Unfortunately, Ahmed suddenly died and not so long after that, Ali, Murad's most-loved son, was killed, too.
Didn't want anything bad to happen again, Sultan Murad then made Mehmed prepared to be the next Sultan. He learned many things at early age: history, languages, math, physics, chemistry, Alquran-relate subjects, astronomy, war and military strategy, etc.

Mehmed had two teachers (ulama) who taught him about Islam and to create his leader-characters. They were Syaikh Ahmad Al-Kurani and Syaikh Aaq Syamsuddin. Later we'll know that it's mostly Syaikh Syamsuddin's teachings that actually made Mehmed became who he was meant to be.

In 1444 when Mehmed was 12 (he was born March 29 1432), Sultan Murad II was busy making a peace agreement with the Hungarian when in Karaman, Anatolia happened rebellion. Before he go to Karaman, he decided to give the throne to Mehmed and asked Halil Pasha to accompany and supervise Mehmed.

For the Turks, it was such a disaster because Mehmed was considered still too young to lead the country.
The West didn't waste they chance, they used it to bully Mehmed II. Pope Eugene IV pursued the King of Hungary, Ladislas, to broke the peace agreement and use the situation to pop out the crusade.

Mehmed was still a newbie to the politics thingy and he was confused at how to handle those things, He then sent letters to his father. At first Murad II didn't reply the letters because he thought he also needed sometime for himself (sort of me-time). But a letter finally made Murad II got back to Edirne.
The letter said:
"Dear father, who's actually the Sultan? Me or you? If it's you then please get back here to lead the troops.
If it's me then I command you to get back here to lead the troops!"
How brilliant Mehmed II was!

In short, Murad II won the war and he decided to go back to Anatolia and gave the throne back to Mehmed II. Mehmed II then planned to conquer Constantinople. But he hadn't been as popular as his father and he hadn't had a good relationship with the military,industry and especially the Yeniceri troops.
Halil Pasha got afraid that Mehmed II might make bad political options and eventually a bad political wave for Europe, so he made use of the Yeniceri's rebel and sued Murad II to beacome Sultan again.
Thus, Murad II become sultan again, and Mehmed II became the governor of Manisa Town.

Because of that incident, the West underestimated Mehmed II as stupid and dumb person, not capable of being a sultan.
Mehmed II didn't lose his heart just by what the West said. He even made the situation as a learning. He then remained silent when in fact he actually was gaining knowledge, strength and of course Allah's blessing to help him make his dream (conquering Constantinople) come true.
In two years, Mehmed II became a much better person. He gave people proof that he truly was a leader.
He also accompanied his father, Murad II in several battles and expeditions.

In 1451, Sultan Murad II died in Edirne. Mehmed II was asked to leave Manisa for Edirne by Halil Pasha to get prepared for the inauguration of him be a sultan. He then left Manisa by saying "Only those who love me allowed to follow me" to his folks.

Becoming a Sultan, Mehmed II started executing his strategies to conquer (read: free) Constantinople. Some of them are:
-Separated those who tended to support peace with Constantinople -- Halil Pasha in Edirne, and Ishak Pasha in Anatolia.
-Commanded Zaganos Pasha, his loyal wazir, to lead  the Yeniceri troops.
-Made agreements with some countries (Venice, Genoa, Hungary, Serbia, Wallachia and Rhodes), who later thought that Mehmed II was easy to be deceived, who later be sorry for their thoughts.

When Ibrahim Bey, Karaman leader rebelled, and Mehmed II succeeded in blowing out Ibrahim's effort, the Yeniceri troops also asked for the 'bonus' for the Karaman victory. Because this incident, the bad Yeniceri generals then be replaced of the good ones. They also had tranings to be better and more focused troops. And, Mehmed II also picked up Agha, the leader for Yeniceri troops for each legion, and made sure that all Agha only commanded by him and only report to him.

In the middle 1451, Mehmed II looked at the Anadolu Hisari, a castle made by Sultan Beyazid I and he thought that he should make another one across the Anadoluy Hisari. The goal was to make it easier for the Turks to move, to save the Bosphorus strait and to connect the Asia and Europe area of Turkey.
The castle was made just by four months, from April 15 1452 to August 31 1452. It was named Bogazkesen. Bogaz means strait/throat, and Kesen means slaughter.
How big! four months! on 1452!
Now, after seeing the picture of BogazKesen, can you see why the West (especially Constantinople) was starting to be afraid? :)

Continuing the effort to conquer Constantinople, on Aug 29-Sep 1 1452, Sultan Mehmed went to the Golden Horn to observe the weakness he might use and made notes and some analysis.

But then, eventhough he had prepared everything he needed to prepare, he realized that in weapon thingy, Turkey was far behind the West. At that time, human had known about cannon, but they only made little version ones. Mehmed II needed a bigger, much bigger size than all that had already existed, to make it easier to break down Constantinople's wall. Fortunately, a Hungarian weapon expert, Orban, came to Mehmed II to offer him his cannon. Mehmed asked him to make a big cannon and Orban said he could make it.
You see, here in the book I learned how the people in the 15th century made cannon. They prepare for the materials first and then burn it for days. While the materials are being boiled and mixed, they prepare for the mold: the land is digged and filled with clay then the material is poured into the mold. Tadaaa! Here's the picture of the biggest cannon ever made in the 15th:


To make this post shorter (read the book if you really want to know the detail! :p), eventually Sultan Mehmed II won the war and succeeded in conquering the Constantinople. He used many strategies, some of them are old strategies used by the past heroes. The greatest strategy, for me, is when Sultan Mehmed decided to move his 72 boats (or ships?) from Galata to the Golden Horn. In just one night!


Subhanallah, this book really is a great book to read. Especially for those who want to know more about Islam and also world history. This book also tells us, the Muslim, that we can rise again and be the Muslim Allah and Prophet Muhammad want us to be. It also teaches us good --if not great-- principles and values a leader should hold on to.
I hope everyone who reads this review will be interested in reading the book, and then be inspired to be a better muslim. Let's rise, people!

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