The Kırklar Tekke and Tombs
By Chris Elliott
There are fascinating historical places to visit in North Cyprus many of which are recorded in the local Turkish language but for those English speaking people some places are hard to discover. One of these is the Kırklar Tekke which lies just to the south of Ercan Airport.
It is best found by driving towards Ercan Airport and then turn left at the small roundabout by the airport and then take the second turning on the right onto an unmade road, down which many pilgrims travel to visit the very holy place Kırklar Tekke which is on the left just before the road ends. Being lucky I discovered this place and when I went there I and was greeted by the Imam (Hoca) Taha Tarkan Bay, who showed me around the tombs and invited me with great enthusiasm to take pictures and video clips for this article so the world would learn of it.
He also kindly sent to me some old pictures of the Tekke and people associated with it and together with the following historical account of this site which starts with the cruelty of man on another and is repeated again and again. We do hope we have interpreted the facts correctly, but do read the following to understand the history of this place and its importance to the many Muslims who visit it and also those past Christians that also venerated the site up to the 1950s.
“On 28th year of the Hegira calendar (648ad), Hz. Osman (r.a) era many Sahabes (our prophet Mohammed’s friends) came to Cyprus on boats to spread Islam. Female Sahabes also participated in this expedition. Ümmü Haram ( who is known as ”Hala Sultan” and not being the real paternal aunt of our prophet was actually a relative to his grandmother Selma and also his nursing mother’s sister. Maternal and paternal aunt are the same word in Arabic, hence the name Hala Sultan) was martyred by Byzantine soldiers and buried on the spot in South Cyprus (near Larnaca in Hala Sultan Tekke) which today is a pilgrimage site.
40 of the Sahabes then moved to a village, Timbou (near Ercan Airport) in today’s Mesarya plain where they were massacred by Byzantine soldiers and buried in two holes at the spot of today’s pilgrimage site (Kırklar Tekke). Following the 1571 Ottoman conquest of Cyprus, it has been exemplary as to how they discovered the tomb through continuous dedicated work trying to find traces of the Sahabes. They found a shepherd around the area of the tomb and asked him if anyone ever came across any graves or unusual events in the area. Pointing to the ”tomb” site he said : ” I am a witness that grass grows much taller and greener here and no animal ever grazed or stepped over this grass. ”Upon this, when they excavated here, they found the remains of the Sahabes.
British historian Sir Harry Luke states the words of a dervish that lived at the Tekke, when it was still used, that 23 of the sahabes are buried separately and others are buried in one hole. When some people, who were disturbed by the popularity of the tomb, came to kill the dervishes, the sword they brought with them mysteriously cut through the man . A spear got stuck in the wall of the Koran Reading chambers after piercing one of the attackers through his throat. Upon these incidents, they became muslim reciting the ”Shahada ” ( Eşhedü enla ilahe illallah ve eşhedü enne Muhammeden abdühu ve resulüh ) on the spot, one of them saying : ” Oh God, I have a sick child at home, I will give all my land to this tomb if he heals ! ” he finds his child in full health when he returns home with his wife crying out with joy and donates 200 donums of land to the tomb which is under the control of Waqf Administration today.
At present the spear is buried in the wall and the sword that hung on the wall for years before somehow getting lost, proves these stories to us. On 6th July 1958, during the EOKA terror days, the Sheikh of Kırklar Tekke, Yusuf Mehmet Hilmi, was burnt to death by the Greek Cypriots. Being far from built up areas, in the middle of a vast land and burnt by the Greek Cypriots in 1959, this turned it into an abandoned place. The Imam’s chambers, guesthouse, coffee house out of neglect and most of the buildings except for the kitchen, mihrab (altar of the tomb) were ruined and abandoned.
The Raif Salih Hodja, a member of former dervishes from a nearby village, Meriç (Mora) , used to open the place for worship on Fridays and religious holidays until the end of 1958. After the 21st December attacks on the Turkish Community, the Tekke was totally abandoned. It was made what it is today through a thorough restoration in January 2007, and another in November 2012″.
May Allah make us have and be worthy of the blessings of our Sahabe . Amen .
What a fascinating, chilling yet uplifting historical account this is and this Tekke has a similar history to that of Hz Ömer Türbesi in Çatalköy which I have visited many times and plan to bring you the story of this in the not too distant future.