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.

Imam Taha Tarkan
Imam Taha Tarkan

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  Hala Sultan Tekkeprophet 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.

Kirklar Tekki after restoration
Kirklar Tekki after restoration

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 Ruins of Kirklar Tekki 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. 

1940 imam Raif Salih Efendi smlThe  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.