Istanbul is a city of constant change and circulation from one continent to another, but if there is one thing that hasn’t change for centuries is the religious fragments underlying the city. Although it’s basically a cradle for major world religions, Istanbul has a strong connection to its Islamic past. When this is the case, it’s no wonder there are respected patron saints who are believed to be holding the city together in the spiritual sense.
You may never hear of him before, but Aziz Mahmud Hudayi is one of the most prominent Muslim saints for many people. He was born in the 16th century in Ankara. He later came to Istanbul for education in the Little Hagia Sophia madrasa, where he became an assistant to his master Nazirzade Ramazan Efendi. This was a turning point in his life that is progressively guiding him to Sufism. He would go from one city to another to extend his teachings around the country until he settled down in Istanbul, where he founded a complex to teach about Sufism and its tenets. A life dedicated to religion ended in the same complex where today people are climbing its stairs to pray and hope for their wishes to be accepted.
Another patron saint Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, born in Arabia, was a companion of the prophet Muhammad. Being one of the standard-bearers of Islam allowed him to go to wars and long-distance expeditions, where he eventually died in Istanbul during one of the jihads. Years later, when the Ottomans conquered Istanbul, they did elaborate research to find his grave and successfully executed it. Today, you can visit his tomb in the historical district of Eyup inside the Eyup Sultan Mosque.
Yahya Efendi is one of the great patrons who lived in Istanbul in the 16th century. He was a close source to the palace and a personal mentor to Kanuni Sultan Suleyman. As well as his religious identity, he also wrote poems about Sufism during his pension in Besiktas, where he built a complex. After he died, his fame among seaman made him one of the four saints with the belief of spiritual guardianship. Located between Besiktas and Ortakoy, his tomb Yahya Efendi Dervish Lodge is surrounded by many other graves in the hopes of becoming a “neighbor” to him.
Lastly, another member of this conversant quartet is Telli Baba, who was an imam in the army during the period of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Even though his know-about is not clear, it’s narrated that his graveyard was unearthed after a sick girl dreamt about it and became ill-free following the incident. You can visit his tomb, which is located in Rumelikavagı, a part of the Sariyer district.