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Hala Sultan Tekke

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Hala Sultan Tekke

Hala Sultan Tekke

Basic information
Location Cyprus Larnaca, Cyprus
Affiliation Islam
Region island of Cyprus
Architectural description
Architectural type Mosque

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Islam Portal

Hala Sultan Tekke with Larnaca Salt Lake in the foreground

Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram is a very prominent Muslim shrine near Larnaca, on the island of Cyprus. Umm Haram (Hala Sultan is the Turkish language name) was the Islamic prophet Muhammad's wet nurse and the wife of Ubada bin al-Samit. Most accounts[weasel words] establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab raids on Cyprus under the Caliph Muawiyah between 647 and 649, which were later pursued throughout the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca. She was buried near the salt lake and her grave became a sacred shrine. The shrine, and later the mosque and the whole complex was named after her. According to Shia belief, her grave lies within Jannatul Baqi cemetery in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.[1]

In Ottoman times, a mosque complex was built in stages around the tomb, especially as of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The shrine structure was first erected by Sheikh Hassan in 1760. Later the mosque was constructed and the complex assumed its present form around 1816/17. Hala Sultan Tekke complex is composed of a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery, and living quarters for men and women. The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and may have referred to an earlier feature of the location. The present-day complex, open to all and not belonging to a single religious movement, lies in a serene setting on the shores of the Larnaca Salt Lake, which appears to be an important site also in prehistory (see below). Hala Sultan Tekke is a listed Ancient Monument.

Description of the Tekke


Aerial photo of the Larnaca Salt Lake (in winter) with Hala Sultan Tekke

Most available accounts on Hala Sultan Tekke date from recent times, when the complex was built. Some of the foreign travellers who visited Cyprus refer to the pre-existing tomb as the "old woman's tomb". Both Muslims and Christians considered the tomb as a sacred place. Therefore it attracted the faithful from both religions.

The same accounts relate that the tomb was discovered in the 18th century by the dervish called Sheikh Hasan, who also built the first structure here. It is highly probable that Sheikh Hasan travelled around Cyprus and spread the word about Umm Haram, attracting visitors who soon attributed legends to the site. Dervish Hasan managed to convince the administrative and religious authorities of the site's sacred nature and with the permission he received, he built the shrine around the tomb in 1760 and had it decorated. The wooden fences around the tomb would have been built by the 19th century Ottoman governor in Cyprus, Seyyid Elhac Mehmed Agha, which were replaced by fences in bronze and two doors by his successor Acem Ali Agha.

In another account, Giovanni Mariti, who visited Cyprus between 1760-1767, wrote that the shrine was built by the Cyprus governor he names as Ali Agha. According to Mariti, until 1760 they used the stones of a standing church in a ruined village nearby as construction materials.[2] In another source, it is mentioned that the construction of the mosque was initiated by the Cyprus governor Seyyid Mehmed Emin Efendi in classical Ottoman style, and it was completed in November 1817.

Above the entry gate to Tekke garden is an Ottoman inscription dated 4 March 1813. Sultan Mahmud II's monogram appears on both sides of the inscription and reads, "Hala Sultan Tekke was built by God's beloved great Ottoman Cyprus governor". The garden itself was designed by a pasha and came to be known as "Pasha garden". The complex of buildings adjacent to the Tekke was known as "Gülşen-Feyz" (the rose garden of plenitude or of enlightenment). To the north (left) of the entrance there used to be a guesthouse for men. On the right side of the entrance, there was another guesthouse of which one block was reserved for men (Selamlik) and the other for women (Haremlik). It was a custom for visitors to take the oath of dedication to serve the Hala Sultan Tekke if their wishes were realized. The domed mosque is square-shaped with a balcony and was built in yellow stone blocks. The minaret was repaired in 1959.

Umm Haram's tomb is located behind the mosque wall of the qibla (in the direction of Mecca). A further inscription dated 1760 is found here. Aside her, there are four other tombs, two of them former sheikhs. Another important tomb is a two-leveled marble sarcophagus, carrying the date 12 July 1929. The tomb belongs to Adile Hüseyin Ali, who was the Turkish wife of the Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca of the Hashemite House, himself a grandson of the Ottoman grand vizier Koca Mustafa Reşid Pasha and a descendant of Muhammad. At the eastern corner of the mosque and the Tekke, there is a cemetery, which was closed to burials at around 1899. A number of past Turkish administrators are buried here.

Opposite to the mosque, there is an octagonal fountain, which was built around 1796-1797 by the then governor of Cyprus Silahtar Kaptanbaşı Mustafa Agha. The information on the construction is recorded on the marble inscription located on the fountain. On another inscription dated 1895, which was recently discovered in the Tekke's garden, it is written that the infrastructure for bringing in the water was built upon the instructions of the Sultan Abdülhamid II.


While being acknowledged as a holy site for Turkish Cypriot Muslims,[3][4][5] the mosque has also been described by secular contemporary sources as being revered by all Muslims.[6][7][8][9] In an assessment of the environmental and cultural assets of Cyprus, Professor George E. Bowen, a senior Fullbright scholar at the University of Tennessee, is quoted as referring to the Hala Sultan Tekke as the third holiest place for Muslims in the world.[10] This view has been echoed by other sources[11][12][13][14] including the United Nations Development Programme in Cyprus[15] and the Cypriot administration's Department of Antiquities.[16] Others describe the site as fourth most important.[17][18][19] As a result of the site being located in the Greek non-Muslim sector of the divided island, pilgrimage visits to the site are infrequent.[20]

In addition to interventions at the imperial level and by high-ranking administrators for the maintenance and development of the complex, during the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman-flagged ships would hang their flags at half mast when off the shores of Larnaca, and salute Hala Sultan with cannon shots.[21]

The site in prehistory

During the second half of the second millennium B.C, the area of the Hala Sultan Tekke was used as a cemetery by the people who lived in a large town a few hundred metres to the West. A part of this town was excavated by a Swedish archaeological mission and proved to be a major urban centre of Late Bronze Age Cyprus. More recent archaeological investigations conducted by the Department of Antiquities under the women's quarter of Hala Sultan Tekke have revealed building remains dated to the late Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods (6th - 1st c. B.C). Several finds indicate that the site might have been used as a sanctuary but the limited scale of the investigations precludes definite conclusions about its use.

See also

External links


  1. "Saudi Arabia". Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  2. Mariti, Giovanni (1792): Travels Through Cyprus, Syria, and Palestine; with a General History of the Levant. Translated from the Italian Printed for P. Byrne, Item notes: v. 1
  3. Boyle, Kevin; Juliet Sheen (October 1997). "Cyprus". Freedom of religion and belief: a world report. London: Routledge. pp. 286–293. LCCN 97-224015 ISBN 0415159776. "The tomb is said to be revered by Turkish Cypriots as the 'third holiest site in Islam'" 
  4. "Study of building stones and mortar from Hala Sultan Tekke mosque". Hellenic Society for Archaeometry. May 16, 2003. Retrieved 2007-06-19. "Hala Sultan Tekke, near Larnaka, is a holy site in Islam and the most important one for Cypriot Muslims." 
  5. Financed Restoration of Church and Mosque on Cyprus Supports Cultural Heritage and Tolerance, USAID Press Office, July 5, 2002. "Hala Sultan Tekke, one of the holiest sites in Islam, is the most important religious location for Cypriot Muslims."
  6. Purcell, Hugh Dominic (1969). Cyprus. Praeger. p. 367. "At the end of 1965, the National Guard had taken over the shrine of Hala Sultan Tekke, a place of small strategic importance. From May 1966 they prevented all Moslem access to it, so that Mehmet Dana, Mufti of Cyprus, could exploit the misuse of one of the holiest places in the world of Islam." 
  7. Syneleusis, Hellēnikē Koinotikē; Hypourgeio Paideias, Grapheion Dēmosiōn Plērophoriōn (1963). Cyprus Today. Public Information Office, Cyprus. p. 16. "As such, it is one of the holiest sites in Islam and the most important religious location for Turkish Cypriots and other Muslims living in Cyprus." 
  8. J magazine (Inflight magazine for Jazeera Airways), Ink Publishing, 2008. Retrieved: 23-02-2009: "Hala Sultan Tekke (or Mosque of Umm Haram) one of Islam's holiest sites."
  9. "Egyptian professor to renovate ancient mosque of Hala Sultan". Arabic News. 2002-07-30. Retrieved 2009-03-15. "One of the most revered sites of Islam." 
  10. Bowen, George E. (April 3, 2001). "Assessing the Isle of Cyprus". Patrick S. O'Brien on the University of Tennessee server. Retrieved 2006-11-12. "Three historic churches and monasteries are within the city. Just outside the city is the location of the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, the third holiest place for Muslims in the world." 
  11. Drayton, Penny (January 1993). "Aphrodite's island". Wood & water 2 (41).  Cited by: Trubshaw, Bob (February 1993). "The Black Stone - the Omphalos of the Goddess". Mercian Mysteries (14). Retrieved 2006-11-12. "In Cyprus is another highly venerated Islamic site - the third most important after Mecca and Medina - the Hala Sultan Tekke. This, too, has a black rock, said to have fallen as a meteorite as part of the tritholon over the shrine. The shrine is to a woman - the aunt and foster mother of Prophet Mohammed". 
  12. Daniel, Geoff; John Oldfield, Christine Oldfield (2004). Landscapes of Cyprus. Sunflower. p. 36. ISBN 1856912299. 
  13. The Story of Hala Sultan Tekke, University of Arizona: Center for Middle Eastern Studies, "The Mosque of Umm Haram is the chief Muslim shrine on the island of Cyprus and an important holy site for the entire Muslim world... The Hala Sultan Tekke is the third most revered site of pilgrimage in the Muslim world." Retrieved: 23-02-2009
  14. Papalexandrou, Nassos. Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus: An Elusive Landscape of Sacredness in a Liminal Context, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 26, Number 2. John Hopkins University Press, (October 2008) pp. 251-281. "Der Parthog calls it the "third most holy space in Islam" (1995:222–223)"
  15. "Hala Sultan Tekke: Where East Meets West". Issue 1. United Nations Development Programme. Spring 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-12. "Islam's third sacred holy site after the Ka'ba and the Prophet Mohammad's grave in Mecca, and among the greatest cultural heritage monuments of the world, Hala Sultan Tekke, or Umm Haram, has long been the destination of Muslim pilgrims from Cyprus and the Middle East." 
  16. "Monuments: Hala Sultan Tekke". Republic of Cyprus, Ministry of Communications and Works; Department of Antiquities. 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-06. "The Muslim mosque of Hala Sultan is located in the center of a spectacular garden at the west bank of the Salt Lake, about 6 km southwest of Larnaca. It is the main Muslim pilgrimage site of Cyprus and the third most important holy place of Islam." 
  17. Khatchatourian, Khadijah Tara. (2006) Hala Sultan Tekke, Spohr Publishers, "The Hala Sultan Tekke is fourth in importance to the Muslim world". Retrieved: 23-02-2009
  18. "The Cultural Heritage of Cyprus: Part XIII. The Shrine of Hala Sultan Tekke". The Blue Beret. pg.5. Public Information Office of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. June, 2003. Retrieved 2006-03-06. "Not just the holiest Muslim shrine in Cyprus, Hala Sultan Tekke is one of the holiest shrines in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem." 
  19. Galatariotou, Catia (2004). The Making of a Saint. Cambridge University Press. p. 62. ISBN 0521390354. "It is also worth remembering that the tekke of Um-Harram (Hala Sultan tekke) near Larnaka was one of the holy places which every Muslim was expected to visit as a pilgrim, ranking only fourth in importance after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem" 
  20. Worpole, Ken; Larraine Worpole (2003). Last Landscapes. Reaktion Books. p. 42. ISBN 186189161X. 
  21. Charalambous, Charlie (20 December 2005). "Restored Mosque Brings Hope for Cyprus Ethnic Divide". Arab News. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 

Coordinates: 34°53′N 33°36′E / 34.883°N 33.6°E / 34.883; 33.6ru:Мечеть Хала Султан Текке tr:Hala Sultan Tekkesi

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