For the second time in a year, I came across the same pages in a book: 1453 – The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West, by Roger Crowley. It is no surprise that many accounts are biased and at times contradictory. Yet, an interesting point to note, is the significant role traditional methods and sufis had in increasing the morale of the military and fighting for victory:

The attack [final assault] was fixed for the day after next – Tuesday, May 29. In order to work the soldiers to a pitch of religious zeal and to quash any negative thoughts, it was announced that the following day, Monday, May 28, was to be given over to atonement. The men were to fast during the daylight hours, to carry out their ritual ablutions, to say their prayers five times, and to ask God’s aid in capturing the city. The customary candle illuminations were to continue for the next two nights. The mystery and awe that the illuminations, combined with prayers and music, worked on both the men and their enemies were powerful psychological tools, employed to full effect outside the walls of Constantinople.

In the meantime the work in the Ottoman camp went on with renewed enthusiasm. Vast quantities of earth and brushwood were collected ready to fill up the ditch, scaling ladders were made, stockpiles of arrows were collected, wheeled protective screens drawn up. As night fell the city was again ringed by a brilliant circle of fire; the rythmic chanting of the names of God rose steadily from the camp to the steady beating of drums, the clash of cymbals, and the skirls of the zorna . . .

Mehmet [Fatih Sultan] had worked hard on the morale of his men, turning their responses over several days through cycles of fervor and reflection that mullahs and dervishes played a key role in creating the right mentality. Thousand of wandering holy men had come to  the siege from the towns and villages of upland of Anatolia, bringing with them a fervent religious expectation. In their dusty robes they moved about the camp, their eyes alight with excitement. They recited relevant verses from the Koran and Hadith and told tales of martyrdom and prophecy. The men were reminded that they were following in the footsteps of the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad s.a.w.] killed at the first Arab siege of Constantinople. Their names were passed from mouth to mouth: Hazret Hafiz, Ebu Seybet ul-Ensari, Hamd ul-Ensari, and above all Ayyub, whom the Turks called Eyup [r.a.]. The holy men reminded their listeners, in hushed tones, that to them fell the honor of fulfilling the word of the Prophet himself:

The Prophet said to his disciples: “Have you heard of a city with land on one side and sea on the other two sides?” They replied: “Yes, O Messenger of God.” He spoke: “The last hour [of Judgement] will not dawn before it is taken by 70,000 sons of Isaac. When they reach it, they will not do battle with arms and catapults but with the words ‘There is no God but Allah, and Allah is great.’ Then the first sea wall will collapse, and the second time the second sea wall, and the third time the wall on the land side will collapse, and rejoicing they will enter in.”

It was a heady mixture, but there were those in the camp, including Sheik Akshemsettin [q.s.] himself, who were extremely realistic about the authentic motivation of some of the troops. “You well know,” he had written to Mehmet earlier in the siege, . . . “the number of those who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the love of God is extremely small. On the other hand, if they glimpse the possibility of winning booty they will run towards certain death.” . . .

As evening fell, the Ottomans went to break their fast in a shared meal and to prepare themselves for the night. The prebattle meal was a further opportunity to build group solidarity and a sense of sacrifice among the soldiers gathered around the communal cooking pots. Fires and candles were lit, if anything larger than on the previous two nights. Again the cries swept through, accompanied by pipes and horns, reinforcing the twin message of prosperous life and joyful death . . . A mood of fervent joy passed through the camp as the excited prayers of the soldiers slowly rose to a crescendo like the breaking of a mighty wave. The lights and the rythmical cries froze the blood of the waiting Christians.  A massive bombardment opened up in the dark, so heavy “that to us it seemed to be a very inferno.” And at midnight silence and darkness fell on the Ottoman camp. The men went in good order to their posts” with all their weapons and a great mountain of arrows.” Pumped up by the adrenaline of the coming battle, dreaming of martyrdom and gold, they waited in total silence for the final signal to attack.

There was nothing left to be done. Both sides understood the climactic significance of the coming day. Both had made their spiritual preparations. According to Barbaro, who of course gave the final say in the outcome to the Christian god, “and when each side had prayed to his god for victory, they to theirs and we to ours, our Father in Heaven decided with his Mother who should be concluded next day.” According to Sad-ud-din, the Ottoman troops, “from dusk till dawn, intent on battle . . . united the greatest of meritorious works . . . passing the night in prayer.”

The rest is history that ended one era and started another.

(As a note, the hadith mentioned above shows on the internet as
Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 6979:

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace he upon him) saying: You have heard about a city the one side of which is in the land and the other is in the sea (Constantinople). They said: Allall’s Messenger, yes. Thererupon he said: The Last Hour would not cmoe unlesss seventy thousand persons from Bani lsra’il would attack it. When they would land there, they will neither fight with weapons nor would shower arrows but would only say: “There is no god but Allah and Allah is the Greatest,” that one side of it would fall. Thaur (one of the narrators) said: I think that he said: The part by the side of the ocean. Then they would say for the second time: “There is no god but Allah and Allah is the Greatest” that the second side would also fall, and they would say: “There is no god but Allah and Allah is the Greatest,” that the gates would be opened for them and they would enter therein and, they would be collecting spoils of war and distributing them amongst themselves that a noise would be heard and It would be said: Verily, Dajjal [Antichrist] has come. And thus they would leave everything there and would turn to him.)