When Vice-President Hamid Ansari travels to Turkey next week,he will not be just on a bilateral visit to discuss Afghanistan and trade links.
For him,it will be a private pilgrimage of sorts as well,since the famous companion of the Prophet and the respected ancestor of the Ansars Eyup Sultan is buried in a place near Istanbul. The story goes that when Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina,the people of Medina helped him and his entourage by providing them shelter. They came to be known as Ansars,meaning helper in Arabic,and Ansari is a person who helps.
Ayyub,or Eyup (as he is known in Turkish),was one among the Ansars or the Prophets closest companions,and the Ansaris are considered his descendents.
The site near Istanbul where Eyup is buried is a sacred place for Muslims,ranked fourth after the big three: Mecca,Medina and Jerusalem.
When Muhammad arrived in Medina,he was offered accommodation by all its inhabitants,but he wished to stay with the Banu Najjar tribe,whom he was distantly related to. He enquired about the member of the Banu Najjar tribe closest to him and was introduced to Abu Ayyub al-Ansari. Muhammad stayed with him for seven months.
The Eyup Sultan mosque and tomb are located near the Golden Horn,outside the Walls of Constantinople. The mosque rises next to the place where Abu Ayyub al-Ansari is said to have been buried during the Arab assault on Constantinople (present day Istanbul) in 670. Some of the personal belongings of the Muhammad are said to be preserved in his tomb.
Government sources said the Vice-President,who will be in Turkey from October 10 to 15,will visit the mosque to offer prayers during the later part of his trip,after his official engagements are over.
Ansaris visit will start from Ankara,where he will hold delegation-level talks with members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly,led by Speaker Camil Cicek. He will also meet Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. The discussions are expected to cover all aspects of bilateral,regional and international issues,including the forthcoming Istanbul conference on Afghanistan. India will participate in the conference,which is scheduled to be held later this year.
Besides,Ansari will pay homage to the founder of the Republic of Turkey,Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,at his mausoleum in Ankara.
Ansari will also visit the province of Konya,where he will be conferred an honorary doctorate in international relations by Mevlana university.