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Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and its Light Refraction Mechanism

Date of Submission: 13/04/2015
Criteria: (iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
District of Aydınlar (Tillo), Province of Siirt
Coordinates: N 37 56 56.77 E 42 00 35.22
Ref.: 6043

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Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and the other two structures associated with the Light Refraction Mechanism are located within the district of Aydınlar (Tillo), Siirt. The Tomb was built after the death of Ismail Fakirullah by a student of his, Ibrahim Hakkı, in the 18th cent. The tomb stones date from the 19th cent. It has partially lost its authenticity due to misguided restoration works carried out in 1963. Ismail Fakirullah Tomb consists of two rooms and a hallway covered by one large and two small domes and a tower. The Tomb has a square plan covered by a dome. The transition to the dome is through squinches. There are two-level windows on all façades of the structure. The windows at the lower level have straight lintel with curved arched window pediment, while the windows at the upper level have a pointed arch span. There are also pointed arched pediment windows on the drums of the dome.
The main portal of the tomb opens to the entrance section which has a square plan covered by a dome, and from this entrance section it leads to the main section which also has a square plan. The interior sections of the tomb are plain in terms of ornamentation and include several other tombs other than Ismail Fakirullah.The tower, approx. 10 m. in height, next to the tomb has an octagonal plan. 

Kalet‟ül Üstad (a wall built of rubble, undressed stones of different size without any binding material), located on a hill overlooking the Botan Valley 3-4 km east of Tillo, is also important when considered in association with the tomb, tower and its light refraction mechanism. From its window opening of 0.40x0.50 cm wide, every year in 21st  March (Novruz – or Nevruz, Nevroz, Nowrouz – inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) and 23rd September, the first light of the rising sun is reflected to the reflector precisely embedded in the tower of the tomb, and from a mechanism in the tower highlights the „sanduka‟ (eng.- „cenotaph‟) of Ismail Fakirullah.

The lightning starting from the lower left part of the Tac-ı Şerif continues for approx. 6 mins. In the first 3 mins., the Tac-ı Şerif is completely highlighted from the light reflected through the tower  and in the remaining 3 mins. the light fades away in the opposite direction from the upper part of the Tac-ı Şerif.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and the other two structures associated with the tomb and its light refraction mechanism is significant for its light refraction mechanism and the Sufi (or Sufic, Sufistic) belief which is disguised within this mechanism. It represents architectural evidence of the belief of a religion and its stage in history of mankind. Depending on limited observation tools (which included an „astrolabe‟ and a walking stick – with an eye hole which was made by Ibrahim Hakkı himself – now displayed in a private collection, see Fig.8-9) Ibrahim Hakkı created, based on long-term astronomic observations, the mechanism needed to reflect his faith up to the present day.

Criterion (iv): The Ismail Fakirullah Tomb retains remarkable elements of the stages of construction and thus offer an outstanding example of tradition of tomb building in Eastern Anatolia from the 18 th cent.

Criterion (vi): The Ismail Fakirullah tomb and its light refraction mechanism bear an exceptional testimony to a strong and continuing spiritual and cultural tradition that has endured for many centuries. The Sufi (or Sufic, Sufistic)  belief  through this mechanism which highlights the "sanduka" (eng.- „cenotaph‟) of Ismail Fakirullah, marking the 21st  March (Novruz – or Nevruz, Nowrouz – inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity) – which is believed to be the beginning of a new year among certain peoples and various communities within the region - has been transmitted through generations.

Apart from the physical elements of the property, the relationship between the these elements, essence and meaning makes the Ismail Fakirullah Tomb so exceptional as it reflects a certain belief transcending the national boundaries across a vast geographical area covering, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Ismail Fakirullah Tomb has been registered to the national inventory as a monument with the Diyarbakır Regional Conservation Council‟s  Decision no.939 in 1991 and thus protected under the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties Act No.2863 and its relevant Supplementary Regulations (i.e. no.660 Grouping, Maintenance and Restoration of Immovable Cultural Properties). The tomb and its immediate surrounding within the cemetery (which also includes grave-stones dating from the ca. 19th cent., see fig.3) has been registered as a protection area in 2013.
The remains of the wall known as “Kalet‟ül Üstad” which is being associated with the Tomb and its Light Refraction Mechanism has been registered as a monument in 2008.

The misguided restoration works carried out on the tomb in 1963 (which includes the re-construction of the tomb with the local stone referred to as “ahlat” stone) have led to arguments about its degree of authenticity in terms of material(s) and substance. The restoration works carried out in this period also resulted in the disfunction of the light refraction mechanism of the tomb due to the displacement of the window located on the drums of the tomb which was an essential part of the mechanism. With a later period adjustment i.e. by opening a secondary new window on the façade of the tomb, the light refraction mechanism has become functional once again in 2011. Even though the tomb and its tower have undergone major restoration work in the 1960s, the majority of the essential parts of the light refraction mechanism which has been functional since 1734 has been conserved intact.

Comparison with other similar properties

Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and its light refraction mechanism is outstanding not only because it was exceptional in its own time, but that it has survived with all its essential parts which has been functional since 1742 and is still in use for its original purpose today.  No similar Property has already been inscribed on the World Heritage List, and no comparable Property, on current Tentative Lists or otherwise, exists to be put forward for World Heritage Nomination. There are a number of tombs (i.e. Sheikh Hamza el-Kebir Tomb, Sheikh Mücahit Tomb and the Sultan Memduh Tomb) which are similar in terms of date, scale, or plan layout (i.e. square plan, single domed plan layout) within the region, but none has such a light refraction mechanism. It represents architectural evidence of the belief of a religion and its stage in history of mankind. Inscription of Ismail Fakirullah Tomb and its light refraction mechanism would therefore fill a gap on the current World Heritage List by uniquely representing this belief in Anatolia.