As the younger son of his father, Sultan Orkhan, Murad was not expected to assume the responsibility of Sultan, but with the death of his older brother, Sulaiman Khan, who had actually been groomed for the Sultanate earlier, Murad ascended the throne.
At the age of forty when he began his reign in 1359, Sultan Murad was already a mature man and accomplished soldier and general, having distinguished himself in numerous battles and expeditions during his father’s lifetime.
If the new monarch wished to have a peaceful reign to begin with, he was to be sadly disappointed. The chief of Angora, at the instigation of the Christians, quickly rose in revolt. The Sultan was no pushover however and suppressed the revolt without difficulty.
Turning to the Balkan Peninsula, the Sultan captured Adrianople and after renaming Edirne, made it the Capital of the Empire and from 763 AH to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, sixty-four years after his death, the City remained the Capital of the Turkish [Islamic] Empire.
At the time, the Christians were far from united, but the Pope appealed to them to bury their differences and unite against Islam. The Christians agreed and amassed forces to engage against the Muslims in the Middle East.
In the wake of the conquest of Adrianople, the people of Bulgaria and Serbia grew anxious. The Caesar of Constantinople sent his message to the Archbishop of Rome to deliver sermons and despatch reinforcements from all over Europe. The Christian kings of Serbia and Bulgaria also became alert. Thus in 765 AH, the united Christian forces moved towards Adrianople. A new crusade had just been declared against Islam.
Sultan Murad was then besieging the City of Beeja, when he heard of the Christian alliance shifting towards him. Sultan Murad I then sent his commander, Lal Shaheen at the head of only 20, 000 soldiers. The Christians meanwhile numbered over seven hundred thousand. Lal Shaheen reached the banks of the River Murtaza to engage them.
The Christians, then unaware of Lal Shaheen’s presence, were having a picnic. Lal Shaheen launched a surprise assault on the party suddenly at night and killed a large number of them. The survivors ran away for their lives.
Despite the numerical superiority of the latter, the Christians tasted defeat. They fled the scene leaving large numbers of dead rotting on the battlefield, whilst many others were taken captive. Commander Lal Shaheen pressed forward and conquered large tracts of territory.
In 778 AH, the united armies of Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Bosnia, Constantinople and a papal representative marched on the Sultan’s capital. The Sultan’s forces that numbered less than one fourth of their adversaries that day, met the huge Christian alliance and inflicted one of the heaviest and most embarrassing defeats ever upon them.
The King of Serbia decided to give annual payment in silver, the availability of 1, 000 horsemen at the time of war for Sultan Murad while the Bulgarian ruler offered his daughter in marriage and the promise of allegiance.
The Caesar of Constantinople presented three beautiful daughters to the Sultan, one to be married to the Sultan himself and the other two to become wives for the Sultan’s two sons.
In 780 AH, the King of Serbia tried his fate with that of the ruler of Bulgaria and advanced against Sultan Murad. Soon however they realised their weakness and agreed to pay a large amount of money annually as homage. The King of Bulgaria also gave his sister in marriage to Sultan Murad.
Notwithstanding the outward peaceful gestures, the Christians looked for other means of dislodging and disgracing the Islamic emperor. In 789 AH, the son of the Caesar of Constantinople and Sawji, a son of Sultan Murad I, revolted against the Sultan at the behest of the Christians and was executed.
In 789 AH, Karaman Turks rose in revolt in Asia Minor and Sultan Murad sent his son, Bayazid to quell the unrest. In the City of Konya, Bayazid led his forces into enemy ranks after a quick charge and defeated the rebels. Buoyed on by the spirit of his son’s valour, the Sultan conferred upon him the title ‘Yaldaram’ or ’Yil’diram’ meaning lightening or thunderbolt.
In 1389 (791 AH), an alliance consisting of Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Albania, Wallachia, Hungary and Poland brought a united army of 100, 000 men to turn the Turks out of Europe.
At the time, Sultan Murad was in Barusa, but despite his age, personally led the defence of his army to counter the Christian threat. News had just arrived 20, 000 soldiers garrisoning Romiliya had been killed, some in battle while the rest perished as prisoners of war.
After some initial victories against unsuspecting Muslim forts and cities, the colossal Christian army that was heading for the Sultan’s capital sensed a great victory in sight and within their grasp. Europe, they must have felt, was going to see the last of the Muslims and the Turkish presence was about to be permanently extinguished.
In 792 AH, Sultan Murad accompanied by at least two of his sons, Prince Bayazid and Prince Yaqub, finally arrived from Bursa where he had been staying to defend the Capital and took immediate charge of affairs.
Soon, Commander Ali Pasha defeated the King of Bulgaria the same year and forced him to seek peace terms. However, this was just one army, a large number of others were still making their way to the Capital.
The contest between the two sides, in the Kasuda Desert, that has since passed into legend today is known as the Battle of Kosovo. On the one side the 60, 000 strong Muslim army was represented and led by Sultan Murad, then aged seventy whilst the Christians were led by Prince Lazar of Serbia.
Six centuries later, the historic battle was jointly celebrated by Christians, Muslims, Communists and Atheists alike in 1989 as a national event, given press coverage and media attention worldwide.
Despite the huge disparity in the size of forces whereby the Muslims were less than the overall Christian strength, the battle was largely a one-sided affair with a crushing victory
to crown the occasion.
The Battle of Kosovo 1389
The Prince of Serbia, Lazar, gathered the forces of the different Christian countries at the borders of Serbia and Bosnia and after setting up camp there, he himself threw a challenge to fight.
Sultan Murad assumed charge of the entire army and confidently appeared on the battlefield as a soldier king. When the Christians found the Muslim troops one-fourth of their number, they felt doubly encouraged.
Since they had occupied the field from before, they had regained their freshness and energy unlike the Muslim army, which had arrived at the spot after continuous fighting and enduring a hard journey and were completely exhausted.
Moreover, the Christians were well acquainted with the environment and surroundings of the area for they had friends, relatives and co-religionists there. With the arrival of the Muslim army, both parties went into long consultations in their respective camps during the night.
Some of the Christian commanders were of the opinion that the Muslim troops should be sniped at and exterminated before daybreak. However, other commanders, filled with pride and conviction of their victory spoke against this, pleading that a night assault would provide the Muslims an opportunity to flee in the darkness of the night, and they did not like to spare a single soul.
The Muslims on the other hand seemed awestruck with the size of the Christian army. During consultations in the royal assembly some Muslim commanders proposed rows of camels of burden to be set against the enemy fighters to serve as living fortifications. Moreover, during the fight these camels would strike fear into enemy horses setting their battle lines in disorder.
However, Bayazid Yaldaram, the elder son of Sultan Murad I, differed for the reason such a deceptive device was tantamount to declaring their weakness and fear. He wanted to take on the enemy in the open field. Thus, amidst conflicting views and suggestions, Sultan Murad I couldn’t arrive at a decision.
Furthermore, he experienced with anxiety the arrival of a strong dusty wind that had begun to blow against the Muslim troops covering their eyes and faces with dirt. It was certainly very injurious to the Muslims fighting temper and spirit.
Finding no way out Sultan Murad I fell prostrate, invoking Allah’s help and succour in this hour of distress. His prayer continued until morning. He was crying in distress with his head touching the ground, saying-
‘This is the fight between Islam and infidelity; look not at our sins but protect the honour of your Messenger and his Righteous Religion.’
These prayers attracted the Blessings of Allah and it began to rain heavily by the evening settling the dirt and dust and making the weather pleasant. The rain and wind stopped after a while and the battle lines were drawn.
Sultan Murad I put the feudal forces to the right under Prince Bayazid Yaldaram and those from the Asian territories to the left under Prince Yaqub, while Sultan Murad I himself took over the command of his bodyguards putting them in the centre. He then sent irregular horsemen and infantry as the vanguard,
The Centre of the army on the Christian side was under the command of Prince Lazar of Serbia, the right wing was given to his nephew, the left to the King of Bosnia. Both the armies clashed and kept fighting firmly until noon.
Sultan Murad I had an iron mace and was striking dead anyone who faced him. Now the Christian side eventually showed signs of yielding and were uprooted at last. The Muslim fighters expedited their assaults and rounded up the Prince of Serbia, Lazar; the Commander in Chief of the Christian forces.
The Christians themselves fled the battlefield leaving behind hundreds of thousands of Christians dead and almost all the prominent commanders as captive. When the Prince of Serbia was produced before Sultan Murad I, he ordered him to be kept safe in prison.
A Serbian commander fleeing with the rest of the Christian forces suddenly stopped and turned his horse toward the Muslims and requested that they bring him to their king, he said he hated the Christians and had some important information to disclose and wished to join the Muslim camp.
He also said he wished to embrace Islam. The Muslims, happy at the event, produced him before the Sultan and narrated the Serbian commander’s story to him. The Sultan grew happy and called him near. He moved ahead very respectfully and put his head on the feet of the Sultan.
This respectful gesture convinced the Sultan and his courtiers of his utmost loyalty. Now raising his head from the Sultan’s feet he took out a dagger from under his garment and struck it with great force into the Sultan’s chest.
The Sultan sustained a deep and fatal injury from which he was not to recover. Those in attendance tore the Serb to pieces. When the wounded Sultan felt sure of his death, he ordered the assassination of the Serbian Prince, Lazar, which was implemented at once. After a while, the Sultan succumbed to his injuries.
The immense jubilation of victory and ecstasy the Muslims felt after winning the battle had now turned sour and into deep sorrow as the Sultan was killed in tragic circumstances.
The Battle of Kosovo proved beyond doubt that even the allied forces of all Europe were unable to drive Muslims out of their lands. Along with this, the battle put and end to the Christian invasions and so-called crusades, for they had grown anxious for their own safety. The thought of conquering Syria now left their minds.
The Christians were convinced that their numerical superiority was no match for the spirit and enthusiasm of Muslim fighters. This defeat of the Christians is said to be among the most devastating defeats they had ever sustained. This splendid victory rooted the Muslims feet firmly and permanently into European soil.
Christian sources cite Sultan Murad was assisted by Prince Lazar’s son in law who deserted at the last minute along with his forces, other Christian sources further state (without evidence) a few Christian armies from elsewhere also made up sizable portions of the Muslim army.
Most agree the battle was lost, but add it was the Christians who were winning for most of the battle and only Prince Bayazid’s charge resulted in a Christian defeat. Others still argue it was King Lazar’s son in law who made the final assault.
Serbian sources further suggest Prince Lazar had earlier personally chosen defeat over victory and as such contributed to the eventual Christian collapse and heavy figure of fatalities.
His son, Bayazid Yaldaram (Lightening) had displayed great courage and guts at the battle and was unanimously nominated as his father’s successor in the same battlefield where his father had just been slain. His other son, Yaqub Pasha, Bayazid’s younger brother, had similarly displayed great valour in the same Battle of Kosovo.
After the battle, Thrace, Maqdoos and Western Bulgaria were annexed to the Usmani Empire and Serbia began to pay homage to the Sultan.
Sultan Murad I himself was a wise, courageous and devout king. Where necessary he was strict and disciplined, wherever possible he preferred the peaceful solution ands like his predecessors wished to see only the good in people and value their trust.
In his entire career as a soldier monarch, he only ever sustained defeat once (1387), where his forces were heavily outnumbered, it was an encounter he avenged two years later at the Battle of Kosovo.
Ascending the throne at forty did not mean his days of soldierhood had passed, Murad I continued to personally lead men into battle as late as his seventieth year, the year of his death and the fact he was killed in the battlefield illustrates his attachment to the cause in which he believed.