Studies on the waqf institution: IRCICA’s participation in the international symposium on “Ottoman Waqfs and Heritage in the Balkans”

The Turkish Prime Ministry's Directorate General of Waqfs and the Prime Ministry's Presidency for Turks Abroad and Relative Communities jointly organized an international symposium on "Ottoman Waqfs and Heritage in the Balkans" on 9-11 May 2012 in Istanbul, with the contributions of Ankara University's Southeast Europe Studies and Research Center (GAMER). Experts in history, sociology, law and art history and waqf authorities from Turkey and from Balkan countries participated in the symposium. Addressing the opening, the Director General of Waqfs Dr. Adnan Ertem said that for the last one and half years his Directorate General had been conducting research and contacts on the waqfs located in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia and remaining from Ottoman times and that they had also started studies for an assessment of those in Bulgaria and Greece. Dr. Ertem said that the Ottoman State had set up a system whereby almost all public services were extended through the waqf, which was a social and economic institution, and that by establishing waqfs. in the Balkans the state was also strengthening its presence and its services there. Then, Mr. Kemal Yurtnaç, Head of the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Relative Communities, recalled the crucial functions that were assigned to waqfs in the past and expressed his regret that a "waqf culture" was since then forgotten or neglected. He informed the audience that the Presidency had undertaken socio-economic and scholarly studies in order to revive the history and civilization Turkey shares with peoples it coexisted with in the past. Were also present Prof. Dr. Ahmet Akgündüz, Rector, Islamic University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Chairman of the Waqf for Ottoman Studies, and Prof. Dr. Halil İnalcık, Head of the Department of History, Bilkent University, Ankara (Honorary President of the symposium).

The first of the working sessions was the "Opening Session", which heard papers by: Dr. Halit Eren, Director General of IRCICA¸ on "Turkish waqfs in Western Thrace: historical process and present state", Prof. Dr. Heath W. Lowry, on "The other side of the medallion, the tombs of Ottoman mosques in Greece: the demolished, the neglected, the transformed, the re-transformed and the restored"; Mr. Pandeli Laki Vingas, on "Community waqfs, the role and future prospects of waqfs in the new approaches in community administration". The subsequent working sessions were as follows:

I. Ottoman Waqfs in the Balkans: Historical processes

Behija Zlatar, "Sarajevo waqfs in the 15th and 16th centuries"

Dino Mujadzević, "The general development process of waqf institutions in Bosnia"

Hatice Oruç, "Sarajevo waqfs during the 16th-19th centuries"

Andras Riedlmayer, "The Islamic Ottoman waqfs during the Balkan wars of the


II. Ottoman Waqfs in the Balkans: description, present state

Machiel Kiel, "A glimpse at the waqfs in western Bulgaria"

Mehmet Zeki İbrahimgil, "The waqf properties of Mustafa Pasha in Macedonia"

Geza David, "Some waqfs in Ottoman Hungary"

Kezban Hatemi, "Minority waqfs in Greece and in Turkey"

III. Ottoman cultural waqf properties in the Balkans

Hakkı Acun, "Sultan Mehmet (Taş) Bridge in Skopia, Macedonia and its prayer room"

Aleksandar Kadijević, "The architecture of major Ottoman buildings in Raška (the sandzak of Novibazar)"

Grigor Boykov, "Şihabeddin Pasha Complex in Plovdiv and its waqf"

Athina Christiana Loupou, "The development of the Ottoman cultural heritage in Midilli/Lesvos and its preservation"

Eleni Kanetaki, "The formation of the historical and cultural legacy of the Ottoman period in Greece"

IV. Legislation and practices relating to Ottoman waqfs in Balkan countries, suggestions of solutions

Gjejlane Hoxha, "Legislation for the protection of cultural heritage in Kosovo: past, present and future"

Turgay Cin, "Applications of the Greek Waqfs Law no. 3647 dated 2008"

Harun Karcić, "International regulation of waqf properties in the western Balkans"

Hasan Dzilo, "Waqfs in Macedonia: in the vacuum between the legal framework and realities"

Ayşegül Kılıç, "An example of the Guzât (ghazis) waqfs: Gazi Evrenos Bey Waqf in Komotini"

Rahman Ademi, "Waqfs of Montenegro: a legal perspective"

V. Waqf documents as legal evidence of Ottoman waqfs: waqf archives, exchange of documents

Ramë Manaj - Refike Sulçevsi, "Waqf deeds found in Kosovo State Archives"

Orlin Sabev, "Ottomanwaqf libraries in Bulgaria"

Adnan Torun, "The role and importance of the Kuyud-i Kadime Archive in studies on waqfs of the Ottoman period"

Cuma Atabay, "Waqfs of Balkan countries (the Bosnian example)"

Önder Bayır, "The waqf documents fund in the Ottoman Archives and the waqfs established in the Balkans"

Vladimir Božinović - Victor Popović, "Documentary analysis on Ottoman cultural heritage in Belgrade based on digital restoration of Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Kervansaray"

VI. Present social, cultural and economic functions of Ottoman waqfs in the Balkans

Ali Pajaziti, "Socio-cultural impacts of Ottoman waqfs in the Balkans today"

Numan Aruç, "A waqf for learning, science and education: İsa Bey Medrese"

Cazim Hadzimejlić, "Ottoman influence on culture, science and education in Bosnia and Herzegovina: present situation"

Aladin Husić, "The role of waqfs in the development of Visoko town"

The presentation by Dr. Halit Eren in its major part was a technical overview of the legal status of Ottoman waqfs in the Balkans in the light of the international law and treaties pertaining to their cases. In the subsequent part of his paper, Dr. Eren outlined IRCICA's research project on the theme of the waqf institution in Islam. He said that the Islamic cultural, educational, social and administrative history and heritage of the Balkans and Southeast Europe as embodied in the waqf are part of and linked to the same processes as regards the whole Muslim world; this history and heritage altogether constitute a typical aspect of Islamic civilization that is very much revealing to the researcher. Taking these facts into consideration, IRCICA carries out its research project on the basis of regions, in order to be able to properly cover the waqf experience and its legacy in as many regions of the Muslim world as the availability of sources and documents would allow. He also spoke of IRCICA's other activities concerning the Balkans, an important aspect of which is the series of congresses titled "Islamic Civilization in the Balkans": four congresses were organized until now on this theme, in Bulgaria (2000), Albania (2003), Romania (2006) and Macedonia (2010) respectively, each in cooperation with the governments of the host countries.