Ottoman Cash Waqfs Revisited: The Case of Bursa (1555- 1823)
Professor Murat Cizakca*
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Table of contents
2. The Legal Background
2.1. Position of the Classical Jurists
2.2. Establishment of a Cash Waqf
2.3. The Perpetuity Debate
3. Cash Waqfs in Historical Reality
3.1. Survival of the Cash Waqfs
3.2. Icareteyn Vakiflari
3.3. The Management of the Cash Waqfs
4. Injection of Capital into the Economy
4.1. The Trustees as Borrowers
4.2. Capital Injection
4.3. The Decline of the Cash Waqfs
6.1. Primary Sources
6.2. Secondary Sources
Note of the editor
This article was summarised and updated from the author's extensive book A History of Philanthropic Foundations The Islamic World From The Seventh Century to the Present (Istanbul: Bogazici University Press, 2000). It is also a shortened and updated version of the author's original article published as Murat Cizakca, "Cash Waqfs of Bursa: 1555- 1823", Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (E. J. Brill, Leiden), vol. 38, n° 3, 1995, pp. 313-354. A previous version of the article was published on www.MuslimHeritage.com in June 2004. The present version was converted to HTML with new illustrations.
* * *Cash endowments contributed to Ottoman society, without any cost to the State, by organizing and financing expenditures on education, health, welfare and a host of other activities. The aim of this article is to discover how these endowments functioned and contributed to the society over the long term. For this purpose the Cash Waqf Census Registers of the city of Bursa covering the period 1555-1823 were analysed. Thus, although limited to one Ottoman city, a long-term analysis covering almost three hundred years has been attempted for the first time.
The cash waqf (plural awqaf) was a Trust Fund established with money to support services to mankind in the name of God. The Ottoman courts approved these endowments as early as the beginning of the 15th century, and by the end of the 16th century they had reportedly become extremely popular all over Anatolia and the European provinces of the Empire.
Figure 1: General view of Bursa, Turkey. Color photochrome print created between 1890 and 1900. (Source).
The exact extent of the geographical diffusion of these waqfs and, specifically, in the Arab provinces is subject to discussion. The gifted capital of the waqf was "transferred" to borrowers who after a certain period, usually a year, returned to the waqf the principal, plus a certain "extra" amount, which was then spent for all sorts of pious and social purposes. These vague terms, "transferred" and "extra", have been used here deliberately. Whether the capital of the endowment was lent as credit to the borrowers and the return was in fact nothing but the ordinary interest constitutes another debate. In a society where health, education and welfare were entirely financed by gifts and endowments, the cash waqfs carried serious implications for the very survival of the Ottoman social fabric.
2. The Legal Background
2.1. Position of the Classical Jurists
The Ottomans, being devoted Hanefis, conducted their business and social affairs within the general guidelines established by this school of thought. It is, therefore, imperative that this analysis should start with a summary of the classical Hanefi position pertaining to cash waqfs. Let us first consider the thorny issue of the endowment of moveable assets. The essence of this problem pertains to the perpetuity of the endowment, the sine qua non condition for any waqf. Real estate was thought to be the best asset to ensure the perpetuity of an endowment. There were, however, three recognized exceptions to this general principle among the Hanefi scholars:
- the endowment of moveable assets belonging to an endowed real estate, such as oxen or sheep from a farm, was permitted;
- second, if there was a pertinent hadith, and
- third, if the endowment of the moveable asset was the customary practice, ta'amul, in a particular region.
Indeed, exercising judicial preference, istihsan, Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani had ruled that even in the absence of a pertinent hadith, the endowment of a moveable asset was permissible if this was customary practice in a particular location. Apparently, even custom was not always a required condition, for according to al-Sarakhsi, Imam Muhammed had, in practice, approved the endowment of a moveable asset even in the absence of custom. Furthermore, both Imams Muhammed al-Shaybani and Abu Yusuf had confirmed, absolutely, the endowment of a moveable asset attached to a piece of real estate. In view of this, it is not surprising that we often see such combined cash/real estate waqfs in the Ottoman records.
Figure 2: Endowment charter (waqfiyya) of Haseki Hürrem Sultan Mosque and Madrasa in Jerusalem. The document is dated 964 H / 1556–7, it is held in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Inventory Number 2192, p. 1b. (Source).
Given the acceptability of moveable assets as the basis for creating a waqf, how does one define a moveable asset? More specifically, can money be considered a moveable asset and, therefore, be permitted as the basis for the establishment of a waqf? Imam Zu
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