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The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Place of the Waqf in Turkish Cultural System by Prof. Dr. Bahaeddin YEDİYILDIZ

Place of the Waqf in Turkish Cultural System

Prof. Dr. Bahaeddin YEDİYILDIZ
Hacettepe University, Ankara
(English translation by R. Acun and M. Oz)

This paper has been presented at Habitat II, 12 April 1996, Istanbul.


The Turkish waqf spirit which cares for all living beings, and not only for the people, has extended its reach to birds as well , when from the 15th century on, kiosks for birds started to be built. Some of these "bird houses", also called "bird palaces", resemble the sultanic mosques with their minarets, high-hooped towers and signs in the form of crescent, and display and extraordinary workmanship. Having observed such bird houses with great interest, the Austrian ambassador Busbecq wrote in 1550s that "in Turkey everything has become humanised and every rigid thing has been softened. Even the animals"(25).

Underlying softening, and of this love, there was a system of belief. Those philanthrophists founding charitable institutions during the Seljukid and Ottoman centuries believed that this world was e temporary guest house, but it was necessary to work hard and to spend one's earnings for the happiness of other people in this world in order to secure the felicity of the eternal life when returned to God. To believe in the temporary nature of the world would not imply seclusion, indolence or blind submission to resignation, which have been supposed to be among the reasons for the decline of the Islamic world. It meant however, earning one's icome through decent work "with love of ethics", and attaining eternity by spending one's earnings for the happiness of mankind. This was possible through freeing oneself from falling captive to material things. This is a work of love. Yunus Emre, the great poet of the 13th century, expressed the freedom of man against the matter in these verses:

                         Neither I rejoice for wealth
                         Nor poverty grieves me
                         Your love comfors me
                         I need you,  only you.

Owners of wealth experienced this freedom themselves, when they devoted their material possessions for the happiness of others.

Those people who acted with the kind of love, expressed by Yunus in the verses

                        I am not here for quarrels
                        My task concerns love
                        A friend lives in is heart 

I am here to work on hearts were acting to please others' hearts through the waqfs they established. This was the goal behind earning through hard work and spending it for the happiness of the mankind. The waqf was seen as the best way to realise this aim. Every waqf or hayrat that made the  country prosperous and its people happy was a fruit of love expressed by Yunus Emre(26).

During the Seljukid and Ottoman periods the Turkish society has believed in the concepts of " good work and making favours for others" and "competing with one another in charity". It was these concepts that led the was to the birth of the view of the world and its practical applications stated above, and have been instrumental in the creation of wakf works and thus created the Turkish waqf culture based on workand love for mankind.

Source: Full Paper -


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