The Imperial Politics of Architectural Conservation: The Case of Waqf in Cyprus

The Imperial Politics of Architectural Conservation
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 The Imperial Politics Of Architectural Conservation
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Reyhan Sabri
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Waqf: Origins and Evolution

Waqf,1 an Arabic word meaning ‘to prevent, restrain’, in Muslim legal terminology means to protect a thing from becoming the property of a third person. The origins of waqf have long been a subject of debate among scholars; some believe the institution to be authentically Islamic, and others consider it to originate in pre-Islamic societies.

Köprülü (1942, 7–10), one of the pioneers of waqf studies, compared its characteristics to Byzantine charity foundations and suggested there was a strong relation-ship between them. Öztürk (1983, 40) and Akgündüz (1996, 67) identify the attributes of the institution with Islam and believe it has evolved directly from the principles of the Koran. Yediyıldız (1986, 155) and Barnes (1987, 8–16), on the other hand, highlight the possibility that Islam might have drawn on some of the principles of the charity founda-tions of Roman and Byzantine societies to create its own model for religious endowments.

In general, however, it is accepted that waqf has developed into a unique multifunctional institution shaped primarily by Islamic law. The institution is also understood to be structured around the forceful Koranic injunction to help the poor through ‘alms’ and ‘offerings’ (Singer 2008). Based on these premises, the original waqfs are believed to have been established as early as during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed (Heffening 1934, 1096).

The waqf institution later developed along with the economic and moral needs of the societies where it had been taken up and became a part of their political, social, economic and cultural struc-ture. Its evolution continued during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods and became widespread during the dynasties of Mamluk and Seljuk.

When the Ottoman era started in Anatolia during the early fourteenth century, waqf was already an advanced multifunctional institution, encompassing a wide range of activities and providing social welfare services which would normally be expected to be provided by the state (Akgündüz 1996; Kuran 2001; Yediyıldız 1986).

1 The word ‘waqf’ has been transliterated in numerous forms in different languages, such as, wakf, vakf and vakıf (plural awqaf, aukaf and evkaf ) (Islahi 2003). The official departments which have been established to control the administration of waqfs are often named with the plural.

For ease of understanding, this book uses the word ‘waqf’ as it has commonly been used and turned into a global term in English literature. On the other hand, staying true to its officially used name since the late-Ottoman era, ‘Evkaf ’ is used when referring to the Waqf Department in Cyprus.

According to Köprülü (1942, 14), the major waqfs of the medieval ages had been established during the Ottoman era, because the administrative, political, financial and legal structure of the Ottomans had formed the most suitable opportunities for the development and expansion of the system.

This helped spread its introduction to newly conquered lands over three continents, and the institution has continued to provide services in many nations to the present day. One such territory was Cyprus, where waqfs were founded immediately following the Ottoman conquest in 1571 (Jennings 1993).

the legal definition and Classification Of Waqfs

Islamic law defines waqf as the act of founding a charitable trust and hence the trust itself (Kozlowski et al. 2010). The essential elements are that a person, with the intention of committing a pious deed, declares part of his or her property to be henceforth inalienable and designates persons and public utilities as beneficiaries of its income or utility (Kozlowski et  al. 2010).

Yediyıldız (1986, 154) explains it as ‘the legal process of appropria-tion of movable or immovable property to a religious, charitable and social intention by an individual for the purpose of gaining the consent of God, together with social and public service forever’. In other words, waqf is an individual enterprise for the public good based on a religiously inspired donation of a property in perpetuity.

Even though the system is primarily based on Islamic law common to all Islamic societies, there are differences in the application of these laws found in different Islamic sects, or even imams in these sects, and local customary laws (Akgündüz 1996, 63–94; Schacht 1953, 444–452).

Although the Ottomans adopted the Hanafi school’s approach, in the Middle Eastern and North African provinces, waqfs were often founded in accordance with the traditions of the Shafi’i, Hanbali or Maliki schools (Ben-Hamouche 2007, 29). According to the Hanafi school, the procedure for establishing a waqf was started with the definition of the type of waqf to be established and the allocation of the resources to be endowed (Öztürk 1983).

An endowment deed, known in Islamic literature as a waqfiyyah, was prepared to legalise the process. Waqfiyyah included the details of the donor, the beneficiaries, the endowed properties, the income- generating resources as well as any other stipulations. The endowment deed was approved by a court in the presence of the qadi (local judge) and witnesses and was finally recorded with all its particulars in the court registers.

Albeit under the indirect supervision of the state, a waqf was an autonomous entity. Although it was not possible to change the conditions of an endowment deed once it had been declared official, additional income sources or charity organisa-tions could often be added in the form of zeyl (appendage).

Even though the classical doctrine does not make any distinction among different types of waqf, modern legislation distinguishes three groups. The first is waqf khayri (charitable waqf), dedicated totally to pious causes; the second is waqf ahli (family waqf), made in favour of one’s relatives and descendants; and the third waqf musytarak (semi- family waqf, joint waqf ), whose beneficiaries are both the descendants of the family and pious causes (Yediyıldız 2003, 14–19).

In waqf khayri, as a rule, neither the founder nor his descendants received any material ben-efit, so all the revenues had to be spent within the foundation as per the stipulations of the endowment deed. The beneficiaries of this type of waqf have been mainly public utilities, such as mosques, schools and soup kitchens; infrastructural works like public fountains and bridges; as well as provisions for the poor. In waqf ahli, the revenues were dedicated by the founder for the benefit of designated descendants.

There was no public benefit intended with this type of foundation. In a semi-family waqf, on the other hand, the founder and later their designated descendants could accrue the surplus after all the expenses, including those for charity ser-vices as defined in the endowment deed, had been deducted. As a rule, once there were no more descendants the semi-family and family waqf came to an end, and the trusts were converted into Haramayn waqfs.

These were pious foundations, with the incomes often being used for provisions for the holy cities of Islam, mainly Mecca and Medina (Singer 2002, 38–39; Yediyıldız 1986, 154). Scholarly research suggests that the waqf types founded in Cyprus were similar to those at the centre of the Ottoman Empire (Altan 1986; Jennings 1993; Yıldız 2009).

 As such, the waqf khayri type that provided for religious and philanthropic services on the island, although not abundant in number, was large. This type of waqf, as described in the second part of this chapter, had a key role in the formation of building complexes within cities and in providing key urban facilities.

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