Eyüp - İstanbul - Turkey
GPS : 41°02'54.6"N 28°56'05.0"E / 41.048500, 28.934722
One of the best examples of this is the imaret (soup kitchen for the poor) and külliye (ensemble of buildings with philanthropic purposes) built in Eyüp thanks to Mihrişah Valide Sultan, head wife (başkadın) of Sultan Mustafa III and mother of Sultan Selim III. She was very religious, a philanthropist, motivated by public spirit, but nevertheless disdained politics. This institution, with the legal structure of a religious foundation was inaugurated in 1208 of the Muslim Era (1793) and has been operating uninterruptedly over 2 hundred years.
It is still a source of hope and security for the poor even in our days. The purpose of this paper is to present the deed of trust of this foundation (vakfiye), trying to reflect as much as possible the spirit and style with which it was written. This vakfiye reflects the way philanthropy and public spirit and service were viewed in those days and also the social and economic structure of that period. This document states and declares that the following were entrusted to the foundation :
"...The 1400 square cubit lot in the Cami-i Kebir neighbourhood, near the Bostan wharf, with exactly defined borders until now was used by the Hz. (abbreviation of Hazreti, which is a title that denotes great respect) Ebu Eyyubel Ensari foundation with a yearly income of 1800 akçe (silver coin) and the following built on this land parcel with the hope of gaining divine favour and of having done a good deed; two stone rooms for the mausoleum keepers, two stone rooms for the bakers, two stone baking rooms, two stone rooms for the administrator, one sitting room, one stone room for the keeper of the sebil (free water distribution point), a kitchen, four toilets, a pantry, (another) kitchen, a baking oven, a big food warehouse, an imaret with adjoining buildings, a mausoleum, a sebil, a fountain and other service buildings... "
A 361.5 square cubit lot, which until now was used by the Hz. Ebu Eyyub-el Ensari foundation with a yearly income of 360 akçe and which is surrounded by the mansion of the palace cleric Seyyit Osman Efendizade, by the mansion of the famous madrasa (theological school) teacher Seyyit Mahmut Molla, by the sea-shore and by the road on its other two sides, over which there is a boat-house with two cells, a coffee house and three adjacent stone shop buildings.
The 1503.5 square cubit lot, enclosed by a stonewall, over which there is the wood warehouse of the imaret. The lot in the Cami-i Kebir neighbourhood, surrounded by the Türbe Bath and its furnace, by the house of Hüseyin Ağa, by a school and by two roads, one public, one private, which was bought from the Sinan Paşa religious foundation, together with the source of clean and good quality water in it having the capacity of a masura (unit of measure).
The three houses with a yearly income of 180 akçe of the Hz. Halit religious foundation. The eight measures of water provided by the K›rkçeflme water establishment to the mausoleum, the fountain and the sebil. The noble mosque at the Hasköy Bombardier and Supper Corps barracks. The following were entrusted to the foundation with the aim of covering its expenses :
"60 rooms near the Vefa mosque in Istanbul set on more than one storey and built with their own materials, four big stables, one warehouse, a barn, a coal shed, two masura of clean water, 15 toilets, a courtyard surrounded by a stone wall, a big inn with 20 shops, a corridor and an entrance; an oil making establishment, a workshop to manufacture pots and pans and a painting workshop at the Çelebioğlu neighbourhood of Istanbul; the ten rooms, wooden storehouse, two toilets, tripe selling establishment, two storey stone storehouse, ceramic cup shop on a 1675 square cubit lot at the Çelebioğlu neighbourhood; the Leblebiciler Inn together with an adjoining empty lot and a stable at the Çelebioğlu neighbourhood; 20 rooms set on more than one storey, two open sheds, a kitchen, a natural paint making workshop at the Veliefendi Çeşmesi neighbourhood of Eyüp."
In addition to this, farms, warehouses full of seeds, dairies, flour mills, paint making workshops, workshops with warrants (gedik), turquoise workshops, fruit vending shops and other establishments providing a cash flow in places like Çengelköy, the Levent Farm, Kasımpaşa, Yenişehir, İznik, various towns in the province of Muğla, Büyükdere, Küçükçekmece and various neighbourhoods of Eyüp, were entrusted to this religious foundation, so that it could exist until the end of time. All these and more were listed in the vakfiye from the 5th to the 37th page, together with their locations, areas and detailed descriptions.
One could get suspicious about such a great wealth and about the ways it was obtained, but it is to be taken into account that Ottoman Courts would never have approved the registration of a religious foundation created with wealth of dubious origins. It is also to be taken into account that the valide sultan (mother of the sultan and the Turkish equivalent of the queen mother) was one of the highest ranking functionaries of the Ottoman State. Accordingly, Mihrişah Valide Sultan, the virtues of whom we have mentioned, spent her wealth for the good of humanity, in a way befitting someone of noble spirit.
Beginning from the 41st page there is the list of the duties and services and the payments and benefits, both in cash and in kind to people like the cleric, the preacher, the müezzin, the keeper of the Quran, the reciters of various prayers and various scholars. The duties of the various people on festive occasions like the kandil nights or the two main festivities were also listed in detail.
The duties of the keepers of the mausolea, the number of oil lamps to be lighted, the way fountains and sebils were to be kept, the offerings to the public, the ceremonies at the Mevlevî dervish orders, the offerings to the dervishes and many many more elements are described in details.
The Eyüp imaret is still a very important institution within the General Directorate of Religious Foundations. Its daily capacity, which was of 1000 people until the end of 1997, has been increased to 2500 at the beginning of 1998. The imaret has been modernised and steam cauldrons have been added. The widespread custom of ritually slaughtering animals within the imaret has been taken into consideration by the General Directorate of Religious Foundations, with the result that a modern facility for this has been added.
The various parts of the slaughtered animals like the offal, except the meat, are auctioned off and the income is used for good deeds and for the upkeep of the imaret. The meat is frozen, processed and then kept in special freezers with a capacity of 35 tons. The quantity of meat donated is about 250 tons a year. This meat is cooked and distributed by six kitchens in various parts of Istanbul.
Some of this meat is distributed to other philanthropic institutions all over Turkey, by means of a refrigerated lorry, so that hot meals can be given to the needy. This imaret used to help more than 10,000 poor students in around 60 youth hostels, until these were transferred to the Ministry of Public Education, in 1999, with fictitious pretexts.
This institution, created thanks to the benevolence of the noble spirited Mihrişah Valide Sultan, has been favoured with the interest of many people, also because of the sanctity of its surroundings. The city administration is adding a modern and hygienic slaughtering facility to the building described as firewood storehouse in the vakfiye and also other facilities.
The General Directorate of Religious Foundations and the Istanbul City Administration, both of which are public institutions, should come to an agreement so that the imaret can be administered-as a living museumby the General Directorate of Religious Foundations, as required by the Principles of Religious Foundations, the better to use this unique institution.
The General Directorate of Religious Foundations and the Istanbul City Administration should also take into consideration the interest shown to the Mihrişah Valide Sultan imaret, in addition to that shown to other nice places in the district of Eyüp, by both local and foreign tourists.
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