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The Habitable Town and the Turkish Waqf System

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Yazar Adı İlim Dalı Konusu Dili
Bahaeddin Yediyıldız Genel İngilizce
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  Doç. Dr. Ramazan Acun
       
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1 Türk Kültür Sistemi İçinde Vakfın Yeri
2 The Habitable Town and the Turkish Waqf System
3 Oturulabilir Şehir ve Türk Vakıf Sistemi

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Yayınlandığı Kaynaklar Habitat II, İstanbul.
Yayınlandığı Tarih 12 Nisan 1996/12 April 1996
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"The Habitable Town" and the Turkish Waqf System (Dr. Nazif Öztürk ile birlikte)

 

In his book el-Medineti'l-Fadila(1) or virtuous, ideal society, written during the forties of the tenth century, the famous Muslim Turkish philosopher, Farabi emphasises that in order to survive and achieve perfection a human being requires many things from birth, which he can not obtain on his own, and that the purpose of his creation, his perfection, can only be achieved through a collection of a number of co-operating human beings. After dividing the societies into two groups as perfect and imperfect, and the perfect ones into three subgroups, he continues as follows:

"The perfect societies are of three kind; large, medium and small. The large society is a collection of all the nations in all the habitable parts of the whole world. The medium society consists of a single nation in one part of the habitable world. The small society is the collection of the people of a single town in the territory of any one of the nations. The collection of the people of a village, a quarter, a street or a house -the smallest unit- constitutes an imperfect, incomplete society. Both the quarter and the village exist for the town. But they each have different kinds of relationship with the town; the village serves the town whereas the quarter is a part of the town. The street is a part of the quarter and the house is a part of the street. The town is a part of a territory of a nation; and the nation is a part of all the nations in the world.

"The absolute goodness and perfection can only be achieved only in urban societies (i.e. in towns), it can not be achieved in communities smaller than towns. But, because the actual goodness has the characteristics of being achievable only through selection and will, foundation of a town as an entity where people come together to co-operate to achieve improper aims is also possible. Therefore, the town with the people aiming to co-operate for the things which lead to happiness in the real sense, is a virtuous, perfect town (madina fadila), and a society whose members co-operating to obtain happiness is a virtuous, perfect society. A nation with all its towns co-operating with each other for the things which leads to happiness, is a virtuous, perfect nation. Similarly, a virtuous, perfect and universal state can appear only when all the constituent nations help each other to achieve happiness".(2)

Platon in his State (Politeia), Saint Augustin in his God City (De Civitate Dei) T. Morus in his famous work of Renaissance period, Utopia, and lastly an Italian Monk, Campanella, in his work The Sun State (Civitas Solis) all expressed, just like Farabi, their imagination of an environment where people can lead a happy life. There are some people who consider these philosophers not solely as "utopists" but as "the real pioneers of social justice", and their works as "an attempt to establish a system of rules for a society of brotherhood to be formed even in this world" (3). Kinalizade Ali Çelebi, a 16th century Ottoman thinker, says that the Medine-i Fadila, imagined by Farabi was actually realised by the Sultan Sulaiman the Lawgiver.(4)

Today, we are witnesses to the destruction of environment, social injustice, inequality, insecurity and poverty are all threatening the world. An economic growth which is inconsiderate to the environment and does not give due consideration to the social and human development has no justification any more.

Central governments are proving to be inadequate in dealing with all these serious problems facing the mankind. Thus, it has been worked towards an new democracy in which individuals and voluntary organisations, agents of private and public sector are all expected to behave responsibly towards society and towards broadening the influence of local governments. According to this fresh approach, the individual considered to have the basic rights and freedoms, is required both to be responsible towards the rights of the others as well as rights of future generations and to contribute to the collective prosperity.

Adopting this approach United Nations' Habitat II organisation is in search for global co-operation for a sustainable social and economic development, the preservation of natural environment and the basic human rights, the preparation of the conditions for a healthy and secure life in which everybody can have easy access to basic public services and for an attainment of a better standards of life, and finally the realisation of all these without removing the cultural differences and identities. With the words of Austrialia's former prime minister, Brian Howe, the Habitat organisation is actually a mankind's dream for an ethical revolution. (5)

There are then similarities between Farabi's vision and the plans designed within the framework of Habitat II. We have already referred above to a 16th century scholar claiming that the Farabi's vision had been realised in that century. Had Farabi's vision actually ever become real? If the answer is yes, how did it happen? These questions reminds us of the Turkish towns of the Ottoman classical period. These towns were drawing their vitality from the waqf system. Can that historical experience shed light on the question of creating a peaceful habitable environments? Is there a possibility of utilising some parts of that experience? To be able to say something about these, we first need to make the subject matter clearer. For this reason, after defining the term waqf briefly, we go on to describing the re-construction of Istanbul by means of waqfs just after its conquest by the Turks in 1453.

What then is a waqf?

Waqf is a legal institution requiring voluntary sharing of personal assets earned through personal effort and work in economic sense. In this system, personal movable or immovable properties is put to the use of public, free of greed and ambition. Thus in this way, the personal wealth is transformed into public services. Here, contrary to the utilitarian philosophy, the issue is the abandonment and self-sacrifice in favour of other people. The dominant feeling is participation and sharing. This is because of the understanding that happiness of the individual can not be long lasting unless the harmony in society is achieved.

The waqf then is the totality of a number systems aiming for the happiness of all mankind. The founder of a waqf feels the happiness of helping others, and the beneficiary feels the pleasure of satisfying his need. This means a collective happiness embracing all the members of the society, without conflicting with each other and without one reducing the pleasure of the other.

This is the view of the waqf during the Seljukid and Ottoman classical period. This view was based on the concept of hayrat in Koran. We will not be dealing with this concept here, since it has been studied in detail elsewhere. (6) But here we will attempt to explain how Istanbul was re-built after the Turkish conquest to become a city of peace just like Farabi's medine-i fadila.

After the conquest, Fatih Sultan Mehmed, in consultation with his team, decides to re-construct the city, to bring back the people who had escaped from the city, even to move some population from other parts of the country to the city. In addition to providing some incentives for these people in order to keep them in the city, he gives priority to building infrastucture to meet their needs in the fastest way possible. Within this framework, he starts to construct his waqf, or his hayrat, known as the Fatih Complex (kulliye). Fatih, in the legal document of the complex (deed), expresses his thoughts concerning the re-construction of the city in a verse as follows: "Hüner bir şehir bünyad itmekdir / Reaya kalbin ibad itmekdir", which says that the real talent or skill or work is to construct a city so as to make the people happy by doing their hearts good and to ensure its permanency. In the new Istanbul, after its foundation being laid down with Fatih Complex (7) which constituted its first cell, the other complexes were to follow one after the other and the city was to be perfected day by day.

In order to understand a whole, it is appropriate to analyse any one of the identical cells that make it up. Thus, for the Turkish town, it is necessary to know the complex or külliye first. The Ottoman külliyes, which can be described as a system of social organisations, consisted of three parts. The first part was made up of a temple, establishments of health and education at all levels, guest houses, kitchens distributing food to the poor, dervish hospices, libraries, houses for the poor, hospitals, public fountains, pools, cemeteries and similar service buildings. These units collectively were referred to as hayrat.

The second part of the külliye consisted of buildings for businesses such as shops, Turkish baths (hamam), bazaars, covered markets (bedesten), and merchants' lodgings. This kind of business houses and workshops were called akarat (revenue sources) because they were producing revenue for the service buildings in the first part of the külliye. And the third part consisted of residential areas around the buildings of the first part.

A. Toynbee, in his book, Towns in History, says that " all the towns, or rather the towns before the machine dominated modern age, were more or less sacred towns. It seems to me that the religion is a distinctive element inherent in human nature and there is no doubt that until the end of the 16th Century, each town had a religious aspect tied with its other aspects. Before the industrial revolution, there was no town exclusively as political town, or military town, or religious town. The towns were distinguished from each other because in each of the towns, more than one of these activities were dominant without excluding the other activities".(8)

Muslim Turkish town was not an exception in this respect. Külliye, especially during the classical Ottoman ages, was a cultural product based on a balance between faith, reason (thought) and action, in accordance with the Turkish peoples beliefs. According to these people, the basis of everything was the responsibility and the free will of the individual. Every person had to feel mankind's problems as his own problem, he had to produce by working to limits of his ability and had to spend, with his own free will, the excess after satisfying his own need, on meeting the needs, on solving the problems of other people. This is the kind of reasoning and action that needed to build a külliye or a cell in Muslim Turkish town.

The mosque was put up in the centre of a külliye in order to enable people to engage in a dialogue with their creator and to worship as required by their faith. This is the way for humans to become perfect by renewing oneself. The mosques at the same time were the centres of spiritual interaction and information exchange. They were performing the functions of conference halls open to the public. The values controlling the behaviours of the people were being thought there.

The primary sources of these values and information were the revelations to, and the words and deeds of, the prophet of Islam. But keeping them up to date through interpretation was based on observation and reasoning. Acquisition of these values and knowledge was taking place at schools, universities (madrasa), schools for teaching the Koran and hadith, and dervish hospices (zaviye) located around the mosque. The education in these institutions was free. The teachers of the schools were required to be compassionate and gentle. The universities were ranked according to the lecturers' (müderris) degree of experience and expertise. The degree of specialisation in the courses was increasing higher up the rank. The courses were organised in a modular fashion. The lecturers could be appointed to the posts at the universities in Istanbul only after they gained experience and become mature at the universities in provinces. In any case, according to the waqfiyes, all lecturers were required to be virtuous, renowned for knowledge and culture, and distinguished in natural and religious sciences.

The education in dervish hospices (zaviye) on the large part had a mystical character. A sheikh was presiding over a zaviye, and his main task was the training of his disciples. In addition, preaching on Friday praying in mosques in the vicinity of the zaviye was also among his duties. According to waqfiyes, the sheiks to be appointed to zaviyes was required to be a good mannered, open-hearted, honourable, contented, honest, devoted, altruistic person. He was also required to have both theoretical and practical skills to lead the people to the right direction, and t o be able to advice and enlighten people. As the persons enjoying serving and helping others, besides doing extremely disciplined religious and cultural activities such as praying, worshipping, reciting God’s name and dancing (raks, the sheiks and their disciples were hosting the travellers, and dealing with spiritual training of the persons in touch with them as well as trying to help them to become mature and cultured on condition that they themselves set an example (9).

One other element of the hayrat complex, the imarets usually consists of a kitchen, a dining hall, a pantry, a barn, a stable, a toilet, a wood-shed and a number of guest rooms. There is no doubt that these imarets were furnished with necessary tools and furniture. Seasonal food were also being bought. The function of imarets was to provide meals to its personnel, to the poor from the area, and all the guests regardless of whether they were poor or rich. The guests could also stay in the guest rooms. The administrators of the imarets were also called sheiks. According to waqfiyes, the sheiks of the imarets were required to be friendly, honest, religious, docile, contented, modest, gentle, not nervous but well balanced. He also needed to have nice character and avoid breaking hearts of others. In each of the imarets of the külliyes in Istanbul, approximately 500-1000 persons were eating food free of charge. M. D'Ohsson notes that the total number of these persons only in Istanbul was more than 30 thousands. (10)

The units of külliyes described so far were established for satisfying the spiritual, intellectual and biological needs of the healthy people and making them happy in all respects. The sick people could not be forgotten of course! The darüşşifas or hospitals were built for them. Among the large number of posts in these institutions, a special emphasis was given to the selection of doctors. According to the descriptions in waqfiyes, they needed to: be qualified in medicine, be skilful in dissecting, be respectable, have consolidated their knowledge with experience and experimentation, have a detailed knowledge of medicine and philosophy (hikmet), be familiar with the psychological states of the patients, be soft when administering medicine, experienced in making drugs, have a good practical as well as theoretical knowledge of curing the illnesses using drugs, take the best measures in treating the patients, show compassion and kindness to the patient as if they were their kin, visit and inquire about their conditions frequently, be ready to go to see their patients immediately when needed. As can be seen, the qualifications required from the doctors employed in 15th and 16th centuries Ottoman külliyes were in line with the modern view of medical profession and humanity.

Before starting to build a külliye, waterworks were being built in order to bring water to construction site. The first units to build would be the public fountains and Turkish baths. The reason behind this was that of allowing the worker to work comfortably. After completing the construction of the main units, the work would be completed with the construction of a dome for the founder of the külliye with the establishment of a cemetery for the final resting place of the people and a garden, making the külliye in harmony with the nature.

But this was not all that needed to be done. Permanent running of such a multi-functional would require the provision of continuous revenue resources. Because, hundreds of people were working in these institutions. For example, we know that in the fourteen külliyes built by Mimar Koca Sinan on behalf of various waqf founders, 2529 persons were employed. (11) In order to provide these service buildings with continuous revenue resources, the founder of the külliyes had also constructed various business buildings. To give an example of construction which had made important contribution to the city's physical structure and economic development, as the akarat to Külliye of Fatih, 4250 shops, 3 large office buildings (han), 4 Turkish baths, 7 villas, 1 covered market (bedesten) together with 9 gardens, and finally 1130 houses were constructed in Istanbul and in Galata district. (12) Of course these houses, as with other buildings, constituted the waqf's property run by letting. The quarter formed around the külliye would have been completed with private houses next to, or in the vicinity of, these buildings. Of course, at the point where one külliye was finished the units of another külliye would start, thus forming the fabric of a large city.

In a research, examining the relationship of the buildings by Mimar Sinan, the great architect who left his mark on the 16. century Ottoman architecture, with their environment it is pointed out that this relationship was characterised as "harmonious with the environment". In this harmony, consideration was given "to determine the scale of the future environment, to engage in a dialogue with the future, and to shape the city's appearance and character in the future", rarely seen in world architecture. This was a product of "architectural thought" way ahead of pure practical considerations. This relationship, also seen in other Ottoman monuments, was perfected to the point to become a norm by Sinan who digested the experience before him and reached a new synthesis, like all the other great masters". The buildings in the Ottoman towns, "especially the pyramid mosques, show continuity at the where they ended; the environment is not another group of buildings but is like an extension of the building. Even in large Sultanic mosques there is an attitude of protecting the existing environment, leading the way to the future environment that may be formed after it". " Being aware of this modest reconciliation with the environment at the planning level (especially in pyramid mosques) shows in the third dimension a character of forming the appearance of the city, being aware of the continuity, determining the scale and even the rhythms of the future constructions to be its offspring. For example, "the Süleymaniye, makes an effect in the appearance of Istanbul not as a single building but with its large surroundings; it was part of a wave starting from the main dome, and coming down to secondary domes and colonnades in harmony, jumping close by buildings and reaching remote areas and then rising up again to the main dome of another monument with same harmony. This architecture, started by Sinan at the hills of Süleymaniye, and carried down to the Marmara coast by masters and public after him is an original example of the 20th century open work of art (13).

This appearance of Istanbul with kulliyes overflowing from green plantations, called "city crowns" by a westerner, "this appearance of Istanbul as though it is located among the small woods" (14), in the words of Du Fresne Canaye who came to Istanbul 1576, was all about the taking shape of the Turkish people's interpretation of the relationship between the nature, human being and God through waqfs.

Of course, for a perfect, ideal town being in harmony with nature would not be sufficient. All the buildings would be required to be harmonious with humans as well. Research shows that this was achieved in Turkish towns of Ottoman classical period. We have tried to typify külliyes in terms of physical aspect and in terms of some of the employees. The Ottoman külliyes, which can be defined as a system of buildings, social organisations and services, were not only the places of worship, teaching and learning, and kitchens for the poor but they also played the role of social catalyst because they led to other gatherings around them. During meal times, the teachers and students of a university were meeting the other employees of the complex, the poor people from the vicinity, and the travellers. And five times a day in the mosques, they were together with a large section of the town people apart from the ones mentioned above. The mosque, situated in the centre of the complex, and other mosques of the town were the doors, conference halls, of the university (medrese) opening to the public. The knowledge obtained and produced at the university was being disseminated through these halls. The other mosques in various parts of the country were functioning in the same way. As is known, every year students would take three months off and go to various parts of the country to disseminate the knowledge they learned at the university through mosques. Thus, though not everybody would find the opportunity to attend a university, a common culture were being created thanks to the continuous education in the complexes. The people who were adopting the same values and norms through these waqf complexes were acquiring a common identity, thus broadening the social integration(15).

All the urbanisation activities aiming a public service, not only in Istanbul but also in all parts of the Ottoman Empire during the classical period, were based not on the state budget but on the large part on individual enterprise. In other words, the construction of various buildings in Ottoman towns were being financed by individuals. Besides the houses which were conventionally built by individuals, the buildings with religious, cultural and social functions whose general features we have attempted to describe here, were being built by the Sultans, persons from imperial household, pashas and other rich benefactors... To sum up, the individual effort was the main element in the construction of various buildings forming the largest part of the physical structure of the city.

The idea of doing a good deed (sevab) by performing an activity for the benefit of the society and the fact that the state's did not involve directly in the construction and running of buildings, had led the constructors to the use of waqf means.

In addition to the principle of continuity, the waqf system was immune from state interference which ensured the running of külliyes using waqf incomes.

The Ottoman conception of the world and social order in the classical period which had a strong religious character, caused the individuals with the excess resources to transfer some of their properties to the services for the benefit of public. In parallel with these general tendencies supported by faith, the fact that the waqf institution had a legal status and a principle of continuity had given a assurance for the future in terms of urbanisation activities. It should be pointed out here that the application of the timar system in Anatolia and Rumelia had led to the expansion of waqfs to an incredible dimension in the Ottoman State. The origins of the reveneue resources of the waqfs established during the Seljukid and Ottoman periods were not at all the state property or money allocated as part of an appointment to a duty or to an office. Some of these waqfs were established using entirely private wealth earned by trading activities. That is among their revenue resources, there was no property allocated by the state. In the Ottoman State, as a result of individual construction work, towns were built, small settlements were developed into towns, existing old towns were enhanced with the brand new buildings and institutions. The külliyes, which characterised the Turkish towns of the Ottoman period, are the most important evidences of contribution made by the individual initiative through waqfs to urbanisation. The individuals, when establishing these külliyes in question using their own means, believed that there would be no interference with his work after him, and the service planned by him for the benefit of the public would live forever. It was the waqf institution that gave the individuals this trust and assurance. Because, the waqfs were based on the principle of continuity and eternity. The continuance of a waqf was under the state's protective wings.

Another important source of thrust by the individuals to this institution was that it was a legal entity having autonomy in terms of its administration and finance. This feature of waqfs was effective in its expansion to a great dimension. The protective guarantee of the state's power had prepared the conditions, until the period of Westernisation and the centralism became dominant in all the sections of the Ottoman government, for it to live in accordance with the principles of local government, liberal economy and democracy; free from state interference with its revenue resources, the danger of harm to its autonomy and legal status and bureaucratic procedures.

Today, if the waqfs are expected be seen effective in the provision the public services, it needs to be allowed to have the style of administration from which it was separated for the last two hundred years. Whether seen in a world wide perspective or in terms of the basis of an individual county, cause of today's discomfort are the unequal distribution of wealth among individuals, groups, states and even countries; failure to achieve equal opportunity in education, failure to establish a system of health insurance for all, which is connected directly with the right to live, and forcing and even condemning a large majority of the world population to live under the poverty line with no social security provision, and similar other problems. Today the economic values are not shared fairly. Twenty percent of the world population uses 80% of world resources; the remaining %80 uses the only 20% of the resources. Whereas everybody has the right to use nature's resources. It would be impossible to put the balances right without removing the unfair distribution of wealth and without providing equal opportunity in education. It would be impossible to achieve equal opportunity in education and an acceptable standard of life for all societies without establishing a system which protects and takes care of the weak and the orphan.

If the philosophy behind the waqf system which played an important role in creating peaceful environments in all sizes without discriminating race, religion and language, with the words of Farabi "habitable towns", just like the Ottomon waqf kulliye and its environment of the Seljukid and Ottoman periods, is recaptured we believe that at least some of the problems facing the humanity today can be solved through waqfs. But the resources for waqf to be established must come from the one's own property earned by one's own effort. The waqfs established with insufficient resources, stops up after the excitement of founding it dies down. Actually, waqfs are basically the institutions with sufficient resources to enable them to achieve their goals and function forever in the service of public without expecting a return. Unfortunately, recently waqfs are being established without any resources following the examples of clubs and associations. The waqfs relying on the membership fees and donations can not make effective contributions to the social life. With some exceptions, instead of founding organisations following the examples in the Ottoman classical period, waqfs are being established to achieve abstract goals not requiring construction of buildings and aiming little spending following the examples of later Ottoman period in which the accumulation of capital was next to zero. This approach must be given up as soon as possible and the waqf with a good plan, project and capital must be established. The waqfs to be established from now on, instead of dealing with personal problems, helping the poor, providing bursaries, and providing money for medicine, must tackle with social problems concerning large masses of people, establishing factories to provide jobs for the unemployed. Instead helping a poor, establishing plant to provide jobs for the unemployed, schools which can provide quality education free of charge, hospitals which can care for the poor free of charge must be designed.

And in our view, The General Directorate of Waqfs in Turkey which represents a thousand years old Turkish waqf institution, must be re-structured to have a large advisory board where the administrators of the waqfs established in accordance with the Turkish civil code are represented by a certain proportion. It must have an elected administrative board, be controlled within the framework of the general rules, be governed according to the specific laws and be an independent body with a separate budget.

Can the the Ottomon waqf külliye atmosphere, based on the balance between faith, knowledge and action originating from the realities of human and the nature, and an historical experimentation of Farabi's imagination of an "perfect, virtuous town", be applied today to create peaceful environments by re-interpreting using contemporary criteria in order to provide all the services, some of which we tried to describe above? Only in this way waqfs can have a role in urbanisation. Making that happen, in other words, putting the third sector to the service of societies and all the mankind in a dynamic way, no doubt, requires to understand the philosophy underlying the verdict, "there is a goal and a behaivour which each person and people turns to. May you strive for building hayrat and compete in doing this(16) which had given the direction to the Turkish waqf civilisation in history.

 

 

Notes:

(1) This book is published first time by F. Dieterici (Leiden l895). Since then it has been printed more than fifteen times. A scholarly edition is published by Albir Nasri Nadir (Beyrut l968). Its German, French, Spanish and Turkish translations also exist.

(2) Farabi, El-Medinet'ul-Fadila (translation by Ahmet Arslan), Kültür Bakanlığı, Bin Temel Eser, Ankara, l990, pp. 69-70.

(3) M.A.Lahbabi, Kapalıdan Açığa -Milli Kültürler ve İnsani Medeniyet Üzerine Yirmi Deneme- (Translation. B. Yediyildiz), TDV Yayınları, Ankara, 1996, s.25-28.

(4) See the preface written by A. Arslan to the Turkish translation of the above mentioned work by Farabi, p. XXIII.

(5) N. Kuyaş, "Küresel düşün yerel davran", Milliyet, 26 Nisan l996, p.18.

(6) B.Yediyildiz, "Hayrat kavramı üzerinde bazı düşünceler", Türk Kültürü Araştırmaları, XXVII/1-2, Ankara, 1989, p. 277-284.

(7) For Fatih complex see F. Unan, Fatih Külliyesi, to be published by Türk Tarih Kurumu.

(8) A. Toynbee, Les villes dans l'histoire, Payot, Paris, 1972, p. 173.

(9) Tableau general de l'Empire Ottoman, Paris, 1787-l828, volume II, p. 461.

(10)B. Yediyıldız, "Sinan'ın yaptığı...", pp.104-105.

(11) O. L. Barkan, "Fatih imareti 1489-90 yılları muhasebe bilançoları", İktisat Fakültesi Mecmuası, XXIII/1-2, İstanbul l963, pp. 290-300.

(12) U.Erkan, "Sinan yapılarında yakın ve uzak çevre ilişkileri üzerine düşünceler", Mimarbaşı Koca Sinan Yaşadığı Çağ ve Eserleri, İstanbul l988, Volume I, p.625-630.

(13) For a more detailed analysis on this subject see B. Yediyildiz,"Sosyal teşkilatlar bütünlüğü olarak Osmanlı vakıf külliyeleri",  Türk Kültürü, (Mart-Nisan, 1981, No: 219), pp. 262-271

(14) S. Eyice, "XVI. yüzyılda Osmanlı Devleti'nin ve İstanbul'un görünümü", Mimarbaşı Koca Sinan..., pp. 99-107.

(15) M. Cezar, Tipik Yapılarıyla Osmanlı Şehirciliğinde Çarsı ve Klasik Dönem İmar Sistemi, Istanbul l985, s. 335-336, 346.

(16) Koran, II/148. For the places in which these ayats occurs in waqfiyyes see, B. Yediyıldız, Institution du vaqf au XVIII e siecle en Turquei -etude socio-historique, Ankara, 1990.

 

(English translation by, R. Acun)

Habitat II, 12 April 1996, Istanbul.


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