Conference with a single mission: to shed light upon the institution of waqf in the Balkans.
Thousands of personalities, coming from across the Balkans, particularly from Albania and Turkey were gathered on Thursday and Friday in Tirana, to hold a lengthy discussion on the institution of waqf, a perfect regulatory of the social life for centuries.
The “ALSAR” Foundation pioneered the attempt to bring this institution to the fore by holding an international scientific conference on February 15-16, 2018. The Foundation is also renowned for organizing other activities such as that of the Albanological Institute of Pristina and that of “Konya University” in Turkey.
Discussions on this topic were made precisely at a time when social balances are becoming ever-increasingly difficult to be preserved, due to the lack of appropriate instruments, part of which are waqfs, and at a time when the overall wellbeing of the society seems to be more of an illusion.
The conference, “Waqf institutions in the Balkans”, was praised by the Albanological Institute of Pristina Director, Prof. Dr. Hysen Matoshi, the “Selçuk University” Rector, Prof. Dr. Mustafa Şahin, the general director of Turkish Waqfs, Dr. Adnan Ertem, and also by the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Ahmet Yörük.
In their speeches, they noted the importance of this conference and expressed that they were honored to be a part of it. The Turkish friends particularly highlighted the willingness to engage in further cooperation projects, under institutional framework and broader. The Turkey’s Ambassador to Tirana paid special importance to the fact that kindness, empathy, and benefaction were to the core of the waqf concept and added that waqfs have had and will play an important role in the Balkans for preserving social peace. “The concept of ‘waqf’ was not created with Islam,” recalled in his opening speech the Head of the “ALSAR” Foundation, Mr. Mehdi Gurra.
“Before the rise of Islam, the ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and the Arabs, have been familiar with this institution. Before Islam, the endowed waqf properties have enormously affected the communities living in those periods.”
“In Islam, endowing a waqf property aims at bringing a person closer to the Creator. It also aims at spurring feelings of usefulness to all the people and all the creatures, in order to gain the Creator’s and the creatures’ love,” added Mr. Gurra.
“In the Islamic civilization, the institution of waqf has been and continues to be guided by prophetic and Quran principles. More than 200 ayahs in the noble Quran are about waqfs. Our Holy Book teaches through the Prophet (s.a.w.) how the sayings of Quran can be applied, which have been put into practice first by the God’s Prophet himself. Nevertheless, these are applied to one sole purpose: “To earn God’s love!”. Speaking from a diachronic perspective of the waqf institution, Mr. Mehdi Gurra highlighted for the numerous participants in the conference that the waqfs in our territory began to be established after the Ottoman expansion in the Balkans, around the second half of the 15th century.“These institutions have played a very important role in the social, economic and religious life of the Albanian population. Actually, according to some studies, the Albanian medieval urban centres have been created from waqfs. Tirana is not an exception.”
Briefly describing the waqf institutions’ history in Albania, Mr. Gurra stated that, “It can be divided into two periods: the waqfs during the ottoman rule, and waqfs after the Albania’s declaration of independence.”
“In the first period, waqfs have been great in number”, added Mr. Gurra.
“The earliest of waqfs are said to be the one endowed by Sultan Bayezid II to Ilyas Bey Mirahor in 1505.”
Whilst the second period is divided into four main stages, further explained Mr. Gurra; in the 1912-1944waqfs, in the 1945-1967waqfs, those of 1967-1991 to the remaining ones following the restoration of democracy. Before concluding his speech, the “ALSAR” Foundation Head made a remark for the Muslim Community of Albania regarding waqfs.
“Unfortunately, the Muslim Community of Albania has not met the religious criteria regarding the waqf’s maintenance or restoration. For example, I can mention the case of the waqf of Suleiman Pasha, the founder of Tirana, who initially built a mosque, a bakery and a hammam, which were the core facilities for the city’s establishment. The mosque was demolished in 1944 and burned in 1943. This mosque’s waqf was disgracefully sold in 2007 by the Muslim Community. However, this is not the only case!” In conclusion, Mr. Mehdi Gurra said: “Through this conference, we hope to raise awareness of the governmental bodies to fulfill their constitutional duty to physically return waqfs, where possible, or compensate such heritage, which is dedicated to god worship and help towards people in need. It was the will of our ancestors for the next generations; hence, the responsible religious institutions must fulfill their duty to maintain and administer this heritage institution.” The numerous speakers from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro delivered their speeches focusing on the pre-determined topics. The analysis of the waqf institution during the ottoman rule was of chief interest and was dealt by Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. Another topic treated was that of Ottoman waqfs in the Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Greece, which was also elaborated in a series of speeches.
“The institution of waqf nowadays, its challenges and perspectives,” was the last topic to be discussed before the conference came to an end. The creation of a tradition to hold similar conferences annually, in different countries on condition they be developed under the same spirit, was suggested in the activity’s conclusions.
The international conference “The institution of waqf in the Balkans”, which was organized by the “ALSAR” Foundation, had wide coverage in the local and foreign media.