The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Foundation Deeds (vakif)


 

The Prophet Muhammad said: “When a person dies, his achievement expires, except with regard to three things: ongoing charity or knowledge from which people benefit or a son who prays for him.”

 

The Qur’an and the Hadith together are the foundations of Islam. The hadith, or traditions, are accounts of the Prophet’s sayings or actions, collected by various firsthand observers and then memorized and transmitted to subsequent generations. This chain of transmission, called the isnad, was carefully evaluated for veracity by the collector of each of the canonical collections. The Hadith (number 4005 in Book 13 of Abu’l Husayn Muslim b. al-Hajjaj al Naysaburi (817 or 821-875) contains a statement by the Prophet regarding posterity, as cited above. He stated that “recurring charity” – literally and endowment, or waqf – allows an individual’s pious works to continue.

 

A waqf (vakif in Turkish) is thus a perpetual foundation that enables its patron to establish a charitable institution or build an architectural complex, and to set aside land or buildings, the rent from which provide ongoing income to support the activities of that institution and upkeep of the building. Waqf (known in Turkish as vakif) charters – waqfiyyas – often provide detailed information about urban space, property, building design and materials, and the human beings who used them.

 

Waqf foundations were known in the Seljuk era, but they became especially important in the Ottoman era, when they provided the legal strategy that provided Istanbul with hundreds of institutions built and financially supported by perpetual endowments. The endowments included mosques, medreses, public fountains, Qur’anic schools, hospitals, soup kitchens and tombs, as well as services such as dowries for orphan girls and Qur’an readers for tomb complexes. Although we have very few Seljuk vakif charters, we can imagine that the Ottoman documents covered much of the same information as the Seljuk ones.

 

There are very few original documents that have come down to us from the Seljuk era, so the few vakif deeds that do exist are of capital importance. The Hittites left behind thousands of clay tablets which have allowed historians to recreate their world, but for the Seljuks, the documentation is less rich, and this is what makes the vakif documents of hans important. R. Yinanç discovered the Sivas Foundation document relative to the bridge built over the Kizilirmak River and the “ribat” next to it, which was the first vakif document to have been discovered. Later, the famed Turkish scholar Osman Turan published the foundation documents of the Karatay, Altinapa and Ertokuş hans, which allowed scholars to have an idea concerning the administrative aspect of hans. There are other vakifs for various monuments which mention a han, such as the Altinapa and the Kadin. Probably many more vakif documents for hans existed, but they have not come down to us.

 

However, the vakif document for the Karatay Han is a goldmine of information. The Karatay Han is one of the most impressive of all hans, one which had a rich patron behind it. We do not have enough information from vakif documents to make generalizations as to all the other hans the Seljuks built. Perhaps it was only in the large and well-endowed hans, such as the Karatay, that free hospitality was offered, but in the other, more remote areas of the Empire, the story may have been different. It is totally feasible that these smaller-scale hans were built as businesses, and that the travelers had to pay money to stay in them.

 

The Karatay document is very rich in details, and provides many administrative details, including the salary scale of the han’s employees. The employees were paid in dirhems. Unfortunately, we have no information as to metal or current value of a Seljuk dirhem. The dirhem served both as a unit of weight and currency, since coins were valued according to their weight. The Seljuks adopted the dirhem system as used by the Umayyads, Abbasids and Iranians, but the unit was not fully standardized, and its value varied from region to region and period to period. Most of the coins of the Seljuk era were minted from silver and a few gold coins were minted. Employees were also paid with wheat, using the measurement of a mudd, which is equal to 96 kg. A mudd of wheat, then ground into flour, could produce approximately 230 loaves of bread. Documents of the era state that the average Seljuk soldier (and, by extension, each citizen) ate 1 loaf of bread a day. This is also the amount of bread that was to be fed to each guest in the han as per the vakif document.

 

The pay schedule of the employees included:

 

The Müşrif (superintendant) earned an annual salary of 500 dirhems and 500 mudd of wheat (or 115,000 loaves of bread, enough to feed 315 people per year, which could have been his family and servants or his village).

 

The Nazir (overseer) earned 360 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year or the needs of his immediate family)

 

The Imam (prayer leader) earned 200 dirhems and 20 mudd (4,600 loaves of bread, enough to feed 12 people per year)

 

The Muezzin (prayer caller) earned 150 dirhems and 20 mudd (4,600 loaves of bread, enough to feed 12 people per year)

 

The Muzıf (doorman) earned 200 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Hanci (hankeeper) earned 150 and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Havayiç (stockroom manager) earned 200 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Baytar (veterinarian) earned 100 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Atli (controller of the execution of the trust) earned 100 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Aşçiya (cook) earned 200 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Hamamci (bath attendant) earned 120 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

The Ayyakabicisi (cobbler) earned 100 dirhems and 24 mudd (or 5,520 loaves, enough to feed 15 people per year)

 

Other employees, such as the doctor, stable hands and the veterinarian were not mentioned, but they must have been paid an equivalent sum or on an as-needed basis.

 

The foundation document of the Karatay Han also states that travelers were to be given 1 kg of bread and 250 grams of meat and a bowl of other various foodstuffs (grains and greens) per day. As was the custom in many soup kitchens and dervish lodges, halva made from honey was served as a treat on Friday nights. The foundation document also lists the inventory of the kitchen battery needed to cook and serve the guests: 50 large pots, 20 copper platters, 100 large wooden bowls, 50 wooden plates, 10 large, 5 medium and 5 small stewpots, 2 large caldrons, and 2 large basins. The document also mentions the provision for oil and candles needed to light the han, and the soap needed for the bath.

 

 

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