Articles Tagged with: The Imam and His Congregation

The Imam and His Congregation

As shown by local vakıf documents of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries,5 the imam of the Kasap ƒlyas mosque continued to muster a nonnegligible amount of local resources. Ten vakıf documents, all carefully updated and kept by the successive imams of Kasap ƒlyas have survived from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These contain ten texts of the initial deeds of trust, plus, for each of them, various acts of rent or transfer of the endowed property, all signed by the foundation’s trustee, that is, by the imam of the Kasap ƒlyas mosque himself. The first registered item dates from 1663, and the last from 1855. The bulk of the information contained therein, however, relates to the period roughly from the early 1770s to around 1850.
The large number of local pious foundations is, just as in the sixteenth century, a good indicator of the fact that local solidarity and a basic trust in the local mosque and in its imam did continue to play a definitional role in the constitution of the neighborhood community, the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle.
Besides, in all of the deeds of trust, our neighborhood was still defined by reference to the same basic topographical landmark: the Davudpaœa wharf.
The mahalle is defined as the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle near the Davudpaœa wharf (Davudpaœa Iskelesi kurbünde Kasap ƒlyas mahallesi).
Nine out of these ten seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Kasap ƒlyas vakıfs were meant to secure a regular revenue for the imam and the müezzin of the mosque to live on, and to provide for the upkeep of the mosque itself.
As to the tenth, it was an avârız vakfı,6 which must be taken as another strong sign of the existence of a durable sense of local identity and solidarity.
Indeed, these strictly local avârız foundations, usually set up by one of the better-off inhabitants of the neighborhood, were essentially meant to compensate for the insolvency of the poor local taxpayers in the case where an occasional and unexpected avârız tax was to be levied by the government. Given the mode of apportioning this tax, the insolvency of some of its inhabitants might also have meant the insolvency of the mahalle as a whole. In the absence of an avârız tax, however, the regular income accruing from the endowed property and money was, in principle, to be used by the imam—the trustee of the avârız foundation—to provide some help to the most destitute in the mahalle and to contribute to some enterprise of public utility, such as the clearing of a street, or the building or the upkeep of a public fountain or of a primary Coranic school.
That is certainly why these particular philanthropic foundations were also often called avârız sandı™ı (avârız cash-box). In 1772, the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle had an avârız vakfı of its own. To this foundation had been bequeathed, by one Ismail A™a, a house, a shop for charcoal/timber, and a mill. Half a century later, in 1825, however, only the shop was left,7 the rest having probably been destroyed in a fire.

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