Al-simāt al-khalīl (the Table of Abraham) in Hebron during the Ottoman Period

In: Endowment Studies
Şerife Eroğlu Memiş Department of History, The Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Ankara, Turkey

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The holy city of Hebron had perhaps the most long established and renowned imāret, called al-simāt al-Khalīl, the Table of Abraham, for feeding the poor and needy people, pilgrims, sūfīs, travelers, strangers, and other guests who arrived at its shrines. Gifts of food and large-scale distributions were standard practice during various religious festivals and celebrations, which were not only substantive but comprised a measure of sanctity as well. This thriving table retained its vitality for the region during also the Ottoman period. This study defines the actual operation of this simāt in the Ottoman period. For this, the article aims to establish the revenue and expense figures of the simāt, and then evaluate personnel records, their wages, and kitchen outlays in order to reach a conclusion about the scope of operations sustained by the simāt. It will make use a set of valuable historical sources like waqf account books to be able to provide valuable insights into not only the actual operation of the simāt, but also its economic and social role in general.


In the Ottoman Empire, the word waqf (pl. awqāf) was used to describe a sophisticated philanthropic foundation: a revenue-generating property in which a part of the revenue is disbursed for a pious purpose in order to seek God’s favor.1 The power of the waqfs, whose reach extended to all socio-economic levels of society, has long been recognized by scholars specializing on waqfs in the Muslim and Arab world.2 Ongoing empirically-based research in the Ottoman archives has been instructive in fostering a better understanding of how waqfs oversaw a number of public, charitable and religious activities and affected nearly everyone.3 Thus, waqfs constitute an interesting topic from the perspective of social, economic and fiscal history as well as from the standpoint of the history of charity and humanitarian action.

Ottoman public kitchens (imārets) were often one unit in a waqf complex (külliye), a group of buildings, which could include such charitable (khayrāt) buildings as mosques, madrasas (colleges), hospices, hospitals, and other structures associated with the social, economic, and cultural life of the population, usually in an urban setting. They were founded as waqfs and sometimes specified as imāret-i dārü’z-ziyāfet (the building for feasts), or imāret-i dārü’l-it‘ām, (the feeding building).4 While determining the conditions for the endowment of a particular waqf, the endower of the waqf could identify himself and/or his family and descendants as “beneficiaries” of the waqf, who were the primary beneficiaries of the many waqfs. Then, in the public kitchens, the waqf employees formed a large group who were served food from the kitchen.5 These kitchens also distributed free meals and bread to thousands of poor and needy people, including widows, orphans, the aged, sick, and infirm, as well as students and ascetic mystics.6 Thus, they served as poor-relief institutions.

The income-generating properties of these waqf complexes could include a market with rental shops; baths, the income of which was contributed to the waqf; extensive agricultural estates, where formerly tax revenues were levied as taxes redirected to the waqf institutions. In addition to all these properties, industrial facilities, such as mills, soap factories, and looms were among the endowed revenue-producing properties of complexes that required not only an administrator but staff as well. Their salaries had to be compensated from the endowment revenues. The beneficiaries of the waqf were not only the buildings (which had to be maintained) and the descendants of the endower, the poor and the needy but also the clients of the various institutions, whether worshippers, scholars, students, patients, weary travelers or pilgrims.7 Thus, charity and feeding of the poor was an important aspect of waqf-imāret complexes of the Ottoman Empire. The first Ottoman imāret was reportedly built in Iznik by Sultan Orhan in the year 1336. The number of imārets grew over the centuries. They were also considered eminent instruments of sultanic benevolence towards Ottoman subjects, fostering the images of kind and generous sultans. While the largest imāret clusters were in Istanbul, the number of the imārets in Bursa and Edirne, the former Ottoman capitals, was also striking.8

The tradition of feeding the poor through public kitchens in Islamic states can be traced back centuries before the Ottomans, even to the tenth century.9 For instance, in an account given by al-Muqaddasī (ca. 945/946–991), it is related that the meal, known only by the name of al-simāt al-Khalīlī or ‘adas al-Khalīl, was supposed to honour Abraham’s generosity and hospitality, consisting of lentils (‘adas) cooked in olive oil, used to be distributed to both rich and poor.10 However, the daily distribution of cooked meals to large numbers of urban dwellers year-round from a special building designed for that purpose appears to have been an Ottoman innovation, at least outside the holy cities of Mecca, Medina and Hebron (al-Khalīl in Arabic, Halilürrahman in Ottoman).11 Mecca and Medina, for example, had an older endowment, dating at least to the Mamluk rule (1250–1517), for the regular distribution of grain. The Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qāytbāy, who reigned in the late fifteenth century, was one of the foremost sponsors, with endowments to Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem and Hebron.12 On the other hand, the example of Hebron is the most well-known from the pre-Ottoman period. Ascribed to Abraham, al-Simāt al-Khalīl, the table of Abraham, served to feeding of the poor and needy, pilgrims, travelers, strangers, and other guests who arrived at its shrines, which were hundreds of years old. Gifts of food and large-scale distributions during various religious festivals and celebrations, including some form of sanctity, were both important and standard practices.13 Although al-Simāt al-Khalīl was available in Hebron at that time, the Khasseki Sultan imāret was built as a waqf-complex in Jerusalem during the early years of the Ottoman period.14 These two public kitchens continued to offer bread and food to the poor and needy as well as pilgrims, sūfīs and travelers.15 They were quite large and they played an important role in ensuring the continuity of the services for the residents and the visitors of those coming to the holy cities and meeting their needs.

The Simāt was connected to the mosque holding the same name. The endowments established for the Simāt in particular, and the Ḥaram in general, comprised villages and property all over Bilād al-Sham and especially in the vicinities of Hebron and Nablus.16 Its endowed properties were registered and confirmed in the Ottoman tahrīr (land registry) records of the area at the time of the conquest and this thriving table retained its vitality for the region also during that period.17 This Simāt was also considered as a link of the chain of waqf-imāret complexes of the Ottoman State in Mecca and Medina as well as Jerusalem. Since the Ottoman sultans’ epithet “guardian of the two noble sanctuaries” (khādim al-ḥaramayn al-sharīfayn) also included Hebron along with Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina,18 each of the four holy cities had an institution to feed the hungry. Public kitchens in both Hebron and Jerusalem were large, emphasizing their role in sustaining pilgrims to the holy cities.

The revenues for providing all these facilities in the Ḥaramayn cities stemmed from various sources. Ottoman sultans, as the guardians of the two noble sanctuaries, did not allow other Muslim rulers to share this prerogative with them and established direct endowments which were intended primarily for the benefit of the holy cities.19 They also constantly contributed to the architectural, philanthropic, and scholarly promotion of the holy cities, including Jerusalem and Hebron.20 For instance, a document from 959/1552 reports that the domes over the Tombs of the Patriarchs, which had not been repaired since the time of the Circassian Mamluks, had fallen to pieces, and orders were issued for their repair.21 From another unique document of the Keşif defteri dated 1195/1780, the domes over the Tombs of Patriarchs were reported as needing repairs, in total 61 items. Among these items, it is written that the plaster of the roof of the public kitchen needed to be renewed.22 Orders were frequently issued from Istanbul for the proper management, restoration and maintenance of the holy places, and new lands were endowed as waqf in case of lack of funds.23

During the Ottoman reign, there were four main ways in which charitable activities were directed towards al-ḥaramayn al-sharīfayn and Jerusalem and Hebron. First of all, direct endowments constituted the main revenue sources for the simāt. For example, Mujīr al-Dīn states that Sultan Barqūq (r. 1382–1399) had made an endowment specifically for the simāt in Hebron, i.e., for the distribution of food.24 An inscription over the main entrance to the Ḥaram, from 612/1215, speaks of the waqf made by the Ayyūbid al-Mu‘azzam ‘Īsā. Jerusalem and Hebron shared many of these waqfs.25 Secondly, with the annual pilgrimage caravan, gifts and donations of all kinds were sent to maintain, enlarge and embellish the shrines, promote various religious and charitable institutions, support the residents of the holy cities, and assist the pilgrims and sojourners (mujāwirūn) settled there.26 Thirdly, pious as well as family endowments, i.e. awqāf, include a clause stating that if the primary beneficiary of the endowment or the designated alternatives – whether individuals or institutions – no longer exist, the waqf revenue should revert to the Ḥaramayn and sometimes for Jerusalem and Hebron.27 Fourthly, another type of endowment frequently used was the allocation of the share of a waqf revenue for the benefit of Ḥaramayn in order to provide specific services, such as the supply of water, the purchase of candles, or the distribution of alms or food. Thus, all these sources were determinant and contributed much to the revenue bases of the waqf and especially for the budget of the food distribution in the simāt. Moreover, during the Ottoman period, and most probably also previously, the inhabitants of Hebron and the villages of its waqf were exempted from the avāriz taxes.28

As is well-known, endowment deeds (waqfiyyas) are the most valuable and rich archival sources for waqf studies, containing substantial and detailed information on a broad range of subjects.29 These texts always specify the purpose of the waqf as declared by the founder and recorded the revenue sources devoted to the waqf. In addition, the services to be performed and the stipends were all determined. However, waqfiyyas alone do not provide us with information on the actual nature of the waqfs’ social and economic activities or on the changes in these activities over time.30 This is because the waqfiyyas are concrete in the purpose and the broad framework but do not represent the daily practices of a waqf. Thus, the waqfiyyas need to be supported by other supplementary archival sources, which are often found in shari‘a sijils (shari‘a court records), mühimme (registers of important affairs), ahkām (regulation and prescription registers), atīk (treasury), şikāyet (registers of complaints), tahrīr (land registry) and especially waqf account registers.31

Among these sources, waqf account registers contain detailed lists of foodstuffs purchased and stored, the names and positions of people in or benefitting from the waqf and the sums and sources of annual waqf revenues. Thus, the account books are supplementary sources to the waqfiyyas and literary texts for understanding the capacity and daily functioning of the imārets.32 In addition, waqf account registers provide us with considerable information on the institutional history of these establishments.

On the other hand, from the state’s point of view, these imperial waqfs were large and influential regional economic institutions that were centrally controlled and had significant purchasing power. These were also powerful tools to pursue several state policies, such as the investment in and maintenance of infrastructure, creating employment, combatting poverty and subsidizing state finance. Therefore, the control and monitoring mechanism of these imperial waqfs was more careful and sophisticated than the mechanism for ordinary waqfs.33 The most effective tool in this mechanism was the accounting system, consisting of a main annual account book and several detailed registers kept according to standardized recording principles. Depending on accounting, the control and monitoring mechanism was effective by the standards of the time, owing to an elaborate and standardized system of professional accountants and auditors. Although accounts were submitted to the supervisors once every year, interim inspections by representatives of the supervisory authorities and inspection by local judges, usually following a complaint, were always possible.34

As an attempt to understand the operation of the Simāt al-Khalīl, the table of Abraham, in Hebron during the Ottoman period, this study focuses exclusively on the Simāt as an endowed institution of social welfare, asking questions about the functioning of the institution in its local setting and in relation to the greater imperial context. For this, al-Ḥaram al-Khalīl (the Ibrahīmi mosque and the Tomb of the Patriarchs)35 will be identified as a stop (ziyaretgāh) on the pilgrimage route in specific reference to the pilgrimage books of the Ottoman pilgrims and Sūfīs. Then, we will take advantage of valuable historical sources like account books of the waqf to be able to provide important insights not only into the actual operation of the simāt, but also its economic and social role in general. Thereby the studies of imāret-waqf complexes will enrich our understanding of some aspects of poverty, charity and poor relief in Islamic societies. To reach this goal, the revenue and expense figures of the simāt will be revealed in particular reference to the personnel records and wages, as well as kitchen outlays, in order to reach a conclusion about the scope of operations sustained by the Simāt. The account books analyzed in this paper are found at Awqāf Ḥaramayn (ev.hmh.d) registers in the Ottoman Imperial Archives (boa) in Istanbul. However, my explanations are based mainly on the accounts of Halilürrahman Waqf that document the Simāt, shrines and the mosque in the Ḥaram al-Khalīl.

The account books of Halilürrahman Waqf in Hebron are complete and clear in terms of their structures and contents, constituting a good example of the practice of bookkeeping.36 However, there are always some differences in format between the account books concerning one and the same waqf.37 Therefore, this study has transliterated and introduced some account books by defining their basic structure and giving some explanations of the main entries and sub-entries. We also dealt with some items in detail. However, we did not introduce a detailed comparative analysis, nor did we try to establish a correlation between the level of financial activity and the economic and social conditions. This is due to the fact that we could not obtain a series of account books covering a sufficient period of time.

1 The Ḥaram al-Halīl: a Stop (Ziyaretgāh) on the Pilgrimage Route

Mujir al-Dīn al-‘Ulaymī al-Hanbalī (d. 927/1521), the well-known Mamluk-era Jerusalemite historian, wrote a bulky volume on the history of his hometown entitled Al-Uns al-Jalīl bi-Tārīkh al-Quds wa-l-Khalīl [The Sublime Ambiance on the History of Jerusalem and Hebron].38 In fact, despite the title of the work, the space reserved for Hebron is rather limited compared to Jerusalem. However, Mujir al-Dīn presented these two cities as a pair of localities combining sacredness. Both were the visiting places on the pilgrimage-route for the Muslim world. The cities were also associated with traditions about the Prophet of Islam and his righteous companions. Then, reflecting this connection, during the Mamluk period, the two cities were united under one administrative unit. For the Mamluks, at least, these two holy cities were as close as the two ḥarams of Mecca and Medina (al-Ḥaramayn al-sharīfayn).39 Considered the most comprehensive and detailed source for the history of Jerusalem written in the Middle Ages, this work is almost unique in terms of the Hebron narrative in the relevant period.40

As for the Ottoman period, the city of Hebron had been incorporated into the Ottoman State after the conquests of Syria, Eygpt and Hejaz during the reign of the Selim I in 1517.41 Afterward, the city was turned into an administrative centre of the sub-district within the District of Jerusalem.42 Western Palestine, or the southwestern part of the Province of Damascus, was then divided into four main districts: Gaza, Laccun (northern valleys), Nablus, and Jerusalem. The borders of the District of Jerusalem, which stretches to Hebron in the south, went from Ramla in the north and Jaffa on the Mediterranean coast to the east of the city from Jericho and the Jordan valley. There were minor border changes throughout the centuries, but in general this administrative division remained largely unchanged from the Ottoman conquest to the 18th century.43 The Ottoman garrison was also stationed in the old citadel, which was repaired under Sultan Suleiman I (r. 926–74/1520–66) in 950/1543 and remained in use until the 1240s/1830s.44

Moreover, after the conquest, the administration and organization of the pilgrimage routes and caravans passed under Ottoman rule, and the Ottoman borders gained the character of an empire spanning three continents. In the half century after the conquest, a significant number of initiatives were implemented by the center of the empire in order to perform the pilgrimage with confidence and comfort. In particular, the activities of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the Bilād al-Sham in the mid-sixteenth century played a very important role within the framework of these policies towards the south of the Ottoman administrative center as a whole in integrating the region into a developing Ottoman understanding of state and administration. Enhanced support for pilgrimage to the Islamic sanctuaries of Mecca, Medina together with Jerusalem and Hebron led to a network of charitable endowments and buildings, and became instrumental in creating this Ottoman vision of the empire.45 Islamic endowments played a particularly important role in all these holy places.46

As is known, an important source about the Halilürrahman waqf in Hebron during the Ottoman Period is constituted by the narratives of those who visited the city as pilgrims, sūfīs and travelers. Among these texts, for example, pilgrimage books were written for practical purposes, such as facilitating the ability of a pilgrim to find sacred places and to perform pilgrimage duties in a correct and dignified manner.47 Especially Evliyā Çelebi’s travellogue, Seyahatnāme, which includes the narratives of Hebron following Jerusalem in the seventeenth century, and the narratives of pilgrims belonging to many Ottoman ‘ulamā’ (scholars) such as Hıfzī, Morean Bahtī, and Abdulgānī an-Nabulsī, are important accounts.48 In the eighteenth century, for example, the manuscripts written by Ashraf Effendi, who was the son of Müeyyedzāde Ali Effendi from Mezifon and a Sūfī and Chief Judge of Rumelia an-Naqshbandī al-Murādī, provided valuable accounts about Hebron and the Halilürrahman waqf.49

Molla Hıfzī Effendi, for example, who visited Jerusalem in 1051/1641 and stayed there for three years, mentions the virtues of Jerusalem and Hebron in his work titled Tārīh ve Fezāil-i Kuds-i Şerīf [History and Virtues of Jerusalem], stating, “Hebron is a promenade mountain in the vicinity of the Ḥaram, it is a place to visit.” In his work, he states that he wrote it in order to fill the gap due to the limited number of Turkish works describing the virtues of Jerusalem and Hebron, Hıfzī first expresses the importance of visiting the Prophet’s tombs in al-Khalīl in Islamic tradition with reference to various hadīths. For example, with reference to the hadīth narrated by Abū Hurayra, he states that the Prophet prayed in al-Khalīl. It is clear that with this and other narratives in the work, al-Khalīl is actually intended to be brought closer to Jerusalem in the context of holiness. Visiting al-Khalīl, like Jerusalem, is encouraged and recommended with reference to both Islamic sources and local oral narratives. The conversations of the Prophet with Gabriel and the hadīths narrated from Ka‘bu’l-ahbār are also mentioned at length in this context. In the hadīth he narrated from Ibn Abbas, he mentions that when the end times come and it is not possible for Muslims to go on pilgrimage, it is recommended to visit the prophet Abraham. Here, he states that visiting the grave of the prophet Abraham would lead to a pilgrimage of the poor and an increase in dignity (maqām) for the rich.50 In a separate part following these narratives, Hıfzī describes the order of visits during the pilgrimage at the tomb of the Prophet Abraham and the tombs of other prophets, where to pray and which prayers to recite. In this context, Hıfzī, who adopts an expression similar to that of an-Naqshbandī al-Muradī, refers to the Tārīh-i Hanbalī [Al-Uns al-Jalīl bi-Tārīkh al-Quds wa-l-Khalīl] in the parts where he includes historical information such as al-Muradī.

Another description belongs to a poet of the seventeenth century, Morean Bahtī, who included a depiction of the Ḥaram al-Khalīl in his pilgrimage guide, including the drawing of the mosque, shrines and the Ḥaram area.51 The work that depicts the Ḥaram in the most colorful way is called Manzūme fī Menāsiki’l-Hacc [Poem about the Dignity and Rules of Pilgrimage]. One of the most important features of the work is the colored hand drawings of up to 20 pages. Colorful depictions of the Masjid al-Aqsā in Jerusalem and the Ḥaram al-Khalīl in Hebron, as well as Mecca and Medina, are included.52 Furthermore, the work documents the places it depicts with its topographies, and it also has the distinction of being a different pilgrimage book in this sense. Although Bahtī did not go on the pilgrimage, he cites that after the statements of those who went on the pilgrimage, a great desire for the pilgrimage emerged and he decided to write such a work. He also adds that he made use of those who went on pilgrimage while writing his work. The entire work consists of 770 couplets. The Ḥarams of Jerusalem and Hebron were added at the end of the work only as descriptions. In the Ḥaram al-Khalil, which is named as Ravza-i Hazret-i Halilürrahman, two different domed structures are depicted under the name of the Qubbats (domes) Yakub and Yusuf.

Evliyā Çelebi, one of the most well-known travelers of the Ottoman travelogue tradition, devoted the ninth volume of his travel narrative to the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, as well as to Jerusalem and Hebron. In his Seyahatnāme, he states that the cities of Jerusalem and Hebron are also designated as “al-Ḥaramayn” as an echo of the name “al-Ḥaramayn al-Sharifayn” given to Mecca and Medina, the two biggest holy cities of Islam.53 In fact, Evliyā carried out his second visit to Jerusalem in 1082/1671–72, nearly 24 years after his first visit to the city in 1058/1647–48. Thus, Evliyā very consciously kept the depictions of Jerusalem for the ninth volume and thus combined the four holiest cities of the pilgrimage in one book. After his visit to Jerusalem, he went to Hebron and provided detailed information about the Ottoman administration in the city, the graves of the Prophets in the Ḥaram al-Khalīl and the Table of Abraham, also known as the Simāt al-Khalīl.54

Approximately 19 years after Evliyā Çelebi, Sheikh Abdulganī an-Nabulsī traveled from Damascus to visit Jerusalem and Hebron in 1101/1689. Sheikh Abdulgānī an-Nabulsī’s (1050–1143/1641–1731) ancestors came from the town of Nablus in Palestine. Resident in Damascus, an-Nabulsī was a prominent Hanafite qāḍī (judge), Sūfī, as well as a prolific scholar who wrote more than three hundred books and monographs, many of which were published. The first journey of an-Nabulsī, who made two journeys to Jerusalem, is described in his work entitled al-Hadra al-Unsiyya fi’l-Rihla al-Qudsiyya [The Intimate Presence on the Jerusalem Journey], and took place in 1101/1689. This journey, during which an-Nabulsī spent eighteen days in Jerusalem, lasted forty-five days in total and also included Hebron.55 In the introductory part of his travellogue, he defined Jerusalem as the most honorable and first qibla of the protected cities after Mecca and Medina. He compares Jabal al-Tur, the tomb of the Prophet Moses and the surroundings of these places with the Mina valley. He also compares the town of al-Khalīl with Mount Arafat (near Mecca), as he states that the pilgrimage will be complete with a visit to al-Khalīl, just like going to Mount Arafat completes the hajj. This is almost like a small degree of pilgrimage /reward.56

In the book ‘Mir’ātü’s-Safā’ [Mirror of Happiness], written by Abdurrahman Ashraf Effendi in 1710, Mecca-Medina-Jerusalem and Hebron are described as the four “Ḥaram” regions in separate four chapters. In the last part of the booklet presented to the vizier of the Ottoman administration, Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Pasha, the graves of Prophets, companions and saints in these towns are introduced. 57 In the 4th chapter of the work, while the virtues of Hebron are listed, the visits to the graves of the Prophets situated in the city are depicted.58

On the other hand, an-Naqshbandī al-Murādī mentions Halilürrahman in a separate title in his pilgrimage book named Nebzetü’l-Menāsik [A Short Explanation of the Dignity and Rules of Pilgrimage], which he wrote after the pilgrimage in the beginning at 1170/ September-October 1756. In this section, he describes the location of the grave of the Prophet Abraham and the methods of visiting, the prayers to be read and the other graves around his grave and their visiting procedures.59

Therefore it can be said that some authors who visited Mecca and Medina, as well as Jerusalem and Hebron, for the purpose of pilgrimage, discussed these towns in the context of pilgrimage in their works, and named each of the latter as one of the “al-Ḥaramayn” or “Ḥaram” like “al-Ḥaramayn al-Sharīfayn”. On the other hand, the Damascus-Mecca road does not pass through Jerusalem or Hebron via the Ottoman pilgrimage routes. It is well known that the pilgrimage caravans head south after gathering in Damascus.60 However, this situation does not explain the construction and activities of many waqf buildings that were built in Jerusalem in the middle of the sixteenth century, such as the Ribāt al-Bayram Çavuş or the Imāret al-Khasseki Sultan, which offered services such as accommodation, food and refreshments for pilgrims as well as the needy in the city.61 Many pilgrims to Mecca passing by Jerusalem continued southward via Hebron, combining the ḥajj with a visit to the Ḥaram al-Khalīl.62

Besides, for Muslims, Jerusalem has been a special and sacred place since the first periods of Islam. The sanctity and importance of the city as a place of visit was shaped by hadiths and local traditions.63 From ancient times until today, Jerusalem is the third holiest place for Muslims after the Ḥaramayn, and it was frequently visited by Ottoman pilgrims during the pilgrimage. In the Quran, the abundance of this town “blessed around” and the secret aspect of the events of al-Isrā’ (the nocturnal journey) and Mi‘rāj (ascension) described in the hadiths attracted the Sūfīs from the whole Islamic world to Jerusalem.64 Similarly, since the early periods of Islam, the importance of Hebron as a destination has been supported by the narratives of the virtues of visiting the graves of the Prophets there. The city of Hebron, which is about 28 km south of Jerusalem, was the second stage of visits to Jerusalem. Like Jerusalem, Hebron has been a town visited by pilgrims, Sūfīs and travelers because of the graves of the Prophet in the city. Since it is close to the route from Istanbul to Mecca, some of the Ottoman pilgrims visited Jerusalem and then mostly Hebron while going on the pilgrimage, and followed the Cairo-Medina or Damascus-Medina routes and fulfilled their pilgrimage duties.65

It is clear that the tombs of the Prophets in the Ḥaram al-Khalīl in the city of Hebron were visited by pilgrims, some parts of which are given here, and according to these accounts there are numerous virtues in their visits. Even in some examples, the details of which will be given below, travelers such as Evliyā Çelebi, Hıfzī and an-Nabulsī explained the social life in the city, the urban settlement, the people of the city together with the waqf structures, and the Sūfī life in their works from different angles.

2 The Simāt al-Khalīl: the Tradition of Feeding the Poor, Pilgrims, Sūfīs and Other Guests

As mentioned above, all public kitchens were founded as parts of waqfs and all or most of the ingredients for the dishes they served generally came from agricultural land that was part of the waqfiyyas.66 However, we do not have the waqfiyya for the Simāt al-Khalīl. Although few in number, reports by Ottoman and foreign travelers who availed themselves of the hospitality of the Simāt provided detailed descriptions of the meals themselves, including the dishes served daily and on religious festivals, as well as some information on the quantities of food served and the setting for eating meals.

The first account about the food served in the Simāt to reach us was provided by the Persian traveler Nāsir-i Khusraw. He came to Hebron during the eleventh century and recorded that anyone who came to Hebron received on a daily basis one round loaf of bread, a bowl of lentils cooked in olive oil, and raisins.67

In the pilgrimage book called Kitābu Evsāfı Mesācidi’s-Şerīfe (The Book of Qualificaitons of the Masjids), which is considered to be the oldest of the Turkish literary works written about the pilgrimage and is dated to the beginning of the fifteenth century, Ahmed Fakîh equated Hebron with Jerusalem. In this work, it was highly recommended to visit the tomb of Abraham, the grandfather of all the prophets in the city of Hebron, and to eat the lentils served after the visit. According to him, it appeared that the ones who ate this would be healed.68

Then, in the early sixteenth century, the local chronicler Mujīr al-Dīn al-Hanbalī (d. 927/1521) found that the daily fare at the simāt was lentils, while on Thursday evening seasoned rice (ruzz al-mufalfal) and pomegranate seeds were served. According to that account, more sumptuous dishes were prepared for Friday and other religious festivals. The daily procedure at the Simāt was also defined by Mujīr al-Dīn as the food served in the Simāt dashisha. The word dashisha derives from the verb dashsha, meaning to crush. The dashisha was thus a kind of porridge made of wheat and fat.69 He stated that at the door of the kitchen a drum was struck each day after the afternoon prayer, at the time of the distribution from the generous table. The people of the town and pious sojourners ate from it; the bread was made daily and distributed at three times: early morning, after the midday prayer to the people of the town, and after the afternoon prayer a general distribution to the people of the town and the newcomers. And the quantity of bread baked each day was 14,000 flat loaves, but sometimes it reached 15,000. And as for the capacity of its waqf, it can scarcely be determined; and no one was kept from his generous table, neither the rich nor the poor.70 Perhaps, when one compares the frequency of the meals served and the number of loaves distributed with the Khasseki Sultan imāret in Jerusalem according to its waqfiyya,71 we may consider what kind of functioning/operation took place in the simāt al-Khalīl. For example, in the Khasseki Sultan imāret in Jerusalem, two meals were served to 400 people described in the waqfiyya as poor and pious, together with the kitchen staff of 50, whoever was staying in the 55 rooms for guests in the complex as well as the local Sūfī Shaykh Ahmad al-Dajjani and 16 of his followers.

To emphasize further the scope of operations sustained by the simāt, Mujīr al-Dīn enumerates the three ovens and four millstones employed to prepare bread, above which loomed the grainaries stocked with wheat, all populated by a crowd of men busy grinding grain, stoking fires and attending to all other necessary tasks. He says that this entire enterprise must rank among the wonders of the world, rare even among kings.72

The seventeenth-century traveler Evliyā Çelebi marvelled at how tasty the meal served at the simāt was.73 He even claimed that he never witnessed such a tasty meal at the table of either viziers or men of learning.74 Evliyā further recounts that, when the moment was announced to the people of the town, each person had his bowl filled with the soup of Abraham, enough for the subsistence of men with their families. He adds that he was also fortunately among the group of those fuqarā (the poor). He received a plate of wheat soup, considering it a gift from God. In his account Evliyā Çelebi recounts that after the poor of the city, many people and some servants came with their copper pans and get plenty of rice, stew, zerde (desert) and soup cooked in the imāret. This is because these servants were imams, preachers, sheikhs and other people who were taking shares from the waqf. Thus, there were no restrictions on who could eat in the simāt in Hebron. Its doors were open to all the poor, needy people, travelers, strangers, and other guests, no matter where they came from. No permits or other conditions were imposed to obtain eligibility.75

In the continuation of the Seyahatnāme, Evliyā Çelebi describes the meals cooked in the imāret daily and on Fridays and religious holidays. Evliyā relates that 7000 fried meals were distributed every day in the Simāt al-Khalīl. He states that on Friday nights, two kinds of deserts, which he named milk soup and Khalīl palûze, were produced and distributed to the leading people of the city together with white bread. On the other days, bread made of brown flour was distributed. Evliyā, who also depicts the invitations of the people to the imāret on Friday nights, tells us that all the rich and poor people in the city did not cook their meals at their homes and got their food from this table. He states that if a fire was lit in the house of someone from the city people, it could be interpreted in two ways; either there was a funeral in the house where the fire was lit, or the person who lit the fire had a Jewish guest.76

About 19 years after Evliyā, an-Nabulsī, who visited Hebron, describes the prophet Abraham as “friend and prophet of Allah, ancestor of the prophets, father of the guests, the most generous of the generous” in his ode.77 An-Nabulsī shows more interest in Sūfī lodges in his work, which he wrote as a result of his visit to the city in 1101/1689. An-Nabulsī, who joined the Qadiriyya Sūfī order, stayed in the Qadiriyya Sūfī Lodge during his visit to Hebron. He enjoyed watching the dhikrs (rituals) performed by the Qadiri Sūfīs in the lodge two days in a row. An-Nabulsī’s interest in Sūfīsm led him to visit the living and the dead among the Sūfīs; it led him to see zāwiyas, Sūfī lodges and tombs.78 During his visit, he was also very influenced by the table called “takiyya” and emphasized that the takiyya, which featured a soup kitchen, met the bread and food needs of the city of Hebron. He also provided detailed accounts of Mujīr al-Dīn on this subject.79

3 The Account Books (Vāridāt ve İhrācāt Defteri) of the Halilürrahman Waqf

Expenditures of public kitchens constituted a significant expense item in any waqf’s budget, thanks to their function and importance. To reveal their charitable and social role in the waqf system and in society at large, we will make use of account registers of the Halilürrahman Waqf.80 Although the Halilürrahman waqf complex was composed mainly of the masjid, shrines of the Prophets and the Simāt al-Khalīl, the main function of that complex was its imāret serving all the poor and needy in Hebron throughout the centuries.81

However, for making better use of relatively little-known and less-studied account books,82 it is necessary to understand their structure. The figures in the account registers for the waqf revenue and expenditure constitute the basis of the examination in this paper. Therefore, the structure of the waqf account books applied in this paper will first be introduced in brief in order to establish waqf revenue and expense figures.83

The annual main books were sent to Istanbul, where they were sometimes copied and thus another müsvedde (rough copy or draft) account book was prepared to cross-check the provincial account. After this account had been verified, a final document was prepared which was approved and archived in the Empire’s capital.84 As in this explanation, the record of müsvedde-i muhasebe-i Hazret-i Halīlürrahman der-Kudüs-i Şerīf ‘an vācib-i sene-i 1118 is found at the beginning of the register ev-hmh-d 1431. The register is 8 sheets, 15 pages. The records in the book have been written in siyākat writing and numbers. Accounting for income and expense records was made using the ladder method.

This register contains two account books. One of them sealed by the kadi (judge) of Jerusalem and the same account repeated, but this time the values are given in a different form. The second register was sealed by the waqf’s scribe, with figures recorded in Arabic numerals and values expressed in kurush and para (coin). While the first record was prepared according to the districts’ scribal books “defātir-i küttābin-i nevāhi”, the second record was prepared according to the book of the fodula85defter-i fodula”. In addition, while the first account listed yearly storehouse revenues and expenditures, and detailed registers of people who received salaries both in cash and kind, the second register included only the revenues of the waqf as crops of the year and the rental incomes. While the first register covers two years beginning from the 1st of the Muharrem of the hijri year 1117 until the end of 1118, the second register covers one year period beginning from the 1st of March of the hijri year 1118 and the 28th of February of the hijri year 1118.

While in the first account register it was noted that it was introduced both to the Chief Euncuh as the nāzir (inspector) of the waqf, Süleyman Agha and the mutawalli al-Hajj Hasan Agha for the inspection, the second register was only presented to the mutawalli of the waqf, al-Hajj Hasan Agha, for the yearly audit. We may also say that the former account book, covering as it does a longer period than a full year, entailed a change of administrator with the closing of the old account and the inception of a new one.

The dates related to the time span of any waqf account are stated at the beginning of the books. In these account registers, the total revenue figure is given for two years in the first account book, while in the second account book the total revenue was given for a year, as usual.

As can be seen in Table 1, the record of icāre-i māl fī’ sene-i kāmile ma‘a bākīye-i muhāsebe-i sene-i māziyye, that is “the revenue of the exact year together with the surplus of the previous year”, is equal to the icāre-i muhāsebe-i sene-i māziyye, which refer to “the surplus of the previous year”, plus the ‘ani’l-mahsûlāt ma‘a emvāl-i müteferrika, that is “the revenue together with the miscellaneous revenue”. The figure under the title of “icāre-i muhāsebe-i sene-i māziyye”, that is “the surplus of the previous year”, is also equal to the sum of the revenue which remained uncollected at the end of the account year, that is the arrears and the last bākī (surplus) record, which refers to cash surplus, of the registers. In other words, uncollected revenues remaining from the previous year plus the cash surplus of the previous year, which is recorded under the last bākī record at the end of the previous year’s account book, constitute the entry of “the surplus of the previous year” in the current year account.


Thus, the figure representing the surplus from the previous year does not indicate only cash and disposable revenue, even if it was counted among the current year’s revenues. It includes uncollected revenues and the waqf may or may not have collected these arrears completely or partially in the current year. The cash part of this entry is just equal to the figure expressed in the last bākī entry of the former year.

3.1 Revenues

When the distribution of the incomes of the Halilürrahman Waqf, which is presented in Table 2 below, is examined, it is seen that the highest income with a rate of 41.60% is the nuqūd (cash) and gılālāt (revenues in kind) incomes obtained from the musakkafāt (roofed) and müstegallāt (arable lands) of the waqf in the city of Hebron. While the nuqūd revenues of the waqf is recorded in 28 items, so are the crops of Halhol (Ḥalḥūl), Dura (Dūrā), Edna (Idnā), Beni Naim (Banī Na‘im), Leta (Latâ), Gabad and Harsa villages, which are located in the sub-district of Hebron and presented in Table 3 below in detail. The urban revenues of the sub-district of Hebron, which are registered under the title of “‘ani’n-nukûd”, are the revenues of the müsakkafāt (roofed-type) baths, orchards, houses, inns, etc. the income of the properties in the form of müstegallāt (arable lands).


In the register, the revenues of the sub-district of Hebron was followed by the revenues collected from the sub-districts of Aleppo, Damascus, Egypt and some other places and recorded in 6 items collectively, with a rate of 14.11%. The third income item of the waqf belongs to the current year, and represented the incomes embezzled by the former mutawallī of the waqf and has a rate of 13.31%. The fourth income item of the waqf was the revenues of the Jerusalem district with a revenue rate of 10.25%. Its revenues, mostly consisting of rental income in terms of agricultural products and recorded in 16 items; the incomes of the waqf in Ramallah, Kadiriyya, Zekeriyya villages were recorded in 11 items. The revenues of the sub-district of Gaza Coast and Bani Suhayla, which were in the fifth place, had a ratio of 9.45% among the waqf revenues. The crops of Jenin, al-Satūr, al-Musammiya, Gıyāb, al-Wemad, al-Sugrā villages were recorded in 23 items. Crop revenues and rental incomes from Nablus and Bani Sa‘ab sub-districts, which rank sixth with 6.88%, are recorded in a single item without giving any details. Among the revenues of the sub-district of Ramla coast, which ranks last with 4.40% of waqf revenues, the crop revenues of Letron, Bayt Navbā, Bayt Banala villages were recorded in 23 items. The income statements presented in the accounting book demonstrates that the waqf’s main source of income was the agricultural products collected from the waqf villages. In addition, the rental income of the inns, baths and mills, which constituted the urban income of the waqf, were also important sources of income in terms of the waqf’s budget.

In the first account register administrative regions and the names of the villages are also mentioned. The waqf villages are tabled according to the sequence in the register. Thus, Table 3 gives the total revenue and its components in detail.

The second entry in the account books is the total revenue of the waqf, which as we have mentioned, consisted of the expected income in the current year plus the bâkî from the previous year. While the expected income in the current year consisted of 87.44% of the revenues, the surplus from the previous year covered 12.56% of the waqf revenues.

As can be seen in Table 4, the waqf depended mainly on its agricultural production revenue (54.68%) for the year 1118/1707–1708. A portion of revenue (15.05%), the rent of garden and mill (17.71%) however, was also significant in the total revenue figure. The revenue deriving from agricultural products is recorded in the account books under the term gılâlâts revenues. While in the 1st account register, the names of the villages and other lands are not mentioned, these figures are all provided in the 2nd register in detail. The gılâlâts revenues under the titles of the villages and mezra’as (arable lands) provided the revenue for the waqf.


3.2 Expenditures

To be able to reach sufficiently reliable information about the financial situation and the activities of the waqfs, the income and expense sides should be analyzed together. The term vuzi‘a min zālike (deducted therefrom) marks the beginning of the expense side, which contains the total sum of waqf expenditures.

In the 1st account register of the waqf, the expenses are derived from the payment of personnel, in addition to the amounts of money distributed to the beneficiaries entitled to payments from the waqf surplus. Furthermore, there were expenditures for imāret, masjid and shrines and for the purchase of various goods, materials and tools needed for the operation, repairs and maintenance of the waqf. Following these items uncollected revenues are also listed on the expenditure side. And lastly the account is balanced with the deficit or cash remaining in the money box. In Table 5 below, waqf expenditures of the account register, in accordance with the constitution, are summarized.


As it is clear from Table 5, el-vezāif (personnel) expenditures cover the greatest share and it is followed by the ihrācāt (expenses) item.

Personnel Expenses: The largest and regular sum recorded under the heading of vuzi‘a min zālike in the account registers of the Waqf of Halilürrahman belongs to the personnel expenditures, known as el-vezāif (salaries). The following is the detailed record of the waqf personnel and their wages according to the 1st account register.

The personnel was divided into six categories according to their duties in the waqf as maintenance, religious, educational, social, administrative, and other staff. According to the 1st account register, the number of salaried personnel amounted to 252. Total personnel salaries were 409,528 para annually according to both registers. Salaries of the personnel were paid monthly, with each month calculated as 30 days.

This register also details the above-mentioned personnel expenses. For example, the first record is “cemā‘āti mütevelli ağa, nāzir, bāşkātib ve rûznāmçe”: where the titles, names and duties of administrative personnel and their daily salaries are recorded. Later on, there appears the total number of personnel employed in the administration, along with the total amount of their salaries on a daily and then on an annual basis. Such records exist for each office or subdivision of the waqf. According to these records, for instance, the mutawalli (administrator) of the waqf was paid 14,400 para yearly. The nāzir (inspector) of the waqf was paid 20 para daily and 7,200 para yearly together with hınta (wheat) (keyl 72 para, in total 23,040 para), şā‘ir (barley) (keyl 180 para, in total 28,800 para) and rugan-ı zeyt (olive oil) (keyl 100 para). The bāşkātib (chief scribe) of the waqf was paid 10 para daily and 1,800 para yearly, together with hınta (wheat) and rugan-ı zeyt (olive oil) (kıyye, 100 para). The rûznāmçeci (scribe of daily book) of the waqf was paid 3 para daily and 1080 para yearly as well as hınta (wheat) (keyl 72 para, in total 23,040 para), şā‘ir (barley) (keyl 72 para, in total 11,520 para) and rugan-ı zeyt (olive oil) (kıyye, 50 para). Thus, as it is seen from these figures, the administrative staff of the waqf was paid not only in cash but also in kind. However, for example, the educational staff was not paid in kind, but only in cash. Moreover, when the salary of all personnel is considered, one can see how the salaries of the administrative staff stand at the center of the expenditures of the waqf budget.

Thus, these records demonstrate the immensity of the waqfs’ employment capacity and the amount of revenue distributed and transferred to their own personnel. Waqfs had a very significant place in the economy, not only because of their own purchasing power and expenditures but because they created and supported the purchasing power of various groups in society by transferring income.87 Shops and imārets which were built especially by large waqfs and the commercial activity emerging around them, new districts established by waqf personnel settling in the area and perhaps most importantly the monetary revenues distributed by the waqf show us how waqf, including Simāt, was highly influential in the urban economy.88

Kitchen Expenditures: As another indicator for the financial well-being of the waqf, kitchen expenditures were a very large item in the waqf account books. The number of beneficiaries of the waqf kitchen as well as the amount and variety of the goods purchased were all recorded among the strorehouse expenditures, which may also indicate the actual running of the Simāt kitchen.

The expenditures of the Simāt were recorded under the heading ihrācāt (expenses) and storehouse expenses. In this instance, the term ihrācāt covers the kitchen expenses and “other expenditures” as well. Among them, kitchen expenditures reach a larger sum.

A separate part in this account register was devoted to the storehouse. The foodstuffs remaining in the storehouse and those purchased during the current year were recorded in that part of the account register. The quantity of each item is recorded under this entry. At the heading of this part it is stated that those expenses of the storehouse are due to the wheat, barley costs and oats for the animals, which belonged to the visitors of the shrines of the Prophets, and they are recorded as animal feed together with the food expenses of other visitors.

Lighting (Tenvīr) Expenditures: The illumination expenses of the waqf, such as the cost for oil lamps, wax and candles for the lighting of the masjid, the shrines of the Prophets and lighting costs of the month of Ramaḍan, travelers, Sūfīs together with the payment of the personnel in charge of the candles were all recorded under this category. Under this heading, 24 items are defined as the costs of illumination. The greatest share among these items belongs to the lighting of the shrines of the Prophets, which cost 428 and a half kıyye annually. In addition, for example, while the lightening of the masjid cost 171 kıyye, the lightening of the masjid al-kal‘a (masjid of the fortress) cost 12 kıyye annually. On the other hand, while the lightening of the doors of the Ḥaram cost 8 kıyye, the lightening of the doors of the warehouse cost 4 kıyye.

The Expenses (ihrācāt): Another important element of the expenses which are also covered under the term “ihrācāt (the expenses) is ihrācāt-ı sā’ire (the others). This entry included a broad range of items. In addition to the expenses for feeding costs of the leading notables, there was also the tining cost of the cooking utensils, the cost of feasts for the guests, the maintenance of graves in the field of mosque and imāret, were also recorded under this heading.

The Repairs (El-Meremmāt): Meremmāt (repairs) expenses for the maintenance and the renovation of the waqf buildings and properties, though not a considerable sum, was nonetheless given priority among the expenses. In general, according to the waqfiyya and the shari‘a law, revenues were to be used primarily for the maintenance and repair of the waqf buildings.89 Thus, the waqf administration is responsible firstly for the maintenance of the waqf’s property. Meremmāt expenses included the repair costs of the woodshed, toilet, kitchen furnace etc. Since these expenses do not constitute a larger sum, it was not a burden for the waqf. Extraordinary repair expenditure came about in some years. Therefore, the sum of the money spent for repair increased. But it never reached a significant sum.

While this item is recorded as a separate heading in the first account register, it is given among the expenses in the second account register. In the first register the cauldrons of the hammām (bathhouse) in the town of Hebron and the cauldron of the waqf khan in Damascus are recorded as the items of repair works. In the first account register these expenses were recorded in two items. While the first one is recorded with the terms “be cihet-i ta‘mīru’l-vakf”, in the second one, the Khan al-Ajam in Damascus and warehouse of the waqf are recorded among the repaired items.

Mutawalli‘s Food Expenses (Mütevelli Ta‘āmiye Masrafı): In one item, the food expenses of the mutawalli, recorded as an old tradition (ādāt-ı kadime), amounted to 60,000 para yearly. This item is equal to the kitchen expenditures, which may indicate the importance of this item. This expenditure item was likely the expense of the meals served to the guests from the soup kitchen to those hosted by the mutawalli. From the record, it is understood that this is a very old tradition.

In the second account register, while personnel expenditures are the most important regular expenditures of the waqf, other expenses are divided into three categories according to heading entries in the register as can be seen in Table 7.


3.3 El-Bākī (Surplus)

After the expense section, the accounts proceeded to calculate el bākī (the remainder). In the account register it was followed by the entry of “der-zimem-i re‘āyā-yı kurahā ve müste‘cirīn ‘an vācib sene 1117 bi-mûcib-i defātīr-i küttābü’n-nevāhī” (the remainder thereof from the hands of the ordinary people of the villages and the leaseholders for the year 1117 as recorded in the books of the scribes of the sub-district). As mentioned before, uncollected revenues of the current period already had been stated on the income side at the beginning of the second account book, where makbûz (collected) and bākī (remainder) were recorded as separate items. The uncollected revenues in kind were listed in the same manner at the end of the account book. Thus we can determine the villages where some difficulties in revenue collection had emerged. For example, of 23 uncollected revenue items in kind listed at the end of the account book, 7 concerned the ahālī (people) of the villages of the sub-district of Hebron which were recorded as village of Halhol, Edna, Mecdil, Latani, Gayāt, Harsa, Duri. The following is a section from such a record taken from the second account book of the Halilürrahman waqf in Hebron for the year 1117.

The amount embezzled by the villagers of Ḥalḥūl according to the records of the deputy judge of the sub-district5,180


According to the record excerpted above, the account book in question lists the uncollected revenues from the people of the villages and the cābīs (tax collectors) of the waqf.

4 The Functioning of the Simāt al-Khalīl During the Ottoman Period

The functioning of the Simāt al-Khalīl, for example, during the eighteenth century was not much different from the previous centuries. As it is seen from the account register cited above, the simāt consumed a larger share of annual endowment revenues than any other single institution in the complex. And yet, it was the simāt which took the name of the whole complex as its own, as though it was the most important of its building. To be able to provide and distribute meals, the simāt was in need of maintenance and wages as well as regular supplies of food, firewood, water, and cooking and serving equipments. These included daily meals for the kitchen staff and all the other employees of the complex, as well as for the scholars, Sūfīs, pilgrims, travelers and other guests of varying rank.

As for the kitchen expenditures recorded in the 1st account register, while the anbar (storehouse) covers the 7.3% of the expenditures, the ihrācāt (expenses) covers 32.6% of the expenditures. Among the storehouse expenditures, the items cited in this part mostly included transportation costs of the waqf gılālāt (revenues) from waqf village to the waqf storehouse. In this way, 32 items were recorded in this part.

Be-ciheti nakl-i gılāl-i karye-i Harsa.

(The issue of transferring the revenues of the village of Harsa)

Hınta keyl 3

(Wheat bushel 3)

1200 para

Be-ciheti nukûl-ı vakf gılāl

(The issue of transferring the revenues)

Hınta 5 rub‘ keyl       120 para

(Wheat 5 a quarter bushel  120 para)

Şā‘ir 4 rub‘ keyl        60 para

(Barley 4 a quarter bushel  60 para)

Then, under the heading of ihrācāt (expenses), miscellaneous expenditures are recorded in 56 headings. These headings encompass the purchase of all sorts of goods and materials for the maintenance of the waqf and other expenditures. In addition, miscellaneous expenditures of the simāt is also recorded as we can see below.

Be-ciheti galle-i ta‘āmiye şeyhü’l-islām-i harem me‘ahu mine’s-sādāti’l-kirām   2.860 para

(The issue of the expenditure of the food of the şeyhülislam of the Ḥaram together with the descendants of the prophet (sādād))

Be-ciheti kahve-i vekil ağa   2,860 para

(The issue of coffee expenditures of the Deputy Officer Agha)

Be-ciheti kahve ve nûş ve tahsil-i bi’r-Reşide ve Alisan 690 para

(The issue of coffee and eating and drinking and collection with Reside and Alisan)

Be-ciheti ta‘āmiye-i Çuhadar İbrahim Paşa   270 para

(The issue of the expenditure of the food of the head maid)

Be-ciheti baha-i keyl-i anbar   280 para

(The issue of the expenditure of the bushel of storehouse)

Be-ciheti kahve ve nûş fī tahsīl-i gılāl-ı Cenin el-Celīl   3,546 para

(The issue of coffee and eating and drinking expenditures of Jenin)

Be-ciheti ta‘āmiye-i Turşucubaşı   150 para

(The issue of the eating of head pickle maker)

The miscellaneous food, coffee and sherbet (a kind of drink made with water and sugar) expenditures of different staff working in the sub-district were all recorded under this heading.

Besides, subsistence expenses of mutawallī, covering 7.1% of the waqf expenditures, could also be considered among the kitchen expenditures since it included the ta‘āmiye (food) expenditures of the administrative staff of the waqf. Notably, the food expenditures of the visitors and the waqf personnel are recorded separately. When we compare these two expenditures, the ones recorded for the waqf staff is higher than the ones recorded for the visitors. Then, among the lightening expenditures of the waqf, there are items related to the Simāt. For instance, in one item the lightening cost of the door of the Simāt recorded as 4 kıyye. Moreover, the lightening costs of the carpenter which is 12 kıyye and the visitors as 5.5 kıyye could also be included among the kitchen expenditures.

According to the second account register, the kitchen expenditures of the Simāt cover 21.01% of the budget. As to the content of these expenditures, these were recorded under three items as indicated below:

Be-cihet-i harc-ı matbah berây-ı masarıfât-ı simât-ı hazreti vâkıf-ı müşarun ileyh

(The issue of the expenditure of the kitchen for the expenditure of the simāt of the waqf)

158,440 para

Be-cihet-i baha-i ruğan-ı zeyt berây-ı tenvîr-i kanâdil-i harem-i şerîf ve merkad-ı enbiyâ-i ‘izâm ve resûl-i kirâm ‘aleyhim efdalü’s-salavât. Ve evliyâ-yı kirâm ve meşâyih-i zevi’l-ihtirâm ve matbah-ı kerīm ve ba‘zı masarıfât-ı vakf-ı şerîf ber-muceb-i mû‘tad-ı kadîm ve defter-i kâtibân-ı vakf-ı şerîf-i mezbûre bi’d-defa‘at kalem ve sarf şode.

(The issue of the expenditures of the waqf in relation to the book of the waqf clerk and the previous applications- Cost of olive oil to be burned in oil lamps to illuminate the ḥaram, tombs of the Patriarchs, saints, sheikhs and the expenditures of the kitchen and some other expenditures of the waqf.)

Ruğan-ı zeyt kıyye 928

(Olive oil bushel 928)


Be-cihet-i baha-i hınta ve şa‘ir ve dels ve alef ve baha-i nân ve baha-i kahve ve masarıfât-ı sâire berây-ı matbah-ı Hazreti Halilürrahman salavatullahi alâ nebiyyina ve aleyhisselam ve fukarâ-i vâridîn-i müslimîn ber-mûceb-i âdet-i kadîm ve defter-i kâtibân-ı vakıf bi’d-defa‘at sarf şode. 61,360

(The issue of the expenditures of the wheat, barley, oat, price of bread, price of coffee and the expenditures of the kitchen of the Halilürrahman waqf, and for the poor of the Muslim visitors in relation to the records of the waqf clerk and previous applications is recorded.)

Be-cihet-i harcı ta‘ām baha-i mütevelli-i vakıf ve hüddâm-ı vakıf ve re‘âyâ-yı kurahâ ve baha-i kahve ve masârıfât-ı sâire ber mûceb-i mu‘tâd-ı kadîm ve defter-i kâtibân-ı vakıf bi’d-defa‘at sarf şode.


(The issue of the expenditures of the total cost of the meal allowance that was paid in cash in exchange for the hot meal of the mutawalli and waqf staff and the ordinary people of the waqf villages and the price of the coffee and other expenditures of the waqf is recorded.)

In the first item, it is stated that the expenditures of olive oil, candles used for the illumination of the Ḥaram al-Khalīl and the shrines of the Prophets and other costs of the kitchen are all included. In the second item, the costs of the wheat, barley, oats, clover, bread, coffee and other expenditures of the kitchen of Halilürrahman are included. The expenses of the poor Muslims visiting the shrines were also stated in this second item. Then in the third item, the amount of the food for the mutawallī, personnel and people of the waqf villages together with the expenditures of coffee and the others were all recorded. Thus, as it is seen from these items, the food costs of the visitors and the waqf personnel are recorded separately. When we compare these two expenditures, the ones recorded for the waqf staff is higher than the ones recorded for the visitors. That is, while the kitchen expenditures of the simāt consists of the 21% of the waqf budget, the personnel’s food share was 8% and visitor’s share was 5%.

However, in two of the account registers the highest expenditures belong to the personnel of the waqf, which covered 48.6% of the first account and 51.4% of the second account. While the details of the waqf personnel and the wages are included in the first account, these are not shared in the second account. All these are introduced in table 6. In this part of the study, we will focus a great deal on the personnel of the simât and their wages.


The headings “cemâ‘at-i sâlife-i simât ve ümenâ-i anbar-i kerîm ve anbardar ve gayr-i zâlik” (the group cited the staff of simāt, storehouse and the others) is included the personnel of the simât and the storehouse and their wages.


According to the record cited in Table 8, 15 personnel are listed under the title of the staff of the simāt. The greatest share from the budget belongs to the sheikh of the storehouse.

Therefore, when the simāt’s functioning and catering dishes are viewed, the income items in accounting records become more significant. As such, wheat, barley, rice, which are recorded among the agricultural products from villages and correspond to 55.34% of the budget, along with olive oil, constitute the waqf of the simāt’s source of crops. In the same way, the income that forms the urban revenues of the waqf also had an important place in the waqf budget. Thus, these revenues, presented in tables in the summary of work, show both the urban side of the waqf as well as rural effectiveness. Similarly, the income from the roofed and unroofed properties also gives an idea of the regional activity and economic activities of the waqf.

As can be seen from the analysis of these accounts, waqf-simāt played an important role in Hebron during the Ottoman period. According to the estimates of the account registers, as much as one-half of the land in Hebron and the surrounding area belonged to the Halilürrahman Waqf, which also held properties in Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramla, Nablus and Aleppo, Damascus and Eygpt. The Halilürrahman Waqf was supported through income from villages and from many residential and agricultural plots within the town of Hebron and the surrounding area.


Imārets have a significant place in Ottoman waqf complexes, which embody the power and generosity of their founders. The holy city of Hebron had perhaps the most long-established and renowned imāret, called Simāt al-Khalīl, for feeding the poor and needy people, pilgrims, travelers, strangers, and other guests who arrived at its shrines. Accounts from the pre-modern Ottoman period attest to the continuing vitality of this public kitchen for the region, also during the Ottoman period, together with the scenes from different pilgrimage books about the Ḥaram al-Khalīl maintaining the merits of visiting the shrines of the Prophets.90 Additionally, it contributed much both materially and spiritually to Hebron and to the ambition of the protectorate of the Ottoman Empire as the “khādim al Ḥaramayn” throughout the centuries.

Waqf account books are useful supplements to endowment deeds and literary texts for understanding the capacity and functioning of the imārets. In this case, the total revenue and expense figures were established and, then, the method of breaking them down into their components was employed in order to develop an analysis in detail. Thus, waqf village revenues in kind, the cash surplus and the uncollected revenues transferred from the previous year which formed the waqf revenues, were cited separately. Personnel expenses, kitchen expenditures, repair expenditures and miscellaneous expenses which form together with the waqf expenses, were also stated in the same manner. These accounts show us the variety and composition of the revenue sources of the Halilürrahman Waqf in Hebron and the changes occurring over time. In addition, the data derived from these revenue records allow us to follow the financial situation of the waqf. Analyzing the expense side of the account books completes the financial picture of the waqf. Expenditures for food and some other regularly consumed items provide us with data about the functioning and services of the imāret-waqf. As for the records of personnel expenses, they reveal the divisions existing in the Halilürrahman waqf and the number of employees. 252 persons involved in the operation of the waqf as well as in the collection and delivery of the waqf revenues. While the administrative staff of the waqf received the lion’s share of the waqf stipends, the number of the maintenance staff of the waqf is noteworthy. On the other hand, when we compare these figures with some other account registers in the same fund dated 1149/1737–1738, 1172/1759–60, 1176/1762–63 and 1179/1763–64, it can be seen that the share of the personnel from the waqf budget was preserved throughout all these years.91 The costs for the operation of the waqf as well as the charges of food offered to visitors constituted other expense items. Among these costs, the minimum of the repair costs are remarkable.

Furthermore, the public kitchen, as in this case the simāt, produced economic effects, with its activities spreading to every aspect of daily life and creating an economic field. Drawing large amounts of revenues from wide-ranging financial sources, the waqf of the simāt was an active economic agent managing extensive revenue sources and providing charitable services for the poor and needy, as well as Sūfīs, pilgrims and other guests. It derived its income from vast agricultural lands in rural areas. The waqf of the simāt also played a central role in the economic life of the city and its surrounding area through its considerable purchasing power.

In conclusion, it is evident that much more research is needed, given the great potential of the pilgrimage books together with the account registers. It is hoped that this study will serve as a starting point for further studies, which will use pilgrimage books and waqf account registers in conjunction with other sources, in order to examine such institutions and their role in charities and humanitarian activities.


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The earliest version of this paper was presented in the International Conference called “Charity and Humanitarian Action in the Near East, from Antiquity to the Present Day” in the French Institute of the Near East in 2019. Then, an article analyzing the social and economic role of the simāt in the eighteenth century Hebron was published in Turkish with the title of “xvııı. Yüzyılda el-Halil Kentinde Bir Sofra: Simâtü’l-Halil” in the Journal of Tarih Araştırmaları Dergisi in 2021. In addition, the part examining the two eighteenth-century account books in this article and the aforementioned article was published in Turkish in the journal Tarih Dergisi- Turkish Journal of History in 2020.


Ömer Hilmi 1977: 13; for more detailed information, see e.g., Powers 2002: 69–75; Barnes 1986; Bilici 1994; Çizakça 2000.


For more on the role of waqfs and the waqf system in the economy and society in general, see e.g., İnalcık 1994: 47, 79–83; Imber 1997: 140; Yediyıldız 1985; Yüksel 1998: 153–176.


İnalcık 1990: 10–11; Singer 2012: 72–85.


In the following article, for instance, there are examples of fodulahoran registers indicating that men and women beneficiaries benefitted from the soup-kitchen by the imperial certificate: Orbay 2007: 171.


For an attempt mapping Ottoman imārets, see e.g., Singer 2007: 43–55.


Nāsir-i Husraw 1950: 57–58.


Meier 2007: 122–123.


For Tahrīr (land registry) Records, for example see. boa: ttd 522, dated ca. ah 953/ 1546–1547; 602 (Şam Evkâf ve Emlak Defteri), dated ca. ah 990/1582: 424–425. See also İpşirli and Tamimi 1982: 186.


For the waqfiyya of an imperial public kitchen in Jerusalem, see vgma 608-2: 235/178.


Eroğlu Memiş 2018b: 724, 742–745.


Surra is a general term that refers to all of the money, gifts, and goods sent to the people in Ḥaramayn during hajj season by the Ottoman Empire. For the studies dealing with the surra registers including records about the surras sent to Jerusalem and Hebron, see e.g., Fişne 2012: 14; Eroğlu Memiş 2021a: 293–302; Uslu 2019; Gülen 2019.


For examples in which the waqf revenues reverted to the Ḥaramayn and sometimes for Jerusalem and Hebron from the newly-established waqfs in Jerusalem between 1703–1831, see Table 6. According to that table, while in 15 waqfiyyas the revenues reverted to the Masjid al-Ibrāhīmī, in 1 waqfiyya to the poor and the needy of the Masjid al-Ibrāhīmī, in 3 waqfiyyas to the Simāt al-Khalīl and in 1 waqfiyya to the Dome of the Rock and the Masjid al-Ibrāhīmī together. Memiş 2021a: 136–137.


Heyd 1960: 145, n. 4; Eroğlu Memiş 2021a: 364–367.


For more on the importance of waqf documents, see Köprülü 1938: 1–6; Barkan 1964: 237–239.


See e.g., Faroqhi 1988: 44; Roded 1989: 61; Jennings 1999: 613–665. For an introduction to some of these sources for waqf studies, see Orbay 2005: 41; Orbay 2007; Eroğlu Memiş 2013: 115–146.


For the analysis of these sources for waqf studies, see Orbay 2005: 41.


Orbay 2017: 145–146.


“The Cave of the Patriarchs” was thought to contain the Tombs of Adam, the Patriarchs and their wives, the Tomb of Joseph was also discovered just outside the southwestern wall of the sanctuary and a dome was built over it in the time of the ‘Abbāsid al-Muktadir and some forty obscure martyrs were also found to be buried on Jabal Rawayḍa. This site is important for both the Muslims and the Jews as the places of worship: Sharon 2012.


For a detailed analysis of these books, see Eroğlu Memiş 2020: 77–114.


Orbay 2007c: 8.


Frenkel 2013: 435–446.


For a detailed review of the work, see also Little 1995: 237–247.


Bilge 1997: 305–306.


Akgündüz 1994: 21.


Ze’evi 2000: 11–12.


Meier 2007: 122, 137.


For some overviews on the arrangement of the pilgrimage route, see e.g. Uzunçarşılı 1972: 40–42; Armağan 2000: 73–76; Bakhit 1982: 100.


See Evliyā Çelebi 1935: 504–512; Demirci 2016: 173–179; Moralı Bahtī 1051/1641: 40b; an-Nabulsī 1990: 21.


Ayar 2017: 777–783; Eroğlu Memiş 2018d; idem 2022.


Demirci 2016: 173–179.


Eroğlu Memiş 2018d; see also see also Appendix 1, Figure A1.


See Appendix 1, Figure A1.


Rafeq 2000: 65–69.


Ayar 2017: 777, 783.


Kreiser, who discussed Jerusalem in the Ottoman perception in the context of pilgrimage, scholars’ hierarchy and a Mawlawī sūfī lodge in the period from the middle of the sixteenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century, included the views of Imam Birgivī in the context of pilgrimage. Accordingly, the emphasis that Jerusalem, which maintained its position as the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, should be referred to as the “first qibla”, and that the opposite would be “blasphemous” and it would be “makruh” to visit it during the pilgrimage. For more detailed information, see, Kreiser 2000: 53–54.


Nāsir-i Husraw 1950: 54–57.


Stephan 1994: 170–94; Natsheh 2000: 747–90; Singer 2002: 47–82.


Mujīr al-Dīn 1973: 443.


An-Nabulsī 1990: 67.


See also, Rafeq 2000: 67.


An-Nabulsī 1990: 252.


Orbay 2017: 171–196.


For a disccusion why the account books are little known and less studied, see Orbay 2014: 1719–1730.


Compare the structure given here with the structure of the account books provided by Barkan 1971: 109–112; Barkan 1962–63: 297–341; Barkan 1964: 235–377; Barkan 1971: 380–398.


Fodula means plain loaves baked from flour, salt, and water, which weighed a standard 90 dirhems after baking. See Singer 2002: 59.


See. ev.hmh.d 3763; 5149;5362; 5440.

Appendix 1

Figure A1
Figure A1

Depiction of al-Ḥaram al-Khalīl in Morean Bahtī’s Manzūme fī Menāsiki’l-Hacc.

Citation: Endowment Studies 6, 1-2 (2022) ; 10.1163/24685968-06010001

source: moralı bahtī, manzūme fī menāsiki’l-hacc, 38a, süleymaniye kütüphanesi aşır efendi koleksiyonu, nr.123.

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