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Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey: a religious school in Konya, Turkey, during the era of Karamanid Dynasty (1256-1483) and Ottoman Empire (1299-1922).

The Ottoman Empire was one of the most distinguished civilizations in history. Beginning in 1299 with the establishment of the empire by Osman Bey, at its height, the Ottoman Empire ruled forty percent of today's world population and an area today ruled by seventy six nations (Mumcu 2004). During the peak of its strength, the empire covered more than 2,000,000 square miles. The empire survived until its demise in 1922 when The Turkish Great National Assembly disbanded it. Throughout its history, education was valued by the rulers. The first madrasah (the main institution for education in the Ottoman Empire) was established in Iznik in 1331 (Akyuz 2007).

Quranic education was very important to Ottoman society; after the expansion of Islam to Middle Eastern countries, Muslim society became more complex and multicultural and people faced issues of interpretation and orthodoxy. Therefore, the society needed people (ulema) whose role was to interpret and explain the Holy Quran, the hadiths (commentaries on the words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) and the rules of the Sunna (Islamic customs based on the deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) (Ocak 2004). The ulema had an important and influential role in maintaining the cohesiveness necessary for the empire to survive for over 600 years. For this reason, learning and memorizing the Quran, the basic source of Islam and a first and necessary step in becoming an ulema, was an activity highly respected by Muslims.

Quranic education was started by the Prophet Muhammad who explained the Quran to his friends and early believers (Baltaci 1970). After him, other Islamic leaders continued this tradition; thus the formation of the hadiths and Sunna. Initially, the Quran was taught in the mosques. The first school outside the mosque to focus on teaching the Quran was established at the late 10th century.

Early Islamic society primary schools were called mektep, enrolled both boys and girls, and later were referred to as Daruttalim, Mektephane, Muallimhane and Darulilm (Gozutok 2003). Ottoman education began in the mektep (elementary school) which prevailed during the classical period and continued into the madrasah (ihsanoglu 2004). Additionally, there were other private and religious educational institutions such as darulhuffaz and darulkurra. These additional schools were for boys only.

This article focuses on the education at one specific darulhuffaz in Konya, Turkey, called Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey. The purpose of this article is to examine Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey's system of education, its charitable foundation, as well as its education based on information available in the Ottoman Archives, in Konya, Ankara, and Istanbul, Turkey.

The Seljuks, as did other Islamic rulers, gave their attention to the science of reading the Holy Quran and established schools for this purpose and called them darulhuffaz (Kucukdag 2004). The Karamanid Dynasty (1250-1487) and Ottoman Empire (1299-1922) also recognized the importance of teaching and memorizing the Quran and opened schools which had the same name, darulhuffaz. From the 12th to the 20th century, darulhuffazes were constructed in various locations in the Ottoman Empire.

Darulhuffaz consists of two separate words: Dar and huffaz. The word "dar" has meaning of home and place; "huffaz" is the plural form of hafiz, a person who memorized the whole Quran. Thus, darulhuffaz literally translates as the home of a person who has memorized the entire Quran. Pakalin (1971)wrote that darulhuffaz is a place where students memorize the Quran. Arabaci (1998) wrote that the darulhuffaz is a concept that could be an elementary or middle school but, whatever the age level, the required students to memorize the whole Quran. On the other hand, Akyuz (2001) expanded the scope of the darulhuffaz and claimed that students not only memorized Quran but also learned the rules of tajweed (proper recitation technique) at darulhuffaz. Clearly, darulhuffaz was a higher level of mektep but the most fundamental goal of darulhuffaz education was to ensure that students learn and memorized Quran with tajweed (Kilinc 2008).


Konya, an important agricultural and trading city in the Roman Empire was called Iconium. Konya reached its peak importance during the rule of Anatolian Seljuks in the 12th century when it was known for its finely woven carpets. After the defeat of the Anatolian Seljuks by the Mongols and Timur (Tamerlane) in 1308, Konya and its territories passed to Karamanid Dynasty (Governorship of Konya 2010). The whole region was annexed, in 1468, to Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople. Konya lost its political importance but remained a religious center as the chief seat of the Mawlawiyya Sufi order (the dervishes), which was founded in Konya in the 13th century by Jalal ad-Din Rumi (Columbia Encyclopedia 2010). At various times during its history, each of the classical Ottoman educational institutions such as mektep, madrasah, darulhuffaz, darulkurra, and darulhadis could be found in Konya.

Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey is located on the south side of the hill of Alaaddin which is the center of Konya. The founding date of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey is unclear. Unfortunately, Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey does not have the usual epigraphic plaque providing information on builder or date of erection as can be found on many Turkish buildings. According to Konyali (1964), Canbaz Kadioglu Nasuh Bey, the son-in-law of Karamanoglu Ibrahim II (1424-1464), the father-in-law of Ottoman Emperor Bayezid II (1481-1512), and governor of the sanjak (Ottoman administrative territory) of Icil established this institution in the late 15th century. Konyali (1964) cited a deed of trust for the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey available in Archive of Vakiflar in Ankara, Turkey, dated 991 A.H. [1583 C.E.], the late 16th century. This deed of trust also includes information that both a darulhuffaz and a muallimhane (mektep) were at the site. The presence of multiple buildings at the site may account for the confusion on the founding date.

Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was not a single building but the center of a complex of buildings (Kilinc 2008; VAD 1584,123). Records from the 15th to 18th century report that there was a small dervish lodge (KSS 1682a, 231; 1682b, 176), a masjid (KSS 1682b, 274, 294; 1690, 664; 1704, 253), a muallimhane (K$S 1682b, 274) and a madrasah (KSS 1703, 259) on the site surrounding the main structure of the darulhuffaz. The muallimhane, which was beside of the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey, was a school that prepared students with a basic education. After learning to read and write at the muallimhane students could attend the darulhuffaz. Another option for students who had completed their studies at the muallimhane as to attend madrasah instead of darulhuffaz.

In the following quote, Ihsanoglu (2004) describes important characteristics of the Ottoman education system.
   The primary schools, which were generally established by the
   sultans and prominent statesmen inside the kulliyes (complex of
   buildings attached to the mosque) or as independent buildings, were
   opened in every village, quarter and district because they did not
   require much expense or space. Furthermore, these schools were
   established and operated through a charitable foundation system
   (Vakiflar) and could be co-educational or in separate buildings for
   girls and boys according to deeds of trust (vakfiyye). Although
   they did not have a standard form of working principles or
   educational activities, they conformed to their traditions (345).

According to Ottoman educational policy, the government did not support schools with money. Charitable foundations were the only source of a funding for schools. Therefore, almost every school had their own foundation; those without foundations were supported by rich benefactors. Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey had its own foundation. The foundation was funded by the proceeds from a vineyard in district of Sinanlu (KSS 1682a, 231), a 30 donum farm (approx 7.5 acres) in the neighborhood of Karaoyuk (KSS 1704, 187), a large farm in icil (Cevdet Evkaf 1815), and the villages of Derecelik (KSS 1682a, 275), Kurmetali and Yalnizcabag (Evkaf-i Haremeyn Accounts Record nd., 1195). These towns did not pay their taxes to the state but they paid them to the foundation of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey.

To ensure continued existence of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey, other people supported the foundation through bequests. After the death of Nasuh Bey, his son, Pir Ahmed Bey, added to the foundation of this darulhuffaz in 1512 (Kucukdag 1998). Mustafa Bey, another descendant of Nasuh Bey donated the revenue from a small Turkish bath near the Cem Sultan covered bazaar in Larende in 1583 (VAD 1584, 123). The most interesting thing these benefactors have in common is that they are all descendent of Nasuh Bey. This is a testimony to the desire of the family of Nasuh Bey to improve quality of education, both basic and Quranic.

An accounting of annual income and expenses prepared in 1714 (the only year found in the archives, to date) provides a picture of the financial health of the foundation. According to the record of the accountancy, in 1714, the income of this foundation was 31800 akce (4134 grams of silver [equivalent of ~$34, 600 in 2011dollars]); the expense was 17935 akce (2331 grams of silver [equivalent of ~$19, 500 in 2011 dollars]). The net balance of 13911 akce (1808 gram silver [equivalent of ~$15,100 in 2011 dollars]) (Barron's 2011) shows income exceeding expenses by nearly a whole year's operational expenses. The financial report does not report the foundation's fund balance but, with the annual income and continuing support of Nasuh Bay's family, the revenue to the foundation of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was considerable and this foundation was thought as a rich foundation in 1714 (Evkaf-i Haremeyn Acounts Record nd., 1195).


Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was built with dimension stone on the rectangular plan during the Karamanid Dynasty era (1250-1487) in Konya. On the main building, there is a large dome which covers the whole building. The dome has eight corners and each corner has one small round window which was covered by red dimension stone (Aslanapa 1990). The windows provided enough light so students inside the darulhuffaz could see to read. Each side of this building has two big arched windows. In addition, there are two small arched windows and one round small window on the south side of this building. The door is on the west side of the building and each side of the door, there is one window with red arch. Extending along the west side of the darulhuffaz was a riwaq (portico attached to a wall) with three domes. Demiralp (1999) mentioned that Pre-Ottoman schools' riwaqs were supported by column piers comprised of dimension stones, many of which had been reclaimed from former Roman or Byzantine buildings. These original features can be seen in the blue print of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey (Figure 1) as well as the modifications over time (Figure 2)

In the 1940s and 1950s, the riwaq of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was demolished, having lost its usefulness, first by natural deterioration and then by human scavenging for building materials. Before the renovation in 1960-1961, the left window on South side was used as a door because there squatters had built houses adjacent to west side of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey where the riwaq had been (Konyali 1964). This riwaq was re-erected in 1960-61 by the Eski Eserleri Sevenler Dernegi (The Association for the Appreciation of Ancient Monuments) (Onder 1962).



Just as its beginning is difficult to date, so too is the date when the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey ceased to be an educational institution. The 1714 accounting report is the most recent document related to the educational purpose of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey and other documents may be discovered in the Ottoman Archives as only about 10% of the records have been translated and catalogued.

Ottoman history witnessed a long period of change and reform which started in the eighteenth century and continued until the end of the empire in 1922. Onder (1962) reported that the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey served various public uses: as a library, the Musa Bey Library, for a short time in the late Ottoman Empire era, as storage depot for military purposes and then as a depot for kerosene. During the Republic of Turkey era (1923 to present), the building was allowed to fall into ruin until 1960 when the The Association for the Appreciation of Ancient Monuments contracted with engineers to restore the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey building. Today, this building is being used as a mosque.


Darulhuffazes were one of the autonomous educational organizations within the charitable foundation system and continued their educational services for centuries with minimal state supervision. Darulhuffaz education was free during the era of Anatolian Seljuk, Karamanid Dynasty and Ottoman Empire. Through the free education, the literate proportion of the community was increased. In addition to free education, students' needs such as food and allowance were supplied by darulhuffaz's foundations (Ozcan 2002).

Darulhuffaz did not have a standard form of working principles or educational activities. No record of a standard or prescribed curriculum for the darulhuffaz has been found during research in the Ottoman Archives although only about 10 % of the documents housed there have been translated and/or catalogued. Some information about courses can be learned by looking at the terms of the deeds of trust which spelled out the purpose and operations expected of the darulhuffaz. Darulhuffaz's courses, student numbers, staffs' job description and school rules were recorded in the terms of deeds of trust for darulhuffaz. People respected the terms of deeds of trust and practiced their rules. Therefore, the education at the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was described by the terms of the deed of trust; and teachers, students, and other staffs obeyed this deed of trust's rules.


Among the many darulhuffaz in Konya (Kilinc (2008) reports there were 16 darulhuffaz in Konya), enrollment numbers varied greatly. The number of students enrolled was directly related to the darulhuffaz size, a reasonable space being required for each student, its foundation's income and pedagogical beliefs. For instance, Selman bin Suleyman restricted student numbers in his darulhuffaz to 10 (KSS 1429, 240). Similarly, there were 10 students in Darulhuffaz of Haci Ali (VAD 1429,11). On the other hand, there were only three students in Darulhuffaz of Hondi Hatun (VAD 1459, 109) and only three students in Darulhuffaz of Erdogdu Bey (VAD 1551, 162). Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey's size was almost the same physical size as the Darulhuffaz of Haci Ali; therefore one might assume that the student population would be the same, namely, 10 students.

As mentioned before, the income of darulhuffaz foundation was another factor determining the number of student at a darulhuffaz. For instance the number of students in Darulhuffaz of Hondi Hatun was only three reflecting the restrictions outlined in its deed of trust income. In fact, Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey's income was good and its size was larger so the number of students was be bigger that the number of students at darulhuffaz of Hondi Hatun (Evkaf-i Haremeyn Accounts Record nd., 1195).

As a rule though, only a few students were accepted to study at darulhuffazes. In addition to the physical space limitations, pedagogical beliefs also influenced the enrollment. Kilinc (2008) wrote that the reason why students number were limited were

a. students can memorize the Holy Quran affectively and correctly when the number was few,

b. teachers could spend more time for every students and nurture them better when the number was 10 or under (22).


The locally controlled nature of education in the Ottoman Empire allowed the various educational entities, mektep, muallimhane, etc., to set their own enrollment policies within the bounds of an institutions deed of trust. However, there is no information about students' ages at Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey in its deed of trust. Students would usually attend darulhuffazes after graduation from mektep. The age of enrolling mektep was between four and seven years old and the education at a mektep usually lasted four years (Gunyol 1988). ihsanoglu (2004) asserted that children who reached five years of age would start mektep. Therefore, the age of enrolling to darulhuffazes could have been between nine and eleven. Some information can be obtained by looking at other darulhuffazes' deeds of trust both in Konya and from the same time period. For instance, students had to be 10 years old in order to enroll Darulhuffaz of Haci Ali which was almost the same size as Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey (ViD 1429, 11). We possibly, therefore, can conclude that the enrolling age of a student at this Darulhuffaz of Nasuf Bey was 10 years of age.

Furthermore, the building of muallimhane, a preparatory school for admission to the darulhuffaz, as part of the Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey complex further suggests that students completed their primary education in order to attend darulhuffazes. Once a student memorized the Holy Quran, his education was complete. When they completed their education at darulhuffaz, they could continue their education at darulkurra which was the upper level of darulhuffazes, if they wanted.


In the first step of education was the mektep where students learned reading and writing Ottoman language, reading the Holy Quran, and the basic principles of praying. The general objectives of mektep were to teach children how to read and write and memorize the precepts of the Islamic religion. ihsanoglu (2004) pointed out that at the mektep "the alphabet, reading the Holy Quran, memorizing some suras [as opposed to memorizing the complete Quran], the basic teachings of Islam, recitation of the Holy Quran, writing and four basic arithmetical operation would be taught to the students" (345). In addition, Arabic and Persian language were taught at some mekteps.

After graduation from mektep, students could attend darulhuffaz. The Holy Quran was memorized by students and they learned the rules of tajweed at darulhuffaz (Akyuz 2001; Arabaci 1998). The first days in darulhuffaz, students memorized only a couple verses to get used to memorizing. The next step was that students started to memorize half page of the Holy Quran each day. The number of memorized page was gradually increased until students memorize three or four pages every day. As evidence of learning, students recited complete pages by heart to seyhulhuffaz (Arabaci 1998).

Several strategies were taught for memorizing the Holy Quran at darulhuffazes. The first strategy was that students quickly read the part which they wanted to memorize. After the first step they tried to recite each verses. Then students tried to recite every page until memorizing the whole Quran. In this point, one question appears. Did darulhuffazes provide only the Holy Quran education or any other knowledge? According to the Ottoman Empire's deeds of trust archive, literature, the knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, and some mental knowledge were taught at some darulhuffazes (VAD 1576, 23-25). Therefore, it can be said that, students not only memorized the Holy Quran at darulhuffazes but also learned some other knowledge which was beneficial for social life.


The lessons of Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey started in early morning. Specifically, it started after the Morning Prayer (between 5 and 6:30 am in the summer). The main purpose of starting lessons early was that students' minds were open and fresh in that time. Therefore, they could memorize the Holy Quran more easily.

The number of days students attended darulhuffaz were determined by the deed of trust of darulhuffaz. For instance, Darulhuffaz of Haci Ali and Darulhuffaz of Hoca Selman offered six days of education every week. Friday was the only holiday for these darulhuffazes' students (VAD 1576, 23-25). Furthermore, darulhuffaz were customarily closed on celebration days. Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey was closed for the Ramadan Festival and Eid-ul-Adha. Darulhuffaz's of Nasuh Bey's students did not attend school every day during a week. Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey offer education only two days a week. Its deed of trust stipulated that students would attend the darulhuffaz every Monday and Thursday (VAD 1584, 123). These implementations showed that there were no common requirement for attendance at a darulhuffaz (VAD 1429, 11-12).

Darulhuffaz of Nasuh Bey did not have winter or summer break. Classes were held, with the exception of holidays, throughout the year. Thus, the darulhuffaz's education promoted continuity of learning which facilitated the memorization of the entire Holy Quran; forgetting previously memorized parts was prevented. Otherwise, students could forget in the winter or summer break what they memorized from the Holy Quran during the year.


As with the number of students enrolled, the term of classes and curriculum and the size of the endowments supporting a darulhuffaz varied, so did the personnel and their salaries. Most of the staff at the various darulhuffaz consisted of two people, the Seyhulhuffaz and a muid.


Seyhulhuffaz was the teacher of darulhuffaz, the head of the hafiz (a person who has memorized the whole of Holy Quran)(Kucukdag 2004). His job was to help students memorize the Holy Quran by guiding their memorization strategies. Different ways of teaching memorizing the Holy Quran were employed by seyhulhuffazes. One instruction strategy was that students memorized a page or sura then recited that portion of the Holy Quran to seyhulhuffaz. He listened students and corrected the wrong parts of what student read. The second strategy was that seyhulhuffaz read the verses or sura and then had the students repeat it multiple times until memorized (Cayli 2005). Furthermore, some seyhulhuffaz taught only a few verses each day while other taught some pages (Soylemez 2002).

Sometimes, the seyhulhuffaz was chosen by exam in a demonstration of their knowledge of the Holy Quran, the haditha and the sunnas. Some darulhuffaz's deeds of trust required that the seyhulhuffaz be descended from the owner of foundation. Some people misused this rule and darulhuffaz were converted to family companies, resulting in the condition that some people, unqualified to teach the Quran, became seyhulhuffaz.


Muid was an assistant of seyhulhuffaz (Pakalin1971). The muid's jobs were to hear students repeat the lessons, help students to understand topics, and provide discipline during the lessons (Baltaci 2002). Often the most capable student was chosen from the students to be a muid. Thus, he could help students effectively because he was one of them and he knew their problems and how he could help them. Muids were usually older than the other students; therefore, other students would obey him.

The earnings of muid were three akce per day of instruction (Cevdet Maarif 3123). There were some differences between darulhuffazes because of the income of darulhuffaz's foundations. When not working as the muid in his primary darulhuffaz, a muid could work in other positions such as nazir (a type of financial manager/overseer for the darulhuffaz), a cuzhan (a person paid to perform ritual prayer), or a clerk. The assumption of these jobs supplemented the income from the primary muid position and improved their income level (Cevdet Maarif 3123).


Darulhuffazes were autonomous educational institutes within the charitable foundation system that provided an education to Turkish students for centuries. The darulhuffazes were a second tier of education attended by a boy once he had completed his studies at a mektep. The students of darulhuffazes memorized the Quran and learned the rules of tajweed. Darulhuffazes did not have a standard form of working principles or educational activities. The deeds of trust determined the educational program and the rules. The darulhuffazes education was free and students' needs were supplied by the charitable foundations supporting the darulhuffaz. After graduating from darulhuffaz, students could attend the upper form of it called darulkurra.

Although there was not a standard curriculum, the darulhuffazes provided consistency of knowledge and understanding for the religious leaders of the Empire, thereby ensuring that the multicultural nature of the Empire did not result in a splintering of society. These institutions continued to educate the young men of the Empire until the Law of Common Education was passed on March 3, 1924, which brought all educational entities (religious as well as foreign schools) under the control of the Ministry of Education. Koranic education fell under the direction of the Presidency of Religious Affairs. The role of the ulema as guardians and interpreters of religious orthodoxy has been assumed by graduates of Faculty of Theology in universities in modern Turkey.


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Emin Kilinc

Texas A&M University

Lynn M. Burlbaw

Texas A&M University

Emin Kilinc, College of Education and Human Development, 4232 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-4232, Email:

Lynn M. Burlbaw, College of Education and Human Development, 4232 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4232, Email:
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Author:Kilinc, Emin; Burlbaw, Lynn M.
Publication:American Educational History Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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