The Zawiyas of Bitlis Region in the Land Registry Books of 16th Century
Bitlis Eren Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi,Tarih Bölümü,Bitlis/Türkiye.
Keywords: Bitlis, zawiya, waqf, land registry books, Sharafnama.
As an institution of Islam, zawiyas refer to specify buildings or a group of buildings where dervishes of a sect maintained communal activities under the pious rule of a sheikh. From the earliest times, sheikhs and dervishes who wanted to establish zawiyas were supported by Ottoman Empire via granting certain exemptions in miri (imperial) lands. As a result, the number of zawiyas that began to be established in Anatolia increased in time during the Ottoman era. These lodges, which were built as a Sufi institution on large Waqf lands rather than private properties, were mostly constructed on the outskirts of cities and towns or on roads and passages. On the one hand, zawiyas undertook religious functions by meeting the spiritual needs of local people; on the other hand they took a social role by providing free food, free drink and accommodation to the passengers. In addition, they served to spread Turkish-Islamic culture in Anatolia and Balkans, to facilitate the settling down of nomadic communities, and to open new settlements. Upon a brief consideration of these characteristics, zawiyas in the Ottoman Empire represented a social establishment with their distinctive administration, religious understanding and rituals whereas they constituted a civil power thanks to their service even in the most remote corners of the empire that helped to keep the Ottoman administrative order.
Ottoman Empire, after it was founded, attached much importance to the building of zawiyas in conquered cities to establish Turkish-Islamic culture and to ensure its permanence. Like many establishments in the empire, zawiyas continued their activities with the Waqf income. Waqfs were institutions that obtained income thanks to the system they generated and that produced services in a wide diversity of subjects on the benefit of society and the state. They were established or supported mainly by the sheikhs, sometimes by the state governors in order to meet the needs of the lodges and to ensure the continuity of the services while they were helping the survival of these social and religious institutions for long years.
Having hosted many civilizations in terms of its strategical geography in the historical process, Bitlis and its neighborhood were registered at certain time intervals after the rule of Ottomans in 1515. The results of this registration were written in detailed registry books, all of which include valuable information about the zawiyas located in and around Bitlis apart from their income, their personnel and the wages as well as Waqf properties of zawiyas whether movable or not, the annual income acquired through them and their means of operation. In this study, zawiyas in and around Bitlis were examined based on four separate cadastral registers which were prepared in 1540, 1556 and 1571 and an explanation was found about whether these zawiyas could exist or not today. Thus, an effort was spared to contribute to the emergence of the religious and socio-cultural history of the Bitlis in particular, and to the cultural history in general.