An Institution at British Administration in Cyprus that Raise Religious Official: Islamic Theological School - İngiliz İdaresi’nde Kıbrıs’ta Din Görevlisi Yetiştiren Bir Kurum: İslam İlahiyat Okulu

Yakın Doğu Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi (2019)
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This study aims to examine the Islamic Theological School that was opened in Nicosia back in 1932 to meet the chaplain needs of the Cypriot Muslims. In this context, how the Islamic Theological School was welcomed among the groupings of the period, its physical structure, teaching staff, and students were all addressed within the framework of the education program and the closure process. The "Foundation Files" in the National Archives and Research Department in the TRNC and the newspaper collections of the period and the "British Colonial Documents" in the Archives of the General Directorate of the Foundations of Cyprus are the main sources of our research. Documentation method, which is one of the qualitative research methods, was used in the study. In this context, the documents that could be accessed in the researches related to the subject of the study are examined and described for the objectives of the study. In conjunction with the madrasas in Cyprus becoming dysfunctional until the end of the 1920s, the wrecked Great Madrasah building in Nicosia, which had the purpose of training personnel such as imams, preachers, chaplains and muezzins for the mosques, was demolished and a school called Islamic Theological School was built instead. The opening of the Islamic Theological School led to important debates between the two opposition groups of the time, the Halkçılar and the Evkafçılar. Halkçılar are the group of people who advocate the adoption of the revolutions and reforms of the newly established Turkish Republic also by Turkish Cypriots. For this reason, they strongly criticized the opening of the Islamic Theological School on the grounds that it would cause reactionism and bigotry. On the other hand, the concept of Evkafçılar is used for people who represent tradition and are close to the current British rulers. Evkafçılar advocated the opening of the Islamic Theological School by stating that it was a social need. Accordingly, both groups used the press effectively as a means of conveying their own thoughts. The halkçı group used the newspapers called "Söz" and "Masum Millet" and the evkafçılar group used the newspaper called "Hakikat" as a means to convey their views to the society. In the shadow of the discussions between the two groups, the Islamic Theological School, which was built in 1932 in place of the wrecked Great Madrasah building in the northeast of Selimiye (Hagia Sofia) Mosque in Nicosia, was built as a single-floor building and a gable roof system was used on its roof. Funds were appropriated by Education (Hatib Ahmed Efendi) Foundation for supplying the school's materials such as tables, chairs, cabinets, sofas, and armchairs. In 1932, when the Islamic Theological School began educating, there were only three professors and one teacher in its teaching staff. Hürremzâde Hakkı Efendi, one of the professors, was both the school director and the Fatwa Emin. One of the other professors was an imam and the other one was a fatwa clerk. And Muallim Ahmed Fehim Efendi undertook the duty of imamate. According to the documents examined, the aforementioned faculty members have taught religious and human sciences-oriented courses in the school. As far as we can identify from the documents open to research in the archives, in the years between 1932 and 1950, when the Islamic Theological School was open, a total of 11 students were educated in this school. In the first year of this school, which started education with three students only, students were given a monthly scholarship of 15 shillings. In addition, the students were both able to practice as assistants to muezzins in the mosques during the month of Ramadan and they were also provided with economic support. After graduation, the students were nominated as imams, muezzins and devirhan. The Islamic Theological School was closed in 1950 because there was no student demand. Despite the fact that 11 people received education in 18 years between the school's opening year 1932 and 1950, and the annual reports published by General Directorate of Foundations stated that the Islamic Theological School continued its services satisfactorily under the upervision of its Fatwa Emin, these statements were unrequited in reality. The Islamic Theological School started to serve in the shadow of the debates between the opposition groups of its time. The parties of the discussions are divided into two groups: Halkçılar and Evkafçılar. The first group opposed the opening of the school by claiming that the financial resources of the General Directorate of Foundations would be spent unnecessarily and that the students to be educated would be raised with reactionism and bigoted ideas. The second group, Evkafçılar, approached the issue with a need-centred approach and defended the necessity of a school to educate religious officials. The mentality of the populist group reflects the ideology of the young Turkish Republic and this is clearly seen in their defence mechanisms. Evkafçılar, on the other hand, did not pay the required attention to the Theological School despite their discourses of necessity. As a result, the power struggle of these two groups aiming to hold the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots caused the Theological School to be adversely affected. Very low salaries of religious officials working in existing mosques and low fees being paid to the graduates of the Theological School who were employed in mosques were other factors that reduced the demand for Theological School. As a result, those who saw low-paid religious officials who had difficulty even getting along did not seek education to become religious officials and their families never pointed such way to them. The fact that a very limited number of students attended Theological School did not lead General Directorate of Foundations to alternative solutions. As the Islamic Theological School was not well organized, the issue of religious officials was felt more and more by the muslim people in the following years in Cyprus where many villages do not even have religious officials.
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