Since the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, great care has been given to the construction of scientific and cultural institutions. These institutions are constructed in accordance with the purpose they represent with their physical conditions, architectural features and social facilities. The same sentiment has also been shown towards the construction of madrasas, which are at the top of the list amongst these scientific and cultural institutions. While the physical conditions of the madrasas were made ready; on the other hand, the infrastructure has been prepared to meet all the needs of the people involved in the educational activities. Almost all of these needs were fulfilled through waqfs (charity organisations). In addition to education, the waqfs have provided subsistence/iase, shelter/ibate and financial support to the students. The subsistence needs of the students were generally met by the imarets (soup kitchens) located around the madrasas. In addition, in the Ottoman society, where the support for the getting an education was traditionalized, the basic needs of subsistence were sent to the students from the houses near the madrasa. Since the second half of the 19th century, the decrease in the revenues of the waqfs had an impact on the support given to the students. This has restricted the madrasas in meeting the subsistence needs and many unable to provide any food. Therefore, the opportunity to benefit from the imarets were reduced to minimum levels for the madrasa students. Despite all this, from the point of view of Istanbul, until just after the 2nd constitutional period, all but two imarets were closed, and subsistence needs of students were largely met by means of imarets. However, when the problems encountered in the functioning of the imarets in the last periods of the Ottoman Empire could not be solved and the imarets started to function outside the establishment objectives, they were closed. Naturally, this new situation also affected the subsistence resources of the madrasa students.
Until the imarets were closed, the subsistence needs of the madrasa students were met with meals. However, this practice has been abolished since the mentioned period and financial support to students was introduced. From the beginning of August 1910, it was decided to give a monthly rate of seventy kuruş to the student. This continued until 1914 when taamhane’s (eating places) were introduced as the cash payments were not sufficient to provide the students’ subsistence needs. With this arrangement made in 1914, the student would no longer be paid cash, but the payments to be made would be deducted from the subsistence needs of the student. As applied before the imarets were closed, Taamhane’s in Üsküdar, Nuruosmaniye, Şehzade and Fatih would provide the student’s subsistence needs. Since the establishment of taamhane’s, measures were taken to ensure order and eliminate problematic situations. The proceedings were conducted through a commission formed within the structure of the Shaykh al-Islam.
Determination of the kinds of food to be given to a student in the taamhane’s designating how many daily meals would be given to people, storage of food and grocery to be cooked and all other operational responsibilities were assigned. In short, all issues regarding the organisation and operation of taamhane’s were discussed and settled by the Meclis-i Mesâlih-i Talebe (Student Affairs Council), headed by the lecturer within the structure of Shaykh al-Islam. Care was taken to implement the decisions taken. As a matter of fact, sanctions would be imposed on both the madrasa students and those who did not show the necessary attention from the staff and the responsible people. So much so that the penalties would lead to a cancellation of the madrasa student’s enrolment. Although measures were taken requiring heavy sanctions, complaints against taamhane’s were frequent. In fact, majority of the complaints regarding the food, heating and lighting expenses were related to Evkaf Hazine (Waqf Treasury) not meeting its obligation to support the taamhane’s due to financial difficulties. Likewise, the reduction of the appropriation allocated from the general budget to the Evkaf account necessitated the restriction of the budget for the subsistence and other needs of the student. Eventually, every need that couldn’t be met resulted in complaints to the authorities. On the other hand, personal shortcomings from the use of existing opportunities were also witnessed. However, complaints from material deprivation were more prominent than others.
In order to eliminate the negativity of the above and make the functioning of the taamhane’s and the subsistence opportunities of the students more functional a Food-Supply Office was established in 1919. In the previous practice, food, supplies and material budget requirements of the taamhane’s were under Evkaf’s administration; while responsibilities such as administration and operation, were fulfilled by the Shaykh al-Islam. This dual structure in practice frequently caused the problem of coordination to occur. For example, the replacement of a purchased and defective food item required long correspondence between the two institutions. As a consequence, every delayed process in order to meet the needs was negatively reflected to the situation of the student. From now on, the budget allocated for taamhane’s will be transferred from the Evkaf administration to the Shaykh al-Islam and all proceedings will be carried out by the Iaşe office. Establishment of the Food-Supply Office was aimed at eliminating long procedures, ensuring unity in management and provide the students with better opportunities to meet their needs. However, despite all these structural reforms, it would not be more than optimistic to claim that the most perfect access to the needs of the student was achieved.
The subsistence opportunities of the students in Istanbul madrasas, where we briefly touched above will be examined extensively by resorting to first hand resources as much as possible in this article. The work has been limited to the period shortly after the second constitutional period. The closure of the imarets shortly after the second constitutional period has changed the subsistence opportunities of the students. Therefore, this deep-rooted change is taken into consideration and the subject of the article is based on the second constitutional period. On this date, the closure of the imarets began to be spoken. At the same time, the second constitutional period is accepted as a well-known milestone for many other important changes.
Osmanlı Devleti’nde, kuruluş yıllarından itibaren ilmî ve kültürel kurumların, varlığına özen gösterilmiştir. Bu kurumlar fizikî şartları, mimarî özellikleri ve sosyal donatılarıyla temsil ettiği amaca uygun şekilde inşâ edilmiştir. İlmî ve kültürel müesseselerin ilk sırasında yer alan medreseler yapılırken de benzer düşüncelerle hareket edilmiştir. Bir taraftan medreselerin fizikî şartları hazır hale getirilmiş; diğer taraftan eğitim-öğretim faaliyetinin içerisinde bulunacak kişilerin bütün ihtiyaçlarını karşılamaya yönelik alt yapı hazırlanmıştır. Söz konusu ihtiyaçların hemen tamamı vakıflar vasıtasıyla giderilmiştir. Vakıflar, eğitim-öğretimin yanı sıra talebenin iâşe/yeme-içme, ibâte/barınma ve maddî desteklerini/burslarını temin etmiştir. Bu süreçte talebenin iâşe ihtiyacı genellikle, medreselerin civarında yapımı gerçekleştirilen imâretler tarafından karşılanmıştır. Ancak XIX. yüzyılın ikinci yarısından itibaren vakıf gelirleri azalmış, iâşe ihtiyaçlarının karşılanmasında kısıtlamaya gidilmiştir. Dolayısıyla her geçen gün medrese talebesinin, imâretlerden faydalanma olanağı sıkıntılı hale gelmiştir. Bütün bunlara rağmen, İstanbul ölçeğinde düşündüğümüzde, ikisi hariç diğer imâretlerin kapatıldığı II. Meşrûtiyet’in (1908) hemen sonrasına kadar talebenin iâşe ihtiyacı, büyük oranda imâretlerden karşılanmıştır. Ancak Osmanlı’nın son dönemlerinde imâretlerin işleyişinde karşılaşılan problemler giderilemeyince ve imâretler kuruluş amaçlarının dışında fonksiyon icrâ etmeye başlayınca, bu kurumların kapatılması yoluna gidilmiştir. Gelinen bu nokta, medrese talebesinin iâşe olanaklarını da etkilemiştir. Dolayısıyla bu makalede, medrese talebesi için geleneksel iâşe olanaklarının değişime uğradığı II. Meşrûtiyet sonrası esas alınarak, ne tür bir uygulamaya yer verildiği, yaşanan değişimin talebeye nasıl yansıdığı incelenecektir. Makale hazırlanırken öncelikle arşiv belgelerine, dönemin kroniklerine ve çalışmaya katkı sağlayacak diğer kaynaklara başvurulacaktır.