Because of love felt for the Prophet Muhammad, the tradition of hadith recitation in Istanbul began after the conquest and continued until the first years of Republic both at educational institutions and also at every level of the society. Even though it is weakened, it still continues.

Certain centers of specialization, which can also be regarded in a way educational institutions dedicated to a specific mission, were established as part of kulliyas with the aim of teaching hadith for educational purposes and training experts in hadith. These centers were called darulhadith. Ottomans considered these centers to be at the top of the madrasa hierarchy. Likewise, the professors serving in darulhadiths were regarded as such among their colleagues. This fact shows the Ottomans’ high esteem of the Prophet Muhammad and his traditions (sunna). About thirty darulhadiths were established in Istanbul from the conquest to the mid-nineteenth century most of them dating back to the sixteenth century.

1- Sahih al-Bukhari

The desire to learn the outer characteristics, manners, practices and life of the Prophet Muhammad and to appropriate his morals for oneself led to the emergence of the tradition of reading Qadi ‘Iyâz’s (d. 1149) Shifâ al-Sharîf among the public in Istanbul. Qadi ‘Iyâz wrote his book in order to introduce people with the Prophet’s love and have him loved by the Muslim society. In his book, Qadi ‘Iyâz also examines many issues related to the Prophet and responds to the arguments of the opponents. Within the category of koltuk dersleri (lessons of chair), this book was also taught outside the formal educational institutions (madrasas) by many scholars who established scholarly circles in several mosques of Istanbul. Throughout history, many commentaries were written on this book. Besides, the existence of hundreds of manuscripts of this book just in the libraries in Istanbul, reflects how much it was esteemed by the community. Moreover, swearing over this book in certain Muslim countries (such as “by Shifâ and Bukhâri” etc.), keeping it at home and work as a measure of protection from natural disasters such as flood, fire etc., reading it to the sick for healing should be seen as manifestations of the significance of the Shifâ. Another significant point is the fact that there existed an official category of people, especially during the Ottoman period, who specialized in reading the Shifâ and can be called Shifâhân (Shifâ reader/recitor). Because not only the government officially appointed some scholars to the task of reading Shifâ but also the founders of religious endowments (waqfs) mentioned in the endowment deeds that Shifâ should be among the books that they wish to be read and studied at their endowments. On the other hand, another important point is that the Shifâ was read prior to study certain works pertaining to conceptions (tasavvurat) in logic in order to ward the evil that might come from those books. One should also include to the abovementioned points the sessions of reading the entire book of Shifâ (Shifâ al-Sharîf Hatmi) and the attempts of seeing dreams about being blessed in the Hereafter because of the recitations of the Shifâ.

At different times and in various places, the reading of Sahîh al-Bukhâri continued for centuries among the people of Istanbul. Qadi ‘Iyâz’s statement in his book “scholar unanimously agreed upon the validity and accuracy (sahih) of the traditions recorded in the Bukhâri and the Muslim” and Imam al-Nasâ’i’s conviction that “there is not any book better than the Bukhâri” influenced the community and made Bukhâri’s book most read book by the people second only to the Qur’an.

2- Nuruosmaniye Mosque, one of the places where Sahih al-Bukhari was read regularly

Bukhâri al-Sharîf which was read not only in madrasas but also in the mosques later was begun to be read in shrines and dervish convents as well as at time of distress as a token of good luck and blessings. This tradition continued in many state institutions, especially, in the military. During the bad and difficult times such as famine, earthquake, war, and epidemics, it became a tradition among the public to organize sessions of reading the entire Sahîh al-Bukhâri. The great respect shown in every period of the Ottoman history to the scholars who taught people Sahîh al-Bukhâri and were called “Bukhârihân” is the most important evidence of how much care and respect was shown to Sahîh al-Bukhâri by the community.

Those who would instruct Sahîh al-Bukhâri were chosen from among those who gave lessons to public at mosques (dersiam). Those who carried out the task of Bukhârihân might be gratified by gifts and decorations. Hırka-i Şerif Mosque was the most preferred place for Bukhâri lessons by those who were selected through an exam and the place where the task of Bukhârihân was most practiced. It is understood that the positions of Bukhârihânlık and Shifâhânlık were transferred from father to son and diplomas (ijazatnama) were issued to read and teach the Bukhâri and the Shifâ.

Ebu’l-Ulâ Mardin mentions that about twenty scholars who attended the royal exegesis lectures in Ramadan (huzur dersleri) also taught Bukhâri al-Sharîf to people in mosques as a type of informal education. In all the royal mosques (salatin mosques) in Istanbul, Bukhâri al-Sharîf was taught, a process under state supervision. Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) Mosque and Library, Fatih Mosque, and Süleymaniye Mosque were most prominent ones among them. In a register titled Sâhib-i Cihet Dersiâmlar (Dersiams with a post) which is found in the archives of the Office of Sheikh al-Islam in Office of the Istanbul Mufti, about 90 Bukhârihâns’ names are mentioned. The following are mentioned in this register as the places where Bukhâri al-Sharîf was read: Nuruosmaniye Mosque, Ayasofya Mosque, Bâb-ı Fetva, Hamidiye Türbesi, Nakşıdil Valide Sultan Tomb, Valide Mosque, Beşiktaş Mosque, Fatih Mosque, Mecidiye Tomb, Sultan Mustafa Tomb, and Hırka-i Saadet Mosque. A post for reading Sahîh al-Muslim, another authoritative hadith collection compiled in the ninth century, was created in Hamidiye and Sultan Mustafa Tombs. In this register, it is also stated where and on which days these reading sessions were carried out. In this way Bukhâri al-Sharîf which was apparently read in various places and at different times was practically read in Istanbul every day. For example, it is mentioned that in Nuruosmaniye Mosque it was taught by various dersiams at three different times: “every day except Tuesday and Friday, every day after fajr prayer, and on school days.” It is stated that in Ayasofya Mosque, it was read on school days; in the Office of Fatwa, it was read on Tuesdays and Thursdays; in Fatih Mosque, it was read on every day except Tuesday and Friday; in Beşiktaş Sinan Paşa Mosque it was read on Fridays; in Sultan Mustafa Tomb, it was read every day except Tuesdays and Fridays and on school days.

3- The tombs of Mustafa III and Selim III where Sahih al-Bukhari used to be read on Tuesdays and Fridays. Qadam al-Sharif (the footprint of the Prophet Muhammad) is found in the cupboard at the head of the sarcophaguses.

During the times of war, Bukhâri al-Sharîf was also read in the army and in the mosques in other cities for the victory of Muslim soldiers. Before a war against Russia, Bukhâri al-Sharîf was requested to be read, similarly on the days of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, it was asked from the administration to have a few men read the whole Bukhâri al-Sharîf in Topkapı Palace, Department of the Holy Mantle (Hırka-i Şerif Dairesi) in ten days. During the Ottoman-Russian war of 1877-78 (93 Harbi) fought against Russia, orders were sent from Istanbul to Anatolia to have Shifâ al-Sharîf read along with Bukhâri al-Sharîf recitations. It is understood that more than one officer were appointed to read Bukhâri al-Sharîf at the same time. In addition to these, Bukhâri al-Sharîf was recited in the Chamber of the Holy Standard (Livâ-yı şerîf), the imperial office (Mâbeyn-i Humayun), and in the audience hall in Sublime Porte (Arz Odası).

Sultan Abdulhamid II not only had organized sessions of reading the whole Bukhâri in Yıldız Palace and in the imperial office (Mâbeyn-i Hümayun) but also had those sessions continued after his dethronement. Many books have been written on reading the whole Bukhâri and on its significance, and thus, a literature has emerged on this subject.

Giving a Bukhâri al-Sharîf lecture at the opening ceremonies of libraries was an extension of the above-mentioned tradition. With this practice, it should have been aimed to have the new institution blessed and establish in that institution a conception of learning centered on the Prophet’s morality. For example, in the opening ceremony of the library of Ayasofya Mosque in which Sultan Mahmud I was also present, the entire Bukhâri was read and prayers were recited at the end. The exegetes and hadith scholars of the library each gave an opening lecture.

Whole Bukhâri al-Sharîf readings were carried out in the library established within Fatih Kulliya every month, and ten people were appointed for this task. As a result of all these activities, calligraphers who copied the Qur’an also had the incentive to produce Bukhâri copies. Today we have copies of the Bukhâri written by the skillful hands of master calligraphers and decorated by the intensive efforts of great artists.

In the Republican period the Bukhâri recitation gatherings naturally declined and eventually no certified Bukhârihân was left to teach it since congregational acts of worship except for five time daily prayers were treated with suspicion by the government. Today even though Shifâ lessons still continue at Eyüp Mosque, the tradition of the Bukhâri recitation has entirely disappeared in Istanbul except for a few small circles.

Darulhadiths in Istanbul




Date of Construction

Molla Güranî Darulhadith



Mehmed II's reign

Defterdar Mahmud Çelebi Darulhadith

Defterdar Mahmut Çelebi



Papasoğlu Darulhadith

Papasoğlu Mustafa Çelebi



Sofu Mehmed Paşa Darulhadith

Sofu Mehmed Paşa

Near Governorate of Istanbul


Mahmud Ağa Darulhadith

Mahmud Ağa (d. 1553), chief white eunuch



Süleymaniye Darulhadith

Süleyman I



Hüsrev Kethüda Darulhadith




Piyale Paşa Darulhadith

Admiral Piyale Paşa (d. 1573)



Şemsi Paşa Darulhadith

Şemsi Ahmed Paşa from İsfendiyaroğulları



Atik Valide Sultan Darulhadith

Nurbanu Sultan



Eyüp Caferağa Darulhadith

Cafer Ağa (d. 1586)

Eyüp-Kızıl Mescit


Mehmed Ağa Darulhadith

Mehmed Ağa (d. 1591), one of the dignitaries of Sultan Murad III’s reign



Sinan Paşa Darulhadith

Sinan Paşa (d. 1596), one of the viziers of Sultan Murad III



Şeyhülislam Zekeriya Efendi Darulhadith

Ankaralı Zekeriya Efendi, one of the dignitaries of the Sultan Murad IV’s reign


Before 1592

Hakaniye Darulhadith

Sultan Mehmed III


Before 1595

Turhan Valide Sultan Darulhadith


Yeni Cami Kulliya


Sultanahmet Darulhadith

Sultan Ahmed I

Sultanahmet Kulliya


İbrahim Paşa-yı Atik



Before 1656

Çivizâde Darulhadith




Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa Darulhadith

Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa



Köprülü Mehmed Paşa




Bosnavî İsa Efendi




Hasan Efendi Darulhadith

Hasan Efendi

In the vicinity of the Bozdoğan (Valens) Aqueduct


Çorlulu Ali Paşa Darulhadith

Çorlulu Ali Paşa



Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Paşa Darulhadith

Nevşehirli Damat İbrahim Paşa



Çankırılı Mustafa Efendi Darulhadith

Çankırılı Mustafa Efendi

Eyüp Eskinişancılar


Beşir Ağa Darulhadith

Beşir Ağa (d. 1746), one of the dignitaries of the reign of Sultan Mahmud I



Misli Ali Efendi Darulhadith




Ömer Hulusi Efendi Darulhadith

Ömer Hulusi Efendi, one of the sheikh al-Islams of the reigns of Sultan Selim III and Mahmud II




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Yıldırım, Selahattin, Osmanlı İlim Geleneğinde Edirne Darulhadisi ve Müderrisleri, Istanbul: Darulhadis, 2001.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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