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The Gazi Husrev-beg Library

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  • Category: MINA NEWS

The Gazi Husrev-beg Library (GHL) in Sarajevo is the oldest cultural institution in Bosnia-Herzegovina and has served its purpose continuously ever since its foundation. In the endowment charter for his madrasa, the Bosnian governor Gazi Husrev-beg stipulated that “whatever money remains from the construction of the madrasa shall be used for purchasing good books, which will be used in the madrasa by readers, and for copying from them by those who engage in science.” Gazi Husrev-beg himself bequeathed several manuscripts to the madrasa library, some of which are still kept at the GHL. Thus, the year of the madrasa’s foundation (1537) is also considered as that of the library’s foundation.


The library functioned within the madrasa until 1863 when, on the initiative of the Bosnian governor Topal Osman-pasha, the Gazi Husrev-beg endowment built a large room next to the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, right below its minaret, to which the Library was moved.

The Library remained there until 1935 when, due to the increase in its holdings and in the number of users, it was moved to the basement of the Sarajevo Mufti’s office outside the Careva Mosque. The Library continued to grow while housed in the former Ulema-medžlis building, also located in front of the Careva Mosque. Soon, the whole building of the former mufti’s office was used for housing the library’s holdings.

The library remained on these premises until April 1992, when it had to be moved out because of a concern for its safety following the launch of the attack on Bosnia. The printed books were transferred to the Careva Mosque, and the manuscripts were moved eight times throughout the siege of 1992-1995 to various locations in the city. The 500 most valuable manuscripts were placed inside the vaults of the Privredna Banka, where they remained until the end of the siege. Thanks to these precautions the Library’s holdings were saved in their entirety.

Library fund

The raid of Sarajevo by the Austrian general Eugene of Savoy in 1697 was a catastrophe that resulted in the pillaging and burning of Gazi Husrev-beg’s endowments. At the time a lot of books were either looted or burned. Among other important historical documents, the Sarajevo Court registers disappeared, as well.

At present the holdings of GHL consists of some 100,000 volumes of manuscripts, printed books, periodicals and documents in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Bosnian and other, primarily European, languages. Out of this number there are over 10,050 library units consisting of manuscripts, which comprise about 20,000 texts of varying length in the fields of Islamic sciences, Oriental languages, belles-lettres, philosophy, logic, history, medicine, veterinary science, mathematics, astronomy, and others.



Over the years the GHL manuscript holdings have increased in different ways. A significant number of manuscripts were copied in the Gazi Husrev-beg Madrasa and Hanikah (Sufi hospice), as evidenced by the notes found on many manuscripts. This shows that the Madrasa and the Hanikah served as important centres for manuscript copying.

The manuscript holdings have also been enlarged, especially in later times, thanks to bequests and donations of books or, in some cases, entire private libraries. A number of madrasa and public libraries were also added to the GHL. Thus, the GHL acquired manuscripts from the following libraries:

Hajj Mehmed-beg Karađoz-beg Library, from Mostar (est. 1557)

Memi Shah-beg Library, from Foča (est. 1569)

Dervish-pasha Bajezidagić Library, from Mostar (est. 1592)

Elchi Ibrahim-pasha madrasa Library, from Travnik (est. 1704)

Mustafa-efendi Ejub(ov)ić, also known as ShaikhYuyo (d. 1707)

Hajj Khalil-efendi Library, from Gračanica (lived in the middle of the 18th century)

Osman Shehdi Library, from Sarajevo (est. 1760/61)

Abdullah-efendi Kantamiri Library, from Sarajevo (est. 1774/75), and others.

More recently, the GHL purchased several important private libraries that belonged to Hajj Mehmed-efendi Handžić (d. 1944), the supreme sharia judge Hilmi-efendi Hatibović (d. 1944), Osman Asaf Sokolović (d. 1971) and Dr Muhamed Hadžijahić (d. 1986). Not long ago several particularly valuable libraries were donated to GHL such as the library of Sinanudin-efendi Sokolović from Sarajevo, the Čaršimamović family from Zenica, the Đumišić sisters from Banja Luka, etc. Apart from manuscripts these donations include printed works in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Bosnian, and other languages.


A great number of manuscripts originated either through writing or copying in various parts of the Islamic world, especially in important centres of learning such as Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Baghdad and, especially, Istanbul. These manuscripts, some of which are unique or rare, came to Bosnia and the neighbouring countries in different ways: through trade, Hajj, and Bosnian students who studied in those centres. They included works by Bosnian Muslim authors written or copied in parts of the Islamic world where these authors served in high scholarly and state positions.

1. Ihya’ulum al-din, written by Abu Hamid Muhammed al-Gazali (d. 1111) in Arabic is the oldest preserved manuscript in the GHL. The manuscript was copied in 1105, i.e. during the author’s lifetime.

2. Diwan of Hafiz Shirazi (d. 1389) in Persian. This particularly valuable copy is illustrated with miniatures. (R-1366)

3. Tuhfat al-ahrar, a didactic poem by a classic Persian writer Nur al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman Jami (d. 1486), is one of the most beautiful pieces of Islamic calligraphy found in the GHL. The manuscript was copied in Mecca in 1575. (R-8677)

4. Firdaws al-akhbar bi-masur al-khitab, a hadith collection compiled by Abu Shuja‘ Shirawayh ibn Shahirdar ibn Shirawayh al-Daylami al-Hamadani (d. 1115). The manuscript was copied by ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Muhammad al-Khwarizmi in 1151 at the Madrasa Imadiyya in Hamadan, Iran. (R-475)

5. Third volume of the Qur’an commentary in Arabic which covers suras Six and Seven (al-An‘am and al-A‘raf) from Kitab al-Kashf wa al-bayan fi tafsir al-Qur’an written by Abu Ishaq Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Talabi al-Nisaburi (d. 1035). The manuscript was copied by Barakat ibn ‘Isa ibn Abu Ya‘la Hamza in 1176. (R-1369)

6. Volumes six and seven of the Qur’an commentary in Arabic best known by its short title, al-Kashshaf, by Abu al-Qasim Jar Allah Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/1143). This copy was made from an autograph in the year 1262 at al-Madrasa al-Mustansiriyya in Baghdad. (R-3836)

7. Illustrations from the encyclopaedic work Ma‘rifetname, in Turkish, written by Sheikh Ibrahim Haqqi al-Erzurumi (d. 1780). (R-105)

8. The beginning of chapter seven of book four of the famous work of medicine al-Qanun, in Arabic, written by Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna (d. 1037). (R -3945)

9. A commentary on Ashkal al-ta’sis fi al-handasa, a treatise on geometry by Musa ibn Muhammad Qadi-zada (d. 1412) in Arabic. This manuscript was copied in 1675. (R-1889)

10. al-Mulakhkhas fi al-hay’a, a work in Arabic on astronomy by Mahmud ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Jagmini al-Khawarizmi (d. 1334). The manuscript was copied in Mostar in 1658. (R-2881/1)

11. Nuzhat al-nuzzar fi qalam al-gubar, a work on mathematics, in Arabic, written by Ibn al-Ha’im al-Maqdisi (d. 1412). (R-2440/1)

12. A mathematical compendium Khulasat al-hisab, in Arabic, by Baha’ al-Din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Harithi al-‘Amili (d. 1622). The manuscript was copied in 1677. (R-487)


Mushafs (written and bound copies of the Qur’an) are distinguished by outstanding calligraphy and decoration. They usually consist of golden background, frontispieces at the start of the Qur’an (‘unwan) and each sura as well as decoration on the margins. Particular attention was paid to binding so that covers were usually made from the finest leather, in different colours, and with gilt embossed rosettes.

1. The Mushaf of Muhammad Fadil-pasha Šerifović (d. 1882). This Mushaf, which Šerifović had copied and bequeathed for the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque, is distinguished by outstanding calligraphy and ornamentation on the opening pages and on the marginal decoration to mark divisions of the text (hizb, juz’, sajda) and illuminated headings for all 114 suras. The text also bears marks for seven readings (qira’at-i sab‘a). The mushaf was copied by a migrant from the Caucasus known as Daghestani in 1849. According to the note of bequest, this Mushaf was meant to serve as a model to copy when producing other mushafs. The source of Fadil-pasha Šerifović Mushaf was one copied by Muhammad ibn Altuntash ibn Abdullah al-Muqri al-Baghdadi, which in turn was copied from the Mushaf written down by Zayd ibn Thabit on the orders of the caliph ‘Uthman (al-Mushaf al-Imam).

2. The Ajza’ of Mehmed-paša Sokolović (d. 1579) are remarkable for their exceptional calligraphy, decoration, and gilt embossed binding. The GHL holds 21 ajza’ of this Mushaf. (R-63)

3. The fifty-third copy of a mushaf by calligrapher hafiz Ibrahim Šehović (d.1811) of Sarajevo. It was completed in 1214/1800.

It is known that Šehović copied the Qur’an 66 times.

4. Dala’il al-khayrat, the famous compilation of prayers for blessings on the Prophet by al-Jazuli: a decorated copy made also by hafiz Ibrahim Šehović. (R-7579)

Manuscripts written by Bosnian Muslim authors

A significant part of the manuscript holdings originated in Bosnia and neighbouring regions, testifying to the lively activities of writing and copying works from all the scholarly fields known at the time. Some of these works were originally composed by Bosnian Muslim authors and then copied in madrasas and copying centres.

1. Usul al-hikam fi nizam al-‘alam, a politico-moral treatise in Arabic on the art of governance by Hasan Kafi Pruščak (d. 1616), one of the most prolific Bosnian authors in oriental languages. He was also a philanthropist who built a mosque, a maktab, a madrasa, a tekke, and water supply in his native Prusac (central Bosnia). He was an influential man in the Ottoman Empire who wrote works in the field of philology, law, theology, history and politics. This particular manuscript was copied by Mehmed Handžić in 1926. (R-98)

2. Tafsir Surat al-Fath is a commentary on Sura 48 by Muhammad ibn Musa Allamak (d. 1635), an exceptional scholar who wrote several works in the field of Qur’an commentary, Arabic syntax and rhetoric, logic and administration. (R-1318/1)

3. A collection of fatwas in Turkish entitled el-Fatawa ül-Ahmadiye al-Mostariye by Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Mostari (d. 1776). It was much used in Bosnia until the end of Ottoman rule in 1878. (R-484)

4. al-Faw’aid al-‘abdiyya in Arabic, which is a commentary on al-Zamakhshari’s al-Umnuzaj fi al-nahw on Arabic syntax. The works were composed by Mustafa Ejub(ov)ić, also known as Šejh Jujo (d. 1707), one of the most important and prolific Bosnian writers in oriental languages. He wrote in the fields of law, Arabic syntax and stylistics, logic, disputation, theology, lexicography and homiletics. The majority of his works are kept in GHL including a number of autographs. (R-3883)

5. Diwan-i (Qasa’id-i) Qa’imi, a collection of poems about military conquests in the European Turkey in the 17th century composed by Hasan-efendi Kaimija from Sarajevo (d. in Zvornik in 1680).  He authored two diwans in Turkish. (R-3455)

6. Mersiyya (a poem of lament) in Turkish by poet Muhammed Nerkesi al-Sarayi (d. 1635) composed on the occasion of the passing away of Kafzade Faizi (R-6809/7).

7. A poem about the Prophet’s night journey to heaven (Mi’raj) in Turkish by the famous Ottoman poet ‘Alaeddin ‘Ali Sabit of Užice (d. 1712). (R-2649/6)

8. A table of Sarajevo’s geographic latitude made by Munla Mehmed Mestvica (d. 1864). (R-2329/3)

9. A calendar for Sarajevo for the years 1285/1868-69 and 1291/1874 – 1305/1887-88 made by Salih Sidki Hadžihusejnović - Muvekit (d. 1888). (R-89)


Collection of teaching licenses

GHL holds an important collection of teaching licenses (Bosnian: idžazetnama), including the licenses issued to Bosnian students:

1. The teaching license for the memorization of the Qur’an for seven and ten readings (qira’at) by hafiz Salih Sidki Hadžihalilović, son of Ahmad Nuri. The license was issued by hafiz Ibrahim ibn Ali Dramali, the imam of Üçmihraplı mosque in Istanbul in 1885. (R-7734)

2. The teaching license for rational and traditional sciences issued to Salih Rifki-efendi Nalić (Hadžihusejnović) by al-Sayyid al-hajj al-hafiz Salih Nazim al-Erzurumi in 1904. (R- 7733)

Printed books

GHL holds 35.000 printed books in Bosnian and other European languages. Particularly important are the earliest printed books in Bosnia in Bosnian by Bosnian authors.

Risalei-ahlak is the first Muslim book to be printed in Roman script in Bosnia.  The writer was Mehmed-beg Kapetanović Ljubušak and the book was printed in 1883. (the supplement) (I-393)

Zemljopis i poviestnica Bosne by Slavoljub Bošnjak (sobriquet used by Franciscan Ivan Franjo Jukić) was printed in Zagreb in 1851. (III- 2581)

There are also some 25,000 books printed in Arabic, Ottoman, Persian and Bosnian (in Arabic script). They include several of the earliest books produced by Ibrahim Müteferrika (1674-1745) pioneering printing press, established at Istanbul in 1727, and a large number of works printed from the mid-18th century until the present day. Among these, works on the Islamic disciplines written in Oriental languages are particularly well represented.

One of the earliest Müteferrika publications was an Arabic-Ottoman dictionary Kitab-i Lugat-i Vankulu by Vankulu Mehmed ibn Mustafa al-Wani (d. 1592) printed in 1728. (O-55 and O-56)

Ahval-i gazevat der diyar-i Bosna is a work of history also known as Tarih-i Bosna written in Ottoman by Omer-efendi Novljanin (lived in the 18th century) and printed at the Müteferrika press in 1154/1741. (O-2679)

The collection of periodicals consists of the oldest newspapers printed in Bosnia, several Sarajevo dailies and nearly all Muslim newspapers and journals which were or still are published in Bosnia. The collection of Bosnian newspapers printed during the Austro-Hungarian period is complete (1878-1882). There is also a valuable collection of newspapers and journals in Arabic and Turkish.

Bosna, the official newspaper of the Ottoman province of Bosnia, published during 1866-1878 period in Bosnian language and Cyrillic script in parallel with the Ottoman language and Arabic script, is an almost complete set.

The GHL has an almost complete set of Sarajevski cvjetnik - Gulşen-i Saray, which was published between 1869 and 1872 by the first Bosnian Muslim journalist Mehmed Šakir Kurtćehajić (d. 1872),

Among the notable magazines published in Bosnian in Arabic script (known as arebica), one should mention Tarik (1908-1910), Muallim (1910-1913) and Misbah (1912-1913).

Collection of Ottoman documents

The collection relates to Bosnian history and consists of about 5,000 documents which originated in the chanceries of sultans, viziers, kadis, and other state officials.

1. A firman issued in Constantinople and bearing royal signature (hatt-i humayun) dated 23 Shawwal 1146 / 29 March 1734. It was sent to the kadi of Jajce (central Bosnia) to confirm a previously issued document (mu‘afnama) for the inhabitants of the town of Yenica / Gornja Kloka, freeing them from paying taxes (avariz-i divaniye and tekalif-i orfiye) in order to facilitate the town’s revival and the construction of a mosque, a maktab, and an inn. (A-4856 / TO-13)

2. The berat issued on 19 Safer 1259 / 21 March 1843 in Constantinople regarding the appointment of Mehmed-halifa, son of Abdullah, to the position of imam and khatib of the Sultan Ahmed-han mosque in Zenica (central Bosnia) with a daily salary of 6 akche, following the death of his father Abdullah-halifa, son of Ali. (A-3710 / TO)

3. The berat issued on 24 Rabi’ al-akhir 1280 / 8 October 1863 in Constantinople regarding the appointment of Muhammad, son of hafiz Hasan, to the position of the second imam of Gazi Husrev-beg mosque following the death of hajj hafiz Sulayman,  son of Ahmad, with the daily salary of 6 akche paid out of the waqf of Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque and Madrasa. (A-1307 / TO)

Endowment charters

GHL keeps around 1,600 endowment charters (waqfiyyas) from various parts of Bosnia, of which 500 are originals or certified copies; around 1,100 are copies registered in the three volumes of waqfiyya registers (sijjils). The charters are a vital source for the history of the emergence and development of Bosnian towns.

1. The charter of Isa-beg, the founder of  Sarajevo, written in 866/1462.

2. The charter of Gazi Husrev-beg for the construction of his madrasa written in 944/1537.

Sarajevo court registers

The Sarajevo sharia court registers (sijjils) cover certain periods from 1552-1852. These 88 sijjils are a major source for the study of political, cultural, and economic history of Sarajevo and Bosnia. GHL has several incomplete court registers for other towns including Tuzla from the first half of the 17th century, a complete register for Mostar 1766-68, and Fojnica from 1763-69.

1. Sarajevo court registers from 1551-52.

2. Mostar kadi registers from 1766-67 and 1768-69.

Works and materials for the history of Bosnia

Among the particularly valuable materials for the study of Bosnian history one should mention the Collection (Zbornik) of Muhammed Enveri Kadić, the Chronicle of Mula Mustafa-Ševki Bašeskija, and Tarih-i Bosna by Muvekkit.

Kadić’s Collection comprises 28 volumes which include numerous documents in Ottoman language pertaining to Bosnian history. Besides documents, the collection includes copies of some of works of Bosnian Muslim authors which are otherwise lost. This is especially the case with several poets.



A highly important source for the history of Sarajevo is the Chronicle of Mula Mustafa-Ševki Bašeskija, which is an autograph. Bašeskija recorded events taking place in Sarajevo during 1747 – 1804, often making his own comments. For each year he listed the names of deceased citizens of Sarajevo, mostly ordinary people. 

The GHL’s copy of Tarih-i Bosna, or History of Bosnia, by Salih Sidki Hadžihusejnović Muvekkit (d. 1888) is a complete manuscript written by Muhammed Enveri Kadić. Muvekit is known as the first Bosnian Muslim to use sources and literature written by Bosnian Christian writers. The autograph copy of the work was kept in the Oriental Institute Library, which was destroyed in the shelling by Serb nationalist forces in 1992.

Collection of photographs, posters, and leaflets

The collection holds old photographs and postcards of Bosnian towns and objects of Islamic architecture, photographs of historical personalities, Bosnian ulama, old Bosnian families, traditional Bosnian attire, as well as posters and leaflets.

Archive material of Islamic Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Archive material of Islamic Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina forms a special library collection and testifies to the work of the Community and its institutions for the period 1882-1993. It covers four historical periods: Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslav Kingdom, the Independent State of Croatia, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Most of the material is in Bosnian and to lesser extent Ottoman, German and Arabic.

GHL Catalogues and Journal

Most manuscripts have been catalogued and their catalogues published in 18 volumes. They cover 10,200 manuscripts.

In 1972 GHL launched its journal, Anali Gazi Husrev-begove biblioteke, dedicated mainly to studying the holdings of the GHL, Gazi Husrev-beg institutions, cultural history of Bosnian Muslims, and Islamic studies. 

Digitalization and restoration

GHL’s most important holdings (manuscripts, archival material, and early printed books) have been put on microfilm and digitalized. At the same time damaged manuscripts, documents and printed books are being restored. 

GHL has a modern Centre for restoration and conservation of paper and leather.

All library holdings are catalogued electronically and are available for search and use.


GHL also houses a collection of artefacts concerning history of literacy in Bosnia and Bosnian history in general.

New Building

Since April 2013 the GHL has been housed in a new, modern building with up-to-date equipment thanks to the State of Qatar.