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During the Ottoman rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina the institution of caliphate was, both spiritually and politically the most important unifying factor, among the Muslims.
Religious affairs on behalf of the caliph were managed by judges, muderrises, and imams that were appointed by him.
These judges as part of the establishment were salaried officials of the state.
With the foundation of the Austro-Hungarian administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, official attempts were made to disconnect the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Istanbul, their spiritual head-quarter.
Initially, the supreme religious authority of the Turkish Empire, the Shaikh-al-Islam in Istanbul refused to give his consent for the establishment of independent Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Shaikh-al-Islam, however, in 1882 appointed Hilmi ef. Omerović of Sarajevo as the Bosnian mufti and authorized him to appoint junior clerics and judges. As a result, on 17th October, 1882, by the emperor's decree the Austro-Hungarian government appointed Hilmi ef. Omerović as Bosnian mufti and proclaimed him as the first rais-ul-ulama of Bosnia and Herzegovina; this very year is therefore is the year of forming of the independent Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At the same time, four members Ulama council as the supreme body for religious affairs was appointed and the Waqf Commision, responsible for waqf and Mearif activity for the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was formed.
For the regulations of religious affairs and activities, the appointment of Hilmi ef. Omerović as rais-ul-ulama, was legal transference of authorities to Bosnian grand mufti by the Shaikh-al-Islam in Istanbul and the rais along with other appointed officials ascertained the continuation of the spiritual and legal Islamic affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Solemn document confirming legal stature of a certain individual, or in other words appointed rais-ul-ulama, and his authority considering the religious-legal affairs along with the appointment of junior clerics is called in the Bosnian tradition, Menshura (charter).
Menshura, thus, is authorization for the practicing of religious rituals and the right for the appointment of personnel to the rais-ul-ulama. Until 1930, Menshuras were issued from Constantinople but since then, on the basis of the constitution of the Islamic Community, Menshura have been issued in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Constant interference of the Austrian establishment in the religious affairs became the cause of distress among the Bosnian Muslims and as a result the Movement for Religious and Educational Autonomy of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina lead by mufti Fehmi ef. Džabić of Mostar, started. This movement demanded for the Bosnian Muslims the autonomy and independence in terms of their right to manage their religious affairs, the right to govern the waqf property and to continue with Islamic education.
This movement starting in May, 1899, epitomized the first organized struggle for the Muslim's cultural-political rights and their religious and waqf-mearif autonomy, was cancelled after a ten-year struggle on 15th April, 1909, by the Statute for Self-governing Administration of Islamic Religious and Waqf-mearif Activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Through the Statute, most of the demands of the Muslims related to the issues of autonomy in management and organizations of waqf-mearif and other Islamic affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina were accepted by the Austro-Hungarian government.
Under the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, though, in the religious, educational and Waqf affairs numerous challenges appeared. The Islamic Community at that time in Yugoslavia became the organization that kept the Muslims, who were facing such challenges and problems as needed to be addressed urgently, religiously united. As a consequence, many reforms and reorganization took place in the primary and the secondary religious schools and maktabs.
The Islamic Community went through a hard trial especially after repeal the Statute for Self-governing Administration of Islamic religious and Waqf-merifs' Activities was abolished in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yugoslav regime, in 1930, cancelled religious and waqf-mearif autonomy of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Rais-u-ulama Džemaludin ef. Čaušević opposed strongly on the abolishing of the autonomy and the shifting of the main office from Sarajevo to Belgrade and resigned as protest. For the first time, the main office of the Supreme Islamic Authority and the main office of rais-ul-ulama were moved from Sarajevo to Belgrade.
With, rais-ul-ulama, Ibrahima ef. Maglajlić's retirement in 1936, the main office of The Islamic Community was moved back to Sarajevo and religious activities were conducted, until the passing of the new constitution of the IC, by the Council of the Associates (Naibs). After rais-ul-ulama Fehim ef. Spaho's death in 1942, during the complex war situation, the Islamic Community strongly defied the various sorts of pressures for choosing the new rais-ul-ulama.
After the World War II, the Islamic Community was completely destabilized in terms of personnel, waqf's property was unscrupulously nationalized and maktabs and madrassahs were closed down. Only Gazi Husrevbay's madrasah continued to work.
Despite various sorts of strains and poor working conditions under the Communist rule, the Islamic Community succeeded to consolidate itself and among other achievements ensured the continuation of its activities, opened the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, launched several journals and newspapers, translated relevant Islamic literature in Bosnian and trained qualified staff.
Activities of the Islamic Community were paralyzed by disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. In such circumstances, on 28th April, 1993, the session of the Restoration Assembly of the Islamic Community was held in Sarajevo and the Constitutional Decision as temporary constitutional-legal document was brought forth; the interrupted autonomy of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina was restored through it and re-establishing and regulation of its new organization started.
According to the Constitutional Decision, dr. Mustafa ef. Cerić was appointed as naibu rais and hafiz Ismet ef. Spahić was appointed as the deputy of naibu rais. Yugoslav ruling of 1930 on the Islamic Community was disqualified by this decision and the autonomy of the Islamic Community, based on the Statute of 1909, was restored.
Rais-ul-ulamas of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia
Mustafa Hilmi ef. (Hadži) Omerović 1882-1893
Mehmed Teufik ef. Azabagić 1893-1909
Hafiz Sulejman ef. Šarac 1910-1912
Mehmed Džemaludin ef. Čaušević 1913-1930
Hafiz Ibrahim ef. Maglajlić 1930-1936
Fehim ef. Spaho 1938-1942
Ibrahim ef. Fejić 1947-1957
Sulejman ef. Kemura 1957-1975
Naim ef. Hadžiabdić 1975-1987
Hafiz Husein ef. Mujić 1987-1989
Jakub ef. Selimoski, became acting rais at the beginning of 1990
and from 1991-1993 rais-ul-ulama.
Mustafa ef. Cerić Naib rais from 1993 to 1998 and from 1998 to 2012
Husein ef. Kavazović 2012 to
the present-day he is rais-ul-ulama of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Islamic Community was without any appointed grand mufti twice in its history, and Salih Bašić, twice, was naib from 1936 to 1938 and then he was acting rais-ul-ulama from 1942 to 1947.