A new approach to culture and arts in Bosnia and Herzegovina witnesses the Museum of Gazi Husrev Beg, established in fall 2012 by the Gazi Husrev Beg Waqf (endowment). From its opening it records steady visitor growth, both domestic and foreign tourists. The permanent collection confirms that Bosnia and Herzegovina is following same trends as other contemporary museums.

This article is a part of the project 'Promotion of the Ottoman Cultural Heritage of Bosnia and Turkey' which is organized by Monolit, Association for Promoting Islamic Arts and supported by the Republic of Turkey (YTB - T.C. BAŞBAKANLIK Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı / Prime Ministry, Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities).

image The 16th century Ottoman madrasa (known as the Kursumli Madrasa), built by Gazi Husrev Beg in 1537 / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

image The 16th century Ottoman madrasa's courtyard / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Noble Ideas

The Museum is located in the 16th century Ottoman madrasa (known as the Kursumli Madrasa), built by Gazi Husrev Beg in 1537 and its aim is to present life, endowment and legacy of Gazi Husrev Beg. The exhibition was adjusted to the madrasa and its each room is themed differently. The very first thing that visitors get acquainted with is Husrev Beg's biography.

He was born in 1480 in Greece, where his father Ferhat was on duty. Ferhat’s lineage is not known, but it is assumed that he was Bosnian nobleman. His only relative was his brother Radivoj, who didn’t convert to Islam as Ferhat did. On the other hand, Gazi Husrev Beg’s mother was Selçuk Hatun, a daughter of sultan Bayezid II. His short biography and family tree is displayed in a form of infograph in the first room of the Museum. Gazi Husrev Beg was educated in Istanbul where he spent his youth. As he has proven himself as capable in administration and policy, he was sent to a short mission to the Russian court. Besides that he was also fearless commander what he proved in a conquest of Belgrade in 1521. For his bravery he got the honorary title 'Gazi' (Warrior). From 1521 to 1541, with short interruptions, he was Bosnian governor.

During the period of two decades he built many monuments: the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, the Gazi Husrev Beg Madrasa, the Khaniqah, the Imaret, the Gazi Husrev Beg Bedestan, the Han, the Musafirhana, the Gazi Husrev Beg Hammam and numerous shops in Sarajevo. With his endowment, he established the foundations of Bosnian capital that became the important commercial centre at the crossroads of East and West. Gazi Husrev Beg died in Sarajevo on 18th of June in 1541 and was buried in a mausoleum (turbe) next to the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque.

image Husrev Beg's biography / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Gazi Husrev Beg Left Only Good Deeds

One thing is obvious in the Museum – none of Gazi Husrev Beg's personal belongings is preserved. This may seem odd since the Museum is dedicated to him, but there is a subtle message – Gazi Husrev Beg left only good deeds. Because of his outstanding merits, he was and still is an unsurpassed model of Bosnia’s past. He knew that this world is perishable and did not spare his wealth. Because of this he made endowments that would last until the judgment day. One of the proofs of his high idea is the Madrasa that works in continuity from 1537. Numerous Bosnian intellectuals finished this high school and biographies of some are presented in the room of the Madrasa’s Alumni, some of them were Mustafa Hilmi Hadziomerovic – the Bosnian’s first Grand Mufti, Sakir Sikiric – a renowned scholar and university professor, Kasim Dobraca – an eminent thinker and many others. A special room contains the film of Gazi Husrev Beg's life and legacy. The curators of Museum noticed that some visitors watch the film several times, impressed with his life and what he left behind.

Valuable Items

Special attention attracts Darshana, the biggest room in the Museum that was once used as a classroom. It could be also named 'the room with the valuable items' because it contains the most precious artifacts. In its center is a glass pyramid with several centuries old documents. One of them is the Ferman (decree) of sultan Suleyman the Magnificent from 1533. The document is of historical significance, but it also proofs good family relations between Gazi Husrev Beg and sultan Suleyman, who was Husrev Beg’s younger cousin. In addition to it, there are also other documents: the Berat of sultan Mahmud I dated in 1744, the Berat of sultan Abdul Hamida I dated in 1774, the Ferman of sultan Mahmud II dated in 1808 and others. All documents confirm the Gazi Husrev Beg’s Waqf's importance as the sensitive issues related to waqf were discussed at the Ottoman court.

image Darshana / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

On the east wall of Darshana hosts the monumental calligraphy by Mehmed Beg Kapetanovic Ljubusak, a famous Bosnian scholar and politician. The text of calligraphy is shahada, a testimony to the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as God’s messenger. On the opposite wall hangs the 19th century Ottoman Duvet, embroidered with a gold thread, most probably made in Istanbul. This kind of duvet was owned by every wealthier Bosnian family. In addition to the Duvet, two extraordinary and breathtaking 19th century Ottoman Table Covers are on display.

image Calligraphy by Mehmed Beg Kapetanovic Ljubusak / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Twelve Ewers, created by unknown coppersmith, are exhibited in the custom-made showcase. Today it is not possible to find such a craftsman in Sarajevo. Each ewer carries this text: "Gazi Husrev Beg’s Waqf, have a nice drink, ordered by mutawalli (custodian of waqf) Mehmed Beg, this is one of the eleven ewers, year 1302". In the text is said that there are eleven ewers, but actually there are twelve. It could be a mistake, or maybe not. Some of the experts explain this as a hidden message because in the tradition of Islam a hidden number twelve has a special meaning.

The Museum has four Qur'anic manuscripts on display, among them the Qur'anic manuscript from 1784, transcribed by Muhamed Filibevi from Plovdil, Bulgaria.

image Qur'anic manuscript, 1784, transcribed by Muhamed Filibevi from Plovdil, Bulgaria / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Muhammad’s (saws) Tomb Cover and the Hair

The most precious object in the Darshana is the Green Tomb Cover that was once placed in the tomb of Muhammad (saws) in Medina. This green silk cover is dated between 1517 and 1600, and it is probably made in Bursa. The cover was sent to Bosnia in 1876 as a sultan Abdulaziz’s gift to the most western Ottoman province. Historical sources describe caravans from Istanbul that were carrying precious green textile to Medina. Sarajevo’s piece belongs to the earliest Ottoman covers, its authenticity is confirmed by the only two more examples known to exist, one in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul and the other one in the Albert and Victoria Museum in London. After comparative analysis it is assumed that these three fragments were once a part of a single cover. The Museum contains another tomb cover that dates from the 17th or 18th century.

image The Green Tomb Covers, on the left the one from the 16th century and on the right the detail from the cover from the 17th or 18th century / Photo © Islamic Arts Magazine

Something even more valuable was sent with the 16th century cover, it is a hair from Muhammad’s (saws) beard. It is said that one hundred and one cannons fired as the part of the welcoming ceremony. The hair was firstly located in the Gazi Husrev Beg’s Turbe, but today it is displayed in the Museum’s specially decorated room.


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