Establishment and a Brief History

Establishment and a Brief History

Tuesday, May 28, 2013



It is obvious that, in any case, a corporal identity is needed to carry out religious affairs pertaining to faith, which is an indispensable element of social life. In countries, offering religious services has being shaped according to features of each country that stem from their own tradition and culture. In Turkey, from past to present, religious services has always been considered as a public service. As well as the affairs concerning the religion of Islam, which is religion of majority, the Ottoman Empire conducted religious affairs of minorities in a sense of public service. In the Ottoman Empire, affairs concerning the religion of Islam and religious services that would be offered to Muslims were administrated by the ‘Şeyhülislâm’ (highest religious authority during Ottoman time). Up to the last two centuries of the Empire, ‘Şeyhülislâmlık’ (as an institution) administrated judicial and educational services besides foundations and religious services. After the political reforms made in the Ottoman State, no sooner the ministry of education and the justice department had been established, than jurisdiction of ‘Şeyhülislâmlık’ became limited to only religious subjects. In time, among the high state officials, there were changes in the status of the ‘Şeyhülislâm’ who was appointed to carry on that mission all their life; there were times when they were accepted as member of the council of ministers permanently, as well as times when they attended in the council of ministers if necessary. During the final terms, after being changed over to the cabinet system, the ‘Şeyhülislâm’ ranked as a member of the cabinet with the title of the Minister of Religious Affairs and Charitable Foundations and his incumbency became belonging to existence of the government which he is a member. 

Before the proclamation of the republic, even under the government of Turkish Grand National Assembly that was founded at a period of time which extremely extraordinary situations were experienced like Turkish War of Independence and establishment of a new state, religious services were not neglected, in the government constituted on 3 May 1920, a ministry under the name of Religious Affairs and Charitable Foundations took place to undertake ‘Şeyhülislamlık’ and services of the General Directorate of Foundations of Ottoman time and until the Presidency of Religious Affairs was founded on May 3, 1924, that ministry rendered religious services in the country. That ministry, which was annulled with the thought that it is necessary to consider religious services out and above the politics, served as a bridge between ‘Şeyhülislamlık’ in the Ottoman State and Presidency of Religious Affairs in Turkish Republic. As well as being an institution of the republic, in the law 429, under date of March 3, 1924 which is the law of establishment, the mission of the Presidency of Religious Affairs which its historical root originated from ‘Şeyhülislamlık’ and being founded to carry on its mission, was stated as ‘to administrate the affairs related to faith and worship of the religion of Islam’. As all the control of mosques and smaller mosques in the country and people in charge of them were given to the Presidency, the control of dervish lodges and zawiyahs (small Islamic monasteries) and their sheiks that are in charge of them were given it, too. In 1925, when dervish lodges and zawiyahs were closed down, the subjects about those were excluded from the assigned position of the Presidency. The law numbered 429 did not include an issue about organization and staff of the Presidency, but in the budget acts of 1924-1926, in the central organization Chief, Credentials Committee, central officials, various employees; in the provincial organization muftis, mufti’s secretaries, religious scholars, Muslim preachers, lecturers in religious studies and employees of mufti’s office staff took place as sum of salaries without mentioning the rank and number of the staff. 

In the Budget Act of 1927, administrative structure of the central and provincial organization of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, that has staff allocated as 71 of them at the center and 7172 in total, was remarked for the first time. In accordance with that, in the central organization, there were Credentials Committee with the Directorate of Supervisory Board for Edition of the Qur’an, the Directorate of Religious Institutes, the Directorate of Officials and Registry, the Directorate of Equipage, the Directorate of Missives and Archives; as for provinces in cities and districts, mufti’s offices existed.  

Via the Budget Act of 1931, the administration of all the mosques and smaller mosques and the people in charge of them were assigned to the General Directorate of Charitable Foundations and thus the staff of the Directorate of Religious Institutes and the Directorate of Equipage, 4081 people in charge of mosques, 26 preachers of Friday Prayers and lectern in mosques transferred to the General Directorate of Charitable Foundations together with their staff. The Directorate, whose background was quite weak and insufficient, became almost functionless by that law. The wrong implementation in point, continued until 1950. 

“The Act on Organization and Missions of the Directorate of Religious Affairs” which came into force by being published in the Official Journal dated 22.06.1935 is the first act of our Presidency. In that act, the structure of the organization, position and appointment system of the personnel, qualities of the central and provincial personnel were specified, it was decreed that there would be provided a mufti in each city and district and selection system of mufti was determined. By the Law 5634, published on 29.04.1950, “Diyanet İşleri Reisliği” (Directorate of Religious Affairs) was changed as “Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı” (Presidency of Religious Affairs) the staff of mosques and smaller mosques and people in charge of them that were assigned to the General Directorate of Charitable Foundations, were given to the Presidency of Religious Affairs again. 

The Constitution of 1961 designed the Presidency of Religious Affairs as a Constitutional institution, gave it a position in the general administration and required this institution to fulfill the missions, which were specified in the special law. The Constitution of 1982 determined the criteria that the Presidency must comply with by the provision of ‘The Presidency of Religious Affairs existing in the general administration, in accordance with the principle of secularism, by staying out of all the political views and mentalities and adopting a goal of solidarity and integration as a nation, fulfills the missions that were specified in the special law.’, and thus it assigned a historical mission on the Presidency.

The structure of organization and staff of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, which had been constituted by the Act 5634, continued the same until 1965. The law 633, published on 15.08.1965, on “the Organization and Duties of the Presidency of Religious Affairs” generated an important expansion in the respect of duties of the Presidency, and to carry out the affairs relating in moral principals area was also considered among its duties. In the Law, the duty of the Presidency was stated as: ‘carrying out religious affairs pertaining to faith, worship and moral principles, informing the society on religion and administering places of worship’. By that Law, legislation about the Presidency was compiled into one text. In the following years, as being in need of them, new units like the directorate of training center and the Hajj directorate were added to the organization by the decision of the Council of Ministers.

Some significant changes and innovations were made in the Law 1982, published on 26. 03.1976 and the Law 633 but with regard of its form, that Law was annulled by the Constitutional Court decision under the date of 18.12.1979 and numbered E.79/25-K:79/46. The legal gap which occurred just could be filled after 31 years by the Law 6002, published on 01.07.2010. 

By the Constitutional Court decision under the date of 24.02.1978 and numbered 7/14656, some units were converted to head of department, number of the training centers was increased to 5 and for the first time, by being appointed 10 Foreign Religious Services Consultancy staff, it was provided for the Presidency to be organized abroad as well. The staff assigned by our Presidency was also published in the scales which was considered the addition of the Legislative Decree 190, published in the repeating volume of the Official Journal dated 14.12.1983 and the Presidency was organized again appropriate to “Act of the Organization and Duties of the Ministries” numbered 3046. Within this framework, the central organization was constructed as a Head, five deputy directors, five work and supervision units, five main service units and four assisted services units; as the provincial organization 67 provincial mufti’s offices, 582 district mufti’s offices and 7 directorates of education center; and as foreign organization, 16 religious services consultancy and 17 attaché’s offices of religious services. 

The existing structure of the Presidency was designated by the Law 6002, published on 01.07.2010, which made a wide range of changes in the Law 633. The Law in point provided many significant gains for the Presidency. The Presidency, hierarchically, was raised from the degree of general directorate to undersecretary, in addition to two perpetual boards, fourteen service units being nine of them as at the level of general directorate, were constituted. Tenure of the director was limited to five years and it was adjudicated that a person can be appointed to that position maximum twice. Number of the deputy directors was decreased to three. The scope of the board which would select the members for the High Board of Religious Affairs was broadened and participation of representatives from each rank of the organization was ensured. Through giving a lot of duties to both the High Board of Religious Affairs and other units, the legal background of rendering an efficient religious service was constituted in international area.

In this sense, due to rendering religious services in our age, the way for rendering religious services outside the mosque was paved, the essential background for in-service training of personnel of the Presidency was prepared, and setting up a radio and television channel was given to the Presidency as a duty. The Presidency was appointed to benefit from all kinds of opportunities in terms of enlightening the public about religion. Being a requirement of the modern management, the human resources management system was adopted and employment of personnel was provided by recruiting them according to their carrier system. Thereby forming staff that the Presidency needs, the employee personal rights which the personnel suffered for years, were enhanced even if not in the way as they are wanted. To sum up, the Law in point paved the way for religious services, eliminated some matters that can be seen as obstacle and provided an appropriate environment to work for the personnel.