EVKAF - The Pious Foundations in Cyprus
Articles by Prof. N. Yildiz, autority on Cypriot Evkaf:
Evkaf - Cyprus Muslim Pious Foundation (est. 1571) Since 1571 the Islamic religious organisation has accumulated properties known as evkaf. They are properties appropriated for, or donated by, a document called vakfieh to charitable uses and to the service of God. Nobody has the right to sell property designated as vakf. Evkaf properties can be rented for ten years, but a longer period requires the approval of the parliament.

Evkaf are divided into two categories: Mulhakak are properties that are donated but the administration of the property remains under the control of the donor until the time where there is no family descendent, when the property then becomes a Mazbuta property. Mazbuta properties are directly under the control of the Evkaf Office, the statutory body that administers evkaf. During the Ottoman regime, this office was directly under the Board of Pious Foundations in Istanbul, which was directly responsible to the Sultan as the Caliph of all Islam. When the administration of Cyprus was taken over by the British in 1878, an annex to the 1878 Convention on Cyprus was signed between Great Britain and the then Ottoman Government. It was agreed: that a Muslim resident in the Island shall be named by the board of Pious Foundations in Turkey (Evkaf) to superintend in conjunction with a Delegate to be appointed by the British authorities, the administration of the property, funds and lands belonging to Mosques, cemeteries, Muslim schools, and other religious establishments existing in Cyprus.

However, many evkaf designated properties were used for non-Islamic purposes and on the appointment of the Mufti Dana in 1955, the British governor returned all properties which belonged to evkaf to the Turkish Cypriot Community along with £1,000,000 in compensation.

The constitution of the [1960] Republic of Cyprus recognized and re- confirmed the legal rights of evkaf accepting the importance of the institution of evkaf to the Turkish Community, its sanctity, and the need for the preservation and the protection of its properties under the laws and regulations of the Turkish Cypriot Communal Chamber.

The organizational structure of the religious affairs in North Cyprus provides for control by government. Moreover, all commercial and financial dealings under the Evkaf Office operate independently of the spiritual side of religion. The religious leader, the Chief Mufti, is not responsible for the administration of evkaf. The organization of the Islamic religion in Cyprus is given below.

The Organizational Structure of Islamic Religion in Cyprus:

Directorate of Religious Affairs (Din İşleri Müdürlüğü): Board of Directors (5 Members)

A. Chief Mufti (The Muftis Office) 
    a. 3 Vice Muftis: 
        i. Imams 
        ii. 175 Mosques

B. Evkaf Organization (Evkaf Office) 
    a. Executive Director 
        i. Two Assistant Directors 
           1. Management, 
           2. Accounting, 
           3. Administration 
               [Mosques, Land, Houses, Hotels, Shops]

The government controls evkaf revenues through a Board of Directors. The cabinet appoints the Board every three years. (Members can be reappointed). The Board decides where to invest and how evkaf are to be used. The Chief Mufti and imams are not allowed to be board members. They are paid by the government out of evkaf funds. The Chieft Mufti is influenced by the Evkaf organization and that is controlled by the government. 

At the moment (1992) there is not a Chief Mufti, but an Acting Chief Mufti. The budget of the Chief Mufti is small, whereas the Evkaf authorities have a large revenue.

  • Morvaridi, B., (1993), Social Structure and Social Change, in Dodd, C., (ed.), (1993), The Political, Social, and Economic Development of Northern Cyprus, Eothen Press, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

Chronological History