Muvektis, Muvekithanas and the measuring of time

  • Jasminko Mulaomerović, dr.


Astronomy in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Ottoman period was first and foremost practical astronomy. Since it was exclusively oriented towards religious needs, i.e. calculation of the correct time of daily prayers, the beginnings of months, or the making of calendars, the field of activity of most astronomers in Bosnia and Herzegovina was reduced to practical use of the instruments and astronomical tables. There were also rare instances of the making of astrolab- quadrants.
However, despite the importance of practical astronomy in the life of the Islamic community, the number of individual astronomers was not great, at least as far we know. Thus, for example, in the second half of the XVIII. century, according to data from Basheski's „Chronicle“, several persons were involved in astronomical studies, only two of whom - Ibrahim Muzaferija and Muhamed Razi Velihodzić - were true connoisseurs of practical astronomy.
It is known that the two of them made annual calendars that were famous beyond the borders of Bosnia. In their activity they were not attached to any official „state“ institution, but were what we would today call „amateurs“.
The first institutionalized astronomical profession in Bosnia and Herzegovina was the muvekit, an official in the muvekithana who dealt with the exact time, the calendar, astronomic instruments and clocks.
Muvekithanas in Bosnia and Herzegovina were established rather late, in XI- Xth century. There are dependable data on the activity of the four muvekithanas, two in Sarajevo, and one each in Mostar and Banjaluka. The first muvekithana in Sarajevo was established next to Sultan's Mosque, by Hurshid-Pasha, the Bosnian Vizier in 1270/1853-54. The second muvekithana was founded by Gha- zi Husref Bey's waqf (\n 1275/1858-59), and it has survived to this day, but it has lost its function. It contains numerous old instruments rub'tahtas, octants, sextants, gnomones and clocks.
The first muvekit in Bosnia and Herzegovina was Ali Faginović, and he worked at the muvekithana of the Sultan's Mosque from its founding until 1921. He was succeeded by his son Salim Faginović. Salih Sidki Hadzihusejnović was appointed the first muvekit in the second Sarajevo muvekithana, which he remained till his death, because of which he was known as the Muvekit. He was also succeeded by his sons, first by Husein, and later by his younger son Akif.
In the field of astronomy Salih Muvekit left several works. Throughout his activity he composed takvims, which, as it was said, were famous as far away as Istanbul. His calendars were printed from 1866 onwards, in Salnamas (almanacs) published by the Provincial government. He also made two globes, and also a semisphere on which the stars that can be seen from Sarajevo were marked.
For calculation of correct time muvekits used the astrolab quadrant. The way in which this instrument was used is completely forgotten in these parts. The ways described in this paper are given on the basis of deficient directions typed by an anonymous author. To the present author's knowledge these are the only such directions in Yugoslavia.