During his governorship, Sarajevo was referred to as “a flower among cities”.
Gazi Husrev Bey was born in 1480 in Serres (Greece), and came from a prominent Ottoman family. His father, Ferhat Bey, was a Bosnian from Trebinje who worked as a high court official, while his mother was the Ottoman princess, Selçuk, Sultan Bayazit II’s daughter.
In 1521, during the conquest of Belgrade, Gazi Husrev Bey was awarded the knightly title of “Ghazi” for his brilliant military maneuvers and the exceptional courage he displayed in battle. That same year, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent gave him the title of Sanjak Bey, and appointed him as a ruler of Bosnia, where he remained until his death in 1541. During his 20-year governorship, Gazi Husrev Bey laid the foundation for Sarajevo which, during his time, had a population of 50,000, making it the largest city in the European part of the Ottoman Empire, second only to Istanbul.
Even to this day, no one has managed to surpass the charity that Gazi Husrev Bey bestowed upon the city of Sarajevo and its citizens.
Gazi Husrev Bey also built a madrasa (educational institution), which has been in continuous use for the past 470 years, making it one of the oldest schools in the region covered by former Yugoslavia. It was his wish that the doors of the madrasa be open to all fine and gifted students, and that it offer instruction in “the rational and traditional sciences”. He also founded a library, which now houses one of the richest collections of valuable Oriental manuscripts in the Balkans.
Gazi Husrev Bey not only built mosques and Franciscan monasteries in and around Sarajevo, but also one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches in BiH – the Old Orthodox Church in Baščaršija. He opened a soup kitchen (imaret), which offered free meals to the poor, and commissioned many fountains, public baths, guest houses, etc. around the city.
In order to manage all that he had built for Sarajevo and bequeathed to Sarajevans, he set up the Gazi Husrev Bey Vakuf (endowment), the most sophisticated institution in the history of the city, which is still functioning in almost the same way as it did five centuries ago. Over the past 500 years, the endowment has provided scholarships for students, fed the poor and made innumerable good deeds possible. Gazi Husrev Bey died in 1541 and he was buried in the turbe (mausoleum) located in the courtyard of his mosque next to the turbe of Murat Bey Tardić, a Christian who had been taken captive during battle and was freed by Gazi Husrev Bey. He was later given the title of a duke and remained a loyal companion, capable assistant and true friend until his last days.
Among the many things that were dictated for his vakufnama (deed of endowment) in 1531, Gazi Husrev Bey, also stated the following:
“Good deeds cause evil to flee, and the loftiest of all good deeds is charity. The loftiest of all charities is the one that lasts forever, while the most beautiful of all good deeds is the one that keeps on giving.... The efficacy of the vakuf will persist for as long as this world exists, and its work will continue until Judgment Day.”