On 25 Rajab 922 / 24 August 1516, Mamluk and Ottoman armies clashed in Marj Dabiq, not far from Aleppo. The Ottomans were victorious and within a short period of time Aleppo and the whole of Syria and the Levant (Bilad al-Sham) were integrated into the growing Ottoman Empire.
In the decades following the conquest, Ottoman policies prepared Aleppo for its role as one of the empire’s major trading hubs. The Mamluks had already constructed caravanserais and markets, but in the 10th century AH / 16th century AD urbanism took on a different shape and dimension. Yet the legal-administrative framework of these engagements – the institution of the waqf, or Islamic religious endowment – remained the same.
Khusraw Pasha, the patron of the first Ottoman-style külliye (complex of buildings serving the social and religious needs of the community) in Aleppo, was originally from Bosnia and had been recruited as part of the devșirme (child levy), which forcibly mustered young boys from Christian families in the Balkans and Anatolia into the Ottoman army and civil service. He served as a governor of Aleppo in the second half of the 930s AH / first half of the 1530s AD and returned to the city during the winter of 941 AH / 1534–35 AD with the campaign against Safavid Iran.
His architectural complex including a Friday mosque (jamiʿ), a madrasa (Islamic college), and a takiyya (travellers lodge) with an imaret (public kitchen), was built in front of the citadel, thus symbolically occupying a prominent location next to the old centre of power. It was completed in 953 AH / 1546–47 AD; in 2014, it was destroyed. Just across the street, a commercial structure (qaysariyya) with more than 50 shops, one of many similar buildings to generate income for the endowment, was to be located, the – today partly destroyed – Khan al-Shuna. This and other Ottoman endowments of the 10th century AH / 16th century AD provided Aleppo with the infrastructure needed for an important hub of long-distance trade.
Realising such a large complex in the centre of Aleppo required some sophisticated urban operations. A number of plots needed to be acquired, some of them already waqf properties, including a mosque and a madrasa. Although rejected by some jurists, waqf property could be exchanged against other assets, provided a judge determined that it was of advantage to the endowment.
Over a period stretching from the 10th to the 13th centuries AH / 16th to the 19th centuries AD, the Khusrawiyya’s revenues steadily decreased, mainly due to increasing costs for renovations. As a result, the administrator (mutawalli) had to cut expenses as well. Then, the earthquake of 1237 AH / 1822 AD severely impacted the area around the citadel and left most of the remaining revenue-generating assets destroyed and the mosque itself damaged. At the end of the 19th century, the mosque and some of its functions as a madrasa were finally restored and revived. Well into the middle of the 20th century, it remained the most important madrasa with a ‘traditional’ curriculum, its professors being recruited from among the most illustrious families of Muslim religious scholars (ulama).