Cash Waqf

The cash waqf was a special type of endowment which differed from the ordinary real estate waqf in that its original capital, asl al-mal or, corpus, consisted purely or partially, of cash. The earliest origins of the cash waqfs in the Islamic world, may be traced back to the eighth century, when Imam Zufer was asked how such waqfs should function. The fact that the question was asked at all, may be taken as an indication of the existence of such waqfs at that time. Be that as it may, these endowments had been approved by the Ottoman courts as early as the fifteenth century and by the end of the sixteenth they had become the dominant form of waqf all over Anatolia and the Balkans (Çizakça, 1995; Sucesk, 1966).

It has been argued that cash waqfs were legalised only in the Turkish speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire, i.e., Anatolia and the Balkans and that the more pious Arabs never allowed these waqfs in the Arab provinces (Mandaville, 1979). While this view may have had some legitimacy in history, it is no longer acceptable, for later research has revealed that cash waqfs exist in Syria, Egypt, Sudan and Aden (for Syrian cash waqfs, Bruce Masters, 1988). In Egypt, waqf of movables has been permitted by the law number 48, dated 1946. Moreover, the diffusion of cash waqfs is far more extensive than once presumed: they have been observed in the Ural-Volga region; in India and Pakistan they are considered to be legal since 1913; in Iraq, as we will see below, there is a fatwa issued by the celebrated Mujtahid of Karbala, permitting them; in the Islamic Republic of Iran the famous waqf Astan-e Qods-e Razawi has recently purchased shares in various industrial complexes thus establishing cash waqfs, again in Iran, they have been permitted by the May 17, 1986 Cabinet Decree, Article no. 44; and finally they have been observed in the Malay world and in Singapore. In Singapore cash waqfs’ status is ambiguous and transitionary. For details see section: “Cash Waqfs in Malaysia and Singapore”.

The legality of the cash waqfs in the vast lands from the Balkans to the Malay world thus implies a general acceptance by all the major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. But this general acceptance has not been without a fierce controversy that lasted at least from the sixteenth century until the twentieth.


Source: Murat Cizakca, A History of Philanthropic Foundations: The Islamic World From the Seventh Century to the Present. Republished with permission.
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