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Waqf: Philanthropic foundations

Philanthropic foundations are known in the Islamic world as waqf or habs. Whereas the latter term is used primarily in North Africa, the former is known, with slight variations, in the rest of the Islamic world. The word waqf and its plural form awqaf are derived from the Arabic root verb waqafa, which means to cause a thing to stop and stand still. A second meaning is simply philanthropic foundations.

Lessons

Waqf - Overview

All over the vast Islamic world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, magnificent works of architecture as well as a wealth of services vitally important to the society have been financed and maintained for centuries through this system.

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The Origins of Waqf

It is well known that philanthropic endowments have a history considerably older than Islam and it is also very likely that Islam may have been influenced by earlier civilisations. Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome as well as the pre-Islamic Arabs certainly knew of such endowments.

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Economics of Waqf

Economists looking at the waqf system would be perplexed by the fact that a myriad of essential services such as health, education, municipal, etc., have historically been provided at no cost whatsoever to the government.

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How a Waqf functions

In a nutshell, a waqf functions as follows: a founder who has accumulated private wealth decides to endow his personal property for a specific, often, pious, purpose.

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Waqf Founders

Research based upon more than 300 waqfs of fifteenth and sixteenth century Edirne, a frontier town in the Ottoman Balkans, has revealed that the vast majority of the Ottoman waqfs were founded by private individuals rather than the sultans whose waqfs constituted a mere 1 to 2% of the total.

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Waqf vs Trusts

Having lost all contact with Rome, Medieval Europe had to become acquainted with philanthropic endowments through the Islamic waqf system. This is attested to by Monica Gaudiosi, who has initiated an inquiry regarding the origins of English trusts.

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The Ten Conditions of Waqf

It is appropriate to identify the powers, which the founders reserve for themselves during the establishment of their waqfs. Put differently, when endowing their properties and transferring the ownership from their own possession to that of God, the founders had to follow a strict procedure but they were permitted to retain certain powers.

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Mutawalli

Mutawalli are waqf trustees. Islamic law considers trustees strictly as managers to whom the waqf is entrusted. While these individuals were the ones who actually preserved the magnificent Islamic heritage through the centuries...

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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.

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History of Cash Waqfs

There are basically two reasons why we need to refer to these Ottoman sources: First, although, as it has been made clear above, cash waqfs existed and continue to exist in many different countries, their most widespread usage was observed in the Ottoman economy.

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Cash Waqf: Maliki Position

Malik has ruled that the annual return generated by the cash waqf should be subject to the payment of zakah while he has exempted simple donation from this obligation.

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Cash Waqf: Shafi’i & Hanbali Positions

The stance taken by the Shafi’i school on the waqf of movables is based upon Imam Shafi’i ruling that the waqf of anything is valid from which profit can be derived whilst its original endures.

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Cash Waqf: Hanafi Position

Probably the most detailed account of this controversy has been studied by Suhrawardy, an Indian jurist-scholar who travelled to the Ottoman lands at the height of another controversy, that of the family waqfs, prevailing in India.

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Cash Waqf: The Shi’ite Position

The Shi’ahs in general and the majority of the Sunnis belonging to the four schools and others (with the exception of a few ordinary men whose views on the subject are out of the way) hold that Musha’ waqf is valid.

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Original Capital of Endowment (corpus)

The conditio sine qua non of any waqf is that it should be established with privately owned capital. Behind this simple statement, however, there are bitter debates and controversies.

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Centralization of the Waqf System

In what was probably the very first attempt at a massive centralization of the waqf system, the Fatimid caliph Al-Mu’izz decreed in 979 that all the assets of the awqaf were to be handed over to the Public Treasury, Bayt al-mal.

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Waqf Centralization: Ottoman Empire & Turkey

Vast lands had been transformed into waqf status in the Ottoman Empire and much of this transformation had occurred despite the state policy of declaring about 90% of its arable land as state domain.

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Waqf Crisis: Late Ottoman Era and the Republic

Beginning with the reign of Muhammad Ali Pasha, a new wave of centralization of the waqf system was initiated. Noting that the waqfs had removed at least a fifth of the land from taxation, Muhammad Ali began to reassert state control.

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Survival & Restoration of Waqfs in Turkey

Something totally unexpected has happened in Turkey and despite everything said above, the waqfs have survived. We will now focus on these fascinating developments.

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Beneficiaries & the Family Waqf

It is well known that the waqf system provided regular salaries to many beneficiaries. Recently, these beneficiaries who were paid from the annual revenues of the awqaf have been categorised into various groups: administration, education, food for the public, family of the founders, maintenance, religion, municipal services, tax relief, etc.

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Taxation of Waqfs in India

Taxation of the waqfs has been one of the most controversial and complicated issues in the history of the Indian waqf system.

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Cash Waqfs in the Ottoman Economy

In a society where health, education and welfare were entirely financed by gifts and endowments, the cash waqfs were essential for the survival of the Ottoman social fabric. Moreover, they also provided major injections of capital to the economy of the cities where they functioned.

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Cash Waqfs in Central Asia

More substantial and direct evidence has been provided by Utyabay-Kerimi who has shown that the cash waqfs were flourishing in the Ural-Volga region during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when Turkic capital began to flow in.

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Cash Waqfs in Egypt

Various sources have revealed that large cash sums were being dedicated in eighteenth century Egypt to various religious institutions such as the famous al-Azhar as well as to lesser zawiyas and shrines.

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Cash Waqfs in India

In most cases in India, a combination of Imam Shafii’s and Hanafi Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani’s principles is followed and the waqf of movables is held to be valid subject to custom.

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Cash Waqfs in Malaysia and Singapore

In Malaysia the waqf system is greatly complicated by the fact that there is no federal law subjecting all the waqfs to the same rules and regulations. Although we will present a summary of the organisational structure of the Malaysian waqf system later...

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Cash Waqfs in Syria

In view of the solid data provided by Masters from Syria, Mandaville’s assertion is not anymore valid. The earliest evidence Masters has been able to find dates from 1597 when the governor Ahmed Mataf established a cash waqf with a huge capital of 10,000 gold dinars.

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Decline of the Ottoman Cash Waqfs

Bearing in mind that some major sultanic real estate waqfs could be maintained for centuries and many are still in service, it may be thought that the real estate waqfs should have much greater possibilities for survival.

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Egyptian Waqfs Under the Mamluks

The Egyptian awqaf under the Mamluks constituted 2/7th of the total cultivable land in the country (Yediyıldız, 1986: 159). These waqf lands have been categorised into three groups...

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Egyptian Waqfs Under the Ottomans

The Ottoman conquest was not the first encounter between the Turks and Egyptians, for the Egyptians had been accustomed to the presence of Turks or Turkish-speaking people since the ninth century, when Egypt was ruled by the dynasty of Ibn Tulun, who was a Turk.

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Waqf Administration in Malaysia

At the twilight of their rule in Malaya, the British dealt a final blow to the Malay waqfs by initiating a process of massive centralization, which once started tended to continue even after the independence with its own momentum.

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Waqf and the State

While, on the one hand, the rulers founded the greatest waqfs in nearly all the countries and often utilised them as public policy instruments, on the other, many of them exhibited a relentless hostility towards this institution.

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Waqfs During The Turkish Republic

The republic simply continued the process, which had been started by the Ottomans themselves during the Tanzimat era. This may appear strange, for nearly all the reasons that prompted the hostility of the Ottoman governments...

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Waqf Act, 1995 (India)

The very latest legislation in India concerning the waqf system was passed in 1995. The Waqf Act of 1954 which was thought of at the time as an excellent piece of legislation...

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Central Waqf Act, 1954 (India)

The period 1947-1954 was a critical one for the waqfs of independent India. In the wake of partition many waqfs were left without a trustee or beneficiary, as so many of them had fled or migrated to Pakistan.

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Waqfs in Malaysia and Singapore

Malaysia, today, comprises of 13 states and federal territories and since every state has its own laws concerning the waqfs, it is very difficult to view the Malaysian waqf system as a coherent whole.

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Waqfs in Pakistan & Bangladesh

Since Pakistan was part of British India until the middle of the twentieth century, the waqf system in this country preserved many of the characteristics of the situation in India.

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Waqfs in the Philippines

It is well known that Islam was introduced into the Philippines as early as the thirteenth century by Muslim merchants and was embraced particularly in the southern islands of Sulu and Mindanao.

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Waqfs: Arguments Against Exemption

Exemption will favour only one section of the society and will thus be discriminatory. This argument focuses on the highly complex structure of the Indian society and reflects the concern of the lawmaker that if Muslim endowments are granted a tax exemption privilege, this may lead to discontent among the Hindus.

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Waqfs: India

India can boast to be the country with the largest number of waqfs. The total has been estimated as exceeding 250,000. Indian Muslim Awqaf or Trusts are running 2,500 secular and technical schools, colleges, and orphanages and at least 60,000 madrasahs and 200,000 mosques.

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Waqfs: Iran

The ulema benefited from the waqf as trustees and supervisors and were therefore, naturally concerned with the development of foundations. But this concern was not confined to the ulema; the state also instituted the office of sadr to control both religious endowments and institutions of learning.

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Waqfs: Morocco

Morocco has a rich waqf (habous) heritage. But this heritage was not formed uniformly over the long run. Whereas in a relatively short period of almost twenty years, 1740-1759, nearly 40% of all the registered waqfs had been founded (altogether 138 waqfs), after 1810 only one waqf per year was established.

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Waqfs: The Sudan

The waqfs have a long history in the Sudan. It has been reported that the earliest Sudanese waqf was a mosque in Dongala al Aguz dating back to the ninth century.

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Cash Waqf in Indonesia

Cash Waqf in Indonesia

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