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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. The amount of the original capital, corpus, the purpose for which it is endowed and all the other conditions of management are clearly registered in a deed of endowment, submitted to the authorities. In this way the privately accumulated wealth of a pious Muslim becomes God’s property.

The founder strictly stipulates how the annual revenue of the waqf should be spent. This revenue (usufruct) may be allocated completely for a pious purpose (waqf khayri), or to a group of beneficiaries. The offspring of the founder may also be the primary recipients of this annual revenue. Such waqfs are known as the family waqfs or waqf ahli. The management of the waqf is entrusted to a trustee, mutawalli, whose functions may be fulfilled by the founder himself during his lifetime. Thus, there are four major components of any waqf: the founder, the beneficiaries, the trustees and the endowed capital corpus itself. Each area will be explored in the following sections.


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