Ka’bah in Makkah was the first Waqf (Surah Al-Imraan, verse 96). Masjid Quba and Masjid An-Nabaweeh in Medinah were the first Waqf properties established by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Since then, titles to religious properties, including mosques, Islamic centers, and schools are held by a Waqf (Islamic trust) institution. Waqf properties and their value become restricted on a perpetual basis, to serve the Islamic objectives prescribed at inception by their founders for the benefit of the specified community.
Waqf (plural: awqaf) generally means the permanent dedication of a portion of one’s wealth for the pleasure of Allah. This means that a portion of a persons property is alienated from him/herself and transferred to Allah. Ownership thus passes from the waqif/a (person making the waqf) to Allah. The property is then used for purposes that are shariah compliant. Essential to the scheme is that the corpus of the property remains intact while income derived therefrom, or the property itself, is used for diverse Islamic causes as a sadaqa jariya (recurring, continuous or on-going charity) including socio-economic, military, or political purposes for the benefit of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The amount or value of the waqf may be as little as a cent. Hence it is not the preserve of the wealthy. Anyone, subject to certain shariah conditions, can be a waqif/a. A waqf may be made during one’s lifetime or up to one-third of ones distributable estate through wasiyya or ones’s will. There are generally two types of waqf, viz (a) waqf lil awlad (waqf for family) and (b) waqf-lillah (waqf for Allah).
In Sura Al- Muzammil 73:20 Allah says: “And establish regular Prayer; And give regular Charity; And loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan;”
From the foregoing verse it may be discerned that Allah is giving a command to the believers to establish three specific institutions: salah, zakah and the third is recognised as, amongst others, waqf by scholars and ulama.2) A loan is generally capital in nature and repayable some time in the future. In this case the loan is to Allah and He will repay it in due course to the lender, as the Prophet said “with great profit and reward”. 3) The cue is that the loan remains capital in nature and it is used in a way that will be beneficial to Allah’s cause. While salah and zakah are regarded as fundamental pillars and compulsory in shariah, waqf is considered voluntary but highly desirable. Further, while zakah has fixed percentages and earmarked usage, waqf is flexible and open ended. Both zakah and waqf are important pillars in the funding of Islamic causes and both are needed to empower the Muslim ummah.
Evidence of awqaf also comes from the Sunnah. The Prophet (S) approved Abu Talha’s (RA) action to give one of his best date orchards, named Bairuha located in a prime position near the Masjid Nabawi as waqf and also advised him as to its distribution i.e. to his relatives. 3) Another case in point is where the Prophet (S) advised Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) to give his most valuable land in Khaibar as waqf. Umar declared that the property must not be sold or inherited or given away as a gift. The waqf was devoted to the poor, to nearest of kin, to the emancipation of slaves, and in the way of Allah (Jihad), and guests.4) With regard to sadaqa jariya, the Prophet (S) is also reported to have said: When a person dies, his/her acts come to an end, but three: sadaqa jariya (recurring or ongoing sadaqa), useful/beneficial knowledge, or a pious child who prays for the deceased. 5) The thawaab for these good actions are continuous even after one passes away.
The Holy Prophet (S) also advised sahaba that up to one-third of one’s estate be willed as sadaqa, provided that heirs are not impoverished or left in hardship or difficulties. 6) This sadaqa may be in the form of a waqf. Furthermore, one person may make a waqf on behalf of another, for example: a person may make a waqf for his/her deceased parents with the continuous thawaab going to his/her parents. It is also reported that every Sahaba, including the abovementioned, made a waqf. For example, Abu Bakr Siddiq, Uthman Ghani, Ali Ibn Abu Talib, Zubair, Muaz ibn Jabal, Zaid ibn Thabit, Saad ibn Waqqas, Khalid ibn Walid, Jabir ibn Abdullah, and Abdullah ibn Zubair (RA) had all made a waqf. 7;9)
Narrated Ibn 'Umar (Radhiallaho anho): When 'Umar (Radhiallaho anho) got a piece of land in Khaibar,
he came to the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) saying, "I have got a piece of land, better than which I have never got. So what do you advise me regarding it?" The Prophet said, "If you wish you can keep it as an endowment to be used for charitable purposes." So, 'Umar gave the land in charity (i.e. as an endowments on the condition that the land would neither be sold nor given as a present, nor bequeathed, (and its yield) would be used for the poor, the kinsmen, the emancipation of slaves, Jihad, and for guests and travelers; and its administrator could eat in a reasonable just manner, and he also could feed his friends without intending to be wealthy by its means." Bukhari Vol. 4 : No. 33.
Sanctity of the donor’s intent draws its supremacy from the core Islamic right of private ownership, and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet. Intent and expressed will of the Waqf donor(s) is immutable; neither NAIT, nor the donor, nor the beneficiary can alter the donor-designated use, objectives and location of the Waqf property. The only exception is the replacement of the property with another one of equal benefits, and value to the beneficiary community, to the fullest extent feasible. In case of competing interests of the beneficiary local organization and the beneficiary community, the Nazerul Waqf (NAIT) is to give due deference to the best interests of the local Muslim community, albeit within the confines of the donor’s will. Sanctity of the donor’s intent draws its supremacy from the core Islamic right of private ownership, and the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet.
- ALI, ABDULLAH YUSUF (Undated) The Holy Qur'an: Text, translation and commentary (Jeddah: Islamic Education Centre)
- ANSARI, MUHAMMAD FAZL-UR-RAHMAN (1973) The Qur'anic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society p318-319 (Karachi: The World Federation of Islamic Missions)
- Muwatta Imam Malik Translated by Muhammad Rahimuddin (1985), Hadith No 1815, Chapter 589 p425-426 (Lahore, Sh Muhammad Ashraf)
- Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 4006, Vol 3 p 867 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf)
- Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 4005, Vol 3 p 867 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf )
- Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 3991-4000), Vol 3 p 864-866 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf )
- Proceedings of The 7th International Fiqh Conference, Pretoria, 2000
- Proceedings of the Awqaf & Zakah Seminar, Durban, 1-4 September 2000 (South African National Zakah Fund; Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank)
- Management and Development of Awqaf Properties: Proceedings of the Seminar held on 7-19 Dhul Qada, 1404 (Jeddah, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, 1987)