The relaunch of the waqf
The waqf is a unique Islamic institution, which has played an extremely important role in Muslim civil society in the past, although it is currently marginalized. According to Muslim jurisprudence, anyone can bequeath a property, its usufruct, and the income resulting from it for specific social protection projects.
Awqaf (plural of waqf) were established and encouraged by Prophet Muhammad (Prayers and blessings be upon him) as a form of “everlasting charity” (Sadaqa Jariya). People with lots of resources have a responsibility to seek out those who are less fortunate than them and give them that excess (in the form of a loan or a gift) in a way that does not undermine their self-esteem. . The idea of taking advantage of the needs of the poor is loath to the mind of Islam.
In contrast, the irrational pursuit of wealth in itself (spirit of capitalism) has led some economists to give such primacy to the creation of money that even helping the poor is seen as a means of achieving aim to do more money.
Traditionally, wealthy Muslims have implemented awqaf, which is strongly encouraged and considered one of the best ways to use excess money. Since the asset (usually land) does not run out, the income from it can theoretically be used forever for charitable purposes; this is seen as a way to excel in competing for good deeds, which is the goal of life.
The waqf forms a substantial and significant part of the economy and plays an important role in all dimensions of civil society.
It is estimated that about a third of the Ottoman Empire’s lands (expansive period of the waqf) were devoted to such trusts. The contribution of the waqf to shaping the urban space can hardly be overstated. Much of the public environment in Muslim cities actually arose from endowments. While there was a very wide variety of charitable purposes for which millions of awqaf were used, the top five categories were food, shelter, health, education, and religion. The Ottoman governments did not see themselves as responsible for social welfare because sufficiently, awqaf took care of the people’s needs.
Thus, these institutions constituted a historic Islamic alternative to the European “welfare state” model for providing for the people’s needs.
The waqf in Islam had two distinct advantages:
The awqaf were based and managed locally. They had much more local information than state-run systems and therefore, could operate more efficiently.
This system has also fulfilled the Muslim religion requirement that social institutions should instill a sense of responsibility, strengthen social bonds, and increase social awareness.
The waqf has been successful for centuries in redistributing wealth, leading to equitable outcomes and the flow of wealth following Quranic injunctions. Also, it provided independent income to many people and institutions. He strengthened the company.
Throughout history, states have attempted to limit this power and regulate awqaf in various ways but to no avail.
Women have endowed or managed a significant number of Awqaf and have had a significant impact on civil society. Equal access to education through the waqf and general respect for learning in Muslim societies has led to the representation of all social classes within their intellectual elites.
The Waqf has a solid legal basis. There is a huge literature on its different types and the rules regarding their operation, the permission to use different types of property for the waqf, and the debates between different schools of Islamic law on major and minor aspects. Once installed, a waqf cannot be easily dissolved. Also, the original purpose of the creator of the waqf cannot be easily changed. Because of these rules, some have argued that an important cause of Islamic decline was that many awqaf were locked into uses that became dysfunctional over time. In fact, there is considerable dynamism and flexibility in Islamic law, and creative adaptations to changing situations can be documented in different areas; on the contrary, it is clear that Muslim society has become ossified and not has adapted to these changing situations in many different dimensions.
It seems likely that the growing waqf dysfunction stemmed from Muslims’ general decline rather than a cause.
Due to their solid base in Muslim jurisprudence, the awqaf have resisted many governments’ efforts to limit their influence. However, the colonizing powers were not limited by Islamic law. The seizure of waqf properties took place on a large scale because of their wealth. Their organizational and material resources often enabled the awqaf to act as focal points of resistance to colonization.
Today, there is a broad agreement among Muslims on the need to revive the institution of the waqf and give it the central importance it had in the past. Discussions of how to add flexibility to waqf laws, revive the institution, and adapt it to modern conditions abound in Islamic economic literature. Numerous lectures dealing with all aspects of the issues at stake have taken place nowadays, focusing on revitalizing this important Islamic institution and identifying appropriate old and new modes of funding.