The waqf in Morocco from the 12th century to our days
Morocco has a rich heritage of waqf (habous). But this legacy has not been uniformly formed in the long run. Whereas in a relatively short period of nearly twenty years (1740-1759), almost 40% of all registered Awqaf had been founded (138 in total), it turned out that after 1810 an only waqf per year was established. About 31% of the people who founded these awqaf were women .
The first signs of centralization took place in the 16th century when a central office managed the Qaraouiyin waqf mosque. Family awqaf, on the other hand, enjoyed significant autonomy. In the eighteenth century, government leaders tried to extend their control over the entire system. During this period, an office of Nazir An-Nuzzar was established, and a centralized system of waqf registers was installed. The leaders who were behind this development were motivated to centralize the awqaf in response to the alleged role played by the awqaf in the uprisings.
Centralization gained momentum in the 19th century when the country’s leaders attempted to intervene in the management of the awqaf. It occurred, on the one hand, by submitting the appointment of a trustee to the approval of the sovereign and, on the other hand, by directly intervening in the management of the properties of the waqf. During the second half of the century, as the pressure of the European powers increased, other concessions were granted to Europeans and their protégés. These concessions were mostly in the form of istibdal/ ibdal , which led to the usurpation of properties from the waqf.
The Moroccan awqaf have entered a new phase with the establishment of the French and Spanish protectorates. The protectorate wanted showed that the new regime respected awqaf and that any change in their organization was to their advantage. The organization of waqf with local offices, with administrators appointed by the sultan, etc. remained intact. Yet the power of these directors was limited by how many rules and regulations. These administrators were attached to a superior officer, the muraqib. In the French zone, muraqabah offices were in Fez, Meknes, Marrakech, Rabat, and Mazagan. In 1912, a general direction of Habous was created and transformed into the Ministry of Habous in 1915. The Minister of Habous is at the head of the central organization. The ministry was not only empowered to audit the awqaf’s monthly accounts but could also make decisions regarding long-term leases.
In an attempt to perpetuate the myth that the Moroccans continued to manage the affairs of the waqf, the French refrained from any direct interference in the affairs of the Habous. However, they controlled, through the intermediary of the ministry, all the financial transactions: the checks to be paid had to be signed by the officials of the ministry, and the French authorities took all the crucial decisions. An office of the ministry, the Inspection Service, annually verified the administrators.
In short, the organization of the management of the habous can be considered as an example of the typical French colonial system according to which the Moroccan control on the institution seemed to survive. Still, in reality, all the aboriginal decision-making powers that mattered were abolished.
French domination in Morocco w influenced by lessons learned in Algeria and Tunisia. In Algeria, the colonial rulers had completely seized the Waqf lands, so that the state was overwhelmed by the cost of religious affairs. In Tunisia, on the other hand, the confiscation of family awqaf had provoked riots. In Morocco, two strategies should be avoided, and a more cautious approach was adopted. This approach was also facilitated by the fact that most of the land in Morocco was of no interest to European settlers. Indeed, while until 1932, the habous administration sold 12,000 ha of land to the colonial administration for sale to the settlers, only 5,000 ha were purchased by the colonists. In addition to this, the long-term lease, up to 30 years, was also practiced: 1,500 ha were rented by the settlers and so the waqf characteristics of these lands were maintained.
The public auction of habous land seems to have been carried out until the protectorate of Rabat. Besides, a group of shareholders could pool their resources and rent a waqf property in partnership, and this is quite common. The sharing of shares was also practiced in the West Rif, and the auctions were either based on sharecropping or cash.
Under French law, a law of 21 July 1913 governed the rearing procedure, and cash rents replaced sharecropping. The rental had to be done through public auctions, and non-Moroccans could also participate. The law regulated leasing procedures in the smallest detail and limited the period to one year, which was later extended to three years.
Long-term leases of up to 10 years could be obtained subject to the approval of General Management. If a tenant invested more than a five-year rent in the land, he was entitled to two additional lease extensions. For such an investment, there was no need to seek authorization from the administration of the waqf. Each of these extensions was ten years, bringing the term of the lease to 30 years. For each renewal, the rent increased by 20%. The auctions were held each year in October, and the previous rent determined the minimum bid price. The system continued throughout the twentieth century, and in the 1970s, more than 190,000 plots of land with a total area of 47,000 ha were exploited in this way.
Although long-term leases of up to 30 years were made possible, short-term contracts were much more common. The latter, however, had their problems: the tenant was reluctant to invest in the land whose quality deteriorated from year to year. In response, the central administration of Waqf used an old Islamic contract: the muqarasa. In this context, the tenant agreed to plant some trees on the leased land of the waqf. The products of these trees would then be shared between the habous and the tenant according to a pre-established formula. At the end of the contract period, the land and the trees in it were to be divided between the waqf and the tenant. In short, the tenant ended up becoming the owner of the muqarasa.
This particular form of contract, as it was practiced in Morocco, was a dubious device from Islamic jurisprudence since it entailed the loss of the body of the waqf. The classical Islamic muqarasa does not allow the tenant to become landowner: it merely allows the tenant to claim a portion of the tree products until the end of their life. Despite the jurists’ objection, the Moroccan version of muqarasa continued to be practiced and even legitimized under the protectorate. It was argued that the administrators had accepted this unique form of muqarasa because, also, if it resulted in some loss of waqf lands, the lands that remained under the control of the waqf had been valued by the planted trees. It has been calculated that the income generated by muqarasa was six times higher than regular leasing 
Although Morocco became independent in 1956, the overall organizational structure was maintained. The only significant difference is that the Moroccans have replaced the French. A significant change was waiting until the 1970s when the land rented by French settlers became Moroccan again, and an Islamic Affairs Directorate was created.
Another significant change after independence was in the increased centralization of waqf affairs. As a result, unlike Islamic law, the management of awqaf is now entirely subject to the ministry, and the kadi has lost all power, which has been observed in most other Islamic countries of the twentieth century.
It was also at this time that the unions and certain political parties began to demand that the lands of the waqf be the subject of a vast agrarian reform, as in Egypt, and be distributed to the sharecroppers so that they could exploit them in as private property. But these demands were too numerous, and the agrarian reform was applied only in limited areas. On July 25, 1969, it was declared that the state could acquire habous lands in irrigated areas allocated by ibdal or istibdal. Over the next ten years, some 13,000 hectares were transferred to the state. Of this number, 11,000 ha were redistributed to the peasantry.
Despite these distributions, the overall share of land in Morocco has not declined substantially. Around 10,000 hectares of habous land, initially usurped by the tribes, have been re-registered. In summary, habous agricultural properties were estimated at approximately 84,840 ha or 195,850 plots in 1977. The number of urban farms, on the other hand, reached 33,356. In total, 8,292 beneficiaries received income from these establishments.