Waqf, in the Arabic language, means to stop, contain, or preserve.
In Islamic terms, waqf refers to a religious endowment i.e. a voluntary and irrevocable dedication of one's wealth or a portion of it - in cash or kind (such as a house or a garden), and its disbursement for shariah compliant projects (such as mosques or religious schools...)
Difference between Waqf and Charity:
Waqf is a permanent donation. Once a waqf is created, it can never be donated as a gift, inherited, or sold. Disbursement of its returns is done in accordance with the endower's wishes . Charity, on the other hand, is a broader concept; it encompasses alms, grant, inheritance, loan, waqf...
The endower dedicates waqf to his family, children, relatives or others. Upon the death of the beneficiaries, this waqf may be transformed into a charitable one at the endower's request.
The endowment is designated to help the poor, orphans, widows and for any other charitable causes.
This waqf is a combination of both family and charitable awqaf.
Waqf plays a paramount role in general, and in needy societies or in unforeseen circumstances in particular. It aids in the development process by helping the needy, establishing mosques, and social-welfare institutions such as schools, health care centers, and centers for people with special needs.
People are driven to perform good deeds by human nature or for religious, social, family-related, and other reasons.
Waqf has three components: The endower, the endowment (waqf), and the beneficiary.
The endower must confirm his/her decision to grant an endowment and designate its beneficiary either verbally or in writing. One can also have a tangible evidence on his/her endowments such as a built mosque or cemetery.
Endowment must be granted with full determination and as a final decision; in other words, a promissory and conditional endowments are not accepted. Further, endowment is irrevocable and for an unlimited time. Most scholars agree that endowment cannot be valid for a limited period. The Maliki school, however, is the only one that accepts the limited time endowment.
The endower must be an adult with free will. His/her decision to grant an endowment must be a personal one. i.e. is not imposed on him/her by anyone.
Endowment funds or assets must be in compliance with Shariah. For instance, wine cannot be considered an endowment.
Endowment can be either in cash or in kind such as estates and stocks. Since an endowment is a continuous charity (Sadaqah Jariah), it must be permanent and non-perishable. Therefore, food cannot be endowed. Moreover, the endowment can be a part of an undivided joint estate granted its percentage is known (such as 25% of the estate). Endower has the right to increase his waqf with time by additional funds or in kind.
The beneficiary can be an individual(s) or an institution(s) which is awarded the income generated from investing the waqf. Waqf must also be designated to Shari'a compliant deeds or people such as printing the Holy Quran, or helping the needy, the poor, the relatives...
Endower is permitted to earn the whole or some of the income generated by the waqf during his/her life. Upon one's death, the income will be spent on the beneficiary designated by the endower.
Endowment of an indebted or terminally Ill person:
If an individual is in debts and is placed under guardianship per the debtors' request, one's endowment will only come into effect upon the debtors' approval. In Islamic law, paying up one's debts is an obligation and a priority whereas an endowment is a voluntary charitable donation. The same condition applies to the terminally ill person. Such person is not entitled to establish a waqf until all his debts have been paid or upon the debtors' approval.
Waqf and inheritance:
Waqf can be established during one's life. It can also be stated in the will. One can designate one third of his/her money for waqf. In case the amount allocated for waqf is more than the third of the inheritance, it is up to the heirs to accept or reject establishing the waqf inheritance. In such case, the remaining funds or assets must be distributed to the heirs.
Waqf and Shariah (Islamic law)
The majority of Islamic scholars agree that waqf is a shariah compliant charity. They referred to general and specific evidence.
Allah - Exalted be He - in His revelation said about charity, including waqf "By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness - here it means Allah's reward i.e. Paradise), unless you spend in Allah's cause (al-Imran:92). The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said "When a son of Adam dies, his good deeds stop except for three things; ongoing charity, useful knowledge...".
The Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) used to establish waqf himself, and he regarded waqf as one of the best forms of charity.
Further, Ibn Umar reported that "Umar acquired land in Khaibar. He approached Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) and sought his advice in regard to it. He said to Allah's Messenger I have never acquired anything more valuable for me that this, so what do you command I do with it? Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: If you like you may keep the corpus intact and give its produce as Sadaqah Jariyyah (continuous charity). So Umar made Sadaqah declaring that the property must not be sold or inherited or given away. The produce to be given the poor, to the needy, to the nearest of kin, to the emancipation of slaves, to wayfarers..."Narrated in Sahih Muslim
Why is waqf lawful in Islam?
Waqf is a form of charity for the sake of Allah. It is lawful because it aids in the sustainable development. It also seeks to empower the Muslim society. Waqf is a beautiful loan to Allah - Exalted - Who shall reward the endower granted it is done with pure intention.
The executor is appointed by the endower to ensure that his/her wishes are executed. The executor is entitled to overview the waqf, its investment and its disbursement to the beneficiary.
The executor must have the following qualifications:
- Be Muslim
- Be mentally sane
- Be mature in age.
- Be just; a trustworthy individual who obeys the orders of Allah and is of good ethics and conduct.
- Be wise; follow the endower's interest.
It is the executor's responsibility to protect the waqf and maximize its investment:
- Upkeep the waqf: undertake all maintenance and repair aimed at protecting and preserving the waqf from any damage.
- Fulfill the endower's wishes.
- Defend the waqf rights in any legal disputes.
- Pay up waqf related debts
- Spend the waqf revenues on the designated beneficiary and abide by the set date for disbursement, except in certain cases such as the need to pay up some waqf related debts.
Executor's permissible and prohibited acts:
The executor has to right to perform any deeds beneficial to the waqf and to the endower within the conditions laid down by the endower.
Prohibited acts are those that might impact negatively on the waqf such as:
- Lease the waqf for oneself or for one his children which is considered an act of nepotism.
- Consider the waqf a guarantee for the executor's loan, in other words cover the payments of the executor's loan from the waqf revenues.
- Pawn the waqf.
- Lend the waqf to an individual or an institution other that the designated beneficiary.
- Reside or have someone reside free of charge or for a minimal rent in the waqf estates.
It is permissible to award the executor monthly or yearly fees, or a portion of the waqf revenues. If the endower did not mention such fees, the judge has the right to grant the executor fair fees in the same range of other executors.
The executor can be removed by the endower or the judge for certain reasons. Such reasons may include disloyalty and loss of competence. Removal will come into effect once the executor is officially informed. Thus, any acts taken by the executor prior to his knowledge is considered valid.
Waqf maintenance and repair:
The majority of Islamic scholars agree that maintaining and repairing the waqf is the major executor's responsibility. It is even most important and must therefore precede spending the revenues on the beneficiary. Since waqf is a continuous donation, the executor must ensure its sustainability.