What is Waqf?

Waqf is a sustainable, ongoing charitable endowment (such as Sadaqah Jariyah), widely used throughout Islamic history to develop and support communities.

A Waqf endowment usually benefits the community as a whole by offering a service that is useful to society, such as a hospital or a university.

In Arabic, Waqf, or the plural, Awqaf, means ‘restriction’ because it acknowledges that all properties belong to God. A donation – be it a library or a cash sum – cannot ever be owned by any person; instead, its possession is transferred to God, but the benefits are reaped by man. The original donor no longer owns the endowment. Waqf is known in some Arabic countries as ‘hibss’ or in plural ‘hubouss’.

Imagine a field is donated as Waqf. The community may use the field in a way that is beneficial – by planting fruit and vegetables, for example. When ripe, the harvest will benefit the whole community but because nobody owns the field itself, the donation is ongoing and will support generation after generation. Take a look at some famous examples of Waqf.

What is Waqf?

Waqf is a sustainable, ongoing charitable endowment (such as Sadaqah Jariyah), widely used throughout Islamic history to develop and support communities.

A Waqf endowment usually benefits the community as a whole by offering a service that is useful to society, such as a hospital or a university.

In Arabic, Waqf, or the plural, Awqaf, means ‘restriction’ because it acknowledges that all properties belong to God. A donation – be it a library or a cash sum – cannot ever be owned by any person; instead its possession is transferred to God, but the benefits are reaped by man. The original donor no longer owns the endowment. Waqf is known in some Arabic countries as ‘hibss’ or in plural ‘hubouss’.

Imagine a field is donated as Waqf. The community may use the field in a way that is beneficial – by planting fruit and vegetables, for example. When ripe, the harvest will benefit the whole community. But because nobody owns the field itself, the donation is ongoing and will support generation after generation. Take a look at some famous examples of Waqf.

The main characteristics of Waqf are

Permanent

The donor (or heirs) cannot revoke the endowment if it has already been declared a Waqf. This ensures that the Waqf is created solely for philanthropic purposes and that it will always benefit the community.

Continuous

According to four Islamic schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) the donation must be perpetual once it is created. This guarantees that it will benefit generation after generation and also prohibits it from being confiscated.

Cannot be sold

Although the benefits of the donation are beneficial to human beings, the property itself is considered to be returned to God. No person can ever become the owner, so the Waqf becomes a ‘common asset’. It cannot be sold, mortgaged, gifted or inherited.

Permanent

The donor (or heirs) cannot revoke the endowment if it has already been declared a Waqf. This ensures that the Waqf is created solely for philanthropic purposes and that it will always benefit the community.

Continuous

According to four Islamic schools of thought (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) the donation must be perpetual once it is created. This guarantees that it will benefit generation after generation and also prohibits it from being confiscated.

Cannot be sold

Although the benefits of the donation are beneficial to human beings, the property itself is considered to be returned to God. No person can ever become the owner, so the Waqf becomes a ‘common asset’. It cannot be sold, mortgaged, gifted or inherited.

Waqf is only valid and accepted when certain conditions are fulfilled.

A person must fulfil the following criteria in order to be eligible to make a Waqf donation:

  • Be an adult by law
  • Be aware of what he/she is doing and be of sound mind to do so
  • Own the property/money
  • Be free of debt
  • Offer the Waqf un-coerced and as a voluntary donation.

The asset/money itself must meet certain conditions in order to be acceptable Waqf:

  • Waqf should be devoted for good ends only; the result of the Waqf cannot harm people
  • Waqf assets should be Islamically lawful (halal). For example, it is not permitted to create Waqf from shares in an alcohol-producing company or unethical investment
  • Waqf assets should be clearly defined and tangible
  • The Waqf donation must be unconditional and with no strings attached
  • Most Muslim jurists argue that in order for Waqf to be legitimate, it should not be time-restricted, but forever. However, a few scholars, including Imam Malik, argue that time restrictions are permissible, meaning that an endower can offer his property for Waqf for a limited time, after which, he/she will regain ownership of the donation
  • The Waqf must be explicitly donated and ideally documented in order to avoid any disputes with the donor’s heirs.

International Waqf Fund follows most Islamic jurists and therefore can only accept permanent Waqf donations.

Waqf is only valid and accepted when certain conditions are fulfilled.

A person must fulfil the following criteria in order to be eligible to make a Waqf donation:

  • Be an adult by law
  • Be aware of what he/she is doing and be of sound mind to do so
  • Own the property/money
  • Be free of debt
  • Offer the Waqf un-coerced and as a voluntary donation.

The asset/money itself must meet certain conditions in order to be acceptable Waqf:

  • Waqf should be devoted for good ends only; the result of the Waqf cannot harm people
  • Waqf assets should be Islamically lawful (halal). For example, it is not permitted to create Waqf from shares in an alcohol-producing company or unethical investment
  • Waqf assets should be clearly defined and tangible
  • The Waqf donation must be unconditional and with no strings attached
  • Most Muslim jurists argue that in order for Waqf to be legitimate, it should not be time-restricted, but forever. However, a few scholars, including Imam Malik, argue that time restrictions are permissible, meaning that an endower can offer his property for Waqf for a limited time, after which, he/she will regain ownership of the donation
  • The Waqf must be explicitly donated and ideally documented in order to avoid any disputes with the donor’s heirs.

International Waqf Fund follows most Islamic jurists and therefore can only accept permanent Waqf donations.

Importance of Waqf

  • Ongoing and never-ending blessings, even after the donor is no longer alive
  • Offers support to the community and enables the more wealthy to fulfil their social responsibility
  • Fosters trust between the community and donor
  • Revival of the Prophet’s (pbuh) sunnah.

Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an: “Verily, those men and women who give charity and lend Allah a beautiful loan it shall be increased many times and theirs shall be an honourable good reward.” [Surah-Hadid: 18]

Allah (SWT) also says: “Indeed, it is We who bring the dead to life and record what they have put forth and what they left behind, and all things We have enumerated in a clear register.” [Surat Yaseen: 36.12]

As donations to Waqf can also be made in the name of a deceased person (such as a family member or friend), the continuous reward in this case will benefit the person to whom the donation was dedicated.

The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “When a person dies the rewards for their good deeds cease except for three things for which they continue to get the reward (even after death) and these are: (1) Sadaqah Jariyah (on-going Charity), or (2) Knowledge Which Benefits People, or (3) Pious Children Who Pray After Their Death.” (Related by Imam Muslim).

  • Sustainable development: The Waqf endowment is one of the greatest economic practices that Islam offers. It is a long-term investment for the whole community with continuing benefits
  • Community-empowerment and poverty alleviation: Donors are able to improve the lives of poor communities.

Importance of Waqf

  • Ongoing and never-ending blessings, even after the donor is no longer alive
  • Offers support to the community and enables the more wealthy to fulfil their social responsibility
  • Fosters trust between the community and donor
  • Revival of the Prophet’s (pbuh) sunnah.

Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Qur’an: “Verily, those men and women who give charity and lend Allah a beautiful loan it shall be increased many times and theirs shall be an honourable good reward.” [Surah-Hadid: 18]

Allah (SWT) also says: “Indeed, it is We who bring the dead to life and record what they have put forth and what they left behind, and all things We have enumerated in a clear register.” [Surat Yaseen: 36.12]

As donations to Waqf can also be made in the name of a deceased person (such as a family member or friend), the continuous reward in this case will benefit the person to whom the donation was dedicated.

The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “When a person dies the rewards for their good deeds cease except for three things for which they continue to get the reward (even after death) and these are: (1) Sadaqah Jariyah (on-going Charity), or (2) Knowledge Which Benefits People, or (3) Pious Children Who Pray After Their Death.” (Related by Imam Muslim).

  • Sustainable development: The Waqf endowment is one of the greatest economic practices that Islam offers. It is a long-term investment for the whole community with continuing benefits
  • Community-empowerment and poverty alleviation: Donors are able to improve the lives of poor communities.

Types of WAQF

Waqf can be classified into different categories. This categorisation is based either on the relationship between the donor and the beneficiaries, or on the nature of the donation itself.