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Reviving Waqf: A Timeless Legacy for Muslims

Published on
July 17, 2023

In 2021, global charitable giving topped out at an estimated $226 billion.

With similar figures being donated year on year, it seems rather illogical that issues such as world hunger still exist, despite estimates obtained by Oxfam that suggest that ending world hunger would require only $37 billion donated annually until 2030.

This example, amongst many others, underlines the need to be much more strategic and intentioned with our donations to create lasting change.

This situation is highly relevant to Muslims, with numerous verses in the Qur'an emphasising the importance of giving. Muslims generously respond to this call, donating significant amounts, as it is estimated that Muslim charities in the UK alone, will raise £4 billion by 2051. However, despite these efforts, the Muslim world continues to face various challenges.

This is why we need to be wary of how we are making our donations through adopting the right strategy of giving. In turn, we will deliver the right impact and longer-lasting benefits to the recipients of our donations.

But how can we make this broad change? This is where the concept of Waqf comes in.

A Waqf is a powerful, yet often overlooked means of giving that creates lasting legacies and positive change. At Muslim Money Experts, we believe that Muslims should revive the use of Awqaf (plural of Waqf) to set an example for the world on how to maximise our charity to build a better world for future generations.

Just imagine a world where if there was ever a natural disaster in Muslim lands, the response, relief and aid could be delivered instantly and without the need for charities to ask for donations.

Read on to understand how we can achieve this.

What is a Waqf?

A Waqf is an Islamic endowment used for charitable or religious purposes. The term Waqf is derived from the Arabic root word waqafa, which means to detain or to hold.

A Waqf comprises an asset or cash donated to be held in perpetuity (i.e. forever) and used for a specific charitable purpose. Typically, the asset is income-generating (i.e. land), or if it's cash, it is invested to generate a return. The profits earned from the donation will be used to support the cause you care about. This allows your donation to go further, as it continues to help people even after it’s given away.

For example, let’s say you donated cash as a Waqf because you wanted to support education for underprivileged children.

  1. The cash is managed by a Waqf trust, which is usually a body of trustees.
  2. The Waqf trust then purchases income-generating assets using the pooled proceeds from you and other donors.
  3. These income generating assets, homes for example generate rent every single month
  4. The Waqf trust can now donate these rents every single month (in theory, forever)
  5. If managed correctly, the actual property itself also appreciates in value meaning more rents can be generated.
  6. These rents can be pooled together to purchase more income generating assets, which multiplies the effect etc.

This example perfectly demonstrates Waqfs are a form of sadaqah jariyah, a type of continuous charity that the Prophet ﷺ famously said, is one of the three things that will benefit a Muslim after their death.

"When a man dies, all his good deeds come to an end except three: Ongoing charity (Sadaqah Jariyah), beneficial knowledge and a righteous son who prays for him." (Sunan an-Nasa'i 3651)

The Prophet ﷺ also encouraged his companions to establish a Waqf.

When `Umar RA got a piece of land in Khaibar, he came to the Prophet ﷺ saying, "I have got a piece of land, better than which I have never got. So what do you advise me regarding it?" The Prophetﷺ 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 endowment 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 travellers; 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." (Sahih al-Bukhari 2772)

Furthermore, the verse below beautifully captures the essence and goals that Waqf aspires to achieve, as well as the noble reward given to the giver of the Waqf, in return:

“The example of those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah is that of a grain that sprouts into seven ears, each bearing one hundred grains. And Allah multiplies ˹the reward even more˺ to whoever He wills. For Allah is All-Bountiful, All-Knowing.” (Qur’an 2:261)

Waqf Through the Ages

There are numerous examples of Awqaf throughout history that showcase their incredible influence on many individuals across the years. Below, we’ve listed some of these examples that still serve as inspiration for us today.

1. The Well of Rumah being a Waqf

During the Prophet ﷺ’s lifetime, there was a drought that caused wells to dry up. Therefore, to obtain water, the Muslim community had to pay to use the well of Rumah

This well however, was owned by a non-Muslim who charged a hefty fee for its service. And due to this financial strain, the Prophet ﷺ promised a reward in Jannah for the one who would purchase the well on behalf of the Muslims.

Uthman ibn Affan RA bought the well on behalf of the Muslim community, and to this day, it is the oldest surviving Waqf. Its legacy has since expanded, with a hotel in Madinah and a bank account set up in Uthman RA's name.

Half of the money in the account is donated to charity, whilst the other half is reinvested. It has been reported that the money paid out is over 50 million Saudi Riyals each month, equivalent to 13.3 million dollars. This is a prime example of a Waqf and the magnificent impact a Waqf can have serving the community for a lengthy period of time,

2. Al-Azhar University established as a Waqf

Al-Azhar is a famous university in Egypt, which was established as a Waqf and continues to be one of the leading Islamic educational institutions today. In fact, it is known to be the only ancient university in the Arab world, that has survived into transitioning into a modern university, with added secular courses to its curriculum.

3. Al-Mansuri Hospital built as a Waqf

The Al-Mansuri Hospital was founded in 1285 by Al-Mansur Qalawun. He was the leader of the Mamluks who became ill whilst on an expedition against the Crusaders in Damascus. The treatment he received there impressed him so much that he vowed to create a similar hospital in Cairo. The hospital treated all, rich and poor, without charge, and housed thousands of patients at its peak. The building still stands today in Cairo as part of the Qalawun complex.

Why You Should Establish a Waqf

We all know that donating to charity is a virtuous act in Islam. There are many different ways to donate in the path of Allah, such as through Zakat, Sadaqah, and Lillah, among others.

Each form of charity in Islam holds its own unique value and is appropriate for specific situations. Therefore, it is wise to diversify our donations across various types of projects and causes to ensure that we can address a variety of needs and serve a well-rounded impact to the recipients of our donations

Establishing a Waqf hence, offers several advantages for both the donors and the communities they serve. Here are some compelling reasons as to why one should consider establishing a Waqf:

1. A Waqf Delivers Sustainable Impact

One of the key advantages of establishing a Waqf is the long-term, sustainable impact it creates. Unlike one-time donations, a Waqf continually generates income from its endowed assets, providing ongoing support for the chosen cause.

This continuous stream of resources allows for developing and maintaining essential services, such as schools, hospitals and mosques, over an extended period. This offers a reliable foundation for communities, enabling them to build and grow with confidence and security.

2. A Waqf Enables Self-Sufficiency and Helps Solve Key Problems

Awqaf can be vital in building resilient and self-sufficient Muslim communities by allocating resources effectively, to create lasting, positive change for generations.

Awqaf can be established to fund sustainably:

  • Mosques, schools and universities - allowing everyone the opportunity to learn, empowering them to be value-generating members of society
  • Healthcare - by providing accessible and affordable healthcare services, Waqfs can ensure that community members lead healthier lives, reducing the burden of illness and increasing the overall quality of life
  • Social services - addressing the needs of vulnerable community members by establishing orphanages, shelters for the homeless, and support for widows and the elderly
  • Economic development - financing local businesses, community and infrastructure projects to boost economic growth, fostering self-reliance and financial stability

3. A Waqf Creates a Lasting Legacy

The ongoing income from a Waqf creates a lasting legacy for the donor, amplifying the blessings you gain from your initial donation and continuing to benefit you even after your death. Allah SWT promises in the Quran to multiply the rewards for the charity you give; just imagine how much greater these rewards could be when your charity continues to grow and provide benefits to others over time.

“Indeed, those men and women who give in charity and lend to Allah a good loan will have it multiplied for them, and they will have an honourable reward.” (Qur’an 57:18)

Summary

Despite the significant amount of money donated to charity annually, the desired impact is often not achieved. Establishing Awqaf offers a strategic approach to giving, ensuring donations create long-lasting, positive change.

A Waqf offers several advantages for both donors and the communities they serve. Establishing a Waqf creates a sustainable impact, empowering communities to develop and maintain essential services like schools, hospitals, and mosques. It promotes self-sufficiency by allocating resources to create lasting, positive change in areas such as education, healthcare, social services, and economic development.

Furthermore, a Waqf creates a lasting legacy for the donor, continuously multiplying the blessings and rewards they gain from their initial donation.

As Muslims, we must consider establishing and supporting Awqaf to strengthen our communities and address pressing challenges. By doing so, we can leave a lasting impact on the world, create a brighter future for generations to come, and gain good deeds that continue to benefit us even after our deaths.

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