The purpose of this article is to provide a concise and brief introduction to the classical Islamic law of waqf. This study is based on the Fiqh literature of four Sunni schools of thought. The primary focus is on the Ḥanafī Fiqh, however, representative texts of the other schools have also been taken into account. There are three major findings in this article. First, the law contained in Fiqh texts is incomplete because it does not encompass ʿurf (custom) and qānūn (imperial decrees). Custom is recognised in these texts in support of Fiqh, but qānūn is totally missing despite references to the power of rulers regarding certain provisions of waqf law. Second, the legal theory is inconsistent, as the majority of jurists hold that the ownership of a founder terminates with the creation of a waqf. However, not only the founder and his legal heirs maintain a limited proprietary interest in waqf property; the waqf also dissolves with the apostasy of its founder. Third, family awqāf (pl. of waqf) come into direct conflict with the law of inheritance and the law of gifts. However, the testamentary waqf and waqf during terminal illness are subservient to inheritance law, and jurists have tried to harmonise waqf law with inheritance law whenever an opportunity arose.
P.G. HenniganThe Birth of a Legal Institution: The Formation of the Waqf in Third-Century A.H. Ḥanafī Legal Discourse (Leiden: Brill2004) xiii; S.A. Ali Mahommedan Law (Lahore: Law Publishing Company 1976 (first published 1892)) 192-193. Colin Imber goes to the extent of stating that without public awqāf Islam and Islamic society could have neither functioned nor survived. C. Imber Ebuʾs-suʿud: The Islamic Legal Tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 1997) pp. 141-142.
G. MakdisiThe Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press1981) p. 40; T. Kuran “The Provision of Public Goods under Islamic Law: Origins Impact and Limitations of the Waqf System” Law & Society Review 35 (2001) 841 842.
Makdisisupra note 3 40; B. Johansen The Islamic Law on Land and Tax Rent: The Peasant’s Loss of Property Rights as Interpreted in the Hanafite Legal Literature of the Mamluke and Ottoman Periods (New York: Croom Helm Ltd. 1988).
Al-FayyūmīAl-Miṣbāḥ al-Munīr (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿārif1977); H. Wehr A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (New York: Spoken Languages Services Inc. 1976).
Ibn al-Humāmsupra note 17 187-191; Al-Shaykh Niẓām supra note 17 955; Ibn ʿĀbidīn Radd al-Muḥtār ʿalā al-Durr al-Mukhtār Sharḥ Tanwīr al-Abṣār (ʿĀdil Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Mawjūd and ʿAlī Muḥammad Muʿawwaḍ (eds.) 14 vols. Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya 2003) vol. 6 517; Nawawī Minhaj et Talibin: A Manual of Muhammadan Law according to the School of Shafii Translated into English from French Edition of L.W.C. Van Den Berg by E.C. Howard (W. Thacker & Co. 1914) 232.
Nawawīsupra note 21 232-233.
Nawawīsupra note 21 233; Al-Zuḥaylī supra note 13 7673.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 1003.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7650-7651.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 999; Ibn ʿĀbidīn supra note 21 637-638. This principle was actually applied in the Islamic courts as late as the 1930s. See Y. Reiter Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem under British Mandate (Frank Cass 1996) 228-229. For its application by the Privy Council in an Indian case see Mahomedally v. Akberally (1933) 36 Bom L R 388 (PC).
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 958; Ibn al-Humām supra note 17 187; Ibn ʿĀbidīn supra note 21 604.
Ibn Qudāmasupra note 17 188.
For details see J. Schacht“Umm al-Walad”Encyclopaedia of Islam2nd edn. (2011) http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-1290 (accessed 10 May 2011).
Imbersupra note 1 147 citing I. Bazzaz Al-Fatawa al-Bazzaziyya in the margins of Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya (Imperial Press 1912/13) vol. 6 251.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7648-7649. The extent to which the non-Muslims were free to lay down conditions for their awqāf especially to protect their faith is not clear and a separate study is required to determine the theory and practice to this effect. However a condition that in case some of the beneficiaries convert to Islam or any other religion they will lose their benefits was upheld. See Al-Shaykh Niẓām supra note 17 957 which quotes the third century jurist Al-Khaṣṣāf as one of the authorities. See also Ibn al-Humām supra note 17 186-187.
Ibn ʿĀbidīnsupra note 21 519-521. However if the first beneficiaries are rich followed by the poor then it is valid. Al-Shaykh Niẓām supra note 17 968.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7604-7605.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 960.
Ibn Qudāmasupra note 17 210-213.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7650-7652.
Wehrsupra note 10.
Nawawīsupra note 21 231; Al-Shaykh Niẓām supra note 17 959.
Ibn ʿĀbidīnsupra note 21 524-525.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7618-7619; A. Meier “Waḳf” Encyclopaedia of Islam 2nd edn. (2011) http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-1466 (accessed 10 May 2011).
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7635. The rationale for the requirement of absolute ownership is that the waqf according to the Ḥanafīs signifies the cessation of the ownership of the founder. Therefore the property must be absolutely owned to make a waqf. Thus in cases where the ownership right of the founder is not perfect e.g. an incomplete sale transaction the waqf is not valid. Al-Shaykh Niẓām ibid. 957-958.
Ibn Qudāmasupra note 17 229-230; Ibn al-Humām supra note 17 203.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7637.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 963.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7613.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 963; Ibn ʿĀbidīn supra note 21 555-556. Interestingly in the eighteenth century the Ḥanafī jurists did not find it difficult to validate the waqf of securities and shares. Ali Mahommedan Law supra note 1 246; Dr. A. Al-Maʾmūn Suhrawardy “The Waqf of Moveables” (1911) 7 n.s. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 323.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 1042.
Ibn ʿĀbidīnsupra note 21 573; Al-Shaykh Niẓām ibid. 968.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7672-7682; Meier supra note 61.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 1008; Ibn ʿĀbidīn supra note 21 657-658.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 997.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7688.
Nawawīsupra note 21 233.
Ibn Qudāmasupra note 17 237.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 996.
Al-Shaykh Niẓāmsupra note 17 1034.
Al-Zuḥaylīsupra note 13 7688.
Ibn al-Humāmsupra note 17 208.
See G. Lydon“A Paper Economy of Faith without Faith in Paper: A Reflection on Islamic Institutional History”Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization71 (2009) 647.