Although, the history of Waqf dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), it is only popular and well-known in Muslim-majority countries and regions of the world. This form of charitable donation is still misunderstood today. So, here are eight things you need to know about Waqf:
1. The word ‘Waqf’ literally means ‘to stop’
Waqf originates from the word ‘waqafa’, which means to stop or halt. Some even go as far as defining it as “to hold”, “to confine” or “to prohibit. Waqf means the property detained stands still, is held still and not to let go “al-habs” or is blocked “al-mana”, by preventing it from becoming the property of a third person. Waqf is regarded as the practice of dedicating buildings, lands or other assets for the use or benefit of the people. In Islam, a property from a waqif (donor) will be endowed from the beginning to the end, in the name of God.
2. Waqf is 1 of the 3 things benefitting you even after your death
Waqf or Sadaqah Jariyah is one of the most rewarding acts a person can do in his or her lifetime. A person can reap the benefits of this act of charity when he or she is alive and also long after his or her passing. According to a famous Hadith, “When a person dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: Sadaqah Jariyah (ongoing charity), a beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him.”
3. Umar Ibn Al-Khattab deeded lands as endowment
The earliest stories about Islamic Waqf highlight the importance of providing services and charity to the poor and the needy in Medina. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised Umar Ibn Al-Khattab to give away his land in Khaybar as Waqf. Umar gave it away as alms, declared that the land must not be sold, inherited or donated. He gave it away for the poor and those in need. It will not be held against him who administers it if he consumes some of its yields in an appropriate manner or feeds a friend who does not enrich himself by means of it.
4. The Well of Uthman is one of the oldest Waqfs in history
During the early migration of Muslims to Madinah, there was a well owned by a man who charged people to drink from it. A Muslim man by the name of Uthman ibn Affan offered to pay the man in return for the well to be used by the Muslim community free of charge. The man declined, so Uthman asked if he would rent the well for one day for the Muslims and the next day to him and so on. The man agreed and noticed that the Muslim community were only using the well on the day Uthman owned the well. The owner felt at a loss and quickly rushed to Uthman, asking him to buy the well from him. Uthman agreed and it was sold for 20,000 dirhams, which he assigned for all Muslims to drink from.
5. Al-Azhar University of Egypt was financed by Waqf proceeds
Alongside other prominent universities like Al Quaraouiyine in Fez and al-Nizamiyyah in Baghdad, Al-Azhar University in Egypt was financed by Waqf proceeds. However, as the Islamic caliphates and nation-states weakened and crumbled, education institutions started to decline as the number of Muslims endowing their properties decreased. In spite of this, Al-Azhar University, built in 975 A.D., continues to be funded by Waqf proceeds to this day. In 1986 alone, more than £147 million was allocated by the university to finance the development and expenditure of its 55 faculties which include remunerations for 6154 academicians. Al-Azhar continued to be at the forefront of Islamic education and it also plays an important role in spreading Waqf throughout the world.
6. The oldest university in the world is a Waqf
UNESCO and Guinness World Records confirm that the University of Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest existing, higher educational institution in the world. Founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in 859, the Al Quaraouiyine university, mosque and hospital complex are all additions to a Waqf donation by al-Fihri. She bestowed her land to the community by specifying it as a Waqf. Because of that, the University of Al Quaraouiyine still operates to this day, serving as proof of the importance of Waqf in the birth of the modern university.
7. Oxford University is modelled on the Islamic Waqf system
Back between 1095 and 1291, the English followed the crusades in the Holy Land, where they became familiar with Islamic customs and culture, and later borrowed from the Waqf system. An example is Merton College, University of Oxford, which was formed with the support of financial endowments in 1264. These endowments have led to centuries of scholarships, learning, and teaching. It has also protected and fostered the freedom of thought and expression, a vital part of the college system today. In relation to Waqf, the founding of Merton College is often viewed as a milestone in the evolution of Western universities.
8. Ottoman Empire was one-third Waqf
The abundance and size of Waqf in Ottoman cities (including their rural regions) must not be understated. Two examples indicate its extent: first, by 1923, three-quarters of all arable land in the new Republic of Turkey was Waqf endowed, and, second, by the end of the eighteenth century, it is estimated that the combined income of roughly 20,000 Ottoman Waqfs in operation equalled one-third of Ottoman state revenue. It is not an exaggeration to say that both imperial authorities and its subjects practiced gift giving as a way of governing.
9. A company has developed the World’s Largest Waqf Financing Platform
In recent years, blockchain has been perceived as the technology to spark the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with its potential to reconstruct mainstream industries and governments. The Singapore-based company called Finterra uses this blockchain technology to revive the glory days of Waqf with its flagship product called WAQF Chain, a platform designed to tackle modern-day issues facing the Waqf landscape including issues of liquidity, usability and transparency on Waqf transactions. WAQF Chain brings the global, inclusive platform to your fingertips, enabling user access to charitable, investment and P2P financing services from anywhere, anytime. WAQF Chain is breaking the norm and misconception that Waqf is only meant to be donated by the rich. By accepting cash Waqf, the blockchain-based crowdfunding platform has made it exponentially easier for members to donate and for the NGOs, on the other side of the aisle, to publish their causes, to invest in Waqf development projects and to partake in P2P financing through their platform in order to reach out to the mass public globally.
The fun facts listed above are only ten facts about Waqf we have shared in this article. There’s a lot more to learn when it comes to Islamic endowments and the rich history behind it. You may recognise famous names who dedicated Waqf assets or visited touristic landmarks around the world without knowing how it came to be. A number of organisations are working to bring back the glory days of Waqf and WAQF Chain is an example of this. The platform is now open to registration at www.mywaqf.com.