The Adaptation of Waqf Principle by Western Countries

The notion of waqf is not unique to Islam or Muslims alone. The concept of waqf has been adapted by the West also. By adaptation, we mean modification of waqf tenets to suit the needs and characteristics of the society in which it is adapted. The concept of waqf spreading to the West can be traced to the English Crusades (1095-1291) who brought it to the West after observing it in the Middle East in the 13th century. For this reason, waqf law has some similarities with the English trust law. One of the Crusaders who observed how waqf operated in Syria thereafter set up Merton College, Oxford University’s oldest college, based on his knowledge of charitable madrasahs as awqaf (plural of waqf). Similarly, Peterhouse College, Cambridge University’s oldest college, was set up based on the concept of Waqf. According to Prof Murat Çizakça, Ivy League universities in the USA were established based on the principle of waqf.

Another adaptation of the principle of waqf in the West was in the Knights of Templar, who visited the Middle East in the 12th century, establishing trusts that set up London’s first law schools – precursors to the Inns of Courts. In the present day, the Inns of Courts comprises of 4 law schools that call English lawyers to the bar. The trusts establishing London’s first law schools in the Middle Ages adapted the concept of law schools attached to mosques as waqfs. During this period, law was taught in England by clergymen.

In the present day, several waqf principles have been adapted by the West. Online waqf-based crowdfunding is one way the principle of waqf has been adapted by the West. Advancements in mobile and online payments in recent times have facilitated this phenomenon. One example of this is Ensany, an online crowdfunding website for charities related to Islam and Muslims. One of Ensany’s areas of crowdfunding is in cash waqf for various projects ranging from mosques to orphanages, schools and hospitals. Another example of waqf online is seen in Islamic Relief, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in the United Kingdom, has adapted a variant of cash waqf – waqf shares scheme. Waqf shares scheme is a modern-day innovative scheme in which organizations or individuals regardless of income level buy shares which are then converted to awqaf. Waqf shares are a form of movable waqf.

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