Endowments and their Importance for the Muslims

Figure 1A: The house of Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah, may Allah be pleased with him. This building is an endowment.

Figure 1A: The house of Imam Muwaffaq ud-Din Ibn Qudamah, may Allah be pleased with him. This building is an endowment.

Imam Musa ibn Ahmad al-Hajjawi (d. 968 AH/AD 1573), may Allah be pleased with him, made the following point on Endowments (Ar. Waqf):[1]

Endowment is the act of setting aside something specific and having it for use by the people in perpetuity. This can validly be initiated either by stating so or making this the case by a specific action.

An example of this would be someone making a plot of his land a masjid and then giving the people permission to pray with it; or it could be a graveyard in which the one making it an endowment gives permission for people to be buried within it as an endowment.

He could effect this in words by saying, “I have made this an endowment.” The dedicator could also say, “I set aside this as an endowment.” He could even say, “I have put this for permanent use and benefit by others.”

If he referred to making an endowment by implicit words, the individual could say things such as, “I have made this a charity for the people.” He could also say, “I have made this sacred.” Furthermore, he could also say, “I have begun this as an endeavour.”

Conditions for the Endowment:

  1. The condition for someone making an implicit endowment is that they specifically have to intend it as such.
  2. He must also intend that benefit will be taken from the thing given in perpetuity so long as the thing remains. Examples of this would be having as endowment a field, an animal or other things.
  3.  The endowment must be something based on righteousness, like masjids, treasure, sufficing the poor, near relatives that are either Muslim or a Jew or Christian under governance and paying jizyah.

It cannot be given for the benefit of someone at war with the Muslims, a church or synagogue, the inscription of Torah scrolls or writing out of Injil literature or the books of apostates.

Both the last will and testament and the endowment are of the same ruling in that what has been mentioned must be honoured and that whatever is invalid to put as the last will and testament is also invalid to put as the endowment.

If the endowment is for some act of righteousness besides the masjid or such, then the specific thing must be in possession of the one that is seeking to give it as an endowment. It also cannot be promised on behalf of an angel, animal, grave or an unborn child.

  1. The endowment cannot be given partially but must be given in totality. It is not the case that it could ever have a time limit or condition on it being an endowment; nor does he have the right to sell it on when he wills or give it as a gift. If he should make such an intention, the item in question cannot be given as an endowment and the condition attached is nullified. The endowment is not based on the acceptance of the one who receives it nor it leaving from his possession.

If the individual giving the endowment sets one or a number of valid conditions for how it is to be carried out or managed, it is necessary to adhere to this principle, i.e. if he leaves it to the children of his children or prefers one individual over another or even if he leaves it to one individual in question.

If he should say, “This endowment goes to my children. Then after them, their children,” the condition should be honoured; the same holds true if he should declare that the one with the most acumen or knowledge should be in charge of the endowment after him and the specifically named party.

If the dedicator makes a general statement about the benefits taken from the endowment and does not make any qualifying remark, then both the rich and poor, male and female and so forth are equal in taking benefit.

Someone may also be declared as trustee over the endowment to see that it is properly managed. In the event that the dedicator declares that the endowment is for his son, other than his son and then for the poor, then the male and female children are equal in that regard as the language was general.

After that, the endowment is then given to the children of his children and so forth on down but to the exclusion of the children of his daughters as the general speech like this includes defined parameters that specify sonship.

So if he said, “The endowment is for the son of his son and his descendants of his line,” such a condition holds and is binding on those carrying out the endowment for him after his death.

If he said, “This endowment is for his sons or the sons of such and such,” and specifically mentions the males, then this is binding except in the case where he mentions a tribe. In that case, the women fall under the statement regarding the tribe but not their children.

In the event that he mentions near relatives, the people of his household or his nation, such wording includes both males and females from his children, the children or his father and his grandfather and the grandfather of his father.

This same rule holds true for all other statements that allude to females or them having a share and the judgement is given in favour of females in this case.

When someone declares an endowment for a group of people but does not specify it when he is able to, then the ruling on the endowment is general and all categories within the group are treated equally.

However if an endowment is made for a group and it’s not possible to specify them, then it is permissible for the dedicator of the endowment to specify someone or mention one individual or a few individuals.

The endowment is a covenant of surety that must be fulfilled and can never be revoked or loosened from its’ binding character. An area or thing that is specified as an endowment cannot be sold except in the case that its’ benefit has depreciated while its’ proceeds are to go towards something like it to replace it.

An example would be if there was a masjid that was dilapidated. If that masjid, all the things connected to it and whatever was besides the general structure was beyond use, it would be permissible to give this to another masjid that is to replace it or give charity using it and spend that charity on the poor among the Muslims.

[1] Taken from Zad ul-Mustaqni` fikh-tisar il-Muqni`, pp. 141-142


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