Shah Waliullah once stated that the Arabs were ignorant of the institution of Waqf before the advent of Islam. It was the Prophet Muhammad (saws) who acquainted them with it, and advised them to make such endowments. What it denotes, in brief, is that a grant is made of something like land or money which is of lasting value and yields a continuing income, for religious or charitable uses, and its income or produce is spent on pious purposes, as desired by the Waqif, i.e., the person who makes the endowment, and the Waqif, on his part, permanently, gives up all proprietary rights over the property.
(1) It is related that Sa’ad bin Obadah narrated: “I went to the Apostle of God and told him that my mother had died. (I wanted to give something as charity on her behalf). So, what charity would be the best and most rewarding for her? The Apostle of God replied: ‘Water. (Construct a well and dedicate it for public use so that everyone can profit by its water).’ I, consequently, built a well and declared that it was for my mother, Umm-i-Sa’ad. (The divine reward on it may keep on reaching her).”
– Abu Dawood and Nissai
In some other versions of the same Tradition, it is stated that Sa’ad bin Obadah was in a journey when his mother died. On his return, he reported himself to the holy Prophet and said that his mother had died during his absence. He felt that if he was present at that time, she would have made a will regarding charity etc., which could be of advantage to her in the Hereafter. The Prophet advised him to build a well. Sa’ad bin Obadah thus had a well built at a suitable place and dedicated it to his mother’s name, causing the Divine reward, on it, to be carried to her.
The dedication of an orchard, too, is mentioned in some narratives. It is possible that the well was built in the orchard. It was the second instance of a Waqf being created during the life-time of the holy Prophet, and on his advice.
2) Narrates Sumama bin Hazan Quraishi (Tab’ee): “I was present near the house of Osman (when the army of the rebels had laid siege to it). Osman looked at the crowd from the top of his house, and said: ‘I ask you in the name of Allah and Islam, whether you know it (or not) that when the Apostle of God came to Medina there was no well of sweet water here save Bir-i-Roma (which was owned by someone). The Apostle of God, thereupon, said: ‘Is there anyone who could buy Bir-i-Roma and set it apart, as a Waqf, for the common Muslims so that all the Muslims could freely draw the water from it?’ I then, bought the well with my money and made a Waqf of it in favour of the Muslims, as a whole, and, today, you are not allowing me to drink its water and forcing me to drink brackish water like that of the sea.’ The people replied: ‘Yes, Oh God, we are aware of it.’ Hazrat Osman, after this, said: ‘I ask you, in the name of Allah and Islam, do you know (or not) that when Masjid-i-Nabawi had become too small for the devotees the Apostle of God had said: ‘Is there anyone who could buy the land of such-and-such a family (that lay adjacent to the mosque) and join it to the Mosque, and the Lord gave him a better reward, in return for it, in Paradise?’ Upon this, I had bought the land with my own money (and attached it to the Mosque), and, today, you are preventing me from offering two Rak’ats of Namaz in it?’ ‘Yes, Oh God, we are aware of it,’ the people replied. After it, Hazrat Osman said: ‘Do you know that, (at the exhortation of the Apostle of God), I had provided (all) the equipment for the army raised for the Battle of Tabuk with my money?’ ‘Yes, Oh God, we are aware of it,’ the people replied. After it, Hazrat Osman said: ‘I ask you, in the name of God and Islam, do you know that once when the Apostle of God was on Mount Subir in Makkah, and Abu Bakr and Omar and myself, too, were with him, the mountain had begun to shake till some of the rocks had fallen down. The Apostle of God had, then, struck the mountain with his blessed foot, and said: ‘O Subir! Be still. There is a Divine Apostle on you, and a true and sincere friend, and two martyrs?’ The people, again, replied, ‘Yes, Oh God, we are aware of it.’ Hazrat Osman, thereupon, said: ‘Allah-o-Akbar! By the Lord of Ka’aba! These people, also, testify that I am a martyr,’ Hazrat Osman said it thrice.”
– Tirmizi and Nissai
In this tradition, two Waqfs are mentioned which Hazrat Osman had created on the advice of the holy Prophet: (1) The Waqf of Bir-i-Roma which, perhaps, was the first Waqf in Islam as it had been created on the Migration of the holy Prophet to Madinah. It is not possible to think of any Waqf in Makkah before it. (2) The Waqf of the land Hazrat Osman had bought and given for the extension of the Prophet’s Mosque.
The tradition contains a great lesson for the Ummah. The people, in those days, were, generally, aware of the deeds and virtues of Hazrat Osman, and the tidings the holy Prophet had given about him, and these things were so widely known that no one could deny them. Yet, in spite of all that, the henchmen of the Devil killed him in a most brutal manner, and, since then, the Ummah has been paying the penalty in the form of unending discord and conflict.