On the System of Waqf in Islam

LIKE charity, alms-giving and gift, Waqf i.e., dedication or making of a grant for a charitable or religious purpose, too, is among the monetary affairs and arrangements that are a means to the propitiation of the Lord. As Shah Waliullah says, the Arabs were ignorant of the institution of Waqf before the advent of Islam. It was the holy Prophet 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)  Narrates Abdullah bin Omar that his father, Hazrat received a plot of land in Khyber. He went to the Apostle of God, and said: “I have been given some land in Khyber (which is very good). It is the most valuable property I have. What is your command concerning it?” The Apostle of’ God replied: “If you like, you can set apart the land as a Waqf and declare (its produce or income) to be charity.” Hazrat Omar, thereupon, dedicated it as a Waqf (and) charity in the path of God, (as the Prophet had advised), and laid down that the land was never to be sold, nor given away as a gift, nor would inheritance ever open from it. and that its income should be spent in the way of God,-on the poor, the destitute and the kinsmen, and on buying freedom for the captives, and in connection with Jehad, and in the service of the guests and the wayfarers. And whoever was appointed its trustee or administrator, it would be lawful for him to eat of it himself and feed others, within proper limits, provided that he did not hoard wealth and grow rich by means of it.”

–  Bukhari and Muslim


This saying of the holy Prophet contains a fundamental definition of Waqf and indicates its basic principles. The conquest of Khyber took place in 7 A.H.,. Its land, on the whole, was most fertile. After the victory, the captured land was distributed among the Muslim warriors taking part in the campaign, as provided by the Shariat. The plot of land that was allotted to Hazrat Omar was, in his view, the most valuable property he possessed, and since it was set forth in the Quran, You will not attain unto piety and place of acceptableness until ye spend of that which ye love in the way of God, (III : 92), he thought that as it was his most precious possession, his endeavour ought to be to gain the countenance of the Lord by spending it in His path, but could not decide what was the best way of doing so. He, therefore, approached the Apostle of God for advice who suggested it to him to dedicate the land as a Waqf so that it continued unchanged as charity. Hazrat Omar, thus, made a Waqf of it, and, also, determined  the items on which its produce or income was to be spent. These items were virtually identical to what had been laid down in the Quran[1]. The Tradition, in the end, tells that the person who held the property in trust and administered it should not take anything from it to add to his wealth. He could, however, utilize it, within due limits, for his own sustenance and the sustenance of his family, and for entertaining the guests. It would be lawful.


[1] Sura-i-Tauba, 60

(2)  It is related by Sa’ad bin Obadah that “I went to the Apostle of God and said to 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 After-life. 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 re ward, 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.

It, further shows the soundness and validity of performing a virtues dead on behalf of a deceased person and gifting, the Divine reward, on It, to him. The technical term for It is  Isaal-i-Sawaab, upon which there is found an agreement, in principle, among the legist-doctors of Ahl-i-Sunnat[1].

[1] People of the Sunnah and the way of the Companions.


(3)  Narrates Sumama bin Hazan Quraishi (Tab’ee) that “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 it 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?’ !, 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 it. said: ‘I ask you, in the name of Allah and Islam, do you know (or not) that when Masjid-i-Nabwi[1] 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 it. 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 Tabouk 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 Mecca, 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 Kaaba! These people, also, testify that I am a martyr,’ Hazrat Osman said it thrice.”

– Tirmizi and Nisssi

[1] The mosque of the holy Prophet in Medina


In it, two Waqfs are mentioned which Hazrat Osman had created on the  dvice of the holy Prophet. (I) 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 Medina. It is not possible to think of any Waqf in Mecca before it. (11) The Waqf of the land Hazrat Osman had bought and given for the extension of the Prophet’s Mosque.

The above Tradition, ostensibly, appertains to the moral excellence of Hazrat Osman and in most of the compilations of the Prophet’s sayings it has been quoted under that heading. But since it tells of the two Waqfs Hazrat Osman had created at the wish and on the advice of the holy Prophet, it seemed advisable to include it in this chapter.

It contains a great lesson for the Ummat. 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 Ummat has been paying the penalty in the form of unending discord and conflict.

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