Wikipedia: “is, under the context of 'sadaqah', an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically donating a building or plot of land or even cash for Muslim religious or charitable purposes with no intention of reclaiming the assets.” The article also includes a comparison between waqf law and English trust law, including a speculation that the latter was influenced by the former.


  • Hoexter, Miriam. “Waqf Studies in the Twentieth Century: The State of the Art.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 41, no. 4 (1998).
    • “it long served as a major instrument for delivering public goods in a decentralized manner” - but, the inevitable erosion of donor intent has led to a decline in legitimacy of the system, leading to widespread gov't confiscation in modern period. (841/abstract)
    • known also as “Islamic trust” or “pious foundation” (842)
    • “Originally the assets had to be immovable, although in some places this requirement was eventually relaxed to legitimize what came to be known as a “cash waqf.” (842)
    • A waqf's activities need not be religious or solely benefit Muslims; only the law protecting them is sacred.
    • The example of lighthouses - a public good that waqfs provided
    • Argues that the waqf was a means for property-holders to achieve economic security and shield assets from revenue-seeking rulers (843). Also that the waqf may have led to underdevelopment of Islamic world because the lack of flexibility given to managers. There was no “indigenous” ransformation of the waqf to modern corporate status.
    • Since flexibility required bending the rules, argues that the waqf structure fostered a culture of corruption (844), considered a distinctly Islamic institution, though with some prefiguration among Middle Eastern societies (848)
    • Origins of the waqf in 700s, a century after Mohammed
    • Original definition in terms of immovable assets only (846)
    • An ongoing tension between the waqf's roles of sheltering assets and provisioning public goods (847-48)
    • Oxford's Merton College provides possible evidence that the British trust system emerged out of the inspiration of the waqf (848-49n)
    • At the founding of Turkey, 3/4 of arable land was in waqfs (849), many did not serve purely charitable functions. Huge bedrock of the economy and financial system.
    • Motives for founding: piety, status, politics (854). “weakness of property rights made the sacred institution of the waqf a convenient institution for defending wealth against official predation” (854-55). (The waqf was therefore at once a removal of property from the private system and a strengthening of property rights.)
    • Distinction of “charity waqf” and “family waqf” (855)
    • The mutawalli, or waqf administrator, could be paid handsomely for the service (856)
    • Waqf also allows for more flexibility in inheritance than normal Islamic inheritance law (859)
    • (much more!)