By Cody Copeman
Sadaqah is an Islamic word that means “voluntary charity”. This concept includes any act of giving out of compassion, love or generosity and is the non-mandatory form of giving in Islamic culture (Wikipedia, 2010).
Often Sadaqah is made in the form of a “waqf, which is a gift that is used to bring a return, with the profits being put towards charity. According to the Kerala State WAFK Board, the word “Waqf” has its origin in the Arabic term “Waqufa”, meaning to hold or tie up. A waqf is very similar to a charitable trust or endowment made in Western culture.
A waqf can be made in many forms, including books, agricultural machinery, cattle, shares, arable land, money, buildings, a business and more. Often the rewards for this type of charity continue even after the donor’s death and for as long as people continue to benefit from the waqf (Islamic Relief Worldwide, n.d.). In fact, a very central element to a waqf is its permanence (Encyclopedia of the Middle East, 2008). For a donation to be considered a waqf, it must be a form of continuous charity and the original gift can never be sold or altered (Islamic Relief Worldwide, n.d.). The only exceptions to these restrictions are when donors or trustees of the waqf violate the contract or if the founder or manager secedes from Islam (Encyclopedia of the Middle East, 2008).
According to the Kalifah Institute, throughout Islamic history there have been three types of waqf. In the first type, a religious waqf, all revenue generated by the original gift is spent solely on the operation and maintenance of mosques (Kalifah Institute, 2011). The second type, a philanthropic waqf, aims at supporting the poor segment of the society and the activities of the community at large (Kalifah Institute, 2011). Libraries, scientific research, education, health services, the environment, parks, roads, and bridges are all examples of projects and programs that are supported by philanthropic waqfs. The final type of waqf is called a posterity or family waqf, which ensures that the donor’s family and children be the first to benefit from the revenues of their waqf (Kalifah Institute, 2011). In this case only the surplus, if any, would be given to the poor. This last type of waqf is very interesting because it originated as a way to circumvent regulations In Islam that do not allow inheritance, causing wealth of individuals to become property of the ruler (Encyclopedia of the Middle East, 2008). Wealthy families donated properties as waqf, naming their sons as trustees. The trustee usually received 10% of the income, guaranteeing that at least some wealth remained in the family (Encyclopedia of the Middle East, 2008).
Today, charitable organizations such as Islamic Relief organize large waqfs to cover the costs for long-term projects. For example, donations from the public to the organization are pooled and invested according to the principles of Islamic Shari’ah, and the income is then used to help the poor (Islamic Relief Worldwide, n.d.).
Encyclopedia of the Middle East (2008). Waqf. Retrieved on February 3, 2011 from http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/waqf.htm
Islamic Relief Worldwide (n.d.). Waqf Future Fund. Retrieved on February 3, 2011 from http://www.islamic-relief.com/Waqf/default.aspx?depID=16
Kalifah Institute (2011). WAQAF. Retrieved February 2, 2011 from http://www.islamic-world.net/economic/waqf/waqaf_mainpage.html
Kerela State WAKF Board (n.d.). Wafk. Retrieved February 3, 2011 from http://www.keralastatewakfboard.org/
Wikipedia (2010). Sadaqah. Retrieved February 2, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadaqah