A Framework for Analysis of Islamic Endowment (Waqf) Laws
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Author : Mohammed Obaidullah

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A careful analysis of the Shariah-legal framework for Islamic endowments (awqaf) across the globe reveals that the Shariah law as well as the national laws of awqaf are rooted in several considerations. Preservation of the endowed assets seems to be the overriding consideration, which has been interpreted variously as preservation of the assets in their physical form as well as preservation of benefits for the intended beneficiaries. While the former manifests in the form of stipulations such as, prohibition of sale, gift, mortgage that might lead to transfer of ownership of the waqf assets, the latter requires prudent management of the assets, efficiency in their investment as also, their development. Development may actually lead to expansion of the benefits for the intended beneficiaries and may at times require a degree of dilution in the stipulations concerning preservation. We find that actual laws and regulations as they are put in place over time often involve a tug-of-war and a trade-off between concerns about preservation of assets in physical form and concerns about development. We undertake an analysis of laws of Islamic endowments (awqaf) as they have evolved over time in India to present a framework. Needless to say, this framework may also be employed for analysis of laws in other jurisdictions.

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