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Waqf: Its basic operational structure

Murat Çizakça studies waqfs evolution and economic contribution, one of the foremost institutional contributions of Muslims to humanity. by Prof. Dr Murat Çizakça[1] The waqf, its basic operational structure, development and contribution As its name suggests, this article deals with the modus operandi, evolution and economic contribution of waqfs, one of the foremost institutional contributions of Muslims to humanity. It is hoped that after reading this article, Muslims will be inspired to modernise and then re-apply this institution in their own countries. In Islam, accumulation of wealth and its redistribution are closely related. Once wealth is accumulated, Muslims are ordained to redistribute their wealth voluntarily. Income redistribution by resorting to taxation is not the preferred method; instead, helping the poor voluntarily, primarily through the waqfs, is definitively preferred (Cizakca, 2011). Charitable or philanthropic foundations are known in the Islamic world as waqf or habs. For westerners, not familiar with Islamic institutions, the traditional waqf can also be described, notwithstanding some differences, as a non-profit trust.[2] ‘When a person dies, all his/her acts come to an end, but three: recurring (ongoing) charity, or knowledge from which people benefit, or a pious offspring, who prays for him/her’ (Muslim, 1992) Recommended and encouraged by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), waqfs eventually became very popular. Indeed, Islamic economic history indicates that waqf, not zekat, was the most important institution for redistribution of wealth (Hodgson, 1974, II: 124). We have substantial historical evidence for this. For instance, during the 18th century, total revenue of waqfs in the ...

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