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Waqf & Its Implications for the Modern Economy (Part 1)

Waqf & Its Implications for the Modern Economy (Part 1) by Murat Cizakca In this series of articles on IslamicBanker.com, renowned economist Murat Çizakça explores Waqf – one of the greatest institutions in Islamic history and how it can be revitalised. Pious foundations are known in the Islamic world as awqaf, boniyad or habs. Whereas the latter two terms are used primarily in Iran and North Africa respectively, the former is known, with slight variations, in the rest of the Islamic world. The word waqf and its plural form awqaf are derived from the Arabic root verb waqafa, which means causing a thing to stop and stand still. The second meaning is simply pious (charitable) foundations [1]. However defined, this institution, whereby a privately owned property, corpus, is endowed for a charitable purpose in perpetuity and the revenue generated is spent for that purpose, stands out as one of the major achievements of Islamic civilisation. All over the vast Islamic world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, magnificent works of architecture as well as myriad of services vitally important for the society have been financed and maintained for centuries through this system. The resilience of the system is, indeed, remarkable. It has been shown that many awqaf had survived for considerably longer than half a millennium and some even for more than a millennium [2]. A Turbulent History Despite these overwhelming achievements, the history of awqaf is a turbulent one. For centuries the fate of this institution was closely linked to the fates of the states under which they functioned. Consequently, they experienced dramatic ups and downs. The period of establishment and growth was often followed by one of decline and neglect and with a new state emerging, a renewal and prosperity once against prevailed. Nowhere in this long history of fluctuations, however, did the awqaf experience the universal and deliberate destruction that was inflicted upon them during the 19th and 20th centuries, a fact which pinpoints, of course, to western imperialism as the culprit. Yet, the greatest destruction took place not in a region colonized by the great powers, but in Turkey, an Islamic country that was not colonized. Since an explanation of this paradox has already been provided elsewhere, we will now turn our attention to economic issues. [3] The Importance of Waqf It would be appropriate at this point, to point out briefly the relevance of the ...

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