Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Waqf Definition:

Muslim law: property dedicated to charitable purposes.

Also presented as wakf.

In Verma’s treatise on Mohammedan Law, the authors define a wakf as follows:

“A wakf is an unconditional and permanent dedication of property with implied detention in the ownership of God in such a manner that the property of the owner may be extinguished and its profit may revert to or be applied for the benefit of mankind except for purposes prohibited by Islam.”

The Indian statute, Mussalman Wakf Validating Act of 1913 defined a wakf as:

“... a permanent dedication by a person professing the Mussalman faith of any property for any purpose recognized by the Mussalman law as religious, pious or charitable.”

Often compared with, and similar to the English common law mechanism of a trust or charitable trust.

Waqf has a long and public history in Muslim law often altered to suit the requirements of each territory implementing Muslim law. One of the first references to waqf was, as translated in Fyzee’s treatise, set out in Umar the Second Caliph, who describes the visit of a person before Mohammed and who asks for advice in regards to a valuable piece of land he owned.

Absorbing this extract from ancient Arabic tales demonstrates the challenging source and origin of much of the traditional Muslim law. Acting on the advice of Mohammed, the person apparently:

“... made it a charity on the condition that it shall not be sold, or given away as a gift, or inherited, and made it a charity among the needy and the relatives and to set free slaves and in the way of Allah and for the travelers and to entertain guests; there being no blame on him who managed it if he ate out of it and made (others) eat, not accumulating wealth thereby.”

Verma asserts that:

“[T]he Prophet (Muhammad) himself made a wakf of land acquired by him for the support of travelers.”

Schacht writes that:

“[A]n essential feature is the permanence of its purpose....

“Objects on a wakf are mostly immovables, but also movables in so far as this is customary, eg. books.

"There are detailed rules concerning the administration of the wakf and it's used for a purpose other than that designated by the founder.”

Under Islamic law, the dedication of property for a wakf must be made by a Muslim and the transfer of property must be permanent.


  • Fyzee, A., Outlines of Muhammadan Law, 4th Ed. (Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1974), pages 274-274
  • Schacht, J., An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964)
  • Verma, B.R., Islamic Law-Personal Being Commentaries on Mohammedan Law in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, 6th Edition (Allahabad, India: Law Publishers, 1986), pages 622-625

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