What Is Wakaf?
Wakaf is an Arabic word which may be translated in simple English as endowment. A simple defination of wakaf is the dedication of a property by a person through a will or otherwise for pious purposes, religous purposes or for charitable purposes.
It other words the property is given away for the benefit of whoever as desired by the donor (the correct term for the donor is wakif).
The wakif will then appoint a trustee or trustees to manage the properties to ensure that the purposes are carried out according to his will.
When this is done, the property no longer belongs to any particular person or persons or even the state - it belongs to Allah (God). It cannot be sold, be given away or inherited forever as the property now exist in perpetuity until the end of time.
If for any reason it has to sold, then the proceeds must be used to purchase a replacement of a similar property which must then be declared as a wakaf property.
Other than land or building, a person may also wakaf useful belongings or objects which can be of benefit to other people. For example, a piece of carpet or chair can be made wakaf to the mosque.
In case the object is not an everlasting object, then it must be ensured that it is used for as long as it remains usable.
The Holy Qur'an strongly advocates the giving of charity:
"The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. And Allah gives manifold increase to whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures' needs, All-Knower." (Qur'an 2:261).
And in a popular hadith, it is narrated as follows:
"When the son of Adam dies, his acts come to an end except for the following three recurring charities - sadaqa jariya (charity that benefits the community), knowledge that is beneficial and pious children who pray for him."
- Hadith reported by Abu Hurairah
Wakaf Properties In Singapore
In Singapore, all wakaf lands and properties now fall under the care and management of the MUIS (Islamic Religous Council of Singapore). This took effect since 1968 under the legislation of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA).
Since then, these wakaf properties must be vested with MUIS - which means MUIS is entrusted to manage wakaf properties which have no particular trustees and to monitor other wakaf properties with private trustees.
MUIS now has its own subsidiary called WAREES whose special objective is not only to manage the properties but also to embark on enhancing the properties to maximise the benefits of these properties to the community as a whole.
Over the years some wakaf lands needed to be sold and replaced at other locations. Some wakaf properties were also refurbished and enhanced so that it can generate more income and offer more benefits to the community.
Variation in spelling and terms
In English, the word wakaf can be spelled as waqf, waqaf or wakf. There is no standardization of spelling in English.
The plural of wakaf is awkaf or awqaf.