In the glorious religion of Islam, after the faith in the Oneness of Allah and performing the religious obligations, the most important and valuable act is the humanitarian service and donating the wealth in the philanthropic causes. In Islam charity enjoys a high position and is considered as an important characteristic of the truthfulness of the faith of a believer.
Thus in the first verses of the Hoy Qur’an, charity is mentioned along with faith and the prayers.
The perpetual charity like endowments is the most useful and best form of charity which brings incessant blessings and rewards to the bequeather for contributing funds for the help of poor, oppressed and needy persons Among the various ways of contributing and donating for the charity, endowing funds or properties for a special charitable and humanitarian purpose is the best form of charity which brings in perpetual and ever–lasting blessings to the bequeather and relief and solace to the people.
The endowment turns the endowed wealth and properties into an overflowing fountains contributing ever-lasting goodness and blessings in all the periods to the society and continuously rewarding the bequeather of these wealth and property with divine perpetual blessings.
Here some of the sayings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) are mentioned which encourages and exhorts the believers to perform charity.
The Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) has said: By death the scroll of life gets folded for ever and the person’s connection with the world is severed for ever but three groups are exempted from it.
– A scholar who has left behind a scholarly work as a reminder for the guidance of the people.
– A person who has left behind endowments and charities by which the people are profited.
– A good and pious off spring who remember their parents during the supplications with goodness.
According to the great emphasize from the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.), the Muslims since the commencement of the mission of Islam endowed their wealth and properties for the charitable purposes.
It is mentioned in the books of history and traditions that most of the companions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) bequeathed their properties for charitable acts. Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, the famous companion has said: “Among the companions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) there was not a single person possessing financial ability but not bequeathing anything for the charity”.
Imam Ali(A.S.) bequeathed a large number of properties and great wealth for charitable purposes. The endowment deeds of these properties are recorded in the books of traditions. These endowment deeds has always remained as a source of inspiration for the Muslims during the last fourteen centuries.
The text of the endowment deed of one of the endowments of Imam Ali(A.S.)
In the Name of Allah The Beneficent, the Merciful
It is a charity Ali(A.S.) has bequeathed it in the form of an endowment which should never be sold or given to anybody and should not be bequeathed by any person until this earth and sky returns to their Creator.
The profits and gains from this endowment first should be spend on the near ones and after that be donated to any needy Muslim and Allah is an observer and witness regarding this deed.
In another endowment it has been mentioned: This advice is written by Ali(A.S.), the humble servant of Allah to attain the satisfaction of Allah Almighty with the hope to obtain the divine mercy and the refuge from the chastisement of the hell and get exalted on the day [the resurrection day] when the faces get blackened.
In this endowment deed Imam Ali(A.S.) has bestowed the trusteeship of this endowed properties to his children after his expiry and has issued a decree to spend the income from them for three purposes.
First Part: General charity in the way of Allah.
Second Part: For the pious and worthy persons form the family members of Abu Taleb(A.S.).
Third Part: For the nearest relatives from the family of Abu Taleb(A.S.).
This endowment deed was written in Jamadi Awwal, 39 A.H, by Imam Ali(A.S.) and many believers bear witness on this deed.
Imam Ali(A.S.) dug many wells and subterranean canals and endowed all of them for the cause of public welfare and charity.
Imam Jafar Sadiq(A.S.) said: My grand father Ali(A.S.) dug about one hundred wells with his own hands and endowed all of them in the way of Allah.
Till now the wells dug by Imam Ali(A.S.) are being utilized by the public and they are located on the highway from Madinah to Makkah and this area is called as “Abyar-i Ali(A.S.)” (the Wells of Imam Ali(A.S.)). These wells were endowed for the benefit of the persons performing the Hajj pilgrimage.
It has been mentioned in the history chronicles that Hadrat Fatima Zahra(A.S.), the only daughter of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.), also endowed orchards in Madinah. It is recorded in the endowment deed that: “I Fatima (A.S.) daughter of Muhammad(S.A.W.) has endowed seven orchards gifted to me by my father and the income from them should be spend in charity in the months of Rajab and Shaban. I had given the trusteeship of these endowed orchards to my husband Ali (A.S.).”
There are many instances like this in the Islamic history but we suffice with these examples.
Endowments comprise one of the important and outstanding laws in the Islamic economics for establishing equality and social justice. It strengthens humanitarian values and egalitarianism in the society so that unity, love and affection can be sustained. By this way love and sacrifice dominate the society replacing envy and enmity and creating a perfect and heavenly society based on the mutual love, coopeation and affection of its members.
On account of the endowment the original property cannot be sold, bought, transacted or gifted for ever. The profits obtained from them is spend in the way of Allah which consists of the humanitarian service to organize the economy and increase the standard of living both materially and spiritually.
The social history of Islamic Iran is associated with the righteous deeds of those persons who had bequeathed their properties for the charitable purposes. They shunned the greed and attachment to the hoarded wealth and riches and on account of their far sightedness and noble thinking recorded their names in the glorious pages of the history of sacrifice, humanism and altruism and their fame too became ever-lasting. By this noble endeavour they also obtained the satisfaction of Allah and set aside indelible treasures for the ever-lasting life hereafter.
Humanism and altruism is the natural instinct of the human beings. Persons get disturbed and sad by the poverty of the depressed and helpless people and obtain the spiritual satisfaction by sustaining and nourishing the poor and the needy.
Endowments are one of the best and ever-lasting manifestation of benevolence and charity, the best form of philanthropic service, inheriting permanent values, resolving the difficulties of the society and organizing its affairs on sound basis.
Clearly and boldly we can say that if the pious tradition of endowments is encouraged and welcomed by the rich people and if the bequeathers of the charities are directed in the right direction then most of the economic problems can easily be resolved. It will also result in regulating the economy and help in establishing the just system of social justice in the society.
Endowments before Islam
If we probe the history we find that in the past also endowments in different forms were existent in various nations and communities of the world. Before Islam, the endowments did not exist according to stated rules and regulations. But it is recorded in the history that the people bequeathed their wealth and property to the places of worship and in the charitable deeds which resembles to some extent with the Islamic laws regarding the endowments.
For example, it is said in the Book of Daniel, the Prophet, which is in Aramaic language that “Obliterate your sins by your benevolent acts towards the poor and the needy.” And the endowments of the Hadrat Ibrahim(A.S.), the friend of Allah are very famous. But in the Islamic economics, Wakfs(endowments) are clearly explained and its rules and regulations are codified in a marvelous way. The codification of these laws speaks of its deep knowledge and far sightedness which has been documented according to the teachings of this righteous school of thought based on the divine revelation.
The Defination of the Wakf
The word “Wakf” means to stop and remain motionless and confined. But according to the Islamic jurisprudence it is to stop the sale and gifting of the bequeathed wealth and properties. The profits obtained from them have to be expended in the way of Allah, which is the humanitarian service, resolving the problems of the people and regulating and organizing their material and spiritual conditions. In the books related to Islamic jurisprudence and discussions in connection with the Islamic economics different chapters and sections are devoted to the different types and conditions of the Wakfs in which their rules and regulations are clearly explained.
Different Types of Wakf
There are different types of Wakf and most important among them are as mentioned below:
The endowment in which the subject is general like endowment for the poor, endowment for the Ulama(religious scholars), the endowments for the schools and hospitals, etc.
The endowment in which the subject is particular like the endowments for his/her children, endowment for a specific place or endowment for a special person.
Endowments (Wakf) and its General Aims
The general aims of the endowments includes assisting the needy, helping the depressed, organizing the lives of the downtrodden, regulation of the economy, raising the standard of living of the people, dissemination of sciences and knowledge, spreading the culture and education in particular educating the fundamentals of religion and Islamic sciences, constructing and administering mosques, shrines, libraries, schools, clinics, hospitals, places of asylum, and other public welfare centres as well as constructing roads and bridges.
Purification of the heart from evil attributes like greed, avarice and the worldly love and its ornamentation with sublime qualities like contentment and altruism are some of the other characteristics of the endowments.
Wakf obliterates all the pecuniary tendencies of amassing and hoarding wealth and fills the society with love for the humankind desirous of high and good qualities. It elevates the thinking and purifies the conscience of the human beings from selfishness and worldly love which are the source of all deviations and aberrations.
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