Waqfs In India: Need For A Rethink – Analysis


Waqf is an Arabic word derived from “Waqafa” which literally means ‘religious endowment’. It is recognized by the Islamic law as religious, pious or charitable donation. It is perpetual, inalienable and irrevocable in nature as it is something dedicated to God,therfore,cannot be sold but once a waqf always remains so. It is used in Islam in the meaning of holding certain property and preserving it for the confined benefit of certain philanthropy and prohibiting any use or deposition of it outside that specific objective. The familiar term, for such trusts, in the texts of Shariah, is sadaqah and habs. However Islamic jurists also use the term waqf, which is sometimes written as Wakf or Waqf Auqaf, Awqaf, etc,. The Islamic jurists use words Habs or Tasbil for the same concept.

Importance of Auqaf

Waqf is a parallel economic pursuit, a parallel welfare body. It has a massive public scope because of sentiments and it can be used as an institution of economic development. Owing to religious composition of india’s social structure, the existence and role of Waqf cannot be overlooked. The notion of Waqf in India, particularly in Kashmir, is more or less represented by Waqf of properties of mosques, shrines etc. Where as the institution started from the onset of muslim rule in india (more than 800 years ago ) and today has the potential of about one lakh twenty thousand crores but even less than one percent of the income is achieved owing to mal-administration,legal issues,land grab and encroachment and absence of proper control and waqf administration (As per Sachar Committee report).

Likewise,The institution of Waqf in Kashmir exists from mid 1940’s, though in an informal way and got more formalized from 1983. In the Kashmir context, important shrines and mosques were under the control of Idara-i-Auqaf Islamia which was commonly known as Muslim Auqaf Trust (MAT). The Idara (organization) was by and large an efficient and effective organization under the overall patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (Sher-e-Kashmir) till his death and his family but 1990’s on wards, the institution experienced deterioration in its proper functioning, though structurally it developed from time to time. The post 2000 era in Kashmir represented the major restructuring of organization and it was rechristened as J&K Muslim Waqf Board in 2003. Currently Waqf supports many darghas, madrassas, schools, colleges and Islamic University of Science and Technology in South Kashmir. Also Waqf in Kashmir has about 1200 employees consisting of imams, mutawallis, administrators and supervisors.

However the organization’s functioning in present Kashmir is being questioned by many intellectuals on the grounds of corruption, alienation and encroachment of Waqf property especially illegal occupation of Waqf land by encroacheres and administration being unable to get it back.

Prospect & Problems

Except a layman’s discussion on the concept of Waqf and the subject usually found in public debates and newspaper articles, hardly a serious scholarly discourse prevails or there lies any serious concern toward the research in Waqf studies. Currently we find that hardly any such empirical study is being done on this subject and its allied domains. Actually which makes Waqf a less understood institution and a difficult to deal with is the administration problem or creation of income generating assets. Recently through an opinionnaire, the perception of Muslim youths was sought by me both in Delhi and Kashmir (online), on the subject of the awareness about Auqaf among younger generation. Out of 100 youths, just 18 students knew about the concept of Auqaf or Waqf and about 50% of them knew Waqf as mere Waqf Board and 5% of the students could argue about the role of Auqaf in Muslim welfare.

The opinion was collected to ascertain how the Muslim youth sees the Waqf institution in India in the context of current role and prospect and Waqf’s educational role, Muslim empowerment, etc,. Also those who know anything about Waqf, instantly utter the term “Waqf Board” only. Not to talk of non-Muslims, hardly Muslim younger generation is aware of the institution of Waqf, its meaning and significance for the Muslim welfare.

The fact is even the country lacks efficient Waqf administrators to handle Waqf Boards and run the affairs smoothly. Right from the valley to the national capital, Muslim youth seem to be very ignorant about Auqaf, perhaps due to media’s negligence and dismal role of the state in promoting Auqaf. Lack of Waqf administrative services cadre. Also Waqf research has not been paid much attention and very few researches at doctoral level have been conducted in India or abroad.

However, the state of auqaf in Jammu and Kashmir and particularly Haryana has changed a lot in positive terms be that educational contribution,philonthropy,etc, despite a lot of scope for improvement. The fact is under the ample leadership of former academic M. Y Qadri (the current Vice- Chairman of J&K Muslim Waqf Board) and Mr. Naseem Ahmad (former IAS and former Vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University), Administrator of Haryana Waqf Board, both the Boards of Kashmir and Haryana have developed a lot in terms of contribution to society despite being beset with so many problems. Waqf Board under M. Y. Qadri has widened its activities especially after 2003 when it was rechristened from Auqaf Trust to Waqf Board. Currently it possesses no more than 1300 kanals (out of total 85000 kanals in the entire state as per some estimates) besides having the total property worth about Rs 2000 crores including more than 3400 shops including few shopping complexes and Hotels.

Also Haryana Waqf board has been leading all the 28 boards of the country in terms of the establishment of educational institutions,thereby contributing the Indian Muslim society in their capacity.

The Waqf can turn to a massive potential institution and thus can play a major role in Muslim upliftment; be it charity, socio-economic development of poor Muslims, education, health or Madrassa development provided spared of politicization and mismanagement which are seen in many Boards presently. Also the lack of Waqf experts haunts every Waqf Board and shortage of efficient staff and trained personnel to handle the situations is the biggest impediment to the Waqf development. Are we, as Muslim youth; ready to handle our own affairs is a question worth pondering.

But nothing will change by simply cursing the system unless we ourselves become the part of the system and work our bit for the empowerment and upliftment of our own institutions like Waqf rather than resorting to negative politics. Yes, the question is, are we ready to renovate and improve the Muslim state in the holistic country by our own actions and work, leaving apart unfair criticism and shall we be given the chance to contribute to the system?

The answer is simple. Get the skill, work hard, explore your respective fields and release the ghost of unemployment from your psyche. Before crying against unemployment, see whether you are employable and worth enough to contribute to the system or not. The problem will get solved by itself. Are we ready to keep the legacy forward or remain busy in gaining employment simply to run our own material comforts? This discussion may not enlighten us on whether there is a widely prevalent sense of Muslim alienation in the country but can surely enlighten us how the situation is perceived by Muslims which is utterly pessimistic.

While the term alienation has been widely used, its precise meaning has proved to be elusive in more ways than one. It is used generically to denote a turning away, estrangement, a state of being an outsider or the feeling of being isolated from society or a state in which a person’s feelings are inhibited so that eventually both the self and the external world appear unreal. This has serious implications for using the concept in relation to a discussion of situation of Muslims in India. Even the most casual reading of the popular discussion tells us that a wide variety of feelings and sensibilities are subsumed under this word without discriminating their implications.

Fear, resentment, a sense of protest or anger is all subsumed under the word alienation as if they were not only the same but also as if they have the same implications for behavior of Muslims. If one is serious about understanding whether alienation of Muslims prevails in society, one must begin by distinguishing these different kinds of sensibilities and identify more rigorously than has been done so far those sensibilities that denote alienation from those that denote other kinds of dispositions or sensibilities.

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The three basic premises of Waqf, I.e. the principle of irrevocablity perpetuity and inalienability are the main obstacles to the development of waqf properties especially Lands. Therefore, sustaining its basic principles Waqf’s contribution to the welfare of society can be made at par with other modern developmental and empowering institutions. There is need for rethinking of the present concept of waqf, either through studying the existing minority opinions or finding new solutions.

The institution of Waqf alone can be a major source of survival of the needy and can give boost to education, especially education of the poor Muslims Auqaf if developed holistically and administered properly can prove a tool of empowerment in Muslim societies and the downtrodden Muslim youth can excel well in all career pursuits. We as Muslim youth have to realize our duties and work for the holistic Islamic institutional strengthening. However, Muslim youth and scholars need to rethink and ponder seriously upon the missing links and dis junctions from their rich past as we cannot afford to progress at the huge cost of rich Islamic ethos.

Auqaf in the holistic India can bring a positive change in the life of every musli of the country because of its huge potential provided it is looked after well,regulated and controlled well and made more income generating and corruption free.Besides there is a dire need of the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations pertaining to Wakfs in India.

Dr. Adfer Shah

Dr. Adfer Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based Sociologist and Social and Political analyst.He writes his columns for various reputed international and national media groups. He has been writing on South Asia's Socio-political realities especially on Kashmir sociology and Conflict Situation at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is a Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and Associate Editor since January 2014. His recent publications include his three books (1)"Kashmir-Yearning for Peace: A Socio-Political history of Uncertainty and Chaos,2016" (ISSN: 978-3-659-55971-6), (2)'Social Science Research in Conflict Zones,2017' (ISBN: 978-620-2-47937- 0) and (3)'Tibetan Refugees in India: Struggle to Survive,2018' ( ISBN 81-8324-919-1)]..

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