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Early Doctrines on Waqf Revisited: 
The Evolution of Islamic Endowment Law in the
2nd Century AH

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This study examines the early development of waqf doctrine. Based on sources from the 2nd century AH, I argue that the institution of waqf emerged from a fusion of two earlier institutions: (1) the ḥabs fī sabīl Allāh, a permanent endowment for pious purposes that probably originated in voluntary contributions to jihād; and (2) the ḥabs in favor of persons, originally a life estate, which probably had its roots in an earlier institution called ʿumrā. Over the course of the 2nd century AH, the legitimacy of life estates was increasingly challenged, and the doctrine on ḥabs in favor of persons was gradually modified until the institution eventually lost its temporary character. By the end of the 2nd century, the ḥabs in favor of persons had become a variation of the ḥabs fī sabīl Allāh: It was accepted as valid only if the settlor stipulated that after the beneficiaries’ death the donation should become a permanent endowment for a pious purpose.

Affiliations: 1: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Institut für Arabistik und Islamwissenschaft, Schlaunstraße 2, 48143 Münster, Germany


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