Chapter 24: The gift economy: waqf in the Islamic world today
The revival of the subject of waqf as an economic, and more particularly a financing, institution in modern times is largely attributable to Monzer Kahf, starting with his contribution to the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World in 1995 (Kahf, 1995). Prior to this, scholars (Khayat, 1962; Ibrahim, 1971, 1980, 1983; Crecelius, 1986; Barnes, 1987; Çizakça, 1993) had researched and written on the legal and historical aspects of the waqf, but it was Kahf who singularly recognized the continuing economic relevance of the institution to Muslim communities. He built upon this stream of consciousness (Kahf, 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2003) until the spark that he had ignited caught the interest of successive scholars and students of Islamic economics (Çizakça, 2000; Deguilhem, 2004, 2008; Hennigan, 2004; Singer, 2008). In most Muslim countries, the early role of the waqf in providing public and municipal services has been taken over by the government. Today the waqf cannot exist in a vacuum, and has to operate within an environment consisting of many other nonprofit and charitable organizations referred to as the nonprofit sector. ‘Nonprofit’ does not mean that such institutions do not make or are not capable of making a profit in the generally accepted sense (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002), but they do not distribute profits or benefits to founders, trustees or members. Only beneficiaries as identified by the founding documents of the organization will gain, through the programs effected by the institutions.
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