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Waqf  - (Arabic, وقف, pronounced Wahqf, plural: اوقاف, awqahf; Turkish: vakif)  is a Muslim religious endowment or the public body that manages the endowment in some cases, "the Waqf." It may be land or a trust investment or any other kind of property. The basic regulations governing waqf trusts are laid down in Sha'aria law, but interpretation and implementation may vary in different Muslim societies. 

The revenues from the waqf may finance mosques religious institutions or charities. . Hence, the waqf is considered as a part of the mosque or the institution. In the modern society Waqfs remain devices for financing the administration of mosques and religious schools as will as for guaranteeing an inheritance.

A waqf in pre-commercial society would ordinarily be arable land, farms or oases. In theory the waqf is absolutely permanent, and once established, the contract cannot be altered or the property sold or alienated. Exceptions occur if the contract is violated in some way or if the founder or manager becomes an apostate.

One of the purposes of the waqf is to circumvent regulations that do not allow inheritance, causing wealth of individuals to become property of the ruler. Rich families donate properties as waqf, naming their sons as trustees. The trustee usually receives 10% of the income, guaranteeing that at least some of the money stays in the family. 

Waqf regulations differ in differing Muslim societies and have also differed in history. In Ottoman times, there were two types of waqf property. Private (Mulk) land could be donated to a permanent and inalienable trusteeship, a Waqf sahih. Miri land leased permanently from the Sultan on condition that it is worked, could also be donated as Waqf with the permission of the Sultan. This type of waqf was known as waqf ghor shih and, though inalienable in theory, was sometimes sold in fact.

Waqf land ownership is one of the legal modes of land ownerships prevalent in the Ottoman empire. The others were Jiftlik, Mahlul, Matruka, Mawat, Miri, Mulk, Musha.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: 

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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