Unveiling the Legacy and Present-Day Dynamics of Waqf in India

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Unveiling the Legacy and Present-Day Dynamics of Waqf in India

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The recent demolition of the ancient Akhonji Masjid in South Delhi’s Mehrauli locality and other religious sites by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has ignited discussions on the fate of historic landmarks and cultural treasures across the city, prompting scrutiny of their status as Waqf lands. This raises pertinent questions about the role and significance of Waqf in India, both historically and in contemporary times.

Waqf, stemming from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), involves the altruistic act of dedicating property for charitable or religious purposes, with its benefits directed towards the community. Its roots in India run deep, particularly flourishing during Muslim rule under leaders like Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Sher Shah Suri, who established hospitals, educational institutions, and rest houses supported by Waqf initiatives.

Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar further bolstered the Waqf system, erecting opulent structures on Waqf lands and enhancing its assets. Despite the challenges posed by the British colonial era, Muslims persisted in dedicating their lands to Waqf, contributing to India’s independence movement and societal welfare. Notably, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement witnessed the establishment of numerous educational institutions on Waqf lands.

The legal framework governing Waqf in India dates back to the early 19th century, with laws enacted to regulate the management of Waqf properties. However, the British Raj saw the erosion of Waqf assets through legislation and policies. This led to agitation for improved Waqf laws, culminating in the enactment of the ‘Muslim Waqf Validating Act 1913,’ ensuring legal recognition and protection of Waqf properties.

Today, India boasts 32 state-level Waqf boards and a Central Waqf Council tasked with safeguarding Waqf properties nationwide. Distinctions between Sunni and Shia Waqf boards are delineated in the Waqf Act, with separate entities established based on specific criteria.

The constitutional validity of the Waqf Act is presently under scrutiny in the Supreme Court, with arguments emphasizing its pivotal role in safeguarding Waqf properties from encroachment. The Waqf Act serves as a crucial regulatory mechanism aimed at preserving these properties for the collective benefit of society.

As deliberations continue regarding the future of Waqf properties, it is imperative to acknowledge their historical legacy and contemporary relevance in India’s cultural and societal fabric. Waqf remains an indispensable institution, contributing to the welfare and advancement of communities across the nation.