First Inception of Waqf In Kuwait

Waqf is a purely Islamic formula which demonstrates the interaction between creed and developmental values in Islam. Such values are surely distinctive features of the spirit of Islamic society, through which waqf contributes in preserving society identity and meeting its developmental needs. Although life was very hard in ancient Kuwait, still its people were eager to do good deeds by giving ongoing charity which would subsequently help their compatriots to hopefully gain Allah’s blessing.

Waqf development has gone through different stages in Kuwait:

Civil Administration Stage (Pre-1921): Waqf has emerged since the emergence of Kuwait State when people used to build up mosques and donate them as waqf. This can be traced back to the first documented waqf in Kuwait embodied in Ibn Bahr mosque founded in 1108 AH/1695 AD. Many Awqaf have ensued since then according to historians.

Such a stage was characterized by the direct managment of Awqaf by endowers or by those appointed as managers (Nadhirs), the deeds of which are registered and legalized at one of the honest and credible judges. The late Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-adsani was the most important judge in terms of notarizing the deeds and documents of Waqf of that era. His term of mandate lasted for more than sixty years.

Waqf was not made at random but was intented to meet the needs of society and the environment surrounding it. Awqaf were varied: houses, shops, water wells, palms, and fishery, the income of which is spent on areas determined by the donors like sponsoring mosques, water dispensary, memorizing the Qur’an, charities and all good deeds, books, nawafil, helping kith and kin, the poor, etc.

The second period: The period of the first government administration (1948-1921):

The state system has been simple until the beginning of the 20th century when most activities were domestic. Additionally, government administration was concerned with defense, security, customs and the organization of maritime and commercial activities. But, the 20th century – with all the international and regional changes and the conflicts, world wars, and changes of world interests in different regions that have come up with – urges Kuwait and Kuwaitis to shoulder their way into modernization. Interest of both governors and governees in developing all walks of life, especially the economical and the social sides, increased. This was during the development of the state system and expansion of its interests covering a large scope of societal activity including waqf. One important established administration was waqf administration founded in 1921. It engaged in establishing rules and systems aiming at developing waqf in its entirety with the possible means available at the time.

The third period: the period of the second government administration (1949-1961):

The government did not content itself with the first step as a starting point for central institutional body of the waqf sector in Kuwait – embodied in waqf administration – but further endeavoured to widen the scope of its management. To achieve this pursuit, it enlarged – in late 1948 – the waqf administration to activate more efficiently the role of waqf in serving places of worship and the needy people. On the other hand, it strengthened at the same time civic participation in the supervision of the waqf affairs by founding Awqaf Council consisting of a set of populations and chaired by the late Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The first council was constituted in January 1949, then it was reconstituted in 1951, and was reconstituted for the third time in 1956 and for the fourth time in 1957.

Normally, the administration worked out an administrative organogram congruent with its responsibilities. This organization was first issued by virtue of decree appointing the late Abdurrahman Al-As'owsy the director of the administration located within the Old Court Building next to Safat Square.

Gradually, the administration started extending its supervision to the existing mosques at the time through Imams and Muezzins. Such a move was very challenging, as it was met, by some members, with much resistance. They think that it curbs their roles and belittle their efforts. As a response, the administration opened a dialogue with officials responsible for these mosques to persuade them handing them to it. Time after time, the administration became the direct in charge of all mosques and the money of the waqf. Immediately, the administration started carrying out a plan to organize waqf activities concerned with renovating mosques and setting salary schedules for Imams and Muezzins. That was a move in the right direction marking a new turn in the history of waqf management in Kuwait.

It is worth-mentioning that on 5th April, 1951, the higher Emiri order was issued to put legal rulings relevant to Awqaf into effect. Such laws examined waqf affairs through material educed from the doctrines of the four Imams with reference to legitimate rules stated in the Malikite doctrine about waqf issues which lack clear verses or Hadiths about the Emiri order. Such has been the legal legislation adopted so far until the promulgation of the new awqaf law.

The Fourth Period: The Ministery Stage (1990-1962): with the declaration of independence and the constitution of the first government in the history of Kuwait, the administration of waqf witnessed a new turning point in its history. It transformed into a governmental ministry and became to be known under the name Ministry of Awqaf founded on January 17 th, 1962 and later suffixed by (Islamic Affairs) on October 25th, 1965. Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs held many responsibilities, among which the responsibility of waqf. The administration of waqf was passed on to the deputy assistant of administrative and financial affairs and remained within the organizational structure of the ministry until 1982 when an independent sector of Awqaf was established in the ministry led by a ministry deputy assistant. What is leveled at this period was that it was characterized by the reduction of civic participation in the waqf affairs and its management.

The Fifth Period: The Brutal Iraqi Invasion Stage (1990-1962):

In this very difficult period of the State of Kuwait history, different aspects of resistance came into being such as the insistence of a team of workers in al-waqf to continue their strenuous effort following the guidelines and coordination of the officials in the ministry. Such efforts were motivated by the great desire to preserve the waqf documents, especially the old ones from careless loss and effacement, as they prove the existence of the legitimate government in Kuwait from time immemorial and that Kuwait has been an independent state in its administration far from being historically annexed to Iraq. The workers of waqf at that time succeeded in getting all those documents out of the ministry and preserving them outside. It is worth-mentioning that Awqaf Public Foundation is now – with the cooperation of Kuwaiti Center for Studies – analyzing the waqf documents so as to demonstrate and shed light on historical facts of Kuwait.

The Sixth Period: The Post-Liberalization Kuwait (1991-1993):

This is one of the central periods in the history of contemporary Kuwait that would leave a clear everlasting impact on the aftermath events in one or two generation’s time at the least. Citizens developed then a new spirit affecting the government administration positively as they were eager to face challenges and difficulties generated by the sinful Iraqi invasion. They direct all their serious efforts towards the development of Kuwaiti society according to a new strategic vision reflecting its faith in Allah and its religion and belief in a promising future for the country.

The waqf sector was – thanks to Allah the Almighty – one of the governmental sectors which has witnessed up till now a big advancement in the way it clarifies its objectives and develops its instruments of work. Some regulatory decrees were issued to reorganize the Ministry of Waqf and Islamic Affairs, by virtue of which the waqf sector subsumed two subsectors. One of such sectors was concerned with the development of waqf resources management. The previous waqf system led to many positive sides, top most among which the achievement of a degree of flexibility, a new orientation which attracted active elements to engage effectively at work.

This period was also characterized by rearranging the working units in the waqf sector and removing all sorts of aggression which struck a great part of awqaf, especially the real estate owned by waqf. During this period, charitable endowment started orienting a part of its potential to deal with some social problems from which society was suffering.

The Seventh Period: (1993-): Awqaf Public Foundation Stage:

Three years after the liberation of Kuwait, the level of waqf sector did not meet Kuwaitis positive expectations. That is why, a radical change was needed in order for this sector to gain status and appropriate flexibility to therefore engage in the practical work with much competence and ability. Many attempts were made to recover the vital role of waqf in serving and developing society, along with regulating the popular participation in its supervision.

As a result, Awqaf Public Foundation was established by virtue of an Emiri decree issued on November 13rd, 1993. It stipulated that the Public Foundation should practice the functions allotted before to the Ministry of Waqf and Islamic Affairs in the domain of Waqf. Therefore, Awqaf Public Foundation emerged as a governmental system which had a relative independence in taking decisions according to lists and regulations of the Kuwaiti governmental administration, and became the supervisor of waqf affairs in the country and abroad. Additionally, Awqaf Public Foundation calls for endowment and deals with waqf affairs, including the management and investment of its funds and use its proceeds according to the conditions of the endower and the legitimate purposes of endowment and the development of society civilizationally, culturally and socially. The Kuwaiti governmental administration should therefore perform the following functions:

1- Urging waqf;

2- Managing and investing the charitable and familial waqf proceeds;

3- Creating projects for want of meeting the requirements and desires of endowers;

4- Coordinating with the official and popular systems to have projects which meet the conditions of the endowers and the purposes of waqf in the development of society.

Presently, the sector of waqf in Kuwait is witnessing a new positively unprecedented turn. Its experience excels even those of many Islamic countries.​