Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon

A headline in a Palestinian news site says “Historic Palestine is an Islamic endowment (waqf).”

A waqf is a concept in Islamic law where someone can give land, a building or other assets to a Muslim charity forever. It is roughly analogous to the Jewish concept of hekdesh. It is virtually impossible for land that is declared a waqf to ever leave that status.

When Muslims say that Israel is a waqf, they are making an Islamic legal statement that it is forever forbidden for the land to belong to anyone but Muslims.

The concept that Palestine is an Islamic waqf is quite new, though. it was made up by Hamas in its charter in 1988. The idea didn’t exist beforehand.

And it has no basis historically as well, as scholar Yitzhak Reiter shows.

waqf4

 

While there is a thread in Islamic law that any land conquered by Muslims remain Muslim forever, historically they were not treated as waqf. The “grand mufti” of Jerusalem, al-Husseini, who was no legal scholar, made the argument that lands conquered by Muslims remain Muslim forever but he did not use the language of waqf.  In fact, he appealed to Arabs to specifically endow their lands as waqfs to prevent them from being sold to Jews (and to give himself the rights to control the land.) This shows that even the Mufti did not consider all of Palestine to be waqf and he understood that there was a concept of private property in Palestine.

Within a few years after Hamas created the concept of Palestine as a waqf, however, the Palestinian Authority adopted the concept as well. The PA’s own Mufti Ikrima Sabri wrote a legal opinion in 2000 that took Hamas’ idea and tried to use it to help Arafat politically against Hamas’ claim that Arafat was willing to concede the right of return.

Historically, the land in Palestine was considered “fay’,” not waqf, land which could be bought and sold, as it of course was during the occupation of the Ottoman Empire.

The waqf myth shows how both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are willing to twist Islamic law for their own political purposes.



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