Waqf Libraries And The Digital Age

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Ahmed Mohammed Alshanqiti

    University of Glasgow

Work text
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This short paper raised as a part of my ongoing PhD thesis that aims to introduce and study the concept of a Digital Waqf library. The paper argues that the current rules and guidelines of the concept of Waqf needs to be reviewed and updated in order to adapt with the digital age and the new digital innovations.

Waqf is an Islamic concept. It has existed since the days of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Waqf can be defined as a kind of pious endowment with special requirements and conditions. It aims to continuously benefit the community as well as seek a reward and forgiveness from God for the donor of the Waqf. The word Waqf in the Arabic language means stop. Therefore, the concept of Waqf aims to stop an asset from being sold, given away, or even inherited, and extracts the benefit from it to certain individuals, groups, or organizations (Nasution, 2002).

Waqf can come in different forms, such as real estate, libraries, schools, wells, etc. However, there is a set of mandatory requirements which must be applied for any donation to be registered as a Waqf. If these requirements cannot be met, then the donation cannot be registered as a Waqf; rather, it could be a normal donation and will not fall under the rules and protections of the Waqf. These requirements are mentioned in many different Islamic studies which discuss Waqf, such as Aldawood (1980), Kbha (1999), Haggar (2002), and Alshangity (2015).

Waqf libraries are a type of Waqf. They are ancient libraries, and many old Waqf libraries still exist today and contain valuable historical collections that include manuscripts, books, and artefacts. An example of an existing Waqf library is the Arif Hikmat Waqf library in the city of Medina. Hence, a Waqf library is a kind of public service body where the owner maintains the collection for the benefit of certain people or organizations.

However, Waqf libraries have not received as much attention as other libraries, even in the Islamic world. The literature lack studies concerning traditional Waqf libraries, let alone digital Waqf libraries. The majority of users in the Islamic world do not have enough knowledge about Waqf in general, let alone Waqf libraries (Kbha, 1999).

Waqf libraries have been important contributors to shaping Islamic civilization due to their valuable collections that include books, manuscripts, and artefacts. Hennigan (1999) explains that and states, “it is not an exaggeration to claim that the Waqf, or a pious endowment created in perpetuity, has provided the foundation for much of what is considered ‘Islamic civilization’’ (p. 1).

Waqf libraries spread through the Islamic world into cities such as Damascus, Istanbul, Mecca, Medina, and Cairo; some still exist, while others have been destroyed due to wars, such as the conflict in the western Kosovo town of Gjakova/Djakovica. In this example, the Waqf library of Hadum Suleiman Aga, which was founded in 1595, was burned by the Serb military around 1999, which resulted in the loss of its complete ancient collection (Riedlmayer, 2007).

Waqf libraries, like other types of libraries, have the ability to benefit from any type of technology to develop their services, which will include creating a digital version of their existing library. Reading through the literature about Waqf libraries, it mainly discusses the traditional version of these libraries, not a digital version. Therefore, one of the main and important questions of my thesis is to determine whether we can introduce the concept of a digital Waqf libraries, which leads us to the question: is a digital Waqf library still a Waqf library?

The challenge in this is that the traditional Waqf libraries are already following strict requirements in order to be recognized and registered as Waqf libraries, but how can we apply these to a digital version? Therefore, can we simply create a digital library and decide that we want it to be recognized as a digital Waqf library?
The initial findings of my thesis argue that based on the current requirements and rules of Waqf, not any type of digital libraries would qualify to be registered and recognized as a Waqf digital library. I concluded that based on the current requirements of Waqf, only a hybrid digital library would qualify as a Waqf library. And by a hybrid digital library I mean a digital library that is generated and based on an approved physical Waqf library. Therefore, the current rules and requirements of Waqf would prevent the registration and recognition of any born digital library (a library that exist only as a website or an application and does not have a location on the ground) as a Waqf.
Hence, that raised the need to advocate to an immediate review and an attempt to update the current requirements and rules of Waqf in order to regulate how electronic innovations such as born digital libraries, virtual schools, digital books, can qualify to be registered and donated as a Waqf.

At any rate, though Waqf is an ancient concept, it has not yet been reviewed by an official Islamic committee to adjust its rules and regulations to fit the current digital age. Increasingly, however, this kind of adjustment is vital and necessary, because of the great many new things that now exist, though a high portion cannot be accepted and registered as a Waqf; the current rules and requirements of Waqf would prevent such registration, and no one can simply issue a statement to adjust Waqf’s rules and requirements. An official committee of recognised Islamic scholars would have to study this issue and come up with new regulations on how to deal with Waqf in the digital age, thereby fulfilling the need for a detailed Islamic study to be conducted to study this important matter. Such review and update will allow different types of digital innovations including born digital libraries to be qualified to be registered as a Waqf


Aldawood, A.
(1980).Al Waqf:Shorotoh wa Kasaesoh [Waqf: its conditions and characteristics].
Adwa AL-sharia Magazine
, 11, 103–185. [In Arabic]

Alshangity, M.
Al Waqf (The Endowment) libraries in Al-Madinah, its history, present status, and future prospects
.Thesis. Cairo: Cairo University. [In Arabic]

Haggar, T.
(2002). Tarekh Al Madares Al Waqfiyah Fe Al Madinah Al Nabawyah [History of Waqf schools in the holy city of Medina].
The Islamic University Magazine
, 120, 461–506. [In Arabic]

Hennigan, P. C.
The birth of a legal institution: The formation of the waqf in third century A. H. Hanafi legal discourse
. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order No. 9927400)

Kbha, S. (1999).
Ahkam Waqf Almasajed Wa Al Waqf Aliha [Regulations for the Waqf of mosques and the mosques Waqf].
Thesis. Nablus. Alnagah national university. [In Arabic]

Nasution, K. S.
(2002). Colonial intervention and transformation of Muslim Waqf settlements in urban Penang: The role of the endowments board.
Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
, 22(2), 299–315. doi: 10.1080/1360200022000028112

Riedlmayer, A. J.
(2007). Crimes of war, crimes of peace: Destruction of libraries during and after the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Library Trends
, 56(1), 107–132.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2019

Hosted at Utrecht University

Utrecht, Netherlands

July 9, 2019 - July 12, 2019

436 works by 1162 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (14)

Organizers: ADHO