Community Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments (waqfs) in Modern South Asia - article ; n°1 ; vol.79, pg 201-214
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Community Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments (waqfs) in Modern South Asia - article ; n°1 ; vol.79, pg 201-214


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15 Pages


Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée - Année 1996 - Volume 79 - Numéro 1 - Pages 201-214
14 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Gregory C. Kozlowski
Community Building and Communal Control of Muslim
Endowments (waqfs) in Modern South Asia
In: Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée, N°79-80, 1996. pp. 201-214.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Kozlowski Gregory C. Community Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments (waqfs) in Modern South Asia. In:
Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée, N°79-80, 1996. pp. 201-214.
doi : 10.3406/remmm.1996.1745 Kozlowski" Gregory
Community Building and Communal
Control of Muslim Endowments (waqfs)
in Modern South Asia1
emerge allied Communities ancient that In scholars the concepts theological within analysis seldom can such comprehensible of appear agendas. South as pause "communalism" Asian to in For consider one example, history, temporal context just or the what Hinduism as "communalist", frames term human communities "community", (Ladd, is aggregations timeless. appear 1959, are together Islam and so enslaved 269-293). how routinely may with they be to
historically rooted, but unchanged since the seventh and eighth centuries of the
Christian era. Worse still, in an age of nationalist fundamentalisms, Islam always
runs the risk of being completely alien to a national identity based on Aryan
ethnicity and the Hindu faith. When those vital questions arise, who can stop to
question the value of one definition over another? (Kozlowski, 1993, 75-92).
When conflicts between major groups emerge, some current styles of intellectual
analysis perforce look to communities, not as static, but as sodalities that express
themselves in public spheres often through "rites of violence" (Freitag, 1989).
* Department of History, DePaul University, Chicago.
1. Acknowledgements: My research on the contemporary status of waqf has been supported by grants from
the Social Science Research Council, The Public Sector Research Fund of the Aspen Institute, The Univ
ersity Research Council and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Research Committee; the
latter two belong to DePaul University.
REMMM 79-80, 1996/1-2 202 1 Gregory C. Kozlowski
Somewhat differently, postœlonialist/postmodernist theorizing seems to contradict
its self-professed agenda of overturning imperialist or orientalist constructions of
the world by awarding to colonial discourse a hegemony more powerful than British
scholar-bureaucrats granted themselves. All facets of India's history can be looked
upon as one or another baleful consequence of imperially sanctioned discourse:
the British raj produced religious communities. In that way, subalternists,
postmodernists as well as postcolonialists, continue to view Hindu and Muslim
communities in simplistic, even nostalgic ways (Ahmed, 1992) with one vital
A valuable insight about communities does arise from postmodernist per
spectives. It consists of a general suspicion about the impact of the progressive
nation-state described by Max Weber. The past fifty years of human history have
defied Weber's triumphalism by demonstrating that bureaucratized, hierarchal
governments have failed to demolish pre/non-modern localisms and tribalisms.
Maybe postmodernists have mistaken an admiration for the durability of smallish
social collectivities in the face of totalitarian regimes, imperial as well as post-
colonial/national, for a global rejection of modern statism. But degenerate, though
they may be, totalizing and oppressive states are probably stronger now
than they were in 1945. Nevertheless, Muslim communities exist primarily in fairly
restricted temporal domains. All-India or Pakistan-wide Muslim communities
appear together rarely in response to some big public issue such as in Shah Banu's
case or the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. They roil for weeks and
months, but eventually disaggregate into the thousands of localized groupings which
form the basis for everyday life (Kozlowski, 1993).
Community Building in Modern Muslim South Asia
In tracing the course of Muslim history in South Asia, a concentration on
institutions such as mosques, shrines, schools and graveyards yields a sense of how
material fundamentals have shaped, concretized and simultaneously diffused
religious ideals into countless local aggregations. To concentrate on nation-states
and various categorizations related to the fundamentalist, traditionalist and
cooperationist religious ideologies that those governments foster ignores the
locally embedded construction of communities.
This paper suggests that Muslim communities are more ephemeral than well-
established creeds, nation-states or even popular political violence. Local aggregations
survive through a skillful evasion of government control. Muslim communities
persist, in large part, in thousands of modest, almost unnoticed institutions. For
Muslims in South Asia, mosques, Sufi shrines, graveyards and religious schools
are such places. Each of those organizations resembles the hub of a wheel at
which a multitude of personal, economic, social and religious spokes meet. Every
spoke is itself in motion, a reality that makes any precise description of their
historical development inadequate. Nevertheless, the congregations of Muslims Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments. . . 1 203 Community
that cluster around a mosque, a shrine or a school do rearrange themselves within
historical limits established by the material resources available to them.
Attempts by ordinary members of local Muslim communities to gain control
over the endowments which support places of worship and education seem to be
a fairly recent phenomenon connected to modest, but real increases in cash-based
wealth as well as the greater availability of credit to individuals who might once
have been categorized as poor or of modest means. That process of building
communities by ordinary Muslims stands in contrast to earlier patterns of
local solidarity from the top down. For many centuries, local elites fostered the
construction of local, fragmented Muslim identities through the founding of
waqfs. That is to say that individuals controlling surplus wealth who possessed or
aspired to social, cultural and political prominence established endowments as a
way of expressing as well as preserving social influence (Kozlowski, 1985). For
example, neighborhoods (muhallahs) in towns and cities often grew up around the
palaces of wealthy court notables and, more rarely, merchants. The kinsmen and
men" (râ 'is, buzurgan) built their dwellings near the mansions retainers of those "big
of their more prominent relatives and patrons (Blake, 1991). When the râ'is built
a mosque, it was usually located within his home compound and served needs of
his own retinue.
Guilds of craftsmen or Sufi brotherhoods might also provide an endowment
for a "goldsmiths' mosque" or the shrine of a favorite saint. In such activities, the
richest members of the group invariably made the biggest contributions and had
the greatest influence in how such gifts were distributed. Once again, the
communities that gathered around mosques or shrines were, in some sense, the
end result of the activities of prominent men and women.
Pre-Mughal sultans certainly did provide waqfs for prominent mosques, their
own dynastic tombs and for religious scholars or important shrines.2 Such
endowments consisted of the produce of the land in some given district. The
comparative absence of cash in the period before the sixteenth century A.D.
meant that the resources so dedicated were very precious. For that reason, when
a new dynasty took the throne of one or another of the sultanates, it promptly
seized their predecessors' endowments and redistributed them to institutions and
people favored by the ascendant sultans.
The rise of the Indian Timurids, however, coincided with a major shift in
some sectors of India's economy. Increasing global trade, particularly with the
emerging merchant empires of Western Europe, brought a steady increase in
silver and copper coinage (Richards, 1987). By 1600, the Mughals were able to
collect about eighty-five percent of their revenue demand in cash. Thus, ownership
of the land did not matter as much as control of the liquid wealth that the
products of the land generated.
2. For a fuller discussion of the pre-Timurid and Timurid periods (Kozlowski, 1995, 355-370); some confu
sion over the system of transliteration has caused some garbled renderings of Arabo-Persian terms. 204 1 Gregory C. Kozlowski
A shift in patterns of imperial patronage by the Indian Timurids seemed to reflect
that development. Apart from a few notable examples such as the Tâj Mahall or
the Jama' Masjid of Shâhjahanabâd, the emperors, their immediate families and
household retainers apparently established few waqfs. Imperial administrators
preferred to employ cash grants which were more flexible: madad-i ma ash and
wazifah. The elasticity of monetary gifts made it possible to accommodate both
the extant Muslim institutions and centers of religious authority as well as the
constant stream of newcomers: literati, ulamâ 'and Sufis from Central Asia or Iran
(Kozlowski, 1995a).
During both the sultanic and Mughal periods, however, waqfs founded at the
local level by local powerholders, the "ra isocracy," far outnumbered those established
by royal governments. Because the documentation for imperial as well as local
endowments has almost entirely disappeared, we can only begin to pick up a
"paper trail" for waqfs in the 1820s when controversies concerning them reache-
d the British-established courts.3 The pattern that emerges in them shows that
individual râ 'is were creating waqfs that attempted to secure the material base of
their power and prestige. Since endowments were, in theory, permanent and not
subject to the regular rules of inheritance, they must have seemed to have been an
ideal way of securing stability in a period when land itself and not the cash
produced by the land's products, became the defining element of wealth.
As the British courts were, for the most part, enforcing a textbook-model
Islam that required all estates to be broken up among a specific group of heirs,
avoiding the dispersal of property through a pious gift must have been attractive.
For example, a fair number of endowment deeds from the period made it possible
for parents who lacked male offspring to preserve their estates intact by giving
control over them to their daughters (Kozlowski, 1989, 114-132).
Some pious dedication was a part of almost every waqf. Providing for the
upkeep of the founder's local mosque, distributing food or clothing at 'id
celebrations and the like helped to create communities, but such gifts also made
it clear that some individuals were leaders and others subordinates. Well into the
second decade of the twentieth century, Muslims who had some influence with
the British government devoted themselves to the defense of those "family" waqfs.
Since many of them were founded by well-to-do individuals who provided the
financial backing for nascent Muslim political organization, the course of action
was understandable (Kozlowski, 1985).
The later 1920s and 1930s brought significant economic and political changes
that caused a shift in the way that leading Muslims looked at the old "râ'isocracy"
(Kozlowski, 1995c, 277-291). The Khilafat-Noncooperation movement fostered
the emergence of younger leaders such as the 'All brothers whose activities were
sustained by eight anna or one rupee contributions by hundreds of thousands of
men" who ordinary people. The 'Alt brothers no longer had to rely on the "big
3. For an example of the detailed information that can be culled from a surviving paper trail, McChes-
ney (1991). Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments. . . 1 205 Community
had given the money and controlled the character of Muslim political organizations
over the previous forty or fifty years (Minault, 1982; Robinson, 1974).
Men of the "New Light", as they were styled, began examining the management
of waqfs as well as the distribution of endowments' incomes. Increasingly, they
called for some sort of government supervision of waqfs in order to insure honest
administration of both assets and earnings. British officials had long been wary of
taking on the direction of "native religious establishments". British civil officers,
nevertheless, became involved with both Hindu and Muslim establishments, but
in a haphazard fashion. Muslim leaders were demanding something much more
systematic involving compulsory registration and bureaucratic scrutiny of all waqf
accounts (Kozlowski, 1985, 174ff). All-India as well as provincial legislative acts never
managed to provide the kind of rigor that the reformers demanded.
Men of the "New Light" were primarily interested in employing endowment
funds to finance "modern" education. In that, the political leaders' views contradicted
those of the 'ulamâ 'most of whom argued that waqfs should only be used for training
in the Holy Qur'ân, the other religious sciences and Persian. That disagreement,
begun in the 1920s and 1930s, persists to this day in India as well as Pakistan. Indeed,
the entry of government into the management of South Asia's Muslim endowments
has remained a significant point of contention. Moreover, the interests of
communities in the sense of local Muslim groups seldom receive much attention.
Those communities often oppose the workings of bureaucratic agencies not only
in India, but in the supposedly Islamic state of Pakistan.
Since 1947, the system of waqf administration in India has been extremely
complicated in part because of the federal and state government's reluctance to
infringe upon the institutions of a religious minority. A Central Waqf Council
in Delhi administers certain prominent endowments such as the Jama' Masjid in
Delhi. It is also in charge of disbursing funds collected from a six-percent tax on
the incomes of all registered waqfs.
State and local Waqf Boards are supposed to supervise all other endowments.
Legislation at all levels of government has proliferated, but many Muslims continue
to complain about mismanagement and outright fraud in the handling of
individual endowments. The clerks of local and even state boards are civil servants
who happen to be Muslims. Even though India's economy has thrived, the salaries
of such individuals have remained comparatively small. A strong temptation
exists to take the original endowment deeds {awqâfnâma), to strike off certain
properties and sell those lands or urban plots surreptitiously. The chairmen of local
Waqf Boards are often politically well-connected people who seem more interested
in looting the funds of waqfs than in carefully managing those resources. Such
corruption merely provided more incentive to those who refused to register their
waqfs. Large numbers of endowments remain unregistered. The result is that no
one in India seems to have a precise idea of just how many waqfs are extant or
the state of their finances.4
4. Rashid (1979); the situation does not seem to have changed much since the publication of this work. 206 1 Gregory C. Kozlowski
Pakistan likewise moved to create waqf administration offices. Administrators
were bureaucrats with no particular training in shanalfiqh. Religious scholars
seem to be intentionally barred from having any decisive role in determining the
use to which the monies generated by Pakistan's waqfs were put.5 Waqf
administrators were empowered to remove the custodians (mutawallt) and take
over the day-to-day management of any endowment. Indeed, government officials
were apparently most interested in those endowments that had the biggest
incomes. They were also willing to sell off waqfs which generated little or no income,
sometimes even selling them to the mutawallî whom they had earlier removed.
Beginning in the 1960s, a combination of economic and religious factors led
to the government putting even more pressure on waqfs. Saudi Arabia became a
major financial backer of Pakistan's political leaders. The Saudis' adherence to the
salâfiyya (purificationist) doctrines associated with Muhammad ibn Abd al-
Wahhâb led to some pressure on Pakistanis to drop teachings and activities that
were deemed less than pure. For the majority of Pakistanis, attachments to the
shrines of saints and their descendants are a most significant expression of their
faith. Seeking the intercession of saints as well as of living shaykhs/pirs seemed a
perfectly acceptable way of being Muslim.
Representatives of the Âl Sa'ûd found that beliefs which concerned having a
living pir to advise one on every aspect of life and a favorite saint whose divinely
given spiritual power {baraka) could bring miracles smacked of idolatry. Arguments
concerning such matters are very old but, in this case, petrodollars added a certain
weight to the Saudis' opinions. The Pakistan government's Waqf Administration
became the agency which attempted to enforce salâfiyya doctrines. The Sufis
attached to shrines, in particular those with broad political influence, were now
supposed to teach their followers about a purified version of Islam (Ewing, 1982,
Not only did the Saudis' direct contributions enhance the official demand for
reformist activity, but the tens of thousands of Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia
who remitted their salaries to their kin left at home, became willing as well as
unwilling agents of reform. Being exposed to purificationist teachings in Saudi
Arabia, some Pakistani Muslims became genuinely convinced that the Wahhâbiyya
were right. Others may have acquiesced for fear that the Saudis might tighten up
the rules governing guest workers and the transfer of funds from Arabia to Paki
In formal as well as informal ways, a particular style of Muslim religiosity,
that is, Wahhâbî purificationism, merged with a particular economic situation in
which considerable amounts of petrodollars were working toward the creation of
a Muslim community. The community involved was, however, almost global in
its dimensions. Reformist preaching, encouraged by the control that the Waqf
5. The discussion of modern Pakistani endowments depends very heavily on Malik (1996, esp., pp.
55ff; 1991, 81-116). Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments. . . 1 207 Community
Department exercised over important shrines, was attempting to sway members
of local Muslim communities in Pakistan. That situation is by no means unique
to Pakistan. Similar movements are taking place in many other places in the
world, in the USA and India included.
In Pakistan, the desired effect of making tens of millions of ordinary Muslims
identify with a global Islamic community has yet to occur. Rather, smaller
communities have reasserted their independence with considerable vigor. As noted
previously, the 'ulamâ ' had, for many centuries, been the recipients of income
derived from waqfs. In certain times and places, they had acted as the custodians
of endowments and thereby found the wherewithal to create their own establishments
(for example, Marsot, 1973, 130-154). In South Asia, the ulamâ 'usually became
mutawalli only in the event that the founders' (wâqifs) designated trustees and their
descendants died out. The resurgence of local communities in Pakistan, however,
brought to the fore a number of religious scholars, in particular, those connected
to the so-called Barelwî tendency.
In South Asia, the 'ulamâ ' have increasingly identified themselves with a
number of tendencies established partly by personal links between generations of
teachers and students as well as partly connected to scholars' views on a number
of theological controversies. In broad terms, those belonging to the Deobandî and
Ahl-i Hadîthî movements are closest to the reformist position associated with Ibn
'Abd al-Wahhâb. Even closer to the salâfiyya-minded, are the followers of Mawlânâ
Mawdûdî in the organization known as the Jamâ'at-i Islâmî. The Barelwîs, most
properly, the Ahl-i Sunna wa-Jamâ'a have put themselves forward as representatives
of the poor and pious. For the Barelwîs, the other movements are, at best,
overbearing or, at worst, associations of infidels because they reject the notion that
the Holy Prophet had supernatural powers; they also reject the intercessory
powers of great saints.6 As antipathy between the Barelwîs and the others have grown
acrimonious, ulamâ 'of the Firangî Mahallî line have tried increasingly to position
themselves as the group most capable of mediating arguments between the other
Pakistan's Ministry of Waqfs has been directed by those educated in modern
schools and many of the most influential religious thinkers active in the process
of Islamicizing Pakistan have likewise had modernist educations. 'Ulamâ ' who
have had strictly traditional madrasa training have been relegated to the margins
of power. 'Ulamâ 'of the Barelwî group, however, are products of schools teaching
the Dâr-i Nizâmî curriculum established by the Firangî Mahallîs. Barelwîs have
also maintained close ties to the biggest and most influential shrines and to Sufi
The Barelwîs' primary organization, Jamâ'at-i 'Ulamâ ', has set about trying to
keep any waqf dedicated to the support oimadrasas and shrines associated with
6. For a brilliant study of the origins of the Ahl-i Sunna wa-Jamâ'a, ç^Sanyal (1996); for a Barelwî cen
tered institution in Hyderabad, India, cf. Kozlowski (1995b, 893-927). 208 1 Gregory C. Kozlowski
their group, out of the purview of the government's Waqf Department. At times,
various Barelwî scholars have argued that the government of Pakistan is in the hands
of infidels. As the sole representatives of Islam in the country, the Barelwîs there
fore assert that their institutions must be exempted from any government
supervision (Malik, 1996).
If the Barelwîs' claim to represent the mass of ordinary Muslims are genuine,
their defiance of an Islamicizing nation-state may well mark the beginning of a
new era in the history of the relationship between waqfs and Muslim communities.
In earlier periods, communities gathered around the endowments of an emperor
or râ 'is. Individual members of those aggregations were the recipients of pious
largesse. By accepting any gifts offered, the people admitted their status as
dependents and supporters of the great men who created those waqfs. Ordinarily,
the masses had no significant role in the management of such institutions.
Colonial governments and their independent successors likewise prevented the
masses from exercising any real control over endowments. Bureaucrats interested
in pressing agendas for the national good have often demonstrated less interest
in the local community than the old-fashioned râ'is. The needy majority of such
communities probably received less material benefit or simple attention. By
expressing the popular discontent of local communities and by taking an
unprecedented leading role in controlling waqfs, the Barelwî ulamâ'msy mark
a transition in which ordinary believers may come to look upon endowments as
a kind of communal resource that can be directed towards meeting their immediate
spiritual as well as temporal needs.
The Bayt al-madîna waqfoi Hyderabad in India may represent another possible
route in the transformation of old-style endowments that were established by the
râ 'is, into organizations that serve the community in new ways and over which
its members have some managerial control.7 Hyderabad is the capital of the
present Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The city's historical fame lies in its
association with the Nizâms of the Asaf Jahî dynasty who ruled the region around
the city from the early years of the eighteenth century until 1948. The titles
Nizâm and Asaf Jah (the legendary wazîr of the Biblical Solomon) were awarded
to the first ruler of the region by the emperor Awrangzib (d. 1707). As Mughal
power waned in the central region of India known as the Deccan, the Nizâms
retained a ceremonial respect for the emperors but, in every other way, they acted
independently. Through a series of skillful maneuvers and sheer luck, the Nizâms
managed to survive the eighteenth century conflicts between the British, French
7. All observations concerning the Bayt al-Madîna Waqf come directly from the files of the endowment
and direct observations made in Hyderabad in 1989. Dr Hasan ud-din Ahmed generously allowed me
complete access to any and all documents. He also provided me with a great deal of information during
long conversations. Dr Ahmed also corrected a paper that dealt at greater length with the endowment,
"Problems and Possibilities in the Management of a Muslim Endowment in Modern India ( The Bayt al-
Madîna Waqf of Hyderabad, India)" presented at the annual meeting of The Association for Research on
Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Toronto, 29 October, 1993. Building and Communal Control of Muslim Endowments. . . 1 209 Community
and Marathas. Under the British, they became the first ranked of the 300 or so
"native princes" who retained some form of control over their dominions under
the watchful eye of British residents. The Nizâms ruled over a territory that was
roughly the size of France.
As the British Empire came to an end in 1947, Osman, the last of the Nizâms,
declared Hyderabad's independence. In 1948, during what became known as the
"Police Action", India forcibly annexed the Nizâmate. The Asaf Jahi's territories
were carved up between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. What remained
was united with the Telegus peaking districts of Tamil Nadu to form the state of
Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra ranks among India's poorest regions. In a nation where agriculture is
the occupation of eighty-percent of the population, the state fares poorly. The
mountains to its West insure that monsoon rains are fickle. Hyderabad/Andhra
is located on the bedrock of the Deccan plateau. The soil is thin and infertile. The
rocky substrata make well-digging for irrigation difficult. Since there are few
perennial streams, artificial lakes provide much of the water for farming. Very few
development projects, whether attempting to create industry or improve agriculture,
have been undertaken in the region. In the reign of the Nizâms, however,
Hyderabad did supply a sufficient amount of cash to maintain the rulers as well
as their courtiers (most of whom were not Muslims) in a relatively affluent
Muslims in the present state of Andhra constitute only fourteen-percent of the
total population. Most of them had not been connected to the Nizam's court or
enjoyed the wealth it generated. They were small-time farmers, shopkeepers,
artisans and laborers. In the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secundarabad, however, the
Muslim population amounts to one and a half million, close to forty-percent of
the total. This has made Hyderabad's Muslims a significant political force. Given
the faction-ridden politics of the Hindu majority, Muslim support often makes
the difference between success or failure for the city's politicians. Among the
Nizam's former elite, a highly sophisticated literary tradition in the Urdu and Persian
languages remains strong until this day. Leading members of the Muslim
community still come from the ranks of those who had been closely associated
with the Asaf Jahi court.
The Bayt al-madîna waqfv/as established in 1942 by Nawab Ghazî Yar Jang
(this was a title awarded by the Nizâms, not a personal name) who had been a
judge in the Hyderabad High Court. Nawab Ghazi's father, Shams al-'Ulama
Nawab Aziz Jang, was a high ranking administrator and eminent scholar noted
for his piety. Nawab Aziz Jang was the author of some twenty books in Urdu and
Persian on historical, religious and ethical subjects. Nawab Aziz Jang built his house
in the Sultanpura section of Hyderabad. His kin and dependents followed his lead
by constructing their own dwellings within Aziz Jang's estate so that the
neighborhood eventually became known as "Aziz Bagh". Within its precincts, there
was a mosque that bore his name, the Aziz Jang Masjid.