Role of Waqf in the promotion of higher education in India

Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur

hamdard-blue-areaAbdul Rashid Agwan

India has vast assets and properties under Waqf (Endowment), governed by The Waqf (Amendment) Act, 2013. Reportedly, there are 4,90,021 Waqf properties in the country with the book value of Rs 5,468 crore and total estimated annual income of Rs 162 crore in 2006.  In fact, India has the largest number of Awqaf properties in the world having a market value of 1.20 lakh crore ($20b) with a potential of generating Rs 12,000 crore per annum; however, in most cases Waqf management continues to be poor and non-productive.  One effective way of making this Waqf treasure of the country fulfill its cherished function is to invest it in the promotion of education, particularly in higher education, which is also a dire need of the Muslim community today. There are examples in history and also in the present times wherein effective use of the Waqf institution was carried out for the promotion of higher education. The present paper focuses on the history, current practices and future scope of Awqaf in empowering educationally weaker sections of India, especially in the context of higher education.

An Overview of Waqf in Education

The institution of Waqf has been extensively used by Muslims for common good and remains the second most important instrument of human development in Islam after Zakat. Whereas Zakat is meant for immediate individual well being, Waqf deals with long term collective welfare and progress of society. In Zakat, transfer of entitlement is obligatory but, by definition, Waqf is non-transferable to a third party. Starting from the days of Prophet Muhammad himself (peace be upon him) and with the earliest creation of Awaqf in Madinah in the form of Masjid Al-Quba, Masjid Al-Nabi, Umar’s date garden called Thamgh, Bir Ruma of Usman, etc, Muslims have been assiduously using Waqf during historical times and even today. Starting from cemeteries, decorating mosques and birds feeding, to a larger Waqf and more significant in the social solidarity, such as construction of hospitals and educational institutions. The well known Muslim traveler, Ibn Jubayr (d. 1217), have narrated many of his observations as regards the wider use of Waqf in different parts of the contemporary Muslims world.

Soghra High School +2 Bihar Sharif
Soghra High School +2 Bihar Sharif

However, availability of literature on the Waqf-based educational institutions is quite scarce. A researcher Abul Barkat could find only 79 materials on Waqf education in his field study.  He reports, “An analysis of the literature shows that a majority of the literature deals with Waqf laws, both classical and modern. By ranking these literatures, the study shows that much attention appears to be paid to Waqf-based education.” He suggests that more research should be done in the area of financing education through Waqf so that mobilization of additional resources for education in the Muslim world could be assured. Literature in the field reveals that Malaysia leads Muslim countries in terms of researches in the field of Waqf in education.

With his extensive research work, Monzer Kahf (2010)  came to the conclusion that “since seventeenth of the century, general education is the second largest recipients of Waqf revenue. This financing covers libraries, books, teachers and staffs salary and also students. The big idea is, education freedom not only specific for religious purposes or religious education, it has to be embrace every level of social community, preferably the poor.”  As Baskan (2002) remarks, prior to even the 20th century a broad spectrum of public or municipal services in many Muslim communities were setup, financed and maintained almost exclusively by Waqf, which generously included educational institutions.  He further reports that during the Ottoman period the financing of health, education and welfare services was entirely entrusted to the Waqf system.

It is a well known fact that the oldest surviving university in the world remains to be Jamia Azhar, which was founded in 970 AD; however, Al-Qarawiyyun University in Fez is said to be the first university in the world that was established in 859 AD. These two and many other medieval institutions were funded by Waqf. The concept of educational endowment became prevalent in Europe about five centuries later. Robert Bruen (1995) mentions that some of the oldest modern universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, generally thrived on endowment since their establishment during early sixteenth century. Presently, Harvard had the largest university endowment in the world worth $37 billion in 2015. The fourth largest endowment in education and the highest in the Muslim world in the year 2013 had been noted in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) was endowed with $20b.  Islamic University Malaysia, Hamdard University Pakistan, Hamdard University India, etc are some other instances of modern times wherein the instrument of Waqf is being effectively used for promotion of higher education.

Background of Waqf-supported Education in India

No significant research has been done to trace and put on record Muslim contribution in the promotion of education in the Indian subcontinent. However, archeological sites in Delhi like at Kutub Minar, Lodi Garden, Old Ford, Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin, etc have remnants of educational institutions apart from other structures. Madrasa Nasaria established by Sikandar Lodi was perhaps the first institution in the country which provided universal education, where both Muslims and common non-Muslims could take instructions. The oldest surviving Muslim educational institution in the country remains to be Madrasa Ghaziuddin Khan which was founded in 1690s through a religious endowment and was famous for education in Literature, Science and Arts. Then called as The Delhi College, it received support through an endowment of Rs. 1,70,000 by Nawab Itmadudduala, the Oudh Vazir in 1829.  It became the historic and influential Delhi College which eventually paved way for the present Zakir Hussain College since 1986, as the largest college of University of Delhi with a student intake of 4,800.

In the article, “Muslim Institutions of Higher Education: A Growth Story”, the author has extensively explained Muslim contributions in the development and advancement of higher education in India during the last two hundred years or more.  He remarks, “The first seeds of modern education or rather western education were sown in the Indian subcontinent with the establishment of an Arabic institution called as Madrasah-i-Aliah or Calcutta Madrasah by the East India Company in 1780” which soon started courses in law and medicine. It is the same institution that became the Mohammaden College of Calcutta in 1848 and finally Aliah University in 2008. It was initially founded on a Waqf land. Two decades later than their first venture, the British rulers made another effort to engage Muslims in their pattern of education by taking control of the Imambada Madrasa at Hooghly run under the endowment made by Haji Mohammed Mohsin in 1806. Now it is functioning as the oldest law college in the country, named as Hooghly Mohsin College in 1937. In 1882, Hakim Abdul Majeed established the Madrasa Tibbia in Delhi, which progressed in due course of time and elevated as Tibbia College in 1926 and to a deemed university in 2008. Four decades later than the establishment of the Calcutta-based Mohammaden College, a similar college got established with the British support and through diehard efforts of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan at Aligarh in 1885, named Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College, which was elevated to the level of present Aligarh Muslims University in 1920. Many Nawabs of the time donated lands for the AMU, which presently is not only having 2,000 acres of land in Aligarh but also 22 Waqf properties in other cities. Around the same time Nawab Sir Salimullah donated 640 acres of land for Dhaka University that was established in 1921. Jamia Millia Islamia was also established at Aligarh in 1920 but it was later on shifted to Delhi and received many Waqf lands in Okhla area where it has its present campus.

Recent Trends in Waqf-supported Education in India

The Waqf-based education in the post-independence India is though not as glorious as in the past due to economic marginalization of the Muslim community but it is yet noteworthy. The enactment of Waqf Act, 1954 brought all Waqf properties in the country under the direct control of state governments which had formed in all 29 Waqf boards in different parts of the country. The Central Waqf Council, an undertaking of Ministry of Minority Affairs, supervises Waqf affairs at the center. Meanwhile, the said Act was amended several times by the Parliament and lastly in 2013 but finally yet not since there is a proposal under the consideration of the central government to amend it again. Hereunder, a few post-independence Waqf endowments and schemes of Waqf boards are being discussed to give an idea of the undergoing processes in using Waqf for promoting higher education among Muslims and other weaker sections of the country could be had.

Hamdard National Foundation

After independence, Hamdard University or Jamia Hamdard has been the first institution that was established and managed on the basis of Waqf income. Envisaging what is technically called as corporate Waqf, a business project was generously taken up just after the freedom, the entire income of which was endowed for the progress and well being of mankind. Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed and Ansarullah Tabani, two Unani practitioners, founded Hamdard Dawakhana in Delhi in 1906. The name Hamdard means “companion in suffering” in Urdu language. After the death of former, his son, Hakeem Abdul Hameed took over the administration of the establishment at the age of fourteen and single-handedly ventured a great Waqf experiment in the country. After his death in 1999, his son Abdul Mueed became the Chief Mutawalli of the Hamdard establishment in India.

In 1948, the manufacturing and selling unit of Hamdard Dawakhana, Hamdard (Waqf) Laboratories, was converted into an endowment. Its Deed dated 28.08.1948 provided for “Qaumi Income” (Public income) and “Khandani Income (Family income). However, the concept of family income was abolished by a declaration of the Settler/ Founder-Wakif Mutawalli dated 10.10.1985, with retrospective effect from 01.01.1973. The principal objects of Hamdard, as set out in the Deed, specifies in its Clause 44 that the “Quami Income” of the Waqf shall be spent within the territory of India and only on the objects of public charity giving benefits to all persons irrespective caste, color or creed such as on relief of the poor, education, medical relief and advancement of any other object of general public utility not involving the carrying on of any activity of profit.  In the Clause 45 of the said Deed priorities have been given “(1) To establish and run an Institute for the promotion of medical education and research with emphasis on indigenous systems of medicine. (2) To establish and successfully conduct a Tibbia College in conformity with the recognized standards.” The Clause 46 prescribes that Qaumi Income may also be spent “(1) To establish and run educational institutions, and/or to aid those which are already in existence. (2) To build schools, laboratories, wells, or such other buildings of a public nature as may benefit the largest number of people in the country. (3) To publish books, pictures, maps or literature or to aid in publication of the same by the publication of which the object of Wakf are fulfilled or achieved.”

From the profits of the company, Hamdard Tibbi College was set up in 1963 in Old Delhi which was later on shifted to its present 90-acre campus in Tughlaqabad. In order to effectively manage and utilize the income accrued from Hamdard Waqf Laboratories for the promotion of its objective, Hamdard National Foundation was created on 12 May 1964 to disburse the profits of the company to promote interests of the society. All the profits of the company were obligated to go to the Foundation. Both Hamdard and the Foundation were registered under Section 12A of the Income Tax Act. Coinciding with the establishment of the Hamdard National Foundation in India, Hamdard Waqf Laboratories Pakistan has also formed Hamdard Foundation Pakistan the same year. Its founder, Hakim Muhammad Said, expressed the mission in these words, “Hamdard … has chosen to serve through activities for the promotion of good health and education – the twin pillars of progress.”

During the course of time Hamdard National Foundation has set up around 25 medical, educational, literary, scientific and cultural organisations including, inter alia, the All India Unani

Tibbi Conference, Institute of History of Medicine and Medical Research, Indian Institute of Islamic Studies, Ghalib Academy, Rabea Girls Public School, Hamdard Education Society, Majeedia Hospital, Jamia Hamdard (University), Rufaida Nursing School, Hamdard Study Circle, Hamdard Coaching Centre, Hamdard Public School, Hamdard College of Pharmacy, etc. In 2008, while celebrating the birth centenary of the founder, Hakim Abdul Hameed Award was instituted by the Foundation for outstanding research in the field of Unani and Ayurveda, to be given on annual basis.

Though after becoming deemed-university in 1989, Jamia Hamdard has grown into a premier institution in the country imparting courses in medicine, technology, management, information technology and the like, but its recent significant contribution remains to be establishment of a medical college. Going beyond its traditional domain of Unani medicine, Hamdard University has established Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research (HIMSR) to undertake courses and healthcare facilities in the stream of allopathy as well, with the first batch admitted in 2012. The number of students served by Jamia Hamdard remains to be around 3,000. Besides that, Hamdard Public School has total strength of 2,200 students. According to the audited report of 2009-10, the Foundation had an income of Rs 34.8 crore during that financial year. Almost the same kind of impressive contribution can be noted of the Hamdard Foundation Pakistan which serves almost 10,000 students in its different institutions. A similar set up also exists in Bangladesh where Bangladesh Hamdard was established in 1953, which is also running a university and several other educational institutions there. Hamdard has been a great story of Waqf-based education in the Indian subcontinent, spread in three countries and its benefits are still increasing day by day. There are many philanthropic heroes like Bill Gates in our age who dared to donate 99% of their earnings in charity; but, at Hamdard, it’s a business to earn for others in the format of corporate Waqf. Hakeem Abdul Hameed once told his grandson Abdul Majeed, “Earning is not a problem but donating everything you’ve earned is a big problem and only Hamdard can do it.”

Hamdard, which started as a small clinic for traditional medicine in Delhi in 1906, presently has a turnover of Rs 300 crore, with Rooh-Afza as the king of its more than 600 products. Now, Hamdard (Waqf) Laboratories is targeting to achieve a landmark of Rs 10,000 crore with new corporate strategies. When this milestone will be touched, the income of Hamdard National Foundation is likely to soar with endowed income somewhere near Rs 1,000 crore a year, enhancing its benefits manifolds.

Though the Waqf-based experiment of Hamdard has generally been a saga of great achievement but it did not remain an even journey. One litigation came into court in 2004 after the death of Hakim Abdul Hameed due to sibling rivalry, in which it has been contested that after the demise of Wakif Mutawalli Sahib, any decision in the matter of Hamdard Waqf can be taken by the Majlis-e-Ayan (Board of Mutawallis) and not by the Hakim Abdul Mueed alone who became its chief Mutawalli. The plaintiff has also alleged that huge surpluses of the Hamdard (Waqf) Laboratories (HWL) has been reserved in fixed deposits instead of passing on them to the Foundation for charitable purposes. The case is still sub judice. The Delhi Waqf Board declared the then Rs 30 crore of Hamdard was a part of it. But Hakeem Abdul Hameed filed a declaratory suit in Delhi High Court to counter it. The case dragged on until December 3, 2011 when the High Court ruled in favor of Hamdard. There was a time when the officers of Income Tax have also abolished the right of the HWL to do business and have tax benefits as a charitable outfit. However, the Supreme Court has ordered in favor of the Hamdard in February 2016 while quashing the decision of the Director of Income Tax. These three litigations against the Hamdard establishment have carved a definite course for future Waqf venturists in the country.

MSS Waqf Board College

Myqyyath Sha Sirguro Wakf Board College was established in 1968 at Madurai at a time when “education at the collegiate level was inaccessible to the downtrodden and the less fortunate of the students who had neither means nor clout to pull enough strings to gain access into colleges.”  The college was a divine gift to people which came into being as consequence of agreement in a Waqf dispute. In 1967, a dispute between the Mutawalli Isthiak Sha Sirguro and the Tamil Nadu Wakf Board over a stretch of valuable property was resolved under a compromise decree passed by the Madras High Court in 1964, binding the parties to set up a college in the city Madurai. The state government also came forward to arrange necessary funds for land acquisition and construction. The college was finally started four years later with the stated vision, “to uplift the economically and socially backward sections of society, in general, and Islamic community in particular, to offer them the best type of education possible at the affordable cost and make them responsible and reliable citizens of tomorrow.” The Government of Tamil Nadu has also assigned a vast stretch of valuable land of 28 acres to the college at a prime location. Many local philanthropists, ceaselessly participated in the growth and development of this college. The college was duly affiliated to Madurai Kamaraj University. It was also registered as Muslim minority institution with the NCMEI. The college is fully maintained by Tamilnadu Waqf Board and remains the only institution of its kind in the country. It has a strength of around 2,000 students.

Myqyyath Sha Sirguro Wakf Board College
Myqyyath Sha Sirguro Wakf Board College

The College has registered a steady progress over the years B.A., Economics (both English and Tamil Medium) B.A. History and B.Com. Courses were started in quick succession. Gradually it started imparting education in such courses B.Sc. in Chemistry, Zoology, Mathematics, Physics, Electronics, Computer Science, Microbiology, etc and post-graduate courses in English Language and Literature, Computer Science, Information Technology and Management. The College library is equipped with more than 35,000 volumes. Many athletes and sportsmen of the MSS Wakf Bord College have carved a niche for themselves in the sports history of Madurai Kamaraj University. The college also received the best college award from the university for consecutively five years from 1999-2004.

Tamil Nadu Waqf Medical College

Perhaps inspired by the success story of MSS Wakf Board College, the Tamil Nadu Wakf Board planned in 2010 to set up a medical college cum hospital of 300 beds in collaboration with a Madrasa in Mayiladuthurai. 23 acres of land was offered by Jamia Misbahul Huda for the project as joint venture, and 30 acres of land was likely to be added further by it. The college, which was estimated to cost around Rs 60 crore for first two years, was likely to become operative in 2012. However, the project could not take off as yet. The board also announced the same year to set up a branch of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the state and a media college in Chennai. But, things have yet to materialize. Lack of resources has been mentioned as the main hurdle in realizing these and other dreams of the Board.

Three Universities proposed on Waqf Lands

A proposal for establishing three minority universities on Waqf lands was afloat in 2009. In mid- 2011, the Ministry of Human Resource Development discussed to give node for establishing three central universities on the pattern of AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia for catering the needs of minority students while using local Waqf lands at Bareilly, Ajmer and Gulbarga. The then Minister of Minority Affairs K. Rehman Khan boosted the idea further. There was even the alternative proposal under consideration to establish institutions of higher education in these places to be duly affiliated to Aligarh Muslim Universe as its distant campuses. It was somewhat modified in the later course envisaging to set up universities at Ajmer (Rajasthan), Mysore (Karnataka) and Kishanganj (Bihar) on a public-private partnership model for the benefit of educationally backward among these communities. The government had even finalized names of these dream universities. While the one in Mysore was to be called Tipu Sultan University of Science and Technology, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai University of Health Science was to be founded in Kishanganj. The university in Ajmer was to be named Khwaja Gharib Nawaz University. These universities were also suggested to be modeled on the BR Ambedkar University and the Indira Gandhi Tribal University, both primarily serving educationally and socially backward groups. However, the issue of implementation of reservation for minorities had held back the proposal for some years and after the succession of new government at the center the proposal seems to have been sent to cold-storage.

Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur

Marwar Muslim Education and Welfare Society has been providing its yeoman services to local communities since its establishment in 1929 for managing Muslim Public School under the patronage of local king. When Jodhpur state was merged with the Indian Dominion and made part of Rajasthan, the school was taken over by the newly formed state government which renamed it as Gandhi Public School. Consequently, the Society became defunct for many years. When the Society was reactivated in 1977, after its dormancy for some decades, following the independence of the country, it was allotted a plot of Waqf land at a prime location in the city of Jodhpur by the Rajasthan Waqf Board, called Takiya Chandshah. In days to come the property was further developed by public donations and became the main source of regular income for its projects.

Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur
Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur

The state government further allotted 5.5 acre of land to the Society in 1978 for its Maulana Azad High School, which boosted the spirits of functionaries of the Society. Gradually, the Society succeeded in establishing over 25 educational institutions for general, technical and professional education in a remote part of Rajasthan, catering the needs of more than 3,000 students. The Society could not have achieved all this, had it not been backed with a constant source of funding from the Takia Chandshah Waqf Complex, whereof the Society was appointed as the Mutawalli (custodian). The complex with 125 shops and four bank premises, yielded almost Rs. 45 lakh a year as reported in 2006. Its present income would have doubled. And, all this could be achieved with only one-tenth of the Waqf land utilized for building the complex.

One significant development occurred when the state government allotted 56 acres of land to this organization of Marwari Muslims at village Bujhawar in the outskirts of Jodhpur. Soon the organization caught up with the idea to establish a university there. It submitted a proposal to the state government in 2012 which materialized soon when the Maulana Azad University Act, 2013 was passed by the Rajasthan Assembly. There is no doubt that the state chief minister Ashok Gehlot took keen interest in the project during his respective tenures, firstly in allotting the vast chunk of land and then in promulgation of the concerning Act. The university tried to get the minority status but it could not succeed so far due to some technical hitches.

Proposal to establish Waqf University in Delhi

The newly appointed chairman of Delhi Waqf Board announced the Board’s intent in April 2016 to establish a Waqf university in Delhi to cater the needs of minority communities. He said that the Board has identified 30 acres of Waqf land in Indraprastha, near the Millennium Park along Ring Road. The university will be named after the freedom fighter, Ashfaqulla Khan. The Delhi Government has promised to provide funds for the set up. However, the main hurdle in the early realization of this dream project seems to be the claim of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on the identified land, a body which comes under the Central Government and as such not going to appreciate the proposal under political leverage of the centre which is not in good terms with the AAP government in the national capital.


It is evident from the above description that Waqf properties have been a highly dependable source for promoting higher education in different parts of the world as well as in India and not only during historic times but even today. The vast unutilized Waqf lands in the country and those encroached upon by private and government establishments and individuals can be turned into sources of knowledge for a community which is generally disdained for its educational backwardness. Thus, opportunities are there as well as resources, to eradicate backwardness. What is required is a conducive environment in the government mechanism and will and mobilization of Muslim leadership to invest their efforts in long time projects for the promotion of education, especially the higher education. As seen in many Muslim countries, Waqf in education should be the best platform for enhancement of knowledge in Muslim society. The said purpose could be achieved if Waqf lands can be developed effectively for educational purposes.

From the above discussion the following conclusions and recommendations can be drowned:

1-Out of 4,90,021 Waqf properties in the country, West Bengal has the largest, i.e. 1,48,200 followed by Uttar Pradesh with 1,22,839. Unfortunately, both of these states have educationally highly backward Muslim communities and the leverage of Waqf could play an effective role in their educational advancement.

2-As deduced by Farra Munna Harun, et al in the context of human development in Malaysia, the crunching budget in higher education can be met by developing the treasure of Awqaf in the country, which has a potential to generate funds of Rs 12,000 or more. This amount is enough to run 20 universities equal in size to AMU or 250 universities in size equal to Hamdard University.

3-It has been noted that with very large amount of endowments, education can be imparted to students at nominal fee as compared to the overall cost and it provides an additional source of educational development in country apart from the schemes funded under government budget. Thus, Waqf can not only increase the aspirants of higher education in the country, particularly Muslims, but it can also help the government in big way in providing an additional route of its welfare measures.

4-It is a known fact that there are only 3% or little more of Muslim students who join the privileged stream of higher education and Waqf institutions can enhance this figure exponentially. The existing institutions, established under the instrument of Waqf in the past or recently, are approximately catering the needs of around 1,50,000 students, majority being of non-Muslims. If the desired three central universities and the Delhi Waqf university and some other envisaged ventures take shape this number could easily be doubled.


[Abdul Rashid Agwan is President of Institute of Policy Studies and Advocacy (IPSA), New Delhi.]


  1. Congrats to the author of this article for writing such a beautiful, well conceived article. Let’s hope that the Auqaf mutswallis will take it affirmatively.

  2. I think this is really beneficial and full of knowledge this is deed to be translated in to various Indian language to in knowledge off all people Muslims of india

  3. Great Article with loads of Knowledge and sense of support to Muslim community.
    Dawateislami India’s department Darul Madina International School is also working for upliftment of Muslim community focusing on Modern Education system with montessori and Digital tools .If supported generously it will fulfill the needs of society regarding education.

  4. This article can be catalyst to fire in our heart to do something good for our community… Very well explained to follow the idea.. jazakallah Khair


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