The recent communal riots in Saharanpur were the result of a dispute over an allegedly Wakf property. The Muslim invaders confiscated lands and properties owned by Hindus and converted them into wakfs. According to Islamic law, property endowed to institution founded for charitable purposes was safe from seizure by the State. In unsettled times, when Muslim rulers frequently changed, such charitable foundations allowed families to pass on their fortunes safely, as the deed of endowment could specify that the founder or his descendants be appointed as trustee. Many institutions were designated as Wakf. The Ottoman Sultans particularly favoured the Ulama in the matter of establishment of wakfs. As it provided the ulama considerable opportunities to acquire properties through wakfs as they were not threatened with confiscation of property after death. So also in India, wherever Muslims ruled, they created Wakfs.
The very existence of Wakfs in India shows that India is still governed by Islamic laws. Jawaharlal Nehru took no time to abolish Jagirdari and Zamindari after India was free from the British rule. In fact some of the Zamindars went back to ancient times, that is, the Hindu period of history. If these could be abolished then why not Wakfs? As a matter of fact, way back in 1894 in Abul Fata case, the Privy Council (London) had declared Wakfs invalid on the ground that ultimate reversion of benefits to the poor was illusory. Lutyen's New Delhi is full of such Wakf properties. It is time that Government nationalize all such Wakf properties. These may become a serious stumbling block in the orderly development of cities.
Professor Asaf A.A. Fyzee, in his book Outlines of Muhammadan Law has quoted names of several countries wherein this institution has been abolished. To quote : In 1830, the French Government took over the babous in Algiers, and later on in Morocco. Elsewhere Government control was made more stringent. In 1924, the Turkish Republic abolished the Ministry of Wakfs and it was taken over by a general directory, or by the secular state administration, as we would call it. In Egypt, it was Muhammad Ali who first confiscated all agricultural wakfs and compensated the beneficiaries, and in 1924, the Wakf Ministry came directly under the control of parliament. Although in Russia wakfs existed in Muslim districts for centuries, soon after the revolution such endowments were confiscated and declared state property.