The Limitations of Diasporic Religious Trusts
This chapter examines the institution of the religious endowment known as waqf. In the eyes of colonial authorities, the waqf was essentially a trust, a form of preemptive asset-shielding. The waqf was simultaneously an apotheosis of Arab diaspora's efforts to settle in Southeast Asia and their eventual compromise with colonial authorities. The chapter examines the waqf's complex history in the Islamic world during the fourteenth century and how its revenues are disbursed for a pious purpose. It investigates the Muslim legal practitioners' accusation to the colonial judges of deliberately misinterpreting Islamic law when presiding over cases involving waqfs. The chapter also presents the English legal definition of “charity,” the meaning of charity in colonial courts, and the legal definition of charity in England in cases involving waqfs. Ultimately, the chapter explains the putative opposition of “colonialism” to “Islamic law.” It argues that restrictions imposed by English common law concerning trusts on religious waqfs were exploited by both colonial officials and Arab Muslims who wanted to reap the profits from the sale of failed waqfs.
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