The Art of Community



The Art of Community

Zakat and Awqaf in the future of Islam in England1

He has laid down the same deen for you as He enjoined on Nuh: that which We have revealed to you and which We enjoined on Ibrahim, Musa and ‘Isa: ‘Establish the deen and do not make divisions in it.’ What you call the idolators to follow is very hard for them. Allah chooses for Himself anyone He wills and guides to Himself those who turn to Him.” (Surat ash-Shura 42:13)

Establish the deen and do not make divisions in it.

At the beginning there is genuine wonder that there is anything whatsoever rather than nothing at all. Wonder is the beginning of philosophy, but gradually it turns into “I wonder what? how? why?” That leads to the cataloguing of existence – think of Linnaeus and his classification system for plants, and the work of Darwin, think of the detailing of the picture of the physical elements and so on, and the mapping and naming of the stars and galaxies. The next step is that the cataloguing becomes subject to our need to use the world, itself the result of our seeing the world as something to be used. That gives us the modern technological world. When we talk about technology in this sense, it is not about the machines and gadgets, for they are neither here nor there. But it is about man and society become machine, with a contrary trajectory of machine being brought to converge with humanity. Governance, medicine, education and policing have become automated ways of processing human beings to produce something. 

This came about within the Judaeo-Christian world, which contributes its own essential elements to the tale. The Judaeo part gave the picture of the Divine as remote and austere, above the heavens, at the beginning and the end of creation, but nowhere to be seen in the present. In that present on the basis of an already demanding shari‘a the rabbis proliferated rituals and laws, and then they found clever ways to circumvent the laws, particularly when it came to usury. Banking was born, but more importantly fiat money, a genuinely new religion, the idea that money could be invented out of nothing. 

The Christian part came about with the appearance of ‘Isa, peace be upon him, who as a Messenger lightened the burden of the Mosaic shari‘a, for which the rabbis hated him as they had made an idol out of law and ritual. He also brought a wisdom, which almost vanished in the Greco-mix that was Paul’s formulation, whose appalling contribution here was the god-man thesis, may Allah forgive us for mentioning it. It formed the modern subject, the being who gazes on the world of objects imperially and catalogues them and uses them, until paradoxically they turn back on him and use him.

Then the Messenger of Allah appears, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, with the Book and the Wisdom, the Hikma. Ibn Juzayy says in his tafsir that Hikma itself is knowledge and ‘aql,2 and we would do well not to translate this latter too facilely as intellect. Its locus is the heart. He says that when in the Book Hikma is coupled with the Book, it means the Sunna. What some have turned into a sort of Judaic ritual and law is itself wisdom. Thus Islam reconciles shari‘a and wisdom which were, unnecessarily, split and divided between the Jews and the Christians.


Nihilism is life drained of meaning. A useful dictum to take with us on our journey today is Carl Schmitt’s definition of nihilism as “the separation of order and location,”3 to which Abu Bakr Rieger added a third term: time.4 ISIS was a manifestation of an order in a location but with a disconnect from the age. To be free of nihilism an order needs to have a location and to be of its age. 

Thus, the Internet is an order but without location. A number of countries today experience the opposite: they are locations without order. Originally when writing this I suggested that Somalia and Lebanon have been examples of that at various times in recent history. However, the work of Dr. Matthew Gordon in researching Somaliland’s apparent anarchy forced me to revise my understanding:

…I developed a sense that Somaliland had a story to tell that was buried beneath the existing literature, one that wasn’t a simple story of peacebuilding and state-building, but of improvised, decentralised governance that looks very different to how a state functions, yet works despite (or, rather, because of) this statelessness. It was then that I decided to pursue a PhD, where I investigated the mechanics of how Somaliland’s non-state governance operates.5

If the apparent anarchy of Somaliland is far from what it seems and is in fact a sophisticated and very workable inter-relationship between clans, tribes and families, and if, in an earlier moment in Lebanese history with the collapse of the government, the society continued to function very effectively without a state, then we must look further for our example of location without order. Given the concern of the greatest of the Western tradition with this matter, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Schmitt et al, and their recognition of nihilism within our culture, then the precise dislocation between order and location I leave the reader to reflect on. 

The community of meaning needs a location and not merely to be a digital community, although perhaps there is no way to escape having some part in the digital.


First of all, community is fractal in nature and can denote everything from the smallest most inconspicuous grouping to the umma itself. 

The root of community is ‘common’, and it connects to other words such as communicate. ‘Commune’ as a verb means a very close and intimate kind of communication, but as a noun in France and Denmark and elsewhere, means a local unit of government underneath the state. What we hold in common gives community. Later we will come to look at the awqaf which bear a striking resemblance to the old institution of the commons, which were so whittled away and finally devoured by the state and by capitalism, just as was the case with the awqaf. We might extend this thinking to the Internet, which some might consider all that is left of community for many today, and which legally we think is a perfect case for being a commons rather than the feeding ground of capitalists. We would have to consider the mosque, which is or ought to be a waqf, and the marketplace is a waqf in the shari‘a.

In some sense, all that is earth. In heavenly terms, we hold language and meanings in common. And the philosopher Ibrahim Lawson makes a strong case for regarding community as the sharing of meanings – and remember that meaning can be of this worldly life life or the next, of the visible world or the unseen, of the high or the low, of the material or the spiritual – and on the basis of that he posits the idea of the learning community.

At the base of the issue is the balance between individual freedom and the common good, one of the oldest matters that challenged the human intellect. But deeper still there is the relation between the One and the many, between unity and multiplicity, themes that have exercised human thinking since the beginning, and still do. Scientific thinking is an implicit articulation of the unity in the creation inasmuch as it expects and assumes that the same ‘laws’ operate at every level of the creation far and wide. 

Gestell and the standing reserve

And yet, although we acknowledge the sense of unity, our universal experience is also of the multiplicity of beings. For the purposes of our thinking today, this issue of the individual and the community is the one that is germane. At some times, particularly times of great anarchy, people themselves have called for a despot and surrendered some of their individual freedom thinking that to be for the common good. At other times, such as our own, people seem to prefer the anarchy of democracy, the endless debate and argument. Hajja Aisha Bewley makes a formidable case for the Islamic paradigm, Amirate and shura, resolving this seeming conundrum.6

Amirate and Shura 

Amirate is not despotism but it does entail one man being in charge, taking responsibility and deciding. To balance that there is shura-counsel, which will include different voices at different times including the fuqaha’, traders – in issues that involve their expertise, women – in issues that particularly pertain to them, and so on. Shura is not a fixed body of people, and it is not democratic in the sense that people’s opinions are important, but that knowledge of different matters are to be found in different parts of the community at different times and in different circumstances, and the Islamic community is founded on knowledge. Al-Qurtubi cites the mufassir Ibn ‘Atiyyah as holding that if an amir does not seek counsel, it is sufficient reason to remove him from office, even though he is not bound to follow the counsel he is given.

The pre-eminence of knowledge being the case, then in the continuance of community in time the position of education is vital.


Returning to our theme of the ‘learning community’ whose essence is in the sharing of meaning, while the word ‘community’ has a particular present sense, it must also have, as part of its gestalt, time. A community whose raison d’être is to share meaning is then able to transmit meaning to the following generations. This is a completely different transaction from modern education, which is something ‘done’ to younger people in order to gain them admittance to the world of careers.

Transmission here must include the crafts, skills and professions needed for life which are ordinarily transmitted in lived situations in circumstances such as apprenticeships; the wisdom skills of being persons in relation to other persons of different age, sex, race, language, colour, religion and culture transmitted in lived behaviour in the family and beyond; as well as the sciences and knowledges of the din.

Regrettably transmission has been consigned to the technological processing of people we call education, whether ‘Islamic’7 or not, and we don’t know which is more disastrous.

We have three terms that are translated as education: ta’deeb, ta’leem, and tarbiya.8 


The first, ta’deeb, is the transmission of adab, a wonderful word meaning courtesy, which is not the same as good manners – not in themselves a bad thing, discipline, and even literature. Adab can only be transmitted by people who have it; it can’t be taught. 


The second term is the one that today we think of almost exclusively as the meaning of education, the transmission of knowledge and the sciences. And therein lies the rub, because ‘ilm is thought of both as knowledge and methodical science, but the truth is that the latter has come to dominate our understanding. Even the ‘ulum, as in the famous Ihya’ ‘ulum ad-Din of Imam al-Ghazali, usually translated as ‘The Revival of the Sciences of the Deen’, we think of as sciences, and would not translate them as ‘knowledges’. Imam Malik, however, trenchantly said: “Knowledge is a light which Allah places wherever He wishes; it is not a great deal of narration.” And he said this while perhaps being THE master of narration, the one upon whom al-Bukhari and Muslim and the authors of the canonical collections relied. He said this at the moment when the ‘science’ of narration was coming into existence and the practice of narrating hadith voluminously was taking the shape in which we think of it today. But let us content ourselves with the idea of knowledge as a light that must be transmitted, and which can only be transmitted by those possessing that light. 


We have fiqh, which we wrongly think of as jurisprudence, but which in Arabic means understanding. Imam Abu Hanifah astutely posited that ‘ilm al-kalam, the science of iman, is the greater fiqh, al-fiqh al-akbar, the title of the book he wrote on the matter. Ibn Juzayy said that tasawwuf is the fiqh of the inner. Sayyiduna Mu‘awiya, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “For whomever Allah wishes good He gives him fiqh-understanding of the din.”9


Our last term is perhaps the most germane: tarbiya, again ordinarily translated as ‘education’, it is fostering the growth of another being, something almost entirely absent from our so-called educational systems today. Now, faced with the collapse of modern educational systems, we must not think of our task as having to erect a new more perfect system. In ‘Umar’s famous advice on upbringing of young people that it comprises playing with children for seven (years), teaching them for seven, and taking them as companions for seven, the two worse things we can do is to lay the responsibility of this entirely on the shoulders of the parents or, alternatively, to create an educational system of professionals. This is the duty of the community. In the Republic, Socrates envisaged a society where every adult would look on every child as potentially theirs and every child could look on every adult as their own parent. The traditional saying that it takes a whole village to raise one child is entirely apposite here.

All of this must be born in mind for the time-based existence of community across generations. The Osmanli arguably made it the very motor of their khalifate, in the guilds and akhi organisations which were centred on futuwwa, the cultivation of brave, noble and generous qualities of character in young people.10

The Art of Community

Wrongly we think of art as something to do with aesthetics. Iain Thomson, a noted Heideggerian, observed that art is about what is and what matters. The artist is concerned with creativity, and in that he is involved with the Divine name al-Khaliq – the Creator. 

Although we must admit creativity to be, both in the case of artists and scientists, 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration, nevertheless without the inspiration nothing happens, but equally, without exertion and work nothing will happen as well. The artist is in touch with the wellsprings of creativity and that has a secret. There is a moment in creativity in which something beyond the artist happens; it is not his doing, although it is not revelation, for that is only for the Prophets and Messengers. 

This can help us understand the technical as well. Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, may Allah be pleased with him, said words to the effect that it is relatively straightforward to understand that Allah created the natural order, trees, mountains, rivers, birds and fish, but it is not so immediately obvious that He created the airplane and the computer. We would add to that the robot and AI. The problem for technical man is that he has already assumed the position of observer and subject in a world of objects but does not realise that he himself is the object of another Observer’s knowledge and the instrument of another Actor’s action. He does not realise that which Allah cites as the insight of Ibrahim, “He said, ‘Do you worship something you have carved when Allah created both you and what you do?’11 This the artist is in touch with. The artists of community must be in touch with it too. They are not ‘making community’ in some kind of manufacturing process – they are within a process that is not of their own origination but which they are also engaged in, and must work for: “man will have nothing but what he strives for.”12

Not being a mechanical but a living organic process this needs first of all a seed or a grain. Grain is habbah in Arabic from the same root as mahabbah – love. These people, who are the grains from which this will grow, are the people of futuwwa – the noble qualities of character, and those who love each other for the sake of Allah. The growth of community is the growth of that love.

‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said that Allah, exalted is He, said, “Those who love each other for My sake will be on minbars of light and the Prophets, siddiqun and shuhada’ will envy them their position.”13

But these grains need cultivation and nurturing, and they need the right setting and circumstances. 

Khalq – creating – creation

Khalq means ‘creating’ as much as it means ‘creation’. Allah is the Ever-creating – al-Khallaq14 – as much as He is al-Khaliq the Creator. The Khallaq is the One Who creates ceaselessly, again and again, just as other words of similar form denote ceaseless activity: the Razzaq is the Ceaseless Provider, the Wahhab the Endless giver of gifts, the Ghaffar – the Endlessly and repeatedly forgiving. Allah, exalted is He, is constantly engaged with His creation, and He is near, not remote above the heavens, whereas we it is who are far from Him. Shaykh Mustafa al-Alawi, may Allah be merciful to him, in his book on the use of the Divine name as a dhikr said:

I note that the Master Abu Ishaq ash-Shatily has this to say in his book of Analogies: “The Qur’an brought the message of Allah, exalted is He, to humanity and of humanity to Allah. As for the lesson when it brought the address of Allah, exalted is He, to humanity, it set it out with the vocative particle required by distance and invariably without curtailment, as in His saying: ‘O My slaves who believe, My earth is truly vast,’ ‘Say, “O My slaves who squander themselves…”,’ ‘Say, “O men, I am truly the Messenger of Allah to all of you,”’ ‘O you who believe…’, and when it brings the address of mankind to Allah, exalted is He, it is invariably without the vocative particle because originally the vocative particle is for admonition and Allah is beyond admonition, and also most of the vocative particles are for distance, for example, ‘Ya – O,’ – and Allah, exalted is He, made clear that He is near, especially to the supplicant, in His saying: “And when My slaves ask you about Me, then, I am near,” and in general near to the creation, as in His saying: “There are never three talking confidentially but He is the fourth of them, and not five but He is the sixth of them.” He said: “And We are closer to him than his jugular vein,” so they took admonition from this through the scholars, firstly in dropping the vocative particle, and secondly in consciousness of nearness.15

We have considered community itself and the art of it and must now come to the point of our talk’s subtitle, Zakah and Awqaf in the future of Islam in England, but first locating ourselves in our time.


Are we at the end of a glorious enterprise or are we at the beginning of a new? 

That these are the end times is irrefutable since the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was sent just before the Hour. 

It has been narrated of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that he said, “I was sent just before the Hour with the sword until you worship Allah alone without partner. And my provision has been put in the shade of my lance,17 and humiliation and ignominy have been placed on those who oppose my order, and whoever resembles a people is one of them.”18

He said, “I was sent just before the Hour…” These are the last times and have been since his coming, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. And yet since then we have had great Muslim dawlahs, the Rashidun, Bani Umayyah, Bani al-‘Abbas, and the Osmanli and many other amirates, sultanates and kingdoms. It being the end times doesn’t mean that there are not more dawlahs yet to come, indeed entire civilisations.

In the hadith of Abu Dawud about the Mahdi it is clear that he arrives after the death of a khalifah:

Abu Dawud also published … from Umm Salamah, that he, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “There will be disagreement at the death of a khalifah, so a man from Madinah will come out fleeing to Makkah, and the people of Makkah will come to him and bring him out (as a claimant for the khalifate) against his will and swear allegiance to him between the Corner (of the Ka’bah in which the Black Stone is) and the Station (of Ibrahim).” 

It is a longer hadith but what is important is that there already is at that time a khalifah who dies, which precipitates the appearance of the Mahdi. Therefore this cannot be his time.

If we are right on the cusp of the Hour, the advice of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is in the famous hadith of the sapling. 

Anas narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “If the Hour arises while in the hand of any of you there is a sapling, then if he is able not to stand before planting it, he should plant it.”19

If the sapling we plant is that of the tree of Islam, where should we establish it and the new civilisation? We should do it here wherever we are, but if we can’t do it here, if it proves impossible, we’ll go wherever we need to. Allah’s earth is vast.

So we approach the issues of zakah and awqaf from the intention of establishing the din where we are, here and now. Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, may Allah be merciful to him, addressed the Muslims in the mosque of Slough and said words to the effect: “You say that you are very bad Muslims because you came here only for the dunya. But Allah brought you here by means of your seeking the dunya in order to establish the din.” He went on to say that the secret of Muslim community is that we have no clerics, and no Church in the sense of a centrally directed body dictating ‘aqidah and practice. Thus when Muslims arrived in the west, they said to themselves: “This is all Allah’s earth and we are still obliged to pray,” and so they prayed at their work, in their homes and wherever they could. Then they said: we ought to do it in jama‘a, and people would pray in whatever makeshift way they could with others. And naturally from this, they said: we need mosques where the jama‘a can be established, and they brought those about. Now is the time for Islam to come out of the mosque into the society, and specifically into the marketplace, and to clean it up. Muslims will do that when they understand the mu‘amalat and what they mean about transacting in the world. No one will tell them to do it, but they will naturally do it when they understand it. And the zakat and awqaf are two doorways into that.


Infaq – giving out/spending

In the pivotal first ayats of Surat al-Baqarah Allah, exalted is He, defines the people for whom the Book is a guidance, the people of taqwa. The threefold delineation of taqwa there is that it comprises belief in the unseen, establishment of the salah, and giving out from whatever Allah provides one. He, exalted is He, does not couple salah with zakat but with infaq – giving out or spending, which is of a more general nature than zakat, even one’s efforts and service to others, and a smile. It is not restricted to wealth. 

Now we don’t need community for them to give us something, but rather it is vital for us to have this giving in our lives, and we need others who understand that and who give out. It is simply not the same to use Western Union to transmit some funds to the other side of the world for the care of orphans, which is certainly not a bad thing to do, as it is to take care of the orphan in your community. As with Carl Schmitt’s dictum we need to bring the order and the location together.

First, let us disabuse ourselves of a common erroneous notion about zakat, that it is social welfare, or that, as some wrote, Islam was the first welfare state. Do not take consequences for purposes. Zakat is an act of worship of Allah which has beneficial social and economic consequences. But similarly salat and fasting have numerous benefits for our health, but that is not the reason we do them. And yes indeed, the zakat is the right of the poor and the needy and the other categories too. The correct way, as with the salat, is as the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said about the prayer: “Pray as you saw me pray.”20 Muslims take great care of how they perform the prayer. Muslims also took care of how the zakat was paid, but today it has been redefined as a personal charity like the charity of the Christians. 

Second, zakat is not a miserable dole allowing the recipient to continue from one handout to the next. It can and should be something that can enable them to climb out of whatever form of poverty they have got enmeshed in.

Purification of wealth

Like salat, zakat has its preconditions. Salat requires purification after using the toilet and then wudu’ and ghusl in their times. Zakat requires purification of the market and transactions, because as Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated, the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: “Allah is pure (tayyib) and only accepts what is pure.”21 The zakat must be paid whatever the source of the wealth, but for its acceptance as an act of worship it must be pure. If it is not accepted by Allah, then the person paying zakat has only lost some wealth to no good end for himself.


Like the salat, the zakat has an imam, a leader of the community who organises its collection and distribution. Originally the word ‘imam’ denotes the political leader, who was also the one who led the community in prayer and delivered the khutba. Naturally he must be someone of trustworthy character who is unlikely to feather his own nest with the zakat or use it for ends that are not appropriate even if noble, such as building mosques. If he is openly untrustworthy in this respect, it is obligatory not to pay him the zakat if it is possible to withhold it from him, and to pay it directly oneself. (But this is not the case if there are mere rumours and suspicions about him, as is all too often the case where money is involved.) 

Zakat Collectors

The leader appoints zakat collectors, whom Allah, exalted is He, mentions in the Noble Qur’an as themselves being the third group who may legitimately receive some of the zakat. He says, exalted is He, “Zakat is for: the poor, the destitute, those who collect it, reconciling people’s hearts, freeing slaves, those in debt, spending in the Way of Allah, and travellers. It is a legal obligation from Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” (Surat at-Tawba 9:60) The zakat collector is a dynamic element. He is not there to pry into our circumstances. He must be knowledgeable and be able to help people work out what they have to pay. The modern Muslim is abandoned to his own resources and asking around on the Internet for guidance about how to pay his zakat. Moreover, the collector is best placed to know who is in need of zakat funds, whereas when people are left to distribute their own zakat it goes to various friends and relatives, not out of any bad intention but because there is a limit to how much knowledge we each have of who is in need.

The eight categories

Another reason for the importance of leadership is that there are eight categories of recipients and the leader has to make the decision as to which categories receive funds, and that is not a fixed proportion but dependent on circumstances. The individual cannot be expected to understand these issues and to distribute his own zakah appropriately.

The local community

It is done locally, and if the needs of the local community have been addressed, any surplus may be transferred to nearby communities who are in need. It can’t be sent across the earth to the poor of remote societies, except in exceptional circumstance as outlined by Imam Malik below, although that may certainly be done in the case of voluntary sadaqah.

Malik was asked where sadaqa (zakat) should be distributed. He replied, “Among the people of the land from which the zakat is taken. If there is anything left over after that, it should be transported to the nearest land to them. If the people of all those surrounding lands and cities are without need, and the imam hears of dire need in another land, because drought or something like that has struck their land and decimated their herds, and he therefore sends some of the zakah to them, I would see that as the right thing to do, because the Muslims are there to help each other whenever they have need of each other.”

Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sent Mu‘adh to Yemen and said, “Invite the people to testify that there is no god but Allah and I am Allah’s Messenger, and if they obey you, then teach them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers in every day and night, and if they obey you in that, then teach them that Allah has made it obligatory for them to pay the zakat from their property – and it is to be taken from their wealthy members and given to their poor – tu’khadhu min aghniya’ihim Wa turaddu ‘ala fuqara’ihim.22

Sufyan  narrates “Zakat was taken from ar-Rayy to al-Kufah, but ‘Umar bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ordered it taken back to ar-Rayy.”

‘Imran ibn Husayn, a Companion who became Muslim together with his father seven years after the Hijra, was appointed zakat officer at the time of the Umayyads. When he returned from his mission, he was asked “Where is the money?” He replied, “Did you send me to bring you money? I collected it the same way we used to at the time of the Messenger of Allah and distributed it the same way we used to.”

Farqad as-Sabkhi, a contemporary of al-Hasan al-Basri, says, “I took zakat due on my wealth to distribute it in Makkah. There I met Sa‘id ibn Jubayr.” Ibn Jubayr said to me: “Take it back and distribute it in your hometown.”

This was the practice during the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab says, “‘Umar sent Mu‘adh as zakat officer to Bani Kilab or Bani  Sa‘d. Mu’adh went there, collected zakat and distributed all of it, leaving nothing. He came back in the same clothes that he went in.” 

‘Umar was once asked what to do with the zakat collected from Bedouin Arabs. He answered, “By Allah, I will hand out the sadaqa to them until each of them becomes the owner of a hundred camels, male or female.”23

Individuals and not institutions

Zakat has been reframed as something given to institutions, whereas it is entirely for individuals in need and the other categories, all of which comprise individuals. Many institutions seek zakat funds eagerly, but they are not valid recipients of it. There is, however, an issue that is hard to deal with in a small presentation like this: to do justice to the institutions that we do have and to convert them into bridges to the correct way of doing things. There is no sense in them simply folding. But it is unacceptable that they continue as is.


One key matter was that the awqaf secured the independence of people of knowledge inasmuch as they were not paid from state funds nor were they at the mercy of market forces. The independence of people of knowledge is something sorely missing from the world today, East and West, among Muslims and non-Muslims. We see it in the entire academic and scientific realm. Pharmaceutical research is at the behest of great corporations whose interests are entirely commercial. In a society predicated on amirate and shura, the independence of people of knowledge of all stripes is a fundamental requisite, meaning they cannot counsel the amir honestly if they are dependent on him. Another important model for us in this respect was Timbuktu where the fuqaha’ were traders and thus independent through their trade from the amir and able to counsel him fearlessly. Indeed, the other immense benefit was that they embodied the fiqh of the mu‘amalat in their trade in the marketplace and helped ensured it was clean of usury and other types of wrong action.

The second benefit is that awqaf secure property, not for the Muslims, but to the ownership of Allah dedicated to noble purposes, but effectively under the control of the Muslims and to their advantage.

The third benefit is that awqaf create employment for the people appointed to administer them.

The fourth benefit is that awqaf are devoted to noble purposes such as medicine and education and general charitable ends, and even to the sustenance of one’s own progeny  and others relieving them partially or entirely of the need to work for a living and enabling them to devote themselves to other higher ends.

Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi says:

“As for the one for whom the hubus (waqf) is dedicated it is sound for it to be a person, or something else such as mosques and madrasahs, and it is sound that it be for someone who is alive and present and for someone not yet born, for someone specific and for someone unknown, for a Muslim and for a dhimmi [one of the people of the Book living under Muslim governance with a dhimmah contract of protection], for a near relative or for a non-relative.

Similarly with health. To have a health system beholden to corporate commercial interests is appalling as we saw in the recent pandemic. To have health at the mercy of market forces, such that only those with expensive life insurance can afford it, is inhuman. A great number of Osmanli awqaf were dedicated to hospitals and medical services for Muslims, for men, for women, for the people of the Book and so on.24

One of the most upsetting things I heard recently was that some mosques and madrasahs are supported by mortgages. Apart from that being an utterly forbidden usury contract, it also simply devours the wealth of the donors and in the end may well leave them without mosque or madrasah, as the interest payments devour the donations leaving nothing behind. 

The ‘Third’

Our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, told us: “When a person dies his action is cut off except from three: except for an ongoing sadaqa, or knowledge that is benefitted from, or a right-acting child who supplicates for him.”25

This ongoing sadaqa, the sadaqa jariya, is dearly loved by earnest Muslims, and they often used it for awqaf.

Islam in England

The state

We finally come to the point that perhaps ought to have bee approached first of all: Islam in England. You will notice that I did not say “in Britain”. This was for a reason. Britain or Great Britain or the United Kingdom are various names for the ‘state’ that was erected in these isles. When we talk about the state we do so denoting organs of government, corporations, and banks. They are a seamlessly integrated whole dedicated to making use of the earth and its resources in a way that cannot be sustained. 

We have allowed ourselves to be processed from life to death, and the latter seems increasingly likely to come about by some form of euthanasia, since the elderly are viewed as simply useless burdens on the community and increasingly view themselves as such. 

Education has become an industrial process designed to manufacture a citizen who will fit into the work process, and produce goods and taxes. It is a form of indoctrination in the belief that material reality is all there is, and training in skills that will be useful to banks and corporations.

Medicine has been redesigned as simply a process akin to taking a car to the garage for repair, whereas in every society it was originally about how to live a good and healthy life first and foremost before dealing with illness. 

Policing has become the force containing the crime of poor people that necessarily arises from the increasingly insane division of wealth that the usurious society excels at, making one person preposterously wealthy, and millions constantly on the edge of survival. In other words, the police deal with the petty crime while ignoring the major crimes that produce petty crime as a side effect.

We are concerned about Islam IN England, not about ‘English Islam’, just as the world recognises the distinctive character of Islam in China, Arabia, Africa and Turkey without it then becoming Chinese, Arabic, African or Turkish Islam. It is recognisably the same Islam in every case.

Clearly a major concern for Islam in England would be for the English people. I hesitate to use the D-word da‘wa, which has all too often become an affair of talking heads arguing about theology and a host of other matters. Our Prophet, peace be upon him, was characterised by his Lord as “Harisun ‘alaykumdeeply concerned for you.26 That being the case, that concern is Sunnah, and we must be people deeply concerned for our fellow human beings. Embracing the English people in this way, means embracing their culture and European culture, and doing what Muslims always did: filtering it to retain the best of it and removing what is harmful.

By establishing the zakat and awqaf we will strengthen the Muslims here and contribute to the establishment of Islam. They will both go some way to alleviate the very genuine poverty that exists among English Muslims, and awqaf for education will raise the educational achievements of Muslims and their standing in society. Awqaf for the assistance of non-Muslims will certainly advance the din. The noble Hanafi madhhab argued the case for scholars to wear distinctive clothing because that would cause them to be respected and thus cause knowledge and Islam itself to be respected. The exact same case must be made for raising up English Muslims both materially and educationally and in all the ways that the zakat and awqaf have always raised up Muslim society, thus causing Muslims to be respected and thus Islam itself. Then perhaps Allah, exalted is He, might be remembered in lands that have not known His remembrance and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.


1  A talk given in the Rotunda, Brixton on Saturday 26th Ramadan 1445/6th April 2024

2  Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi, the Dictionary of Terms, Kitab at-tashil li ‘ulum at-tanzil.

3  “Der Nihilismus ist die Trennung von Ordnung und Ortung – Nihilism is the separation of order and location.” Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth.

4  Abu Bakr Rieger, “Order and Location: What can we actually do?”, The Question Concerning Economics, MFAS – The Muslim Faculty of Advanced Studies.


6  Aisha Bewley, Democratic Tyranny and the Islamic Paradigm, Diwan Press

7  The adjective ‘Islamic’ seems in general to be used when something foreign to Islam is introduced into it.

8  See Amjad Hussain, “Tarbiyah”, Early Madina, The Muslim Faculty of Advanced Studies.

9  Narrated by Mu‘awiya ibn Abi Sufyan

10  See Professor Mehmet Maksudoglu, Osmanli History and Institutions, Diwan Press, 2024

11  Surat as-Saffat 37:95-96

12  Surat an-Najm 53:39

13  ‘Ubadah ibn as-Samit narrated it. Ahmad, at-Tabarani, al-Hakim.

14  See Surat al-Hijr 15:86

15  Shaykh Mustafa al-‘Alawi, The Unique Name”, The Two Invocations. Diwan Press

17  Al-Munawi points out in Fayd al-Qadir that he, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, did not say ‘the point of my lance’ or of any other weapon, and that a part of the meaning of the word lance is that it is where the banner is attached.

18  The Musnad of Ahmad, the Musnad of Abu Ya‘la, at-Tabarani in al-Kabir, from Ibn ‘Umar.

19  Ahmad, al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-mufrad from Anas

20 Narrated by Malik ibn al-Huwayrith in Ahmad, al-Bukhari and Muslim, and an-Nasa’i.

21  Muslim narrated it.

22  Ahmad ibn Hanbal 

23  The above quotes are from the khutba of Hajj Abdussabur Kirke in Norwich 22/03/24

24  See Mehmet Maksudoglu, “The Waqf”, in Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi, Sultaniyya.

25  Al-Bukhari al-Adab al-Mufrad, and Muslim, from Abu Hurayrah

26  Surat at-Tawbah 9:128


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Abdassamad Clarke is from Ulster and was formally educated at Edinburgh University in Mathematics and Physics. He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi in 1973, and, at his suggestion, studied Arabic and tajwid and other Islamic sciences in Cairo for a period. In the 80s he was secretary to the imam of the Dublin Mosque, and in the early 90s one of the imams khatib of the Norwich Mosque, and again from 2002-2016. He has translated, edited and typeset a number of classical texts. He currently resides with his wife in Denmark and occasionally teaches there. 14 May, 2023 0:03

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