Endowments of the Astan Quds Razavi
Importance of Endowments in Islam
In the glorious religion of Islam, after the faith in the Oneness of Allah and performing the religious obligations, the most important and valuable act is the humanitarian service and donating the wealth in the philanthropic causes. In Islam charity enjoys a high position and is considered as an important characteristic of the truthfulness of the faith of a believer.
Thus in the first verses of the Hoy Qur'an, charity is mentioned along with faith and the prayers.
The perpetual charity like endowments is the most useful and best form of charity which brings incessant blessings and rewards to the bequeather for contributing funds for the help of poor, oppressed and needy persons Among the various ways of contributing and donating for the charity, endowing funds or properties for a special charitable and humanitarian purpose is the best form of charity which brings in perpetual and ever–lasting blessings to the bequeather and relief and solace to the people.
The endowment turns the endowed wealth and properties into an overflowing fountains contributing ever-lasting goodness and blessings in all the periods to the society and continuously rewarding the bequeather of these wealth and property with divine perpetual blessings.
Here some of the sayings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) are mentioned which encourages and exhorts the believers to perform charity.
The Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) has said:
By death the scroll of life gets folded for ever and the person's connection with the world is severed for ever but three groups are exempted from it.
-A scholar who has left behind a scholarly work as a reminder for the guidance of the people.
-A person who has left behind endowments and charities by which the people are profited.
-A good and pious off spring who remember their parents during the supplications with goodness.
According to the great emphasize from the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.), the Muslims since the commencement of the mission of Islam endowed their wealth and properties for the charitable purposes.
It is mentioned in the books of history and traditions that most of the companions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) bequeathed their properties for charitable acts. Jabir bin Abdullah Ansari, the famous companion has said:
"Among the companions of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.) there was not a single person possessing financial ability but not bequeathing anything for the charity".
Imam Ali(A.S.) bequeathed a large number of properties and great wealth for charitable purposes. The endowment deeds of these properties are recorded in the books of traditions. These endowment deeds has always remained as a source of inspiration for the Muslims during the last fourteen centuries.
The text of the endowment deed of one of the endowments of Imam Ali(A.S.)
In the Name of Allah The Beneficent, the Merciful
It is a charity Ali(A.S.) has bequeathed it in the form of an endowment which should never be sold or given to anybody and should not be bequeathed by any person until this earth and sky returns to their Creator.
The profits and gains from this endowment first should be spend on the near ones and after that be donated to any needy Muslim and Allah is an observer and witness regarding this deed.
In another endowment it has been mentioned:
This advice is written by Ali(A.S.), the humble servant of Allah to attain the satisfaction of Allah Almighty with the hope to obtain the divine mercy and the refuge from the chastisement of the hell and get exalted on the day [the resurrection day] when the faces get blackened.
In this endowment deed Imam Ali(A.S.) has bestowed the trusteeship of this endowed properties to his children after his expiry and has issued a decree to spend the income from them for three purposes.
General charity in the way of Allah.
Second Part: For the pious and worthy persons form the family members of Abu Taleb(A.S.).
Third Part: For the nearest relatives from the family of Abu Taleb(A.S.).
This endowment deed was written in Jamadi Awwal, 39 A.H, by Imam Ali(A.S.) and many believers bear witness on this deed.
Imam Ali(A.S.) dug many wells and subterranean canals and endowed all of them for the cause of public welfare and charity.
Imam Jafar Sadiq(A.S.) said: My grand father Ali(A.S.) dug about one hundred wells with his own hands and endowed all of them in the way of Allah.
Till now the wells dug by Imam Ali(A.S.) are being utilized by the public and they are located on the highway from Madinah to Makkah and this area is called as "Abyar-i Ali(A.S.)" (the Wells of Imam Ali(A.S.)). These wells were endowed for the benefit of the persons performing the Hajj pilgrimage.
It has been mentioned in the history chronicles that Hadrat Fatima Zahra(A.S.), the only daughter of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S.A.W.), also endowed orchards in Madinah. It is recorded in the endowment deed that:
"I Fatima (A.S.) daughter of Muhammad(S.A.W.) has endowed seven orchards gifted to me by my father and the income from them should be spend in charity in the months of Rajab and Shaban. I had given the trusteeship of these endowed orchards to my husband Ali (A.S.)."
There are many instances like this in the Islamic history but we suffice with these examples.
Endowments comprise one of the important and outstanding laws in the Islamic economics for establishing equality and social justice. It strengthens humanitarian values and egalitarianism in the society so that unity, love and affection can be sustained. By this way love and sacrifice dominate the society replacing envy and enmity and creating a perfect and heavenly society based on the mutual love, coopeation and affection of its members.
On account of the endowment the original property cannot be sold, bought, transacted or gifted for ever. The profits obtained from them is spend in the way of Allah which consists of the humanitarian service to organize the economy and increase the standard of living both materially and spiritually.
The social history of Islamic Iran is associated with the righteous deeds of those persons who had bequeathed their properties for the charitable purposes. They shunned the greed and attachment to the hoarded wealth and riches and on account of their far sightedness and noble thinking recorded their names in the glorious pages of the history of sacrifice, humanism and altruism and their fame too became ever-lasting. By this noble endeavour they also obtained the satisfaction of Allah and set aside indelible treasures for the ever-lasting life hereafter.
Humanism and altruism is the natural instinct of the human beings. Persons get disturbed and sad by the poverty of the depressed and helpless people and obtain the spiritual satisfaction by sustaining and nourishing the poor and the needy.
Endowments are one of the best and ever-lasting manifestation of benevolence and charity, the best form of philanthropic service, inheriting permanent values, resolving the difficulties of the society and organizing its affairs on sound basis.
Clearly and boldly we can say that if the pious tradition of endowments is encouraged and welcomed by the rich people and if the bequeathers of the charities are directed in the right direction then most of the economic problems can easily be resolved. It will also result in regulating the economy and help in establishing the just system of social justice in the society.
Endowments Before Islam
If we probe the history we find that in the past also endowments in different forms were existent in various nations and communities of the world. Before Islam, the endowments were not existing according to stated rules and regulations. But it is recorded in the history that the people bequeathed their wealth and property to the places of worship and in the charitable deeds which resembles to some extent with the Islamic laws regarding the endowments.
For example, it is said in the Book of Daniel, the Prophet, which is in Aramiac language that "Obliterate your sins by your benevolent acts towards the poor and the needy." And the endowments of the Hadrat Ibrahim(A.S.), the friend of Allah are very famous. But in the Islamic economics, Wakfs(endowments) are clearly explained and its rules and regulations are codified in a marvellous way. The codification of these laws speaks of its deep knowledge and far sightedness which has been documented according to the teachings of this righteous school of thought based on the divine revelation.
The Defination of the Wakf
The word "Wakf" means to stop and remain motionless and confined.But according to the Islamic jurisprudence it is to stop the sale and gifting of the bequeathed wealth and properties.The profits obtained from them has to be expended in the way of Allah,which is the humanitarian service,resolving the problems of the people and regulating and organizing their material and spiritual conditions.In the books related to Islamic jurisprudence and discussions in connection with the Islamic economics different chapters and sections are devoted to the different types and conditions of the Wakfs in which their rules and regulations are clearly explained.
Different Types of Wakf
There are different types of Wakf and most important among them are as mentioned below:
The endowment in which the subject is general like endowment for the poor, endowment for the Ulama(religious scholars), the endowments for the schools and hospitals, etc.
The endowment in which the subject is particular like the endowments for his/her children, endowment for a specific place or endowment for a special person.
Endowments (Wakf) and its General Aims
The general aims of the endowments includes assisting the needy, helping the depressed, organizing the lives of the downtrodden, regulation of the economy, raising the standard of living of the people, dessimination of sciences and knowledge, spreading the culture and education in particular educating the fundamentals of religion and Islamic sciences,constructing and administering mosques, shrines, libraries, schools, clinics, hospitals, places of asylum, and other public welfare centres as well as constructing roads and bridges.
Purification of the heart from evil attribites like greed, avarice and the worldly love and its ornamentation with sublime qualities like contentment and altruism are some of the other characteristics of the endowments.
Wakf obliterates all the pecuniary tendencies of amassing and hoarding wealth and fills the society with love for the humankind desirous of high and good qualities. It elevates the thinking and purifies the conscience of the human beings from selfishness and worldly love which are the source of all deviations and aberrations.
Brief History of the Endowments of Astan Quds Razavi
We cannot exactly ascertain the exact date of the first endowment of the Astan Quds Razavi. Most of the records and documents concerned with the endowments has been lost during the protracted centuries by the pillage, destruction and invasions in the chequered past of the Khorasan region and also by the mismanagement and negligence in maintaining these endowments.
It is an obvious fact that after the burial of the holy body of Imam Reza(A.S.) in Toos gradually the lovers and pilgrims of the holy grave of Imam Reza(A.S.) created endowments.
The oldest historical ducument regarding the endowment of the Astan Quds Razavi belongs to the copy of the Holy Qur'an endowed by Abul Qasim Muhammad bin Kaseer. This copy of the Holy Qur'an was endowed to the Astan Quds Razavi in the year 393 A.H. At present this copy is preserved in the "Treasury of the Holy Qura'n" located in the premises of the holy shrine. The endowment deed of this copy of the Holy Qur'an proves that even one thousand years ago the holy shrine was visited regularly by the pilgrims and was also enjoying a administrative system.
Likewise a large amount of valuable and exquisite antique objects belonging to the holy shrine are now preserved in the museums located in the precincts of the holy shrine were also endowed to the Astan Quds Razavi many centuries ago. For example, Ghazan Khan, the Mongol ruler in the year 699 A.H., endowed three large properties to the Astan Quds Razavi out of which only the portion of Farhadgerd situated in Fariman near Mashhad is surviving till now.
In the course of time with the determination and zeal of the affluent pilgrims and residents of the holy city of Mashhad the extent of endowments multiplied and its social effect increased continuously.
But it is certain that after the establishment of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, who declared Shia'ism as the state religon the motion for the creation of endowments for the Astan Quds Razavi got accelerated with clear historical records. On the whole the endowments during the Safavid period comprise more than forty percent of the total endowments of the Astan Quds Razavi.
In two scroll items, one ascribed to Ali Shahi, which was written in the year 1160 A.H. and the other famous scroll of Uzd al-Mulk documented in the year 1274 A.H., all the details regarding the endowments of the Astan Quds Razavi are recorded.
For the first time during the reign of Adil Shah, the nephew of Nadir Shah Afshar all the minute details were recorded and registered. Adil Shah prepared the list of all the endowed properties including the agricultural estates, orchards, farms. This scroll is now being preserved in the archives of the Astan Quds Razavi. In this scroll all the details and the identities of the endowments like agricultural estates, landed properties, attached possessions, orchards, frozen assets along with their balance of profits and incomes and various types of expenditure and utilization are mentioned.
In this scroll the duties of the administrators and servants of the Astan Quds Razavi like the trustee, accountant, supervisors, custodians, secretaries, teachers, chief sentry, supervisor of the servants, persons performing the Ziyarah (Pilgrimage) on behalf of the others, guards, servants, orators, security personnel, the persons reciting the Azaan (call to the prayers), persons incharge of the illumination, persons burning incense and amber, supervisors of the properties, physicians, surgeons and nurses are mentioned by explaining the details of the current expenses, salaries, working duration and the types of responsibilities of all the persons named.
Another authentic document regarding the endowments of the Astan Quds Razavi which includes the endowments of Imam Reza(A.S.) throughout Iran is the scroll of Uzd al-Mulk. At present this scroll is being preserved in the archives of the Astan Quds Razavi. This scroll was documented during the period of Syed Muhammad Husain, Husain Ali known as Uzd al-Mulk, the famous, competent and pious dignitary during the reign of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the length of this scroll is 9.1 metres and its breadth is 44 centimetres. 553 ulama, dignitaries, officials of the Astan Quds Razavi including the Accountant General and Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar himself has signed this scroll. Till the end of the reign of the Qajar dynasty the daily affairs of the holy shrine was administered based on the rules and regulations embodied in the set of rules framed by Adil Shah Afshar.
During the reign of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar deviation, weakness and the gradual decline enveloped the whole of our country and society. Negligence, imprudence, lust and greed of the kings on one hand and the conspiracies and intrigues of the foreign powers resulted in the decline and declivity of the nation which inflicted irreparable losses and damages to the intellectual, cultural and social life of Islamic Iran and this nation remained backward for years.
During that reign Astan Quds Razavi was not safe from the destructive calamity and lost plaguing the very foundations of the nation. It resulted in the disruption and decline in the activities of this holy organization. Astan Quds Razavi, inspite of all its potential possessions and wealth became one of the indebted organization in Iran during that period.
The situation during the Pahlavi period was not better than the Qajar. During this period great losses were incurred on the properties and endowments of the Astan Quds Razavi with the continuous intrigues, conspiracies, collusion and satanic plots of the rulers.Most of the properties and possessions endowed to the holy shrine were gifted to the courtiers and the coterie of the kings. Most of the valuable and priceless antique objects and articles were looted from the holy shrine by them and even some of these objects were sold abroad.
Endowments After the Islamic Revolution
After the victory of the glorious Islamic revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic and the dismissal of the incompetent and corrupt rulers a new era of evolution, progress and development transformed the individual and social lives of the people of this nation.
Astan Quds Razavi like other organizations and institutions under the competent and prudent management of Islam and the people, treaded the path of construction, progress and development in the cultural, industrial, construction, agricultural and services fields and in a short period achieved great progress and advancements in all these arenas.
The fundamental and outstanding achievements resulted in the large scale development and expansion of religious, cultural and services rendering places and buildings for the benefit of the pilgrims of the holy shrine. The advancement and great progress secured by the Astan Quds Razavi in a short span after the victory of the Islamic revolution in the cultural, developmental, services, agricultural and industrial fields cannot be compared with any period or era of the history. The statistics and records clearly prove this fact that the total developmental and expansion works during this short period is four times more than the works carried out in the 1200 years old history of the holy shrine.
Soon after the victory of the Islamic revolution, Imam Khomeini(R.A.), the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, appointed Ayatullah Abbas Waiz Tabasi as the chief custodian and trustee of the Astan Quds Razavi. First step taken by the newly appointed chief custodian was the overall review of all the endowments in all its dimensions like its geographical position, the present situation of the endowment, the bequeather, endowment deed, the endowments records, its income and expenditure.
According to the rules of the holy Sharia of Islam, it is obligatory to act according to the endowment deed and the will of the bequeathers. A group of highly qualified experts and scholars specializing in this field were appointed to scrutinize and analyze the contents of all the endowment deeds. This experts group after years of incessant studies and endeavours analyzed and classified all the endowment deeds and rightly it can be stated that never in the history of the Astan Quds Razavi such an extensive and over all analysis and examination of all the endowment deeds has taken place.
This extensive analysis and research of all the endowment deeds brought very fruitful results and achievements for the Astan Quds Razavi and we refer only two of its results. This investigation helped to trace those endowed properties of the Astan Quds Razavi which were usurped by its previous traitor trustees and made their private property. These usurped endowed properties were once again reclaimed by the Astan Quds Razavi from them peacefully or by lodging against them lawsuit in the judicial courts.
The other result of this investigation was to identify the utilization of the income the from the endowments and classify them according to the will of the bequeathers. According to this investigation and studies the utilization of the income from the endowments were classified into twenty five types and the important among them are as follows:
-The trusteeship rights.
- Illumination and heating of the holy shrine.
- - Cleanliness and hygiene of the holy shrine.
- - The salary for the servants, sentries, shoe-keepers, spreader of the carpets and the persons reciting Azaan (Call to the prayers)
- Construction works in the holy shrine.
- Propagation and cultural affairs.
- The inn and the food for the pilgrims.
- Conducting mourning sermons and ceremonies.
- Fulfilling the wants of the poor and needy persons.
Some of the interesting endowment deeds where the bequeathers has mentioned the utilization of the income for the following purposes.
In the endowment deed of Abdul Karim it is mentioned that the income from the endowment should be utilized for buying stationery material for forty orphaned children and providing livlihood for the widowed women.
The endowment deed of Sayyid Mirza Sarraf states that the income from the endowment should be spent to marry the poor Sayyid boys and provide the new dress to the orphaned Sayyid children on the occasion of the Nowruz (Iranian New Year).
The competent, efficient and compassionate Islamic management of the Astan Quds Razavi is able to achieve the expansion and construction of the different cultural, religious and service rendering buildings and places for the benefit and comfort of the pilgrims.
For this purpose primary research and studies were carried out, essential and basic plans and programmes were formulated, in addition to the preservation and security of the endowment properties and buildings and the best and optimum utilization from them. The implementation of the cultural services, rendering developmental and economic activities has brought great financial backing and the expansion and progress in the agriculture, animal-husbandry,cattle–breeding, mines and industry sectors has also strengthened the financial structure and base of the Astan Quds Razavi and created a vast sphere of work and activity and also generating vast employment opportunities.
Only the review of the sixty developmenteal, service rendering, agricultural, animal husbandry,cattle-breeding, mining and industrial companies and organization established by the Astan Quds Razavi manifests the panoramic view of the greatness of its achievements and the large sphere of the activities of this holy organiztion during this short span after the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Its a fact that describing these great achievements and explaining the implemented measures and activities of the Astan Quds Razavi is highly impossible in this brief explanation and it requires more space and time to describe in detail all the multifarious activites of the Astan Quds Razavi.