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Mumbai News: Muslim Sect Shia Ismaili Muslim community Seeks Law Protecting Trusts From Waqf Board 2023-08-16

Wednesday, 2023, August 16

Mumbai: The Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Muslim community has approached the government, seeking to draft a law to keep those charitable trusts and properties out from the Waqf Board's ambit that are not 'waqf'. Among the Muslim community, a 'waqf' is a permanent dedication (property) to God. Members of different sects within the community have contended that even those trusts that were created and meant for charitable functions have been listed as 'waqf' by the Board.

The recent demand comes after the Charity Commissioner's Office (CCO) decided not to entertain matters of those trusts whose pleas are pending before the Waqf Tribunal. Hundreds of charitable institutions, including those related to the Shias, Sunnis as well as Dawoodi Bohras, had approached the Tribunal to challenge them being listed as 'waqf'. The institutions argued that though they perform secular functions they have been registered as Muslim minority organisations.

Anjuma-I-Islam, which runs several educational facilities, was among the first to challenge the 'waqf' tag. “We had to write to the Centre after things came to a standstill at the CCO,” said Ismail Sonawalla, member of the Shia Ismaili community.

In July, 'His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for India' also shot off a letter to the Tribunal. It states that five of its trusts that are listed as 'waqf' properties are in fact charitable institutions. These include Prince Aly Khan Hospital in Mazgaon, The Diamond Jubilee Trust, Mahomed Jaffer Ramzanally Ismaili Khoja Sanatorium in Panchgani, Dhanjibhai Karmali Khoja Orphanage Trust and Sheth Mohamedbhai Rawjee Trust in Pune. Even their case is pending at the Waqf Tribunal.

Members of other denominations and Muslim minority organisations said that they, too, had filed cases with the Tribunal, but things are yet to be decided. “The Waqf Board first came out with a list in 2003. This was challenged and they later came out with another one. The matter went on with flip flops until a high court order set the list aside. The ruling was challenged by the Waqf Board and the state government and a status quo was granted in 2011. The matter was finally heard by the Supreme Court in October 2022 when over 190 trusts were asked to file their papers with the Tribunal if they have a grievance of coming under 'waqf' list. The Board was supposed to do an inquiry and come up with a decision within six months but that has not happened yet,” said a community member of another sect.

(Waqf is an Islamic endowment of property to be held in trust and used for a charitable or religious purpose)

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