Waqfs and the Dynamics of Muslim Charity in Secular Milieus, Kenya 1900-2010

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Waqfs (religious endowments) were the mainstay of a plethora of beneficiaries evolving to a socio-economically secure constituency of Muslims. Secured of socio-economic well-being, beneficiaries threatened and often advocated for social and political positions independent of and in opposition to political establishments. This saw the creation of state agencies to control waqfs as evident in both Muslim and colonial powers. State agencies did not, however, annihilate waqfs as envisaged but beneficiaries diversified into alternative charitable activities as provided by the Shari’a. Using James C. Scott’s concept of ‘symbolic resistance’ and Talal Asad’s view of Islam as a ‘discursive tradition’, I argue that use of uncontrolled charities like sadaqa and private trusts in Kenya’s secular milieu does not only accord Muslims the wherewithal to negotiate the socio-cultural and economic spheres, but also provide a means to fulfilling religious obligations outside the purview of the state.
Waqf, resource control, symbolic resistance,, private trusts, Dis-cursive tradition