The practice of community giving has experienced mixed fortunes amid profound national developments
In 2004, the Ford Foundation funded a study to understand the relationship between philanthropy and social justice in predominantly Muslim societies, including Egypt and Turkey. This article provides a perspective on what has changed in these two countries since the initial study was conducted, and what the future might hold.
The Islamic world has always seen philanthropy as a feature of peoples’ everyday lives: waqf or vakıf, the rough Arabic and Turkish translation of an endowment, is an old tradition. Until the emergence of the modern state in Egypt and Turkey in the 19th century, this structure channelled private wealth for public goods and services as diverse as public schools, universities, public hospitals, public baths and saunas, public water-fountains, soup kitchens and much more. Waqfs still exist in the form of endowed lands and enormous accumulated wealth but are no longer autonomously managed by appointed comptrollers or nuzzar. Rather they are directed by the state, in the form of the Minister of Awqaf or Habous in Egypt and the General Directorate of Foundations in Turkey, which oversee both ‘old’ (Ottoman era) and ‘new’ (Republican era) foundations.