It is relevant to note that waqfs under Muslim law are almost similar to the trusts under English law and the Indian Trusts Act, 1882. Both, in waqf as well as in trusts, the property is detained and its usufruct is utilised for religious or charitable purposes. But, a waqf under Muslim personal law may be distinguished from a trust at least on following matters:
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(1) A waqf may be constituted only for those purposes which are recognised as religious, pious or charitable in Islam whereas, a trust may be constituted for any lawful object.
(2) Except under Hanafi law, the founder of a waqf cannot reserve any benefit for himself, but the founder of a trust may himself be a beneficiary.
(3) The powers of a mutawalli (manager of the waqf-property) are very limited as compared to the powers of a trustee.
(4) A waqf is generally perpetual and irrevocable, whereas, a trust need not be perpetual and may also be revoked under certain conditions.
Because of the above mentioned differences between waqf and a trust, the Indian Trust, Act, 1882, is not applicable to Muslim waqf sin so far as the nature and operation of waqfs is concerned. But, for purposes of instituting any suit in the cases of irregularities and mismanagement of waqf property, a waqf has been regarded as a ‘trust’ within the meaning of Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
However it must be noted that the Indian Trusts Act is applicable also to Muslims. Therefore, if a Muslim wants to settle his properties in a trust he may do so under this Act instead of creating waqf under Muslim personal law.
A Muslim, who transfers his property for a waqf, is called its founder or Waqif The person who looks after the property and manages to distribute the usufruct according to its object, is called Mutawalli. Those persons who get the benefit under a waqf are called the beneficiaries (Alaihim).