Religion and generosity – the gifts of time, of funds, and of material – have been closely linked throughout human history. Religious institutions, buildings, and activities have been a major focus of giving in virtually all religious traditions and in countries at all stages of development. Charitable support for the poor and for the victims of disasters has an equally long and widespread history.
In the Islamic World, from the earliest days, wealthy donors evolved a special form – endowments (Awqaf) – to address charitable needs on a sustainable basis. Philanthropic funding for social development (as distinguished from charity) is a somewhat more recent phenomenon. Support for schools and hospitals, often through endowments, were its first forms. The funding of institutions engaged in human resource development came later but is beginning to grow rapidly.
Mawlana Hazar Imam – Plenary Session: Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy, Islamabad, Pakistan, October 21, 2000