Awqaf represent the ongoing practice of sadaqa. The personal act of sadaqa is giving from one to another. Awqaf could be defined as the motor of sadaqa so that the single act of giving becomes activated in continuity, so that the giving continues even after the death of the giver. To make a waqf is to dedicate a property or an amount of wealth for the benefit of the Muslims seeking the pleasure of Allah, glory be to Him.
Wealth for this purpose must be free of obligation. It can be a possession which produces revenue like a house or a shop or an orchard. The one making the waqf clearly stipulates the conditions of it. When the great Sultan Yavuz Salem on his march through Damascus restored the grave of the great Sufi Shaykh al-Akbar ibn al-‘Arabi, he activated the waqf in the Wali’s honour.
It specified that daily a soup was to be served at his graveside to the poor. The waqf even stipulated the amount of meat in each bowl of soup for each recipient. The guardian of the tomb said to me [Shaykh Dr. Abdal-Qadir as-Sufi] that since the waqf had been operative since the fifteenth century it had probably fed more people than the communist regime had fed its poor.
~ extract from Sultaniyya by Shaykh Dr. Abdal-Qadir as-Sufi.