Fatwas on Conditions Concerning the Trustees of Endowments
Q1976: Is it permissible for the trustee who has been appointed by the donor of the endowment or the judge to be remunerated for the services he is rendering and can he pay someone else who is doing the work on his behalf?
A: The trustee of the endowment, whether appointed by the endower or the judge, is entitled to receive normal wages from the proceeds of the endowment if no specific wages is determined by the endower.
Q1977: A court ordered that another person, beside the official trustee, be appointed to oversee the administration of the endowment. Is it permissible for the official trustee provided that he is authorized, to appoint his successor without consulting the person who has been appointed by the court?
A: If the court order in appointing the supervisor alongside the official trustee to oversee his work was to cover all aspects of the administration of the endowment even the appointment of the new trustee, he has no right to go it alone in appointing the successor without consulting the supervisor.
Q1978: The owners of the properties adjacent to a masjid donated parts of their property to be annexed to the masjid with a view to extending it. After consultation with the Islamic scholars, it was agreed that a separate title deed be drawn up for the newly donated land. However, the person who built the masjid, and who is the current trustee, refused to agree to this arrangement, requesting that the donated land be noted on the title deed of the existing endowment trust. He further demanded that he should be the trustee of the entire endowment. Has he the right to demand that and is it obligatory that his demands are met?
A: The jurisdiction over the land that has recently been annexed to the masjid, the drafting of the endowment deed, and the appointment of the endowment trustees should all belong to the new donors. The existing trustee should have no right to object to that.
Q1979: The trustees of a ḥusayniyyah wrote a bylaw. If some provisions of the bylaw run against the spirit of the endowment deed itself, would it still be legally binding to abide by them?
A: The trustee of the endowment has no right to adopt any provisions that could contravene the nature of the endowment. It is also not permissible to abide by the counter provisions.
Q1980: Should there be a group of trustees entrusted with the running of the endowment, is there a shar‘ī justification for some of them to run the endowment without consulting the remaining trustees? Should there be a dispute between them, are they justified in sticking to their own positions without having recourse to the authorized religious authority?
A: Should the endower have appointed them as trustees without specifying anything else and there is no evidence that some of them or the majority of them could act independently of others, none, and not even the majority, can have independence in running the entire endowment or parts thereof. Indeed, it is obligatory on them to reach unanimity through consultation. Should there arise a dispute or a difference of opinion among them, it is obligatory on them to take recourse, in the matter, to the authorized religious authority who should make it binding on them to agree.
Q1981: If some trustees oust other trustees, is it effective?
A: It is not effective and valid unless the endower has delegated him the right to do so.
Q1982: If some trustees accused one or more of the other trustees of being dishonest and insisted on discharging them, how could the issue be resolved?
A: It is obligatory for them to approach the authorized religious authority to investigate the case.
Q1983: A person set aside property by way of a public endowment. According to the endowment deed, he appointed himself a trustee of the endowment and after his death his eldest son. In it, he drew up a list of duties and responsibilities to facilitate the administration of the endowment. Has the Department of Endowments the right to deprive the trustee of all his responsibilities or part thereof?
A: As long as the trustee appointed by the endower is doing his job in accordance with the provisions of endowment deed, administrating of endowment rests with him as the endower stipulated in the deed and as per Islamic law; it is not valid to alter his remit laid down by the endower within the endowment formula.
Q1984: By way of endowment, a person designated a piece of land for a masjid to be built. He directed that its trusteeship should be his own offspring for generations to come. In their absence, he further instructed that the trustee should be the imam of the masjid who can hold the five daily prayers at the masjid. As a result, the imam was the trustee. But he had a stroke that prevented him from holding congregational prayers in the masjid. The board of imams appointed another imam to lead the prayers there. Should the trusteeship of the ill imam cease? Or should he maintain his office as trustee and
appoint a replacement?
A: Assuming that he was trustee in his capacity as the imam of congregational daily prayers in the masjid, his trusteeship should cease by virtue of his incapacity to be imam of the masjid because of illness or for any other reason.
Q1985: A person dedicated the proceeds of his property to be spent, by way of endowment, in certain charitable avenues, such as the provision of financial help to the descendants of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and holding commemorative assemblies. Now, even with the higher rate of returns from the rent of the property, some interested parties insist on offering less rent than the market price for cultural, political, social, or religious reasons or because of the unfavorable financial position of potential tenants. Has the Endowments Department the right to lease the endowment as a going concern for less than the market price?
A: It is obligatory on the trustee and the officials of the Endowments Department to act in the interest of the endowment when renting the property to potential tenants and agreeing on the rent. However, there is no objection to renting the property at a discounted price with due regard to the special circumstances of the tenants, or because of the importance of the work being conducted on the rented premises, so that it should eventually serve the purpose of the endowment. Otherwise, it is not permissible.
Q1986: The late Imam [Khomeini], may his soul rest in peace, has ruled that there can be no trustee for any masjid. Does this fatwā cover the property that forms part of the masjid itself, such as that dedicated to holding preaching sessions? Assuming that this is the case, and in recognition of the fact that many masjids have properties that are designated for charitable causes and have official trustees — who have a working relationship with the Endowments Department — is it permissible for the trustees of such endowments to abdicate their responsibility, especially in the light of the fatwā of the
late Imam that stresses the fact that the trustee cannot relinquish his responsibility and should abide by the provisions laid down by the donor in the endowment deed without prejudice?
A: The ruling that the masjid cannot lend itself to a trusteeship is confined to the masjid proper. It does not go beyond that to cover the properties endowed to the masjid, let alone those endowments that are dedicated to preaching in the masjid and the like. Therefore, there is no objection to the appointment of trustees for private and public endowments, even in such cases like endowments for providing furniture, lighting, and water to the masjid or to keep it clean.
The appointed trustee has no right to abdicate his responsibility of running the trust. Indeed, in discharging his duties, the trustee should be guided by the provisions laid down by the donor in the endowment formula, even if it is done by appointing a deputy to discharge them for him. It is not permissible for anyone to interfere or make problems for him.
Q1987: Is it permissible for people other than the shar‘ī trustee of the endowment to meddle in the affairs of the trust, so much so that they change the provisions laid down in the endowment deed? Are such people justified in their demands from the trustee to hand over the land to a person whom the trustee does not deem fit?
A: The running of the endowment in accordance with the provisions laid down by the donor in the endowment deed is the exclusive preserve of the shar‘ī trustee. In the absence of an appointed trustee by the donor, the trusteeship belongs to the ruler of Muslims. Thus, other people have no right to interfere in the matter. Furthermore, no one, including the shar‘ī trustee, should have the right to alter the beneficiaries of the endowment or the purpose for which the profit is spent, nor has anyone such right as to change or amend the provisions laid down in the endowment deed.
Q1988: Should the donor appoint someone supervisor of the endowment and make it conditional that they are not discharged only by the ruler of Muslims, have they the right to resign their office?
A: By obligatory caution it is not permissible for the supervisor of the endowment, after he has accepted the appointment, to resign his office. Nor is the trustee of the endowment permitted to do so.
Q1989: In an endowment deed, some of which is private and some public, the donor has stipulated that in the event of death of the present trustee, the trusteeship should be vested in the next eldest and most competent member among the male generation for generations to come, giving preference to the first generation over the second. A person of the first generation is suitable to assume the role of trustee, yet they declined to hold the office, agreeing that his younger brother, whom they think competent, to take over. Is it permissible for the younger person to be the trustee of the endowment, especially if they can fulfill all the requirements?
A: It is permissible for the person, who is qualified to be a trustee, not to accept it. But, if he accepts it, he cannot resign. However, they can appoint someone to run the trust on their behalf provided that the latter is trustworthy and capable. It is not permissible for the person from the next generation to assume the trusteeship of the endowment when there is someone else from the previous generation who accepted to act as trustee.
Q1990: Some beneficiaries of the endowment, who deemed themselves suitable to be trustees, approached the authorized religious authority with the request to sanction their appointment to a trusteeship. The authorized religious authority did not accede to their request, as he was not impressed that they are up to the challenge. Can they still object to the appointment of the person who is more suitable to be a trustee, under the pretext that he’s younger than them?
A: He who is not entitled to be a trustee has no right to apply for the office of trustee. Nor has he the right to object to the appointment of another person who is more suitable to be trustee.
Q1991: The appointed trustee of an endowment was found to be negligent and irresponsible. Is it permissible to discharge them and appoint someone else in their place?
A: Negligence and irresponsibility alone cannot be sufficient legal grounds for discharging the appointed trustee and replacing him. The matter has to be referred to the authorized religious authority who can order him to properly discharge his responsibilities vis-à-vis the endowment deed. If this was not forthcoming, he would order him to choose a suitable person to run the endowment on his behalf or the authorized religious authority would appoint that second person alongside him.
Q1992: Who should take overall charge of the upkeep of the tombs of the descendants of the Imams (a.s.), that are scattered across Iranian towns and villages, and the collection and expenditure of the donations and vows? And has anyone the right to claim the ownership of the land where the descendants of the Imam are buried and the immediate area around their tombs that is used as graveyards, from old time?
A: The trusteeship of the holy places and public endowments, that have no trustees, belongs to the Leader of Muslims. The authority to appoint trustees for such endowments has now been vested in his representative in the Office of Endowments and Charitable Affairs. The land where the descendants of an Imam are buried and the surrounding area used from old as a burial ground for Muslims are deemed public endowments unless the contrary is proven by shar‘ī evidence before a judge.
Q1993: Is it permissible for all the beneficiaries of an endowment, who happened to be Muslim, to put forward to the Endowments Office the name of a non-Muslim with a view to appointing him as trustee of the endowment?
A: Appointing a non-Muslim a trustee of an Islamic endowment is not permissible.
Q1994: Who can be called an appointed trustee by the donor and who cannot? And should the donor appoint a trustee for the endowment and give him the authority to appoint a successor, can the successor be called a fully-fledged trustee?
A: The appointed trustee is the person appointed by the donor when uttering the endowment formula. If the donor made a provision, at that time, authorizing the trustee to appoint the next trustee; there is no objection to his appointing a successor after him. The person who is appointed by the original trustee is deemed as though the donor appointed him.
Q1995: Has the trustee of an endowment the right to abdicate his responsibility in favor of the Endowments Office?
A: The trustee of an endowment has no right to do so. However, there is no objection to appoint the Endowments Office, or anyone else as his deputy, to run the trust for him.
Q1996: The court appointed a person to oversee the work of the trustee of an endowment who was accused of negligence in running the endowment.
After the trustee had been exonerated, and since passed away, has the supervisor the right to have a say in the decisions and actions taken by the deceased trustee, especially when such decisions and actions were taken years before the appointment of the supervisor? Is it right to say that the remit of his responsibility should be confined to the period between the date of the court appointment and the date the trustee died? Since no action was taken by the court to relieve the supervisor of his responsibility after passing judgment proving the innocence of the trustee, should he relinquish his responsibility from the date of the judgment, or should this hinge on the order of the court?
A: If the appointment of the supervisor alongside the official trustee was because he was charged with negligence in his duties to run the trust, he should have no right to meddle in or express any opinion about anything outside the remit of his responsibility. His authority as overseer of the work of the accused trustee should have come to an end with the passing of the sentence of exoneration. Furthermore, in view of the death of the previous trustee, and transfer of trusteeship to someone else, the said supervisor should no longer have right to interfere in the running of the trust. Nor has he the right to oversee the work of the new trustee.
Share this article