Confinement or prohibition; pl. awqaf. Generally used to mean the endowment of a certain property for the sole benefit of a certain philanthropy with the intention of prohibiting any use or disposition of the property outside that specific purpose; applies to nonperishable property whose benefit can be extracted without consuming the property itself. The three most typical kinds of waqf are religious (mosques, as well as real estate that exclusively provides revenues for mosque maintenance and service expenses), philanthropic (support for the poor and the public interest at large by funding such institutions and activities as libraries, scientific research, education, health services, and care of animals and the environment), and posterity or family awqaf (whose revenues are first given to the family's descendants; only the surplus, if any, is given to the poor).
From: Waqf in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam »