On December 21, 2022, the Ministry of Endowments issued Decision No. 1104, which removed some endowment rights registered in the Land Record for certain real estate properties. In return, the owners are to pay five percent of the current value of these properties to the ministry’s directorates.
The real estate targeted by Decision No. 1104 is not endowment properties. Instead, they simply have endowments’ rights listed as their legal classification or as a note on their Land Records, which does not impose any restrictions on the rights of the property owners, who are entitled to sell and transfer ownership of the properties. Meanwhile, endowment classifications remains in place within their records.
Actual endowment properties have a special legal status, belonging neither to the state nor to individuals. Owners of such properties may not do as they wish with them, but instead they must go to the benefit of the people. Ownership may not be transferred to others because they are considered to be “governed by God”. Endowment properties include mosques, hospices, tawhid religious centres, schools, libraries, cemeteries and shrines.
The endowment rights removed by Decision No. 1104 are tithes, sultani (dominion) rights, alomara rights and annual remunerations. These were among the dividends paid to the Ottoman state for the usufruct of some properties, some of which have no real endowment origins. Tithes were one-tenth the output endowments lands, paid by those properties’ beneficiaries. Meanwhile, sultani and alomara endowments were historically applied to Amiri lands distributed by the Ottoman wali governors, given that some benefits were classified as endowments.
Likewise, these were not endowment properties, and beneficiaries entitled to dispose of them had to pay annual fees to charitable organisations or to the endowment administration to benefit from them. Finally, the annual remunerations were “endowments” of a yearly sum to be paid by beneficiaries of a given property as an annual donation to a person or mosque, according to the wishes of the original property owners.
During the short-lived United Arab Republic between Syria and Egypt in 1958-1961, the endowment system was regulated, and some endowment rights were abolished as those properties were not originally endowment properties, but Amiri lands belonging to the state whose benefits were halted. For example, Endowments Properties Law No. 189 of 1960 stated that endowment authorities no longer had the right to collect sultani and alomara endowments because they were not endowment properties. Two years earlier, Law No. 174 on Tithes and Lump-Sum Returns cancelled the right of endowment institutions to collect these annual payments. And Jurisprudence No. 60 of 1961 affirmed that notes on such rights in the Land Registry were no longer valid, including those listing tithes, sultani payments, alomara payments and annual remunerations.
In essence, the Ministry of Endowments’ recent Decision No. 1104 contradicts the contents of Laws No. 189 and 174 and judicial jurisprudence. This is because the ministry is not entitled to collect payments in return for the removal of non-original endowment rights, which previous laws had already canceled.
Decision No. 1104 removes those rights only after collecting a sum equivalent to five percent of the current value of the properties in question, as determined by the relevant financial entities. According to the decision, the property owners in zoned areas could pay that five percent sum, or register in the name of the relevant endowments directorate a share equivalent to five percent of the current value of those properties.
The concerned endowment directorates handle the cancellation of these endowment rights after confirming the completion of these payments, which then serve as revenue to benefit those directorates.
In practice, nothing changes for the owners of these properties after the endowment rights are removed, as they were not already paying endowments for them. The only thing that changes is cancelling those rights from the Land Records.