New Trends in Awqaf for Undertaking Charitable Activities
Muslims can improve their social, economic, educational and infrastructural status only if they are actively involved in the development processes. To play an effective and positive role in the development processes, it is utmost necessary for them to have credible, healthy and active NGOs in every sphere of activity, writes SYED TAHSIN AHMED.
Waqf is defined as a permanent dedication by any person, of any movable or immovable property for any purpose recognized by the Muslim law as pious, religious or charitable.However, it is noticed that a vast majority of Awqaf (plural of Waqf) have restricted their sphere of activities to pious and religious aspects. Invariably, the charitable activity is either non-existent or when it does exist in a few Waqf institutions, it is not their primary or secondary focus. The concept of Waqf came into existence during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself. When Hazrath Umar (RA) approached the Prophet seeking his advice as to how to make the most pious use of a piece of land in Khaiber which he had purchased, the holy Prophet replied:
‘Tie up the property (Asl or corpus) and devote the usufruct to human beings, and it is not to be sold or made the subject of gift or inheritance; devote its produce to your children, your kindred, and the poor in the way of God.’
Thus, utilizing the income from the Waqf for assisting the poor was an integral part of the concept of Waqf as envisaged by the Prophet (pbuh).
The thrust towards charitable activities was also given by Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) when he started the Bait-ul-Maal after the battle of Badr and Masjid-e-Nabvi at Madinah served as its centre. Zakat and Sadaqat were deposited in the Bait-ul-Maal. It was the practice of the holy Prophet (pbuh) to have four heads of accounts in the Bait-ul-Maal which should be separate from each other. These heads of the Bait-ul-Maal are as follows:
- Khums al-Ghanaim: To this head of account, one-fifth of the spoils of war, one-fifth of buried treasures and one-fifth of whatever is mined from different quarries were deposited.
- Sadaqat: To this head of account, Zakaath, Sadaqath etc. were being deposited.
- Khairaj and Fai: To this head of account Jizyah and taxes paid by non-Muslims were deposited.
- Dawai: To this head of account proceeds from lost properties, unclaimed properties as well as property left by a person having no heir was being deposited.
Thus, a streamlined procedure was evolved by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to help the poor and needy which was also subsequently adhered to by the rightly guided Caliphs. Later, during the caliphate of Hazrath Umar (RA), Bait-ul-Maal became a larger institution. Hazrath Umar (RA) evolved a new system by which the poor and unemployed could get financial help from the Bait-ul-Maal. Even women, who were pregnant or were nursing and had no one to take care of them, received a monthly stipend from the Bait-ul-Maal. Most accurate records of the animals received in charity by the Bait-ul-Maal were maintained by entering the features, colour and age of the animals. Sometimes Hazrath Umar (RA) himself made those entries.
Bait-ul-Maal in the Present Scenario
Coming to the present, we notice that a few Waqf institutions, more specifically the Masajid, have a Bait-ul-Maal functioning as a subsidiary institution. While the managing committee members give all the importance to the functioning and maintenance of the mosque, the Bait-ul-Maal receives step-motherly treatment. The only source of income to the Bait-ul-Maal is through the sale of skins of animals sacrificed during Bakrid festival. Some Bait-ul-Maals which are a bit more active collect Zakaath amount during Ramzan. Of course, there are a few, or rather very few Bait-ul-Maals which function on a larger scale, but that is an exception, rather than the rule.
If every mosque has a pro-active Bait-ul-Maal, it can take care of the needs and requirements of the poor Muslims residing in its vicinity. A major advantage from this activity is that the management will have a direct and one-to-one contact with the persons of that area who deserve help. Which child has dropped out of the school or college for not being able to pay the fees, which student is unable to join a professional course due to lack of finance, which student has a potential to take up competitiveexaminations and requires coaching, which person is undergoing treatment in a hospital and is unable to foot the bill; all such needy and genuine persons can be identified.
The Central and State Governments earmark a lot of funds for the socio-economic upliftment of the minorities. But quite often, these welfare schemes do not percolate to the most deserving persons. Why? Because, what is required is micro-level planning instead of macro-level planning. And for micro-level planning to become a reality, there should be micro-level institutions. What better institution can we get, other than the mosques which exist in every Muslim locality. If all mosques give emphasis on establishing an effective and efficient Bait-ul-Maal, it will go a long way in the socio-economic development of the Muslim community. To make the Bait-ul-Maals more effective, they should maintain a Register showing essential details of the Muslim inhabitants in the vicinity of the mosque. The Millat Management Society of India, Hameed Shah Complex, Bangalore, has developed a Millat Register to fulfill these needs which canserve as a base for implementing the beneficial programmes.
Role of NGOs and Awqaf
After independence, India has made rapid strides in amelioration of poverty, enhancing of literary levels, improving health and achieving overall development. The benefits of the growth process have to be shared by all needy religious communities and social groups. No region should suffer unequal development and no religious community or social group should lag behind in the socio-economic development.
The Central and State Governments have taken up many schemes and programmes in various departments to improve the quality of life of the citizens. Presently, 38 departments of the Central Government are implementing nearly 300 welfare schemes/ programmes. Crores of Rupees are earmarked for these schemes. The Minority Welfare department also has many schemes exclusively for the minorities.
But the crux of the issue is this. A majority of these schemes/ programmes are implemented through the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). The Prime Minister’s High Level committee headed by Justice Rajender Sachar in its report points out that:
“Credible NGOs, with necessary expertise, from the Muslim community are few and far between.”
With practically very few NGOs from the Muslim community, the delivery mechanism is dependent on other NGOs whose priorities are different. The Sachar Committee Report states that:
“Service providers face a number of difficulties in reaching out to the Muslim community for various reasons, ranging from a sheer lack of understanding of issues particular to the Community to lack of Muslim presence in the organization and a sense of suspicion which the community may have towards them. It is alleged that in many situations, the service providers have inherent biases and show resistance to reach out to the Community”.
It is now very apparent that Muslims can improve their social, economic, educational and infrastructural status only if they are actively involved in the development processes. To play an effective and positive role in the development processes, it is utmost necessary for them to have credible, healthy and active NGOs in every sphere of activity. Otherwise, they will lag behind other communities economically as has been pointed out in the Sachar Committee Report, Human Development Reports and Poverty Estimates: which are all Government of India publications.
Waqfs Should Function as NGOs
Basically a NGO (Non-Government Organization) is an association of persons, or a body of individuals, with non-profit motive working for general public utility and for charitable purposes. The NGO may be formed and registered as a Society, Trust, Company or Waqf. Many people are not aware that a registered Waqf institution is consequently and automatically a registered NGO too and can participate in any Government scheme involving the NGOs. In a study conducted by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission in the year 2008, it was revealed that out of the 559 NGOs working for minorities in Karnataka, only thirteen are Waqf institutions. That there are just thirteen NGOs out of more than 28,000 registered Waqf institutions in Karnataka is really shocking.
A majority of the Waqf institutions have restricted their ambit to purely religious activities. Waqf institutions exist in almost every district, every city, town and village. Many of them have good sources of income and also have good buildings and infrastructure. Keeping such a vast body of institutional set-up away from active involvement in social, developmental, educational, economical and civic activities is a big loss to the community. It is not being said that they should not pursue their religious activities. What is being advocated is that Waqf institutions can strive to improve the life and living conditions of the Muslim community in addition to their activities which are largely routine in nature.
It has been pointed out in the Sachar Committee Report that:
“The registration of trusts set up by the community, such as Wakf institutions and mosque committees should be facilitated. These institutions, being closer to the community can, indeed, play an important role as intermediaries between policy programmes announced by the government and their beneficiaries within the Muslim community.”
In recent years, some novel concepts have also been introduced to the Waqfs. The foremost among these is the creation of Waqf of intellectual property, consisting of copyright of books. The Khairun Prokashani Wakf has been created by Moulana Abdur Rahim, a renowned Islamic scholar of Bangladesh for the copyright of his religious books. Another such Waqf has been formed in Bangladesh itself by a scholar Moulana Mohammed Abdul Khaleq for the copyright of his 20 published books. The royalty from the sale of books could be utilized for pious, religious or charitable activities, thus compounding the sawaab (virtue).
Generally,Waqf is known to be related to endowment of any property of permanent nature for any purpose recognized by Islamic law as religious, pious, or charitable. Breaking away from this norm, in the recent past, some well-to-do persons in Bangladesh pooled their funds jointly to create a Cash Waqf. The Cash Waqf operates in the following manner.
The money pooled from donors (who become Waqifs) is invested in income generating investment opportunities. This fund will remain perpetually intact. Only the profit from its investments will be spent for charitable and poverty alleviation programmes. Since the money invested by the Waqif to the Cash Waqf remains perpetually intact, it becomes a Sadaqa-e-Jaariya (ongoing charity which continues even after the death of the donor). Therefore, the Cash Waqf is different from Zakaath, Sadaqaath and Qarz-e-Hasna.
As deposits of Cash Waqf are permanent and perpetual, it is possible to invest the corpus in short-term, medium-term and long-term investment. Under short-term investment, microcredit can be given to women for small businesses by forming Self-Help Groups. This will help in poverty alleviation and family empowerment. Under mid-term investment, cottage industry, weaving industry, dairy farming and small retail businesses could be targeted. This will generate employment opportunities and contribute towards social progress. Under long-term investment, the capital could be invested in heavy industries, factories and also in shares and debentures which are not interest-based and are Shariat-compliant.
Cash Waqf was first introduced in the Ottoman era in Egypt. It was rediscovered and is being successfully implemented in Bangladesh. The concept of Cash Waqf is now being adopted in Malaysia, Singapore as well as in some places in the USA. Cash Waqf has many advantages. In the traditional Awqaf, the landed properties are donated by the rich and upper classes. In the Cash Waqf, even the poor people can contribute a small amount according to their means and earn Sawaab (virtue). Secondly, the traditional Waqfs of landed properties are susceptible to encroachment, unauthorized occupation, acquisition by government, bad tenants etc. which is totally avoided in the case of Cash Waqfs. Thirdly, the landed properties of traditional Awqaf have low degree of liquidity. It is not legally permissible to sell them and even where it is specially permitted, it takes considerable time and effort. In contrast, Cash Waqf has a high degree of liquidity.
Social Islami Bank and Cash Waqf Certificate
Prof. M. A. Mannan (a doctorate holder in Economics from Michigan University, USA) has made pioneering efforts towards establishing innovative Awqaf in Bangladesh based on participatory economy. Dr. M. A. Mannan has also authored a book titled, Cash Waqf: Living by Giving and Sharing. He is the founder Chairman of the Social Islami Bank Ltd. (SIBL), Bangladesh.
Social Islami Bank Ltd. (previously known as Social Investment Bank Ltd.) is a novel banking model beyond conventional banking and cooperatives which aims at alleviating poverty and empowering families through social investment based on participatory economy. In the process of organizing social capital market operations in the voluntary sector of the bank, it has for the first time in the history of Awqaf introduced a Cash Waqf Certificate Scheme. Cash Waqf provides a unique opportunity for making investment in different religious, educational and social services. The financially well-off from the society can purchase Cash Waqf Certificates from their savings. Income earned from the certificates can be spent for different purposes like the development of Waqf properties itself, apart from other charitable activities.
Cash Waqf and Cash Waqf Certificates can mobilize small savings since the Waqif has the option to buy them in installments at his convenience. Cash Waqf transforms social savings into capital. It creates awareness among the rich about their responsibilities to the community. Further, it integrates the rich and the poor, which will help achieving social security and peace.
Since the Cash Waqf Certificates are of different denominations, it is also affordable by even Muslims of lesser means. The development of Awqaf properties can also be taken up raising funds through the sale of Cash Waqf Certificates. As the Bank manages this Cash Waqf, the Cash Waqf has transparency, liquidity and accountability. It is a perpetual deposit and its profit can be utilized for a wide variety of purposes. Some of them are listed below:
a) Rehabilitating the handicapped
b) Rehabilitating the beggars
c) Rehabilitating destitute women
d) Uplift of urban slum dwellers
e) Education of orphans
f) Student scholarships
g) Establishing clinics for the poor
h) Legal aid to deserving women
i) Arranging marriages without dowry
j) Mosque, Idgah and Graveyard development projects
In fact, the above suggested areas can be a good road-map, not only for Cash Waqf but also for any kind of Waqf which aims to do charitable work. Bait-ul-Maal, Cash Waqfs, NGOs or any Social Service organization may register itself as a Waqf and undertake these activities which are highly beneficial to the Muslim community. In fact, except perhaps distributing scholarships to poor students and construction/ expansion of Mosques and Madrasas, almost all the other activities listed above appear neglected and they deserve far greater attention. Along with HuquqAllah (Rights of Allah), Huquq-ul-Ibaad (Rights of Allah’s created beings) also deserves some focus.
We might have failed in protecting many Waqf properties in the past. But, what prevents us from creating new Awqaf now and in the future? Most of the Awqaf we have today were created by our forefathers. It will be a travesty of truth to say that we do not have very rich Muslims today who have the capacity to become Waqifs and create new Waqfs. Does it imply that we are less generous today?
Let us move forward. Let us dream for the future. Many countries in the world are experimenting with new ideas and are creating new assets which are beneficial for the socio, economic and educational upliftment of the Muslim community. Let us adopt a few of such leading ideas which can possibly be implemented in our country without scruples. The message should be sent to the Muslim community loud and clear. Create new Awqaf, but take proper safeguards to ensure that they are not misused in later years. Just as we are today enjoying the Waqf properties dedicated by our forefathers, we owe it to our future generations to create new Awqaf now, in the present and in our lifetime.
The author is a retired Karnataka Administrative Service officer who has worked three times in the Karnataka State Board of Wakfs as Secretary/ CEO. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.