INCEIF and IQRA Foundation today jointly held the second brainstorming session on ‘Waqf: Redefining Prosperity and Growth’, following the success of the first session in October. This time around the audience has more than doubled to 140 people and the main speaker, INCEIF’s Professor of Comparative History, Prof Murat Cizakca, was joined by 3 others speakers.
Participants at the seminar on ‘Waqf: Redefining Prosperity and Growth’.
The other speakers were Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Director of Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies, Professor Dr Muhammad Syukri Salleh; IQRA Foundation Board of Trustees member, Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim; and Yayasan Wakaf Malaysia CEO Mr Azri Ahmad. The session was moderated by another member of the IQRA Board of Trustees, Dato’ Seri Idris Jusoh.
Prof Murat spoke on ‘Waqf : Its contribution and basic operational structure’. His presentation opened with a quote from well-known scholar, Prof Dr. Nejatullah Siddiqi, posing a question on whether moral considerations and business enterprise could ever be reconciled.
Giving a resounding yes to the question, Prof Murat said: “In Islam, accumulation of wealth and its re-distribution are inseparable. Once wealth is accumulated Muslims are ordained to redistribute this wealth voluntarily. Islamic economic history indicates that Waqfs, rather than zakat, were the most important institutions for redistribution of wealth.
According to him, the basic structure of a Waqf, in a nut-shell, is a privately owned property, mal or corpus, is endowed for a charitable purpose in perpetuity and the revenue, which this property generates, usufruct, is spent for this purpose. Waqfs, so structured, stand out as one of the great achievements of Islamic civilisation. All over the vast Islamic world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, magnificent works of architecture as well as services vitally important to the society such as education, health and many others have been organised, financed and maintained for centuries through this system.
The Islamic Waqf law was also borrowed by the Europeans and the example of such a case was the setting up of the Merton College of Oxford University in 1264. The Merton foundation became a respected model in England and was imitated by the foundation of Peterhouse, Cambridge University. It has been argued that the endowment deed of Merton College was in such conformity with the Islamic Waqf law that it would have been approved in the Islamic world by any learned judge.
However, over the years, overwhelmed by state control and bureaucratic impediments, Waqfs in most Islamic countries have lost their previous importance and dynamism. This view is shared by many at the seminar. Tan Sri Muhammad Ali, whose presentation centred on the success story of corporate Waqf as practised by Johor Corporation, said if implemented and managed well, Waqf is an effective tool for the betterment of the society. IQRA Foundation has been organised a number of roadshows throughout the country to revitalise the spirit of Waqf.
Prof Murat said: “Waqfs are emerging as indispensable institutions in modern Islamic finance, without, however, most financial engineers realising it. Both the SPVs (special purpose vehicles) in modern sukuks and the Islamic Unit Trust Funds have been designed actually as trusts. But, as we now know, trusts are actually Waqfs. Financial engineers think that they are borrowing common law trusts from England. Waqfs may also play a significant role in the democratisation of Islamic countries. This is because Waqfs constituted for centuries civil society institutions, par excellence, for the Islamic world. Indeed, established with private capital, which they often pooled, they were decentralised and autonomous.”