Waqf (endowment) is an important institution in the Islamic social framework. It can harness the potential of selfless charitable giving in an effective way for better economic impact in the targeted social segments of society. Waqf is a shared property mechanism of a person with others. The redistribution of wealth to others is crucial for it is proven in helping the stabilization of a country’s economy.
In general, waqf is similar to the endowment concept as demonstrated by universities such as Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford which were established under endowment programs. The Harvard Endowment, which is Harvard University’s largest financial asset, is made up of more than 13,000 individual funds invested as a single entity.
Notwithstanding, in contrast, waqf has a solid connection to the shariah guideline. The cash waqf is usually formed where the pooled donations are used to build institutions, such as schools, hospitals and orphanages, argue that cash waqf can pool more resources and ensure wider participation of individual donors. For me, waqf is an economic system of the people, led by the people, for the people. It leads to the creation of the third sector that complements the public and private sectors.
The practice of waqf in Malaysia can be traced back to the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century. The development of waqf properties went through remarkable changes during the colonization period by the Portuguese (1511-1641), Dutch (1641-1824), and British (1826-1946). Based on the Federal constitution, the responsibility of waqf management was placed under the respective State Islamic Religious Councils (MAIN). On 27th March 2004, the government of Malaysia established Department of Wakaf, Zakat and Hajj (JAWHAR) to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of waqf, zakat (alms-giving), and hajj administration in every state in Malaysia.
Waqf also played a major role in the scientific and cultural achievements of the Islamic world such as dissemination of knowledge, building of schools, mosques, public libraries and paying for the students’ upkeep. During the Golden Ages of Islam, there are also waqf of astronomical laboratories, science laboratories, and educational hospitals to teach medicine, nursing, and pharmacology.
In the contemporary application of waqf, it can be established either by dedicating real estate, furniture, fixtures and equipments (FFE) other movable assets and liquid forms of money and wealth like cash and shares. 2021 Budget shows the government of Malaysia’s determination in empowering the management of wakaf through collaborations between Malaysia Waqf Foundation (YWM) with Federal government agencies, Government Linked Companies (GLC) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLIC). Indeed, such efforts have already begun as the primary step when I first started in office as the Minister of Religious Affairs.
YWM through Tabung Wakaf Malaysia (Malaysia Waqf Fund) which will be established, will act as a huge umbrella for all types of wakaf collection by YWM with the cooperation of all government agencies, Government Linked Companies (GLC), Government Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) and the general public to maximize the promotional reach and wakaf collection. Through TWM’s implementation across state borders with the involvement of State Islamic Religious Council, TWM’s model is expected to maximize the reach and awareness of wakaf to society.
The National Waqf Masterplan (PIWN) that will also be established is to ensure a more efficient waqf management and maximizes the waqf assets mobility in the future is an accurate decision. Indeed, one of the most pressing issues in need of waqf support in today’s world is science and technology. The use of new technological solutions, such as blockchain technology, will enable the wise tracking and monitoring of waqf donors, recipients and businesses.
Quoting the keynote address by His Royal Highness Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, “Technological advances are being made every day, and emerging breakthroughs in fields, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology and biotechnology will, no doubt, further enhance the potential of the waqf system in ways that we cannot imagine today.”
It is hoped that waqf will be widely established in Malaysia and would eventually allow for the creation of sustainable and perpetual benefits not only for the Muslim community but also for the entire nation.