Waqf has played in the past an important role and presently possesses enough potential of contributing to the socio-economic development of the Muslim society, particularly in Malaysia.
A great deal of importance was given to the institution of waqf for providing fund and facilities for the benefit of the Muslim society, mainly in the field of education, health, and development. It also helped to eradicate poverty, thus establishing its importance in the field of socio-economic development.
However, the success enjoyed by the institution of waqf in the past suffered a setback that prevented it from fulfilling its objective and potential, when many waqf properties were found to suffer from abuse and neglect and are in bad shape due to many reasons.
Thus, the recent calls by Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah to revisit and to revive the role of waqf in education are a timely reminder for all stakeholders.
We also have to appreciate a joint effort taken by the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (MCCM) and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) to establish an International Centre for Waqf Research in finding the solutions to revitalize the waqf for the betterment of the Muslims.
A waqf seminar with the theme “Waqf – The Catalyst for Unity and Revival of the Muslim Economy” was organized on 21st December 2013 to mark that formation. Two working papers were presented by Prof. Dr. Syed Khalid Rashid and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sharifah Zubaidah bt. Syed Abdul Kader to discuss the importance and the economic potential of waqf as well as the legal framework of waqf in Malaysia.
These two developments are indeed very significant steps towards revitalizing waqf in Malaysia. There are several strategic actions that must be taken to achieve its objectives. First, Prof. Dr. Syed Khalid Rashid (2013) highlighted the urgent need to do a survey on waqf in Malaysia. Survey is very important to discover and understand the forms of waqf assets and its current condition. We wonder how big the potential of waqf assets in Malaysia is as there was no such survey conducted in the past. We want to know whether the majority of waqf assets in Malaysia are in the forms of mosque, graveyards or idle lands which are unproductive and neglected.
Survey will give a clear picture of waqf assets in Malaysia, the value of waqf, the current income (if any), and the potential and its financial condition. The survey will be a catalyst in developing a database of waqf assets in Malaysia. This database will in turn play a crucial role in achieving the successful development and administration of waqf in the future.
The financing of the development for waqf properties is the next issue we have to address. Where are the sources of financing to develop these waqf assets? Looking at the current development of Islamic finance in Malaysia, we believe that various modes of financing are available. It could be in the forms of cash waqf, partnership, Islamic bond, lease etc. The successful development of Waqf Seetee Aishah in Pulau Penang and Ahmad Dawjee Dadabhoy Land Development Endowments which is now well known as Menara Bank Islam in Kuala Lumpur has proven that the sources of financing are aplenty.
According to Siti Mashitoh Mahamood (2014), Menara Bank Islam waqf development is a unique model of a waqf development project in Malaysia. It is a 34-storey waqf building under the administration of MAIWP (The Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council), located at Jalan Perak within the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur. The building was built on 1.21 acres of awqaf lands endowed by a wealthy Indian Muslim from Gujarat, the late Ahmad Dawjee Dadabhoy. It was developed using Build Operate, Transfer (B.O.T) as well as the Islamic concepts of wakala, ijara and istisna`. Menara Bank Islam was the first large-scale commercial development project constructed on waqf land in Malaysia. It involved 3 leading Islamic organizations, namely the MAIWP, Lembaga Tabung Haji (Pilgrims Fund Board) and Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad (BIMB). The project was funded by the Tabung Haji at a cost of RM151 million, and has a 25 year leasing period. MAIWP as the land owner (i.e., the trustee) will receive RM56.6 million over that period. It is expected that MAIWP will receive RM700 million worth of this commercial waqf building upon the completion of the BOT period.
This development is very encouraging indeed for the advancement of waqf in Malaysia as previously it was very difficult to find the bank or other financial institutions financing the development of waqf properties. Waqf Seetee Aishah and Ahmad Dawjee Dadaboy might be utilized as a success story to change the negative perception on waqf properties development.
As a further motivation for the importance of revitalization of waqf, we should look into the success story of Warees Investment Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore), which was formed in 2001 to manage waqf properties there. It has played a significant role in increasing waqf properties in Singapore. It is reported that its total assets has reach S$250 million at the end of 2006. The same inspiration can also be found from AMAF (Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation) of Dubai as well as Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation (KAPF).
Now, with the recent interest of waqf development in Malaysia and the establishment of International Centre for Waqf Research (ICWR), the time has come for relevant stakeholders to take up the challenge to develop waqf in Malaysia so that waqf could become the source for unity and the revival of Muslim socio-economy.
With good planning, careful implementation and better administration, it is indeed an interesting time for waqf development in Malaysia and her neighboring countries where waqf will again play crucial role in the field of socio-economic development.