Author: Prof. Dr. Syed Khalid Rashid
Chairman, Ladies & Gentlemen
I hope all of you slept well last night.
NOT ME! Because the miserable condition of awqaf in India made me restless. Waqf has become part of my life since 1963-64 when I started my PhD. Research on Waqf Laws & Administration in India at the Aligarh Muslim University. So much so that after my marriage, my wife on seeing me mentioning waqf, waqf, waqf all the time. Used to say, with a knowing smile wink of her eyes, that waqf is like my second wife. With the passing away of my wife last year after 47 years of marriage, waqf has become my sole concern. So how could have I slept well when waqf is in a miserable condition in India. Now my wife’s mission is to find ways for the betterment of awqaf in India. It is exceedingly difficult to narrate the long story of awqaf in India in 30 minutes. But let me try.
First, I will briefly describe the infra-structure of waqf administration in India and the problems that make it of little use. Then, before you become sad on hearing this sad story, I will switch to things which could rejuvenate awqaf, to make you at least less sad, if not happy.
493,000 awqaf 600,000 acres of land worth 1.2 trillion INR equal to us$20 billion. Awqaf in the whole of India are governed by the Waqf Act, initially enacted in 1954 but amended several times, the latest in 2013. The act does not extend to Jammu & Kashmir, which has its own J&K, Waqf Act 1978 and to Dargah of Hazrat Moinuddin, Chishti at Ajmer which in governed by The Dargah Khawaja Saheb Act,1955.
Under the Waqf Act, The Central Government appoints a 21 member Central Waqf Council to advise The Central Government on matters of waqf and to keep an eye on the working of the Waqf Boards which every state and U.T in India has. The act also provides for the establishment of a Waqf Board for each State and U.T, the appointment of a waqf survey commissioner in every state to conduct survey of awqaf in the state and provision for the establishment of Waqf Tribunals to adjudicate waqf disputes in the State, prohibiting such disputes to be filed in the civil courts to save time and money. The act gives sweeping powers both to the Central and state government to intervene in Waqf matters.
However, these powers given to the State Government to appoint Waqf Board members, The Chief Executive Officer of the Waqf Board exercising extensive powers over the Waqf Board, which meets only in a month or two, indirectly empowers the state Government to control awqaf in the state. The state Government generally delay the appointment of the members of the Board, thus making CEO the king of awqaf. The Government also delays the appointment of the waqf survey commissioner and the Presiding officers of the Waqf Tribunals.
The Act confess on the The Central Government power to regulate “secular activities” of awqaf which includes social, economic, educational, and other welfare activities. Which clearly means everything which a waqf does or aims to do may be regulated by the government, except of course strictly religious matters like offering of salat. The state Government recklessly supersede the Waqf Boards and put the Board under a Government appointed Administrator.
Up to 2016, survey of awqaf has not been completed in any state except two. Survey Commissioners were appointed only in 18 states. Only 14 waqf tribunals were constituted under the 2013 amendment which made mandatory for the waqf tribunal to have 3 presiding judges. Survey in yet to be conducted in Maharashtra state.
During the time of the pre-BJP Government in India, a bill aimed at Evicting unauthorized occupants from waqf lands was introduced in the parliament, but this Bill is still waiting to be passed since 2014.
Since the endowment of the waqf Act 1954 to 1987, that in during the initial 33 years of waqf administration in India, development of waqf was never mentioned. The entire attention was to have a so-called model waqf legislation but the waqf boards which were established were far less than functional, so also the central Waqf council. The survey was not fully done. The national waqf development corporation established under the 2013 amended waqf act has yet starts functioning. Before the establishment of the corporation, for 43 years (is from 1974 to 2017), the central waqf council was given the task of development of 493,000 waqf properties in India. The Minister has released the following figures in July 2018.
Projects under progress….71
Total grant given in 43 years…. Rs.52.37 crore i.e. less that Rs 1.25 crore/year.
Today, construction of an average house in India costs around Rs 2 crores.
Development work was undertaken on an ad hoc basis without any planning. I examined 100 awqaf out of the total 152 developed and found that 33% were mosques, graveyards, dargahs + imambaras which have no income generating potential.
Out of 493,000 awqaf in India at least 20,000 are worth developing and are capable of producing enough income for the community development. The wastage of nearly half a century in doing nothing criminal.
Lack of funding
The main reason behind this tragedy is lack of funding. The IDB is ready to invest in India US$5-10 million for this purpose. But the government of India does not allow the entry of foreign funds for this purpose. Hence, huge amounts which could have come from Middle Eastern and other countries in the form of development loan could not enter India. Within India, the prohibition of Islamic banking and finance has made it impossible to raise millions needed for this purpose. When Muslims in India were negotiating with the Reserve bank of India for allowing Islamic banking and finance and the bank seemed willing the government did not renew the contract of the governor. The matter is lying as such till today.
The non-availability of Islamic banking in India has indirectly harmed cash waqf. As in well known, cash waqf was allowed only if the cash in used in mudarabah form of transaction which is not much of use for a common man who needs simple form of banking. The Turks invented istiglah but had to abandon it due to its proximity with riba or interest. However, with the mass availability of Islamic banking and finance, not only in the Islamic world but even in the Western countries, Imam Zufar’s mudarabah ceased to be a limiting factor in the utilization of cash waqf. But unfortunately, not in India. The 160 million Muslim in India may raise funds for financing the development of awqaf.
In today’s world, waqf development needs colossal amount of money. A method of financing which may work hand-in-hand with Islamic banking and finance is Blockchain or Crowdfunding which in capable of raising billions in Shariah compliant manner and interest-free. One such initiative is that of FINTERRA‘s WaqfChain, where a internet technology platform is used to promote cash-waqf or waqf-development portfolio’s to willing donors, that contribute micro waqf funds online. The technology platform automates the donor registration, funding accounting and management, waqf cause portfolio management, disbursement of proceeds to beneficiaries, and the reporting of impact to donors. This creates a transparent e-commerce like user experience, which supports user confidence.
The corrupt behaviour of many mutawallis and waqf administrators has defamed this institution of waqf to such an extent that prospective donors may not wish to create waqf. About 7 years age a waqf of US$4.3 billion by an Indian Muslim billionaire was not created due to the fear of misappropriation of funds.
The 9th report of the joint parliamentary committee in India, headed by Mr. K. Rahman Khan, who later became the union Minister of waqf & Minority Affairs highlighted the problem of corruption in waqf administration. He stated:
(Indian) “Muslim society should impress upon these Mutawallis who have grabbed valuable waqf properties to vacate occupation of such properties for the overall benefit of the Muslim Community. The Committee strongly feels that the government should enact stringent legal measures to punish those mutawallis who are using waqf properties for their personal benefit.”
The government obliged and in 2013 made illegal alienation of waqf property punishable with 2 years’ imprisonment. However, we have yet to see any results.
The overall picture of waqf in India is very disappointing. The Muslim community is not deriving any benefit from waqf because in their present state, awqaf instead of helping others need themselves to be helped.
However, the care and concern showed by the Ummah to improve awqaf, may surely bring improvement in the situation. In shaa Allah wa Taala.