Author: Ms. Fathimath Badeeu
Sometimes, you overhear some of the most surprising and fascinating conversations when you are at the bus stop. For example, I once overheard a conversation about how the cost of land is increasing thus, affecting many hard workers such as farmers. It was an interesting topic, but I must say I was not expecting one of them to say, “maybe they should just get Waqf land, it solves all the problems”. Silently, I agreed. But I was a bit taken back with the response to said statement. “True, but do you think the owners of these Waqf land wants to just give it away? They just keep the land so that they can one day sell it at a higher price. They don’t care if it stays idle without benefitting anyone.” Strangely, the other person agreed to this statement. This conversation made me ponder; do they think a land once registered as a Waqf is still ‘owned’ by someone? Is it possible that majority of people do not know how ownership of Waqf land works? Maybe they know the basic of Waqf lands, but how much do they know about how Waqf is established, how it garners benefits and how it is managed? I raised this question to some of my colleagues who were not as well versed in Waqf and their response was similar; “The people who manages the Waqf land aren’t the owners of the land? Who does own the land then?” So, maybe people do lack awareness in this area.
First things first; once a land or property is created and registered as a Waqf, it belongs to Allah (SWT). It cannot be sold, given as a gift or inherited. In layman’s terms, the process of creating a Waqf is where the Founder (Waqif) gives the land or property as Waqf, assigns a Trustee (Mutawalli) to manage and derive benefits from the land or property after which distributes to the beneficiaries identified by the Founder. At many times, the Trustee of the Waqf land or property are seen as the owners of said properties. However, they do not have any rights over the Waqf property and are only responsible for the efficient management and maintenance of the Waqf properties.
Over the years, there has been lack of finance, expertise and efficient management of Waqf properties across all Muslim nations. This leads to hindering the maximization of returns that can be gained from the use of the Waqf land, thus affecting the rewards the Waqf land can generate for both the Founder and the beneficiaries. Poor corporate governance and Waqf asset management practices has led to there being many undeveloped Waqf lands around the world equating to USD 1 trillion. This once again leads to many people questioning those owning the land; how is it that they are not responsible for Waqf lands sitting idle everywhere? As mentioned before, the ones responsible for this are not the owners who have given up their ownership on the land, but the trustees assigned to manage them.
In order to wake up this sleeping giant, more feasible and advanced measures are definitely needed. Former head of Islamic financial services at Earnst & Young and current Group CEO of AION Digital, Ashar Nazim quoted that:
“the funny thing about Muslim culture is that everywhere, people have adopted the most modern technologies in their daily lives, from cell phones to heart surgery to traffic control – yet still Awqaf are managed much like they were 500 years ago. This must change. Awqaf must adapt to modern management and administration.”
Such a solution is being offered by Finterra’s WAQF Chain platform. This platform brings together undeveloped or neglected Waqf assets with those who wish to contribute to the development of Waqf. The WAQF Chain platform provides the trustees of Waqf assets the newest technology of Blockchain that allows efficiency, transparency and accountability in the management of these assets. As Sultan Nazrin Muizzudin Shah, the Sultan of Perak said in February 2018, strong governance and professionalism is necessary to gain public trust in the Waqf system. Similarly, more awareness amongst the public is required to educate them on the different aspects of Waqf to eliminate many inaccurate perceptions towards this industry that can be highly beneficial to the society. Through the WAQF Chain platform, Finterra is aiming to tackle many such social challenges in areas of education, healthcare, community development and more, ensuring that the Islamic concept of Waqf it utilized at peak potential.
The world is changing, and it is changing fast. Technology is taking over almost every industry, and the Awqaf industry should not be left behind. With the public’s perception on Waqf and their trustees low, the question arises whether new innovations such as WAQF Chain platform could provide the public with a ray of hope in the revival of Waqf around the world. With Finterra adopting the newest technology that attracts all genres of users, and with this thought leader being up for the challenge, the future of Waqf development definitely looks encouraging.