Islamic charity has been an integral part of Islam and is as old as the religion itself. Of the many types of charitable deeds available to Muslims, the most underused (underrated) in Islam is Waqf, the endowment of valuable goods, such as lands, buildings or money (cash Waqf), to be given for charitable purposes. When we look at Waqf, we can break it down into three periods: the past, the present and the future.
Waqf was an innovative idea in the early Islamic period by the Prophet (Pbuh) in Madinah. He asked if someone can buy the well of water Bayruha’ and declare it as free drinking water utility for the public. Additionally, the Prophet (Pbuh) also gave an advice to Umar Ibn Al Khattab to give his most valuable land in Khaybar as Waqf for the needy and poor. The Prophet (Pbuh) made a lot of announcements encouraging Sahabah to give endowments for the sake of Allah SWT. The family Waqf was well-known and most common among Sahabah of the prophet; to illustrate, the Khalifah Abu Bakr created Waqf for his children by providing them with the house, whereas Umar Ibn Al Khattab made an endowment of his land at Tamgh for his children and the same thing was done by Ali bin Abu Talib who endowed his land in Yanbu’. In addition, Sa’d ibn Abu Waqqas and Zubair ibn al’ Awwam endowed his house for their children where the Mawquf of the former was in Madinah and Egypt while the Mawquf of the latter has existed in Makkah.
Moroccan Awqaf is considered as one of the oldest and that are 12 centuries which has been subjected under al “Hubus”. An example of this is the University of Al Qarawiyyin which was founded by a woman called Fatimah al Fihriyyah in 245 AH and financed by its Waqf revenues. Historically, Waqf has played a vital role in economic development and always has potentialities to do so, according to Cizakca.
Until the end of the Ottoman Empire, Waqf covered almost all public services, including infrastructure, education and health. It was through the support of Waqf that mosques, schools, hospitals, bridges and many more were built. Waqf were allocated for the benefit of the people, especially those in need.
There are various challenges facing the development of Waqf properties in terms of management, administration and financing. The limited sources of funds and the lack of capital are one of the factors disabling Awqaf properties from being developed. According to some authors, this is due to the fact that the revenue generated is used to cover the maintenance and management costs which sometimes exceed the revenue.
The role Waqf played in providing public services began to deteriorate over the years, to the point where Waqf properties are in a state of idleness, neglect and unproductiveness in most Muslim countries. Many view Waqf as no longer being able to perform its economic role in the present times. Instead of being a vital source of support as it was during the pre-1914 era, Waqf seems to be an impediment to development in Muslim societies. However, many Muslim countries today are paying more attention to developing, and reviving Waqf properties and assets to the way they used to be in the past.
With the rise of technological breakthroughs such as the blockchain technology, mainstream and traditional industries are reinventing themselves to remain relevant to modern times. For decades, the administration of Waqf assets has been a challenge for Shariah finance. Billions of dollars of Waqf assets worldwide, which could be used to alleviate poverty, are simply not being utilised efficiently. Today, the arrival of blockchain technology has brought hope and optimism to Waqf administrators and Shariah finance scholars alike.
Although its applications are still being established, blockchain promises great potential in terms of efficiency, transparency, immutability and security. Finterra plans to make the best use of these endowed gifts as the WAQF Chain allows participants to create project proposals to develop and revive endowment properties. Finterra’s WAQF Chain uses a blockchain platform to raise development funds for Waqf projects that will benefit communities and it will be this WAQF Chain that will be the cornerstone of Waqf development for years to come.