Zeinoul Abedien Cajee
December 2000/Ramadaan 1421
The institution of awqaf has been with Muslims since the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), yet this sunnah of the greatest Prophet has generally not been internalised by Muslims here, nor have steps been taken to institutionalise this great blessing from Allah. This article argues the case for awqaf in South Africa and presents a challenge to South African Muslims to institutionalise it as a broad-based community organisation.
First a brief definition of waqf is given. This is followed by evidence from the Qur'an and the sunnah for waqf as an institution rooted in shariah. How waqf was/is generally used as a supportive institution for a variety of projects is then briefly described. The next section deals with the situation regarding awqaf in South Africa and its potential uses here. A section on the recommended way forward and the concluding paragraph follow this.
Waqf (plural: awqaf) generally means the permanent dedication of a portion of one’s wealth for the pleasure of Allah. This means that a portion of a persons property is alienated from him/herself and transferred to Allah. Ownership thus passes from the waqif/a (person making the waqf) to Allah. The property is then used for purposes that are shariah compliant. Essential to the scheme is that the corpus of the property remains intact while income derived therefrom, or the property itself, is used for diverse Islamic causes as a sadaqa jariya (recurring, continuous or on-going charity) including socio-economic, military, or political purposes for the benefit of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The amount or value of the waqf may be as little as a cent. Hence it is not the preserve of the wealthy. Anyone, subject to certain shariah conditions, can be a waqif/a. A waqf may be made during one’s lifetime or up to one-third of ones distributable estate through wasiyya or ones’s will. There are generally two types of waqf, viz (a) waqf lil awlad (waqf for family) and (b) waqf-lillah (waqf for Allah).
Basis for Awqaf
In Sura Muzammil 73:20 Allah says: 1)
From the foregoing verse it may be discerned that Allah is giving a command to the believers to establish three specific institutions: salah, zakah and the third is recognised as, amongst others, waqf by scholars and ulama.2) A loan is generally capital in nature and repayable some time in the future. In this case the loan is to Allah and He will repay it in due course to the lender, as the Prophet said “with great profit and reward”. 3) The cue is that the loan remains capital in nature and it is used in a way that will be beneficial to Allah’s cause. While salah and zakah are regarded as fundamental pillars and compulsory in shariah, waqf is considered voluntary but highly desirable. Further, while zakah has fixed percentages and earmarked usage, waqf is flexible and open ended. Both zakah and waqf are important pillars in the funding of Islamic causes and both are needed to empower the Muslim ummah.
Evidence of awqaf also comes from the Sunnah. The Prophet (S) approved Abu Talha’s (RA) action to give one of his best date orchards, named Bairuha located in a prime position near the Masjid Nabawi as waqf and also advised him as to its distribution i.e. to his relatives. 3) Another case in point is where the Prophet (S) advised Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) to give his most valuable land in Khaibar as waqf. Umar declared that the property must not be sold or inherited or given away as a gift. The waqf was devoted to the poor, to nearest of kin, to the emancipation of slaves, and in the way of Allah (Jihad), and guests.4) With regard to sadaqa jariya, the Prophet (S) is also reported to have said: When a person dies, his/her acts come to an end, but three: sadaqa jariya (recurring or ongoing sadaqa), useful/beneficial knowledge, or a pious child who prays for the deceased. 5) The thawaab for these good actions are continuous even after one passes away.
The Holy Prophet (S) also advised sahaba that up to one-third of one’s estate be willed as sadaqa, provided that heirs are not impoverished or left in hardship or difficulties. 6) This sadaqa may be in the form of a waqf. Furthermore, one person may make a waqf on behalf of another, for example: a person may make a waqf for his/her deceased parents with the continuous thawaab going to his/her parents. It is also reported that every Sahaba, including the abovementioned, made a waqf. For example, Abu Bakr Siddiq, Uthman Ghani, Ali Ibn Abu Talib, Zubair, Muaz ibn Jabal, Zaid ibn Thabit, Saad ibn Waqqas, Khalid ibn Walid, Jabir ibn Abdullah, and Abdullah ibn Zubair (RA) had all made a waqf. 7;9)
Several case studies, past and present, suggest that income from awqaf investments and properties are used for a variety of purposes provided that these are shariah compliant. Examples of uses include: supporting masjid and madrasah; payment of teachers salaries; provision of free food; asssistance to hujjaj; provision of students’ salaries; fully paid hospitals and free medical services; publishing literature; schools and guilds for skills training; imarets (free trading market); centres for learning the art of qur’an recitation; dawah; art and culture; research; seminars and conferences; assistance to needy traders; help to start up enterprises; and establish factories. It is recorded that awqaf played the role side-by side with the Islamic State to fund important community and state services. The variety of uses is thus subject to the waqif/a’s imagination. 7;8;9)
Awqaf in South Africa
The idea of waqf /awqaf is not deeply rooted in SA to the extent that it is a public institution as in many Muslim countries (Sudan, Turkey, Pakistan, Turkish Cyprus) and minority Muslim communities (India, Kenya, Uganda). Muslims do have hundreds of masajid and madaris literally in every town across the country, and a variety of charitable organisations. However, with a few exceptions, the majority are generally not self sustaining and depend largely on annual collections, normally during Ramadaan. Furthermore, as change has engulfed the country, the 2% Muslim minority here seem unprepared to respond in a way that will contribute to the new post-apartheid democratic order in a meaningful way according to their capacity, although recent visible contributions to flood relief have been widely acknowledged.
Awqaf can play a significant role in contributing to the strategic objectives of the SA Muslim community. Awqaf as an institution may mobilise community capital as ’beautiful loans/ qard hassan/ waqf’ and which may be used for empowering both the Muslim community (inclusive of the established, emerging, and emigrant communities) as well as the multitude of poor fellow South Africans. For example, the following projects could be established, supported, or intensified: self-reliance programmes; imarets and skills training centres; microlending; small business and bursary grants; youth development and activity programmes; student exchange programmes; jihad training; general education and awareness programmes e.g. aids/drugs; dedicated womens’ institutions; literacy & dawah programmes; township masajid and madrasahs; community empowerment; poverty alleviation, and RDP related programmes; and in fact any imaginable programme that could further Muslim interests in the country could be implemented and supported.
South African Muslims should establish an inclusive broad-based development agency as a key driving force that would have, inter alia,, three strategic functions:
1) to establish a national awqaf fund with provincial and community chapters. Its aim would be to strive to solicit every able Muslim/a as a waqif/a; 2) To establish a financial services company that would provide an investment, asset management, project assessment and management, and consulting services to the Awqaf Fund and its various chapters; 3) To establish various community empowerment projects and institutions that would be supported primarily from awqaf revenues and resources.
South African Muslims now have a window of opportunity and cannot remain aloof and non-engaging amidst the ocean of poverty, problems, challenges, and opportunities in the country. Muslims cannot be self-marginalising but need to engage actively and should be seen to be playing a meaningful role in both the affairs of their country, and within their own fragmented and diverse community. Muslims need to clarify their strategic goals in this country and arrange and organise institutions that will serve those goals. Awqaf, as a deeply rooted shariah institution offers a built-in developmental and empowerment tool. It is indeed a vehicle explicitly designed in the shariah to pursue noble and creative goals and to elicit goodwill and positive tendencies within the community. The benefits of awqaf projects are also far reaching. The challenge thus is for South African Muslims to pursue the establishment of awqaf and related institutions as outlined above to serve, promote, and protect Islam and Islamic interests in this country in an era of change and transformation.
1) ALI, ABDULLAH YUSUF (Undated) The Holy Qur'an: Text, translation and commentary (Jeddah: Islamic Education Centre)
2) ANSARI, MUHAMMAD FAZL-UR-RAHMAN (1973) The Qur'anic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society p318-319 (Karachi: The World Federation of Islamic Missions)
3) Muwatta Imam Malik Translated by Muhammad Rahimuddin (1985), Hadith No 1815, Chapter 589 p425-426 (Lahore, Sh Muhammad Ashraf)
4) Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 4006, Vol 3 p 867 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf)
5) Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 4005, Vol 3 p 867 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf )
6) Sahih Muslim Rendered into English by Abdul Hamid Siddiqi (1990) Hadith No 3991-4000), Vol 3 p 864-866 (Lahore, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf )
7) Proceedings of The 7th International Fiqh Conference, Pretoria, 2000
8) Proceedings of the Awqaf & Zakah Seminar, Durban, 1-4 September 2000 (South African National Zakah Fund; Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank)
9) Management and Development of Awqaf Properties: Proceedings of the Seminar held on 7-19 Dhul Qada, 1404 (Jeddah, Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, 1987)