Waqf is a concept unique to Islam. Although the Qur’an does not mention Waqf per se, there are many passages in the Qur’an encouraging the believers to spend their wealth on charity. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) translated this doctrine into an institution (Waqf). Hazrath Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra), who had acquired the land of Khyber in Madinah, sought the Prophet’s advice and was instructed by the Prophet (pbuh) to make the property inalienable and distribute the usufruct as a charity. Thus, Waqf came to be defined as a permanent dedication by any person, of any movable or immovable property for any purpose recognized by Muslim law as pious, religious, or charitable.
Generally, waqf institutions emphasize more emphasis on pious and religious aspects and, to a far lesser extent, on charitable activities. This is understandable since a vast majority of the waqf lands endowed by donors (waqif) are intended for religious purposes like constructing mosques, establishing madrasas and Muslim burial grounds.
Of late, in the Muslim world, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the focus of Auqaf (plural for Waqf) towards charitable activities. In countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey, a waqf is playing an increasing role in the economic upliftment of the downtrodden by adopting innovative methods. I will come to that later.
Role Of NGOs During The Covid-19 Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused devastating implications for families and even business enterprises. Vast numbers of daily wage workers have struggled to find their next meal due to loss of work and lockdowns. Many Muslim NGOs all over the country have done, and are still doing, yeomen service towards Covid relief work. The community resources were put to good use in Bangalore, for instance, where NGOs like Mercy Mission and a network of NGOs under the banner of Mercy Angels fed the poor, operated helplines, and organized oxygen beds. Muslim volunteers also assisted in arranging for the last rites of the dead Covid victims irrespective of religion and community. The public has recognized this selfless service.
Role of Waqfs During The Covid-19 Pandemic
Most people, however, are not aware of the commendable work done by the waqf institutions (particularly in Karnataka) towards Covid relief work.
The Karnataka Waqf Board also rose to the occasion and urged all the waqf institutions to utilize up to 30 percent of their income for Covid relief work. Here, I will mention a few waqf institutions that are helping to mitigate the suffering of Coronavirus patients:
a) Shortage of beds in hospitals and shortage of oxygen prompted the Jayanagar fourth block Idgah Masjid in Bangalore to set up a Covid Care Centre in association with ShihabThangal Centre for Humanity and SAFA Medicure Hospital. This 38-bed centre has three full-time doctors and eight nursing staff. Treatment is given free of cost.
b) An 80-bed Covid Care Centre with an oxygen facility has been set up in the Shadab Shadi Mahal, Bangalore.
c) The Anjuman-e-Islam, Belgaum, has started a hospital and has dedicated it as a Covid Care Centre.
d) 100 oxygen cylinders were donated by the Jamiya Masjid, Madhugiri.
e) The Raichur district waqf institutions have set up a 50 bed Covid Care Centre in Raichur.
f) Bijapur district waqf institutions and NGOs have set up a 60 bed Covid Care Centre in the Tekade Galli area of Bijapur city.
g) The Datari masjid committee, Vijaypura, conducted a free vaccination camp for eligible persons.
h) Food provision kits have been distributed to daily wage workers who remained unemployed during lockdown by the Lababeen Masjid, Bangalore, Anjuman-e-Askaria, Holavanahalli of Koratgere Taluk, Umar Khan masjid, Mysore, Anjuman-e-Jaffariya, Alipur, Gowribidanur, Masjid-e-Taha, Mathikere, Bangalore and by the Dargah Hazrath Kambal Posh, Bangalore, to name a few.
Role of Waqf Institutions In Post-Covid-19 Era
Post-pandemic, waqf institutions have to re-focus their priorities to extend a helping hand to vulnerable sections of the society facing an economic crisis. Moreover, unemployment and poverty have to be tackled under the waqf framework since Waqf, along with zakat, is an essential Islamic financial instrument.
Utilize Covid Care Centres Establishez
In the post-covid scenario, the Covid Care Centres established in waqf institutions at a considerable cost will remain un-used. It will be prudent to establish polyclinics, mohalla clinics, dialysis centres, and dental clinics there. With the advent of specialist doctors, the poor have to pay high consultation fees to get treatment for ordinary flu, fever, cold, indigestion, etc. Mohalla clinics headed by MBBS doctors (either full-time or part-time) can meet the immediate needs of poor patients. Facility for sugar tests, BP check, thyroid test, etc., will be a boon for needy patients.
Microcredit for Small Traders, Street Vendors, and Push Cart Vendors
A recent study conducted by the School of Business and Management, Indonesia found that waqfs can boost economic activity through waqf assets’ utilization for many purposes such as education, health, and infrastructure in post-pandemic times. In addition, waqfs can potentially help vulnerable populations in various forms, such as microcredit for small traders and street hawkers. Self-help groups (SHGs) could also be formed for long-term benefits.
Establish Bait ul-Maals
Micro-level planning is more effective in contrast to macro-level planning for the Muslim community. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a bait ul-maal attached to every mosque. Zakat and Sadaqah amounts collected by the bait ul-maal can be used to provide scholarships to students, financial assistance for medical treatment of patients, assistance for marriages, etc., for the poor in the locality. In the post-pandemic era, this localized help can be of immense help to the needy.
Cash Waqf is a concept that is new to India but is being successfully managed in countries like Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. Waqf funds pooled can be handled by a body operated by financial experts who invest the corpus in shariah-compliant mutual funds, shares of blue-chip companies (low risk), and other businesses.
The An-Nur Corporation Berhad (WAN Corp) was established in Malaysia to manage assets and shares of Johor Corporation (Jcorp). Out of the income of WANCorp, 70% is re-invested in shares, 25% for Fisabilillah charity, and 5% for the Islamic Religious Council. By 2011 itself, WANCorp had 16 branches of An-Nur Waqf Clinic, four dialysis centres, and one Waqf Hospital.
The Indonesian Waqf Board has appointed 18 Shariah financial institutions to collect cash waqf funds from waqifs. In Bangladesh, an author has made a waqf of the royalty from the copyright of his famous books. The income from the sale of the books plows back to the Waqf, which is called Waqf of intellectual property.
Online Waqf in Indonesia provides several financial services and is appointed by the Indonesia Waqf Board to handle cash waqf funds. Online waqf services are provided using the internet waqf platform. Donors who wish to donate money to the Cash waqf find it very convenient to do so through internet banking transactions.
In the post-pandemic era, resources, including Waqf, have to be synergized to address the crisis. Waqf as Islamic social finance can be leveraged to bridge financing gaps and can also be used to create safety nets. A Disaster Relief Fund in every city will come in handy. This is possible with the creation of Cash Waqfs to be managed by a team of dedicated and honest individuals familiar with handling financial instruments. These methods can work in tandem with mohalla bait ul-maals, which are localized institutions.