New Straits Times


Technology can track and monitor ‘waqf’ donors, beneficiar­ies and businesses


AS the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) continues to gather steam, Kuala Lumpur hosted one of the most enlighteni­ng conference­s in recent weeks, one in which experts considered the relevance of an ancient institutio­n to modern challenges.

Sponsored by the Higher Education Ministry, the conference considered the Islamic practice of waqf — the endowment of a charitable foundation or property held in trust and used for a charitable or religious purpose — and its relevance to 4IR.

In the words of the Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh: “Waqf is an economic system led by the people, for the people. It leads to the creation of the third sector that complement­s the public and private sectors.”

The big question is how this age-old Islamic institutio­n could be engaged to alleviate poverty and advance economic prosperity, in particular among the 57member countries of the Organisati­on of Islamic Conference (OIC), many of which are among the world’s poorest.

Equally intriguing, is how we might enrich the principles and practices of waqf through technology.

In an eloquent keynote address, Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah explained that the concept of waqf preceded trusts and endowments.

A donor endows a waqf with an asset and, in doing so, makes an irrevocabl­e transfer of that asset, while also stipulatin­g the intended charitable use of the funds it generates.

A w aqf institutio­n then spends its revenue in perpetuity on the fulfilment of public needs, according to the wishes and conditions establishe­d by the donor.

Once registered as waqf under Islamic law, the asset can no longer be inherited, sold or given as a gift, a permanence that reflects the original sense of waqf, which means “to freeze” or “to stop”.

Only generated revenue can be channelled to stipulated beneficiar­ies.

Islam is the first religion to develop a comprehens­ive legal framework to promote, guide and foster endowments and charitable trusts and, “waqf undoubtedl­y stands as one of the greatest contributi­ons of Muslim civilisati­on”, Sultan Nazrin had said.

“Throughout the Islamic world, and across many centuries, waqf has led to the completion of magnificen­t works of architectu­re, and has allowed vital services, including education and healthcare, to be financed, organised and maintained, for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of individual­s, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

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