New Straits Times
Technology will boost ‘waqf’ in ways that we can’t imagine today
It was intriguing to learn from his remarks that the law governing waqf was borrowed by the English following the Crusades in the Holy Land (1095-1291), when they became acquainted with Islamic jurisprudence and culture.
Sultan Nazrin gave the example of Merton College at Oxford University, established with a financial endowment in 1264.
This endowment, of course, has facilitated centuries of scholarship, learning and teaching, safeguarding and fostering the freedom of thought and expression so essential to the university system today.
On the other side of the Atlantic, one of the world’s most famous university endowments is that of Harvard, which last year paid out US$1.3 billion (RM5.1 billion) — a sum, the sultan noted, larger than the government budgets of Afghanistan, Montenegro and Barbados.
“This endowment, which has facilitated so much discovery and learning, is ultimately modelled on the Islamic waqf system.
“It is a testament to the contribution that the concept of waqf has made to progress and development worldwide, and it also demonstrates the immense potential of the waqf instrument to generate funds for international public good.”
Among the many other excellent points raised by Sultan Nazrin was the need for a better system for the governance of w aqf, especially in Malaysia where, we were told, only two per cent of some 13,500ha of waqf land had been redeveloped.
Hopefully, the establishment of a Chair in Waqf Studies at Universiti Malaya, announced by Idris during the conference, will contribute to a better understanding of waqf and how its potential could be harnessed to improve the lives of citizens.
One of the most pressing issues in need of waqf support in today’s world is science and technology. The use of new technological solutions, such as blockchain technology, will enable the prudent tracking and monitoring of waqf donors, beneficiaries and businesses.
Inevitably, 4IR will herald in unprecedented technologies that will revolutionise traditional ways of creating value.
Digital connectivity will be useful to open up new opportunities for innovative business models, as well as research and developmentrelated investments, to unlock the full potential of waqf assets.
As the sultan astutely observed: “Technological advances are being made every day, and emerging breakthroughs, in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, nanotechnology and biotechnology, will no doubt further enhance the potential of the waqf system in ways that we cannot imagine today.”
The writer is science adviser to the prime minister and chairman of board of directors, Universiti Malaya