AWQAF SA CEO, Zeinoul Abedien Cajee, has been appointed as one of three Deputy Secretary-Generals for the Waqf sector in the newly rebranded World Zakat & Waqf Forum. He joins Yasmina Francke, CEO of SANZAF, who has been serving as one of the  Deputy Secretary-Generals in the Zakah sector.

IN what is being hailed as a critical consolidation between the Zakah and Waqf sectors on the international stage – a move that could meaningfully impact on Muslim society in the future – the World Zakat Forum at its 10th annual conference approved the merging of Zakah and Waqf forums to help expediate the economic recovery of societies hit by recession and the Coronavirus pandemic.

The conference theme was, “Strengthening Zakah and Waqf Synergy” with  a focus on post Covid-19 economic recovery.

Zakah is the third pillar of Islam, and demands that the wealthier in Muslim societies pay 2,5% of their residual income annually to the poor. As Zakah is an act of worship, scholars say it purifies one’s wealth by empowering the less privileged – in this case, the worst affected by Covid-19.

Often regarded as the “forgotten pillar of Islam”, Zakah enjoys largely untapped potential in eradicating poverty.

Waqf was institutionalised by the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] when one of his Companions, Umar al-Khattab, inherited some land in Khaybar which constituted 600 date palms.

When he asked what he should do, the Prophet had advised him to donate it to the poor, the underlying principle being that the land could not be sold, inherited or donated – and that its fruits should benefit people.

This principle of holding a basic asset to subsidise further socio-economic benefits underpinned much of the Islamic Empire, especially the Ottoman one, where municipalities, public buildings, universities, water systems, hospitals, roads and mosques were maintained by Awqaf.

At its ground-breaking conference, the forum expressed a “full commitment” towards the conversion of the World Zakat Forum to the World Zakat and Waqf Forum – this as a supporting initiative to establishing a critical global Zakah and Waqf synergy.

Amongst its resolutions, the forum also voted to call upon all member countries to strengthen their collaboration with strategic stakeholders to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic through the optimisation of Zakah and Waqf instruments.

The conference also mandated its experts to produce world Waqf and Zakah Performance Indexes in 2022. With global awareness low, it was also proposed that a pilot project be launched in establishing a Zakah-Waqf Online University and a Waqf Bank in Indonesia.

Three experts were also appointed on to the newly-established international Waqf Advisory Board, and in proud moment, South Africa’s Zeinoul Cajee – CEO of Awqaf SA – was nominated to serve on the board.

He is accompanied by Prof Murat Cizakca, Professor of Economic History and Islamic Finance at KTO Karatay University in Konya, Turkey – as well as Dr Imam Teguh Saptono of the Indonesian Waqf Board and Datuk Dr Ghazali Mohamed Noor, Convener of the Global Waqf Forum.

Cajee said that an active forum representing the interests of the Waqf sector was an “important milestone” in the revival of an important Islamic social finance pillar.

“Together with Zakah, it is even more important as both are critical Islamic social finance pillars. While each has its own peculiarities and focus areas, having them both in one World Zakat and Waqf Forum makes a lot of sense as they are complementary, rather than oppositional.”

Cajee explained that Zakah was vital for poverty alleviation, the prevention of hunger and for income and wealth redistribution. On the other hand, Waqf checked the concentration of  private wealth, and through its philanthropic-focused base, allowed the direct provision of social safety nets through which basic services could continuously flow to the deprived segments of society.

“Including Waqf as part of the World Forum is a step in the right direction, and much needed. We applaud the Indonesian government and the various stakeholders that have facilitated this timely move,” he said.

Dr Irfan Syaqubi Beik, an academic who has served on the board of BASNAS, Indonesia’s Zakah Fund, and who currently acts as commissioner of its National Board of Waqf, was a driving force behind the Waqf-Zakah merger and the appointment of the advisory board.

“I have worked in both fields, and clearly saw the relationship. For example, many Zakah projects require the presence of Waqf assets to strengthen their programmes. Waqf, at the same time, requires the stimulus of Zakah funds to execute its projects.

“The point is that Waqf cannot stand alone, Zakah cannot stand alone – so why not work together?” he said, quoting examples of how hospitals and market projects in Indonesia had benefited long-term from a combination of Waqf and Zakah applications.

He said that Indonesia’s Zakah funds were worth $22 billion (R352 billion), the value of Waqf land was $150 billion (R2.4 trillion) and Waqf cash reserves about $12 billion (R193 billion).

“From this you can see that a combination and collaboration would give you bigger and better results, and make a big impact on the economy. And, of course, we need to utilise and optimise these two instruments due to the pandemic and the current global recession.

“Zakah has fixed rates, while Waqf is much more flexible in terms of application and investment, thus widening the base of effectiveness.

“These two can help us in mitigating current (economic) conditions and finding the best solution to overcome the impact of Covid. I believe that by harnessing Zakah and Waqf together, we can accelerate global recovery,” he said.

Yasmina Francke, CEO of the South African National Zakah Foundation (SANZAF), said that Muslim minority country countries had already bought into the Zakah/Waqf synergy by default, instinctively bringing Waqf into the Islamic social finance ecosystem, as they had had to find mechanisms to survive outside of the state.

“For us I would say that this was a natural, and very welcome, progression – a formalisation and a consolidation in order to redistribute income, protect the interests of the poor and to close the social and economic gap via Islamic social finance instruments,” she said.


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Hasanain Abdullah