Corporate Waqf Bridges National Economic Divides
In previous articles in this column (The Star, 6th and 20th September), I had urged Muslims to harness the power of a Business Jihad to uplift themselves out of the indignity of mass poverty and prolonged marginalization.
There is no better way to achieve this other than through perseverance and hard work involving the building of sustainable business enterprises creating wealth and jobs, led by teams of dedicated entrepreneurs and professionals.
Obviously, Business Jihad success must be achieved through ways that are fully aligned with the Maqasid al-Syariah. At the same time, Business Jihad must also offer solutions to problems faced by contemporary society, and top of the list should be bridging economic divides.
People everywhere are exasperated and becoming increasingly intolerant of an economic system that causes extreme distortions; with one percent at the top of the economic pyramid getting richer, amassing excessive wealth, marginalizing and alienating the rest of society.
Inequality and economic injustice are so pervasive that they have become serious threats to world peace and security. An anti-capitalist rally in London in November 2015, for example, had turned violent, with a police car being burnt by angry protestors carrying placards calling for a “Revolution”.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, had also expressed concern about “unjust economic structures” creating “great inequalities”, calling for a rejection of what he termed as “inhuman economic models.”
Unfortunately, after decades of independence, Muslim states, including Muslim majority Malaysia, had unthinkingly jumped on the global capitalist bandwagon. Over time, this uncaring, materialistic, and greed-driven “winner-takes-all” type of capitalism had only worsened Muslim divides; inciting conflict and adding fuel to the flames of extremism and violence.
Business Jihad must therefore contribute its part to bridge divides and rectify the damage done. It must offer solutions to the “mischief” as described in the Qur’an, that have “appeared on land and sea because of (the deed) that the hands of men have earned.” (Al-Rum, 30:41).
In this regard, the concept of Corporate Waqf® as an institutional strategy to incrementally mitigate economic divides is indeed worthy of consideration.
Corporate Waqf is a hybrid institution that combines the dynamics of both the corporation as a business powerhouse and Waqf as a virtuous Islamic institution enabling perpetual endowment of assets in Allah’s name.
This formidable combination makes it possible to pursue sustainable wealth-creation as an amanah or faith-based trust, with waqf ownership perpetually representing the interests of the marginalized and alienated.
To the average Malaysian a waqf is understood as endowment for purely religious and charitable purposes. In the global Islamic tradition, however, waqfs had played roles that extend beyond religious boundaries.
Many hospitals and universities (the most famous of which is al-Azhar in Cairo), were waqf-driven. Public roads, highways, bridges, and even caravanserais (the equivalent of “inland ports” servicing the Silk Road trade), as well as markets and townships have also been known to be built and funded by waqfs.
Indeed, for centuries past, waqfs fulfilled a wide spectrum of society’s needs, extending care to also feed and protect wild birds, animals as well as protecting the environment.
There is therefore no reason why waqfs cannot be applied to business and the corporate sphere. In fact, there are already two real life examples of Corporate Waqfs operating in Malaysia.
The first is Waqaf An Nur Corporation Bhd (WANCorp), established by Johor Corporation (JCorp) in 2006-2007, with JCorp’s endowment of RM250 million worth of PLC and unlisted shares.
WANCorp’s success as a Corporate Waqf was substantiated when the value of these shares in terms of their market capitalization more than doubled, exceeding RM521 million by end 2015. Remarkably, when other investments and earnings were taken into account, total value of WANCorp’s waqf assets had more than tripled, to RM786 million.
On top of that, WANCorp’s charity programs have been exemplary. Its chain of 22 Waqaf An-Nur clinics throughout Malaysia offering subdidised medical treatment to the poor and needy, had, since its establishment, benefited more than a million patients of all races and religious backgrounds.
Malaysia’s second Corporate Waqf entity, namely Awqaf Holdings Bhd, (Awqaf), was established by the Malaysian Islamic Chamber of Commerce and started operations in December 2014.
Though still very much work-in-progress, Awqaf has to-date recorded RM1.8 million in waqf contributions. It is also planning to shortly launch its RM736 million (GDV) Persada Awqaf commercial property venture in Putrajaya, after registering encouraging response from those attracted to invest and at the same time contribute to a noble waqf cause.
Alhamdulillah, on 28th September 2016, the Corporate Waqf concept was endorsed by over 400 participants at a Multaqa Ekonomi or Economic Convention held in Putrajaya, organized by the Malaysian Islamic Consultative Council chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister.
The Convention had also resolved that Malaysia should urgently establish a National Waqaf Corporation as the first step in building a critical mass of Corporate Waqfs on this long journey towards making a success of the nation’s strive for equality and economic justice for all.