Awqaf Beyond Borders

“Awqaf beyond borders” refers to the social work carried out by awqaf which extends beyond national or geographical boundaries. Although awqaf have traditionally been concerned with the provision of local solutions to local problems, the concept has a global dimension. Many awqaf organisations have international presence acting as trustees and custodians (mutawallis) of a plethora of assets, cash flows and cross-border investments. In our interconnected world with more than two billion Muslims, the institution of waqf can be likened to a global Islamic relief fund that offers assistance and support to Muslim communities across the globe.

Given the apparent support for awqaf at both the national and international levels, it’s expected of awqaf organizations in countries with Muslim minorities to abide by the state’s legal, economic and social systems. This means that non-Muslims can avail themselves of the benefits provided by an Islamic waqf. This inclusive stance is not inconsistent with Islamic teachings which advocate for harmonious international relations based on cooperation and peaceful coexistence.

Non-Muslims can avail themselves of the benefits provided by an Islamic waqf

The general consensus of Shariah jurists is that awqaf for non-Muslims are permissible provided that: (1) the endowment should not be for an activity that violates Shariah or is repugnant to Islam; (2) the beneficiaries should not be enemies or hostile to Muslims; and (3) the priority should always be to Muslim communities in need. Allah (SWT) says in the Holy Quran:

{Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly}. (Al- Mumtahinah: 60:8)

Awqaf is at the heart of global social and economic development. By transcending geographical boundaries, awqaf can address intricate global challenges and make a significant impact on a range of issues. Rather than imposing solutions from outside, Awqaf organizations in host countries can collaborate with local foundations, NGOs and other civil society stakeholders to ensure that their efforts are aligned with the local priorities. Through collaborative action, awqaf can bring about tangible and sustainable change. By sharing knowledge, resources and networks, awqaf organizations can develop effective strategies for the specific needs of local Muslim communities, thereby inspiring hope and providing support to the most vulnerable groups.

Awqaf organizations should collaborate with local stakeholders to ensure that their efforts are aligned with the local priorities.

Awqaf is borderless, and it’s not just about crossing geographical boundaries. Cross-border awqaf come in various forms. It is not uncommon to find the waqf property located in one country and the beneficiaries in another while the waqf organisation is based in a third country. Consequently, a waqf may fall under different jurisdictions depending on the type of its connection to the jurisdiction; i.e. the connection of the waqf asset to the jurisdiction, the connection of the awqaf organisation to the jurisdiction, or the connection of the beneficiaries to the jurisdiction. Accordingly, the same waqf may be subject to different laws depending on the type and extent of its connection to a jurisdiction.

The complex nature of awqaf connections to different jurisdictions can give rise to legal, social and logistical challenges and conflicts that impede their operations. Although they’re meant to operate without government influence, awqaf organizations have to navigate complex legal and regulatory frameworks of different countries. Each nation has its own laws, administrative regulations, cultural and traditional values and language differences. Awqaf organizations may also face social and religion-related hostilities by private individuals and groups.

Resolving negative sentiments requires awqaf organizations to approach their work with a good understanding and utmost respect of the legal, political, cultural and ethical frameworks of the host country. This approach is crucial in building trust and bridging the gap between themselves and the wider community. Building partnerships with local organizations and seeking expert guidance can help awqaf to dispel misconceptions and alleviate tensions.

Numerous successful global awqaf initiatives have made a significant impact. Organizations such as International Waqf and Relief Foundation (IWARF), International Waqf Fund, World Waqf Foundation and Awqaf Properties Investment Fund (APIF) have been at the front of these initiatives with far reaching effects. By directing funds towards education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and awqaf land development, these organizations have positively transformed communities and improved the lives of countless individuals. Moreover, their efforts have brought the Muslim communities together and fostered a culture of cooperation and social responsibility and offered hope and opportunities to vulnerable people.

The importance of awqaf is not only in what they do, it’s also where they do it

Awqaf beyond borders plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development, fostering international cooperation, and enhancing cultural exchange. Emerging trends such as social entrepreneurship, impact investing and technology-driven solutions present good opportunities for awqaf global initiatives. By embracing innovation and remaining adaptable, awqaf can harness the power of these trends to drive positive change and tackle complex transboundary challenges more effectively.  In conclusion, the importance of awqaf is not only in what they do, it’s also where they do it.

Hisham Dafterdar, CPA, PhD
Chairman, Awkaf Australia Ltd


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