Malaysia needs transformation of waqf management
By MOHAMAD SALLEH ABDULLAH
THE waqf institution should play a role in uplifting the pride, dignity and supremacy of Islam. This is not only in the spiritual and godly aspect but also other fields such as economic, politic, geo-politic, community, educational and social.
This institution must be managed professionally, with the best standard of practice and contemporary management system to project the excellence of Islam.
Ironically the western colonialism has impacted the Islamic economic system until Muslims in the world including Malaysia eventually saw the erosion in the potential and capacity of waqf in pooling the socio-economic strength and civilization of Islam.
It is high time that the management of waqf be transformed to make it more efficient and effective.
Actually in the eyes the waqf practitioners, the management of waqf in Malaysia is disheveled with a multitude of accumulated problems.
The problem starts with the State Islamic Religious Council (MAIN) which inherit the waqf property but without any inventory with the management done by unqualified muttawali or supervisors.
The waqf lands are even managed by non-Muslims, many are left idle and there are waqf properties given out orally without any registration and documentation, thus affecting its development.
There are also the issue of waqf properties which are beyond control, thus giving rise to subsequent problems such defaulting land tax, high quit rent, waqf land seized by land office and waqf premises being sealed by local authorities.
Other issues are that the waqf revenue cannot meet its cost, waqf properties has no self-generating income and unproductive, the acquisition of waqf properties whose compensation are yet to be paid, the waqf land yet to be istibdal (in exchange for other land) and the benefit of the waqf properties has not been received by the maukuf alaih (beneficiaries).
The waqf issues are indeed myriad, chronic and need to be given full attention.
Under the provision of the State Islamic Affairs Administration Enactment, the role in managing the waqf properties comes under MAIN, as the sole trustee. Then why are there such issues? This is because generally MAIN are also embroiled in their own shortcomings that affect the development and progress of waqf properties.
MAIN doesn’t have sufficient staff to manage the waqf properties despite the load of problems. So what are the steps that should be taken by MAIN? A concrete change must be done.
It needs a holistic administrative reform to transform its image.
There are three options which can be taken; additional staff for the waqf management division; outsourcing; and corporatization of waqf properties.
However the suggestion on additional staff is easier said than done due to the various levels of procedures and bureaucratic processes that need to be overcome.
The second strategy is outsourcing part of the waqf activities. This means that part of the waqf properties can be privatized or tendered out to other parties or consultant in the field.
This includes properties like burial ground or mosque cleaning projects, minor repairs and servicing of assets.
Rental collection can also be the privatized but this will give rise to other impact especially in the collection capability and the legal aspect.
However, some of the MAINs are not interested on this arrangement as it may exposed their secret and strategy to outside parties.
Privatization also required MAIN to have strong financial standing. So what about the corporatization of waqf?
This is a new issue and it will be amazing if it can be realized. Currently, the issues are yet to be accepted by the MAIN policy maker and top management.
Although there are evidence that corporatization of waqf is successful in six States -- (Federal Territory, Penang, Selangor, Pahang, Melaka and Negeri Sembilan) -- other States have not implement the idea.
Certain States feel that the time has not come for the corporatization as it is deemed as giving up the management to outside parties.
However there is a way to carry it out. This is through the set up of a wholly-owned company of MAIN under the Companies Act 1965.
Other corporatization approach is through the set up of State Waqf Foundation (YMN-Yayasan Waqaf Negeri) which is welfare-oriented organization.
The status qualifies the YMN to obtain zakat on business and corporate tax exemption.
So it is up to MAIN to choose the best approach to take. To change, waqf need a potent transformer.
The writer is a Research Associate,
Centre for Islamic Development Management Studies (ISDEV), USM