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Awqaf SA joins international forum

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The National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa has become a founding member of the newly established Awqaf International Organisation (AIO). The announcement was made during the opening ceremony of the third Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES 2016) held last week at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

CEO and Founder of Awqaf SA, Zeinoul Abdien Cajee said while Awqaf originated in Dubai, all Awqaf bodies act independently.  Speaking to VOC Drivetime, Cajee said Awqaf Dubai wished to broaden the Islamic economy and requested that Awqaf SA to join economic development of Islamic finance.

“We are very pleased to be part of it and we hope that it will spur on more in the Awqaf sector,” said Cajee, who has been ranked 149 on the Islamic 500 Most Influential Muslims 2016. Published annually, the Islamic 500 is a list of the most prolific Muslims in the world today.

The forum, which comprises of a group of Islamic endowments, or Awqaf, from the Islamic world including Dubai, Kuwait and other Muslim minority countries like South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., aims to improve investments made in the sector and to coordinate commercial efforts of sharia-compliant charitable foundations around the globe.

Awqaf donations are received through Civil Society donations and are used to operate social projects in Health Care, Education, Social Cohesion, Leadership Development and other sustainable development initiatives. Throughout history Awqaf Endowments have funded social infrastructure and development programmes like sustainable agriculture, hospitals, schools, animal welfare, clean water and bath houses.

Given the fact that many communities have been impacted by poverty, Cajee explains that the generation of revenue and the investments of the Awqaf actors need to be optimized for the purpose of downstream delivery of projects for the poor.

Awqaf SA focuses on two areas; the generation of income and the spending of the income.  While the spending aspect is left to the locals, Cajee says in the case of relief work, the foundation works closely with institutions that facilitate distribution in various countries.

In light of increased Islamic finance institutions, he notes that since the concept of waqaf has been an integral aspect of Islam, overtime the waqaf system has declined, while Islamic finance has gained momentum.
He, however, notes that there appears to be improvement in the waqaf sector, where countries are moving toward sustaining waqaf foundations.

“We are going to be seeing a major increase in waqaf developments around the world. Right now, there is a waqaf conference taking place in Saudi Arabia, there is one in Indonesia towards the end of October, and there is one in November in Nigeria – so a lot of people are talking about it,” he added.

The AIO body has also been tasked with recommending unified templates for legal frameworks and overseeing applications of sharia standards in accounting, reviewing, and governance.

The Awqaf International Organization (AIO) aims to coordinate commercial efforts of sharia-compliant charitable foundations from around the globe, to give them economies of scale and improve profitability.

In a bid to improve the management of waqaf asserts, Cajee says that many countries have separated the waqaf asserts from the ministries of awqaf, where parastatals are being professionalised.

“In the past, waqaf asserts were not market related; so if someone had a house that was rented out, it was rented out for a low price, and eventually the property would become dilapidated,” Cajee explained.

In response to the previous management of waqaf properties, he says Awqaf properties are now professionally managed and the standard of its properties is maintained.

“The beneficiaries of Awqaf are the communities, so it makes sense that their efforts are well protected and managed so that they produce the required income, at a market related rental.” Cajee continued.  VOC

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