by Khalil Abdul-Rahman (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 5, Shawwal, 1438)
In regard to highlighting some strategies, tools, and methods for achieving social and economic justice, this installment in a series of articles is intended to share ongoing efforts to implement Qur’anic and prophetic guidance in our societies. Guest writers are invited to submit their stories of what is being done to establish the practical application of Islam in our communities. Accepted articles may be edited to conform to Crescent International publication standards.
Sometimes the best approach comes from combining existing ideas in ways that do not seem compatible. Finding solutions in this way calls for moving from “either-or” thinking to “both-and” thinking.
How do you sustain a waqf (an endowment in the form of an economic or social asset) system that itself is used to sustain institutions such as hospitals, schools, infrastructure, and the like?
Awqaf SA, the national Awqaf (plural of waqf) Foundation of South Africa, is implementing an innovative approach. It has recently started a “My Waqf” campaign. The initiative is communicated in the context of a National School Waqf Drive that is aimed directly at schools and the students who attend them. A unique feature of the drive is that it first enlists students as waqf gift beneficiaries. It achieves this by having donors designate their waqf for the purpose of a waqf gift in the name of the student.
Then a memorandum of understanding is signed between Awqaf SA and the school where the terms and conditions are documented. Among the planned outcomes are for the school to get an ongoing benefit from the waqf and for the students to view themselves as active participants in the effort. This involvement is expected to help cultivate a sense of commitment in students to sustain waqf giving by using their resources at some point in the future where possible.
At the well-attended launch of the drive, 22 schools and approximately 10,000 students agreed to participate. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Another example of “both-and” thinking with regard to the application of waqf is the approach also taken by Awqaf SA to address drought stricken areas in South Africa. In this case, an urgent need to meet the water requirements for thousands of people existed. It was understood that the key to an effective solution would be to come up with a way to do this in a long-term and sustainable way.
The idea of drilling boreholes as part of the solution was accepted early. A borehole is a long narrow well, drilled to access underground water. The borehole is covered with a hand-pump to prevent contamination and to ease access. Before a borehole can be dug, technicians and community leaders must work together to find the optimal location and drill a test borehole to assure the quality of the water.
Previously completed analyses of the situation indicated that approximately 1,750 boreholes in high priority areas (where access to clean water has been limited) needed to be drilled. This meant that the size of the problem was too big for an organization to solve by itself in a timely way. Awqaf SA had to try to work with other organizations that shared a common interest on this issue.
Ultimately, four organizations combined resources to tackle the problem. They consisted of Operation Hydrate and Awqaf SA, supported by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Department of Water and Sanitation, as well as some other organizations.
Operation Hydrate is an initiative driven by community volunteers to assist with the collection and distribution of drinking water to drought stricken Free State and Eastern Cape. Its spokesperson, Yaseen Theba, said that the effort involving Awqaf SA was the biggest single drive for boreholes this year. Additionally, she states that “it is a long term sustainable project and we are delighted to have Awqaf as our main partner.”
Other organizations providing their support include the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and Proudly SA. Social cohesion advocate Yusuf Abramjee said, “Operation Hydrate, Awqaf SA and its partners are continuing to keep the spirit of Ubuntu alive. This borehole initiative again shows the true spirit of our citizens who donate generously and help those in need.”
Awqaf SA’s Zeinoul Cajee said that the multi-million rand borehole investment is “for the people of our country.” He estimates that this partnership effort may benefit tens of thousands of citizens in need of a basic human right.
He further commented that “We at Awqaf SA remain committed to social upliftment and social cohesion through sustainable development programs and our humanitarian efforts will continue.”