The New Delhi-based Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) of India, the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Kuwait Public Awqaf Foundation are jointly organizing an international seminar on “Awqaf in India” at Bangalore during March 29-30, 2014.
The seminar was inaugurated by Mr K Rahman Khan, Honorable Minister of Minority Affairs, Government of India at the Darul Uloom Sabeel-ur-Rashad (Arabic College) Bangalore. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Khan stressed upon the need to preserve and develop the huge awqaf assets in India. He pointed out that the onus of recovering lost awqaf properties is on every Indian Muslim. The awqaf assets, which are believed to be encroached upon by the state agencies are by and large, the ones where there is a legal dispute. In most cases however, the assets that are illegally encroached upon are by members of the community itself. Therefore, the community must be vigilant against its own unscrupulous members. A disguised form of encroachment that is quite common is the case of leasing out waqf assets at grossly below-market rates to members of the community. This is often tolerated on the basis of a false argument that the asset after all is serving the interests of the community members. This must be discontinued and waqf assets must be leased at market rates, he pointed out. He also highlighted the key changes made in the Waqf Amendment Act 2013 and sought the guidance of the ulema and scholars to take the matter forward. He specifically underlined Section 106 of the Act that would require all encroachers to clear out and hand over occupied assets to Waqf Boards within a stipulated time period.
The Honorable Minister also stressed upon the need to find resources to develop awqaf properties and highlighted the establishment of the National Waqf Development Corporation (NAWADCO) with a paid-up capital of INR100 crores and authorized capital of INR500 crores. He emphasized the fact that NAWADCO was the first corporation of its kind that would function in a Shariah-compliant manner. He informed the audience that the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank had evinced keen interest in providing resources to develop awqaf assets in India. He specifically invited the scholars to show direction on the sensitive issue of developing vast tracts of unused land that are categorized as burial grounds. If these are not developed, these may be lost, he cautioned.
Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani, Secretary General of IFA delivered the key note address. He traced the history of the glorious institution of waqf highlighting the importance of sadaqa jariya. He stressed that human beings achieve greatness by giving. Briefly touching upon the instances of waqf by the Prophet (pbuh) himself of seven orchards in Madinah Munawwara, the waqf of land in Khaibar by his companion Umar and the waqf of the well of Ruma by Othman, he highlighted the tradition of making waqf among Muslims. He then traced the history of waqf related legislation in India. He called upon the government to consider some further steps including: (i) dealing encroachment of waqf properties at par with properties for public purposes; (ii) prescribing a time limit for decisions in cases of adjudication by Waqf Tribunal; (iii) applying the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act to acquisition of waqf properties by the government in the matter of compensation; and (iv) changing the structure of Waqf Boards in favor of elected members from the community as compared to nominated members by the government. Maulana Rehmani sought to highlight the importance given to the subject of awqaf by IFA. He pointed out that IFA in the past has organized a major seminar (the 10th Fiqhi Seminar, 2001) to deliberate upon Shariah rulings pertaining to awqaf in the context of India that witnessed presentation of 47 scholarly papers. Thus, while the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has fought legal battles for the protection of awqaf, the IFA has provided intellectual solutions to the problems faced by the awqaf sector in India. Maulana Rehmani also made a critical observation that if the waqif’s intentions have become obsolete or impractical and impossible to fulfill, then the benefits of such waqf should be utilized by default, for alleviating poverty.
This was followed by the launching in India of the Islamic Social Finance Report, 2014 produced by IRTI by Mr K Rahman Khan. Dr Mohammed Obaidullah, Guest of Honor, who represented the IDB Group at the event highlighted its various initiatives pertaining to the awqaf sector, such as, research and documentation (the ISFR, 2014 among many more activities), training and capacity building (development of training resources), organization of seminars and conferences etc. He specifically highlighted the activities of the Awqaf Properties Investment Fund (APIF), which has IDB as the mudarib of the Fund. With a paid-up capital of about USD 76.4 million (roughly equal to the authorized capital of INR 500 crores of the newly established NAWADCO in India) and a line of financing by IDB to the tune of USD100 million, it has so far developed properties valued at about USD 1 billion or about INR6200 crores in 58 projects in 30 countries. He hoped that NAWADCO would also be able to undertake waqf development on a similar scale, benefiting from lessons learnt from the APIF experience. Finally, he expressed hope that the partnership between IRTI and IFA would continue to produce many seminars and workshops in future that would provide intellectual guidance and show direction to policy makers for development of the awqaf sector in India. Other eminent persons who were present at the inaugural session were Justice Abdus Sattar Qureshi (Former Judge, Gujarat High Court), Mr. Saleem Beg (Former Director General, Tourism and Culture, Jammu and Kashmir), Dr M R Haque (Former Secretary, Central Waqf Council), and Dr Shakeel Ahmad Samdani (Deptt of Law, Aligarh Muslim University). The ceremony was presided over by Hazrat Mufti Mohammad Ashraf Ali Baqvi.
Mohammed Obaidullah | March 29, 2014