By Professor Dr Ismail Omar & Sr Masfaliza Mohsen
Opening the Value of Waqf Lands
History tells us that Rasulullah s.a.w once endowed his date orchard in Madinah to protect Islam and use it in times of emergency. Similarly, a date orchard was endowed in Fedek/Fadak for the benefit of travellers.
Saidina Umar r.a, on the other hand, endowed his property for the benefit of Islamic fighters and slaves who wanted to liberate themselves. Meanwhile, Saidina Usman r.a once endowed the drinking water well which still remains until the present day even though the use of the endowment has been converted into a hotel. Muslims from the past to the present and the future can use the benefits of the endowed property. More importantly, the endowment reward still flows to the trustees even though they have been dead for hundreds of years. That is called jariah charity.
The citizens should feel sad that even after more than 63 years of independence, waqf is still not sufficient to contribute to the eradication of poverty among the people. There are still many people who do not have a home to continue living, especially the B40 group who find it difficult to buy affordable housing.
Waqf instruments should supposedly be used to help people who need basic necessities such as their own home but can’t afford it due to high prices in the market. Similarly, with the agricultural sector, waqf equipment can help farmers to buy agricultural equipment such as machinery, vehicles, seeds, fertilizers and so on. Most importantly, waqf lands can be enlivened to produce more quality agricultural products to meet current needs. If there is surplus productivity, it can also be exported abroad.
Information obtained from ‘Yayasan Waqf Malaysia’ and the Department of Waqf, Zakat and Hajj (JAWHAR) in the Prime Minister’s Department (JPM) shows that only about 13% of the entire 30,000 ha of waqf land nationwide have been developed. The remaining 87% or about 27,000 ha are still not fully cultivated. Most of the undeveloped lands are earmarked for agricultural use.
In other words, the waqf lands are still abundant and idle for any development. That means that these waqf lands have not been fully utilized and most of them are in backward condition and disorganised. Therefore, waqf lands that are idle and not at the highest and best use level in the market need to be studied to improve its value.
How to apply waqf as a weapon to cultivate idle agricultural land and further increase food production in our country?
The government can identify lands that can be cultivated on a large scale agriculture similar to what FELDA does. Later, the government can grant the lands to the public, developers or corporate bodies through the method of waqf irsod. This waqf is a land grant similar done by the government that gives land to the people. Meanwhile, only the process of conferring land through waqf irsod must follow all the legal conditions of waqf irsod.
In addition, the government can also provide appropriate financial allocations to corporate bodies related to agricultural land. This financial allocation can be used as a cash endowment to develop agricultural lands by purchasing lands or related assets. This can be done by anyone who fulfills the legal requirements of waqf cash. When the land or agricultural assets are rented or leased, the benefits can be given or distributed to mawquf alaih in accordance with the legal conditions of waqf that have been outlined by the fuqaha.
‘Equipment waqf’ for agricultural purposes can be done by anyone who is allowed to endow. This waqf has a certain period (also called waqf musytarak) because the tools and utensils have a limited lifespan. Therefore, this waqf needs to be created an annual maintenance fund to replace it after disposal. The same goes for tools that can be used as equipment for agricultural research purposes. When the waqf of the equipment is close to the period to be disposed of, then the replacement action should be done as best as possible to ensure that the equipment continuously functions.
Agricultural waqf includes crops and livestock. Similar to the crops or livestock, this waqf is only subject to the relevant crops or livestock. Benefits produced from crops or livestock will be distributed to the recipients of the waqf to make it valid and appropriate.
In Kedah, there are many paddy fields that are used as waqf for farms or agricultural land. Similarly in Johor, there are many oil palm plantations that are used as waqf for agricultural land. However, there are still many opportunities that have not been made into waqf for agriculture and livestock involving the herbal industry, honey kelulut, fish in cages, grape farming, cattle, deer, wildebeest, walid birds, ostriches, buffaloes and so on.
Waqf zurri or waqf ahli is a waqf property that is endowed specifically for one’s own family members for several generations. This type of waqf is widely used among Arab families. In Kelantan, the waqf is very applicable especially among the relatives and families of the palace.
In addition to the above types, waqf can also be divided into special waqf and general waqf. Of the 14,356 lots of waqf land nationwide or 30,888.89 ha, only about 40% are endowed under the category general waqf. Meanwhile, about 60% are under the category of special waqf, especially graves, mosques, surau and madrasah areas. In Pahang, there are 144 lots of waqf land with an area of 74.60 ha and no general waqf land is recorded.
On the other hand, in Kelantan, out of 510 lots of waqf land (or 284.92 ha), there are 421 lots of special waqf land (265.20 ha) and only 89 lots under the category general waqf (19.72 ha). Different conditions exist in Penang, with only 69 lots of special waqf (or 37.72 ha) compared to 1,083 lots of general waqf land or 704.29 ha.
Meanwhile, in Perak, 4,915 lots are special waqf compared to 318 lots of general waqf. While in Kedah, there are 130 general waqf lots and 938 special waqf lots. The difference in the number of lots of general waqf land and special waqf is significant in some states. According to studies, waqf for general purposes facilitates initiatives to develop it, meaning that the special waqf given poses a risk to be developed.
When vacant lands that have potential instruments are endowed and developed with various forms of commercial property, agriculture, industry and so on, this waqf is called endowment istithmar. This waqf can be used to develop the lands to increase the value of the waqf lands in the market.
Therefore, expertise involvement in waqf land is needed to dilute the value of the frozen waqf land. The contribution of ideas, efforts and expertise of waqf land administrators, scholars, financiers and other real estate members is important to highlight the potential of waqf lands. According to land development experts from the UK, Cadman and Topping, property development involves many players and constitutes long processes and procedures with high costs that are tedious and difficult.
On this basis, the National Real Estate Development Transformation Master Plan was conducted and completed by Yayasan Waqaf Malaysia (YWM) in 2016 with the collaboration of waqf experts throughout the country. This plan has identified several things that hinder the development of waqf land. To summaries it, the barriers to the development of waqf land can be categorized into three main types.
First, the waqf law is less uniform across the country. According to the 9th Schedule to the Federal Constitution, the power of ownership of land matters belongs to the state government. Only five states have exclusive waqf laws. While others have waqf law together with the relevant Islamic Religious Administration Enactment. Recently, the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAIWP) is drafting waqf rules that will strengthen waqf governance in the Federal Territory. However, inconsistency still exists.
Therefore, the solution is to enact the National Waqf Act so that there is uniformity. Under the law, clauses related to waqf can be enacted to be implemented. In other words, waqf law is not only about governance but also related to efforts to fertilize waqf including waqf methods, developing waqf land, maintaining it and all things to maintain the ‘security of return flow’ and ‘security of capital value’ for the property of waqf.
Second, the level of waqf awareness is still low in our country. There are mawquf still waqf the physical condition of the property such as low topography and frequent flooding. That physical condition of land causes waqf land merely low market value. Development costs are high to reclamation land and so on. The same goes for the size of land that is not economical for the purpose of large-scale development. In Melaka, only 20% of waqf land in the state has an area of more than one acre or 0.4 ha. Furthermore, only about 2% are located in or nearby major growth centers in Selangor, the Federal Territory and Penang. With fewer infrastructure facilities, development costs will rise.
Third, the research identifies that there are employees who are burdened with various tasks without specialization at a low level of professionalism. In this context, the establishment of a corporation or foundation in a waqf-related agency can resolve the existing confusion. Waqf officers need to be given training from time to time. Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia in collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and the Johor State Government will offer a Professional Certificate in Waqf Management on a part-time basis with the main purpose to enhance the waqf knowledge to the public. When the awareness and knowledge of waqf increases, the administration’s work and management of waqf becomes easier.
Therefore, all parties need to work together to identify problems to develop waqf agricultural lands. Next, conduct an analysis so that the problem can be solved preferably. Then, the lands can be developed with the best approaches. Consequently, the value of frozen waqf land can be diluted, and finally the benefits of waqf can be spread over to all the validity beneficiaries to eliminate poverty in our country.
Truly, agriculture is a business. While waqf is an eternal investment.
Professor Dr ISMAIL OMAR is the President of Land Professionals Association of Malaysia (PERTAMA) since 2014 and lecturer in Real Estate Management at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia. He has edited and published a book entitled Agriculture Idle Land with Associate Professor Dr Azimah Abdul Manaf, UKM in 2011.
Sr MASFALIZA MOHSEN is a Registered Valuer with the Board of Valuers, Estate Agents and Property Managers (BOVEAPM) Malaysia and former District Valuer at the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) Kluang and she is at present a lecturer in real estate management at Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia.