Margari Aziza

September 11, 2011

Waqf

Filed under: Islam, Islamic Education, Sadaqah — Margari Aziza Hill @ 4:44 am

After reading a post on Why Don’t Our Mosques Pay for Themselves,  I posted this on my tumblr account:

I found this article by Muhammad Ashour cross posted on Steven Zhou’s blog. Hat tip to Steven Zhou for his thoughtful analysis on issues pertaining to Canadian Muslims and the Middle East.  Ashour’s article  is definitely a timely read and something that supports what I’ve been saying about the new mosque leadership.  Ashour brings up important issues of transparency when it comes to how funding is applied in various masajid and the need for social ventures in order to fund masjid operations. We had a such thing in history, the religious endowment or waqf. Unfortunately, Muslims are largely detached from their own history because either they think they are too forward thinking to look at pre-modern institutions or they deny the relevancy of any social institution or Muslim practice that can not be directly found in the Qur’an and Sunnah. But the religious endowment is an absolutely important institution that helped provide social services and humanitarian aid, supported students, and kept many masajid afloat. The only problem is that these days, Muslims want to see immediate returns on their investment rather than raising enough funds to start an endowment and then building. We keep fundraising for a new parking lot, or an addition, or to pay for a full time imam. Investing in an endowment results in sadaqah jariyah, but I’ll leave the fiqh issues to the scholars. Anyways, let’s start thinking long term folks!

My knowledge about the Waqf came from my Ottoman studies in undergraduate and graduate school. In a lecture I gave at Philadelphia mosque a few years ago I told the audience  The pious endowments, or Waqf, played an important role in Ottoman economic and social life.  Considered one of the highest of good deeds a Muslim could perform, it consisted of helping other people. Often the waqfs supports hospitals, bridges, baths, inns, hospitals, and markets. The wealthier the individual, the grander the waqf. Many of the audience members were elders, so they had gone through the transition from Nation of Islam to Orthodox Islam in 1975. They recalled that the mosque owned property and back then there were several thriving businesses. But much of this was dismantled during the later years of W.D. Muhammad. One audience member mentioned that there was still community property, they just had to figure out what to do next. I know there are many communities that look to buy property and develop it, and I have heard positive things about another Philadelphia community called Masjidullah. Unfortunately the website is down and I haven’t made it out that way. But they seem to have a lot of programming and I have been told they have a greater amount of transparency when it comes to their allocation of funds. Similarly, I have heard of other communities with development projects in the works, one lead by Imam Okasha in Southwest Philadelphia and another Masjid al Madinah in Supper Darby.  I don’t know if these communities have a long term vision of creating endowments or whether or not they have their vision grounded in the Islamic tradition of waqf. But it would be interesting to explore that in a series of interviews. I guess I have another possible research topic at hand.

But going back to my original quote on tumblr. Unfortunately, I was mistaken about the origins of the waqf. A waqf is an established practice of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). I did a brief search on information involving the waqf (pl. awqaf). I found this informative page, from a Malaysian organization, Khalifah Insitute’s  website. In the article, it details the establishment of the first Islamic religious endowment:

In the history of Islam, the first religious waqf is the mosque of Quba’ in Madinah, a city 400 kilometer north of Makkah, which was built upon the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad in 622. It stands now on the same lot with a new and enlarged structure. Six months later, Quba’ was followed by the mosque of the Prophet in the center of Madinah. Mosques and real estates confined for providing revenues to spend on mosques’ mainten­ance and running expenses are in the category of religious waqf.

Philanthropic waqf is the second kind of waqf. It aims at supporting the poor segment of the society and all  activities which are of interest to people at large such as libraries, scientific research, education, health services,  care of animals and environment, lending to small businessmen, parks, roads, bridges, dams, etc. Philan­thropic waqf began by the Prophet Muhammad too. A man calledMukhairiq made his will that his seven orchards in Madinah be given after his death to Muhammad. In year four of the hijrah calendar (a lunar calendar which begins with the migration of the prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madinah in 622), the man died and the Prophet took hold of the orchards and made them a charitable waqf for the benefit of the poor and needy.  This practice was followed by the companion of the prophet and his second successor Umar, who asked the prophet what to do with a palm orchard he got in the northern Arabian peninsula city of khaibar and the Prophet said “If you like, you may hold the property as waqf and give its fruits as charity.” many other charitable waqf were made by the Prophet’s death in 632.

Now, back the situation of our ailing communities. Why can’t our mosques pay for themselves? That is because we are not following the established sunnah of how to fund our most central social institution. And down the list, with our short sightedness, we fail to fund endeavors that would have a long term positive social impact. I found this section especially insightful:

With regards to use of waqf revenues the most frequent purpose is spending on mosques. This usually includes salaries of imam [prayer leader and speaker of friday religious ceremony], teacher(s) of Islamic studies, preacher(s). With the help of this independent source of financing  religious leaders and teachers have always been able to take social and political positions independent of that of the ruling class. for example, upon the occupation of Algeria by french troops  in 1831, the colonial authority took control of the awqaf property in order to suppress religious leaders who fought against occupation (Ajfan, p.325).

Although religious education is usually covered by waqf on mosques, education in general has been the second largest user of waqf revenues. Since the beginning of Islam, in the early seventh century, education has been financed by waqf and voluntary contributions. Even government  financing of education used to take the form of constructing a school and assigning certain property  as waqf of the school. Awqaf of the Ayubites (1171-1249) and the Mamalik (1249-1517) in Palestine  and Egypt are good examples. According to historical sources, Jerusalem had 64 schools at the  beginning of the twentieth century all of them are waqf and supported by awqaf properties in     pales­tine, Turkey and Syria. Of these schools 40 were made awqaf by Ayubites and Mamalik rulers  and governors (Al cAsali, pp. 95-111). The University of al Azhar is another example. It was  founded in Cairo in 972 and was financed by its waqf revenues until the government of Muhammad  Ali in Egypt took control over the awqaf in 1812 (Ramadan, p. 135).

Waqf financing of education usually covers libraries, books, salaries of teachers and other staff  and stipends to students. Financing was not restricted to religious studies especially at the stage of  the rise of Islam. In addition to freedom of education this approach of financing helped creating a learned class not derived from the rich and ruling classes. At times, majority of Muslim scholars  used to be coming from poor and slave segments of the society and very often they strongly opposed the policies of the rulers (al Syed, pp. 237-258).

The third big beneficiary of waqf is the category of the poor, needy, orphans, persons in  prisons, etc. Other users of waqf revenues include health services which cover construction of  Hospitals and spending on physicians, apprentices and patients. One of the examples of the health  waqf is the Shishli Children Hospital in Istanbul which was founded in 1898 (al Syed, p. 287).

There is also waqf on animals whose example is the waqf on cats and the waqf on unwanted riding animals both in Damascus (al Sibaci). There are awqaf for helping people go to Makkah for pilgrimage and for helping girls getting married, and for many other philanthropic purposes.

  Thinking about these passages, I am reminded of how some our brothers and sisters are mistaken in their view of the past. Not long ago, I had a conversation with a sister who said, “Why study history? It is boring? It is dead. It is passed. It is the past.” But the forgotten model of endowment/waqf is why we should examine our history closely. We might see the more Islam in practice in models that worked, as opposed to being reactionary. We can be a constructive community, moving forward and addressing real social and spiritual needs. Let’s just think about the potential if we pool our money together to build endowments and hire trained people to manage them. Instead of each year our communities begging for what they need,  the continual fundraising can help us thrive and flower. 

July 21, 2011

Feeding America and Fidya for Ramadan

Filed under: charity, Muslim Communities in America, Sadaqah, Social Justice, Uncategorized — Margari Aziza Hill @ 3:54 am

“Alms are for the poor and the needy; and those employed to administer (the funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (Al-Qur’an, 9: 60)

Whether they assume that state agencies will take care of America’s poor or the poor in America are not deserving of charity, giving to charitable organizations in America is often not the top of the list in many national Muslim organizations. Many Muslims think that in America, Land of the Plenty, that people are not starving. But according to Feeding America, there are over 50 million Americans who suffer from hunger, that is 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 children. Many people often blame those who have found themselves reduced to begging in the street or finding a cot in shelters for their condition. This is the land of opportunity, right? However, natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the recent wave of tornadoes, in addition to the tanking economy, have shown that people have been reduced to poverty through forces outside their control. Islamic Relief has some America-based programs, but I have only seen a few mosque sponsored soup kitchens and food pantries.   This is a most unfortunate situation that serves to undermine us as a community and, I believe, our faith. This is especially important when we think about the chapter 107  of the Quran Ma’un (Alms or Small kindness):

Seest thou one who denies the Judgment (to come)?

Then such is the (man) who repulses the orphan (with harshness),

And encourages not the feeding of the indigent.

So woe to the worshippers

Who are neglectful of their prayers,

Those who (want but) to be seen (of men),

But refuse (to supply) (even) neighbourly needs.

Suhaib Webb has a powerful tafsir (explanation)  of this chapter in “Explanation of Surah al-Ma’un,” showing how this small chapter is packed with so much meaning. It shows how our actions towards the poor is really a reflection of our state of faith. How can we truly believe in the Day of Recompense, when we face human wretchedness and do nothing to alleviate suffering? We do it all the time, as we are desensitized to it or fear that giving will decrease our wealth. And we hold on to our wallets and pocketbooks, forgetting that the money have is not really our own, but a loan from God. He gives sustainance, and if we have true faith we wouldn’t worry about giving Him back what He is due by offering charity.

Other well meaning Muslims ignore poverty in America because of, what I believe, are  misplaced priorities. Many Muslims say that people overseas are suffering more, so they are more deserving. Yet, the order of giving charity is first to our families, neighbors, and then to needy. What good is our religion, if we are not able to affect those closest to us? And, importantly, what kind of message are we sending our American neighbors about our commitment to being contributing members of our community and good citizens?  How are we handing someone da’wah pamphlets, yet refusing to give them a helping hand? Many Americans see our community as parasitic, enjoying the economic benefits of this society while working to undermine it. And sad to say, the anti-establishment rhetoric of some Muslims in America has served to support those perceptions.  The us-versus-them rhetoric has also led many to turn their backs on suffering Americans. Or the insular ethnic communities with an emphasis to ties back home has also caused many of us to ignore the immediate needs of our neighbors, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. And so, we are seen  by our neighbors building our masajid, but not making any positive impact on society. At best, we become tolerated, but not welcome neighbors, at worst we are seen as an existential threat to America. We have to take ownership of how neglectful we have been in providing a positive example.

Surah Ma’un reminds us  that are neglectful of our prayers because we ignore feeding the poor, the orphans, and being kind to our neighbors in need. This is especially important during Ramadan. While our fast is for God alone, we have an increase in public acts of worship, with mosques filling up to capacity. There are more opportunities for showing off because of the supererogatory taraweh prayers each night. While I am in 100% support of those who spend time in the mosque and believe this is a great opportunity rejuvenate our faith, we have to make sure we are not just doing things for show. And how does this Surah Ma’un show the correlation? By doing kind acts we can avoid falling into the category of hypocrites or those who deny the Day of Recompense.

Further, our charity as Muslims should increase and it should be to alleviate suffering, not just to feed ourselves. While paying for an iftar is a commendable thing, as we get reward for feeding a fasting person, we should not limit our charity to that. We should take care of the orphans, feed the needy, and do kind acts for those around us. In essence, we should have some social impact. The Muslim footprint should especially be felt during Ramadan in this society. There is so much evidence that shows that Ramadan is not just about fasting.

Evidence for this can be seen in what serves as expiation for those who are unable to fast. For those who  are unable to fast, those who have a chronic disease or are elderly, it is important to pay the compensation, fidya, for missed days. The Hidaya Foundation writes on their page:

  • The price of Fidya for each day of missed fasts is either to feed a poor person two meals in a day, or to give whole wheat, which is enough to feed a poor person twice in a day (1/2 Saa per Hanafi school of thought, or 1 Saa per Shaafi and other schools of thought). (1 Sa = 3 Kilograms approx.)
  • The Fidya price for one who has to pay it should be calculated based on the local prices of whole wheat in the place the person resides.
  • The price for Fidya in the USA is $3.50 by the Hanafi school of thought, and $7.00 according to the Shaafi and other schools of thought.

Scholars have disagreed on whether or not fidya applies for someone who either broke a fast for a certain period or missed a day because of menses, pregnancy, nursing, or 40 days after childbirth, but does not fall into the category of the elderly or individual has a chronic disease and therefore can no longer fast. Faraz Rabbani explains in Who can pay my fidya +make up fasts, “In the Hanafi school, there is no fidya for delayed making up of missed fasts. Rather, one simply makes up the missed fasts themselves–and it is recommended to hasten to do so. [ Shurunbulali, Maraqi al-Falah; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar." Other schools take a different opinion, saying  that for those who can one day make up a fast, should still pay the fidya for each day they missed.  Shaykh Hamza Karamali answers in Payment (fidya) for not making up days from last Ramadan:

According to the Shafi`i school, if one does not fast some days during Ramadan, it is obligatory to make up these missed fasts before the next Ramadan arrives, regardless of whether these fasts were missed with a valid excuse (e.g. menstruation, travel, sickness, etc.) or without a valid excuse.  If one does not make them up before the next Ramadan, one is sinful and must pay a "mudd" (a volumetric measure defined below) of food to someone poor (faqeer) or short of money (miskeen) in addition to making up the missed fasts (I`anatu'l-Talibin, 2.242;Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 3.445-446).

...
A "mudd" is the amount one can hold in both hands when cupped together. It is estimated in the Reliance as 0.51 liters (Reliance, i1.33). The type of food one gives varies from place to place. One must pay whatever food is considered the main staple in the area where one lives. This could be wheat, barley, rice or something else (al-Minhaj al-Qawim + al-Hawashi al-Madaniyya, 2.194).

...

Feeding (it`am) a poor person, as Imam Bajuri (Allah have mercy on him) explains in the section on expiating (kaffara) for fast days that one has invalidated, means giving him ownership (tamleek) of the food. It is not sufficient to cook the food and then invite him to one's house for lunch or dinner (Hashiyat al-Bajuri, 1.319). Rather, the poor person must be given possession of the food (e.g. a bag of wheat) and then he can do what he wants with it (e.g. eat it, sell it, give it away to someone else, give it back to you and ask you to cook it for him, etc.). As such, it would not be sufficient to invite the people to a feast. One would have to give them the actual staple food.

A number of women I talked to, to be on the safe side are giving the fidya for the days that they cannot fast with the intention of one day making up the days.  However one mistake many of us often make is by sponsoring an iftar or inviting a friend over for dinner with the idea that we are fulfilling the fidya. Regardless of the price, it is clear that the qualification for who gets the fidya should be someone who is qualified to be a recipient of zakat. The poor and the needy are people who cannot pay zakat themselves because they don't have enough money. And I think these technicalities are important to remember as we are nearing the Blessed month of Ramadan. Are we feeding the poor, helping organizations that distribute money to the poor, helping new converts (for that is what it means of "those reconciled [to truth]),” helping those crippled by debt, giving to God’s cause, or taking care of the travelers? For those of us who need expiation for missed fasts or whether we want to simply increase our charity, our kindness should not just be based on geo-politics or ethnic ties.  This Ramadan, we should move our focus away from lavish feasts at iftars and work towards alleviating  suffering and hunger locally and globally.

**Update **

Islamic Relief USA inaugurated a summer food service program to feed working class children in Maryland healthy meals.  You can read more about it here. Good job Islamic Relief! We need more of this.

October 5, 2007

A Family in Need of Help During this Sad Time

Filed under: Sadaqah — Margari Aziza Hill @ 3:00 am

This email was forward to me. So, I’m appealing to those who can help out to read:

The family is poor (9 people living in a 2 bdrm apt). They just came from back
home 4-5 yrs ago and don’t have much family here.

Being that it is the blessed month of Ramadan where each deed is
multiplied many times and we should be thinking of giving zakat soon
inshallah, I wanted to extend the invitation to anyone that would like to
donate some money to the family for financial help with? janaza, funeral
and khatm they would like to hold over the next couple of
days/weeks/months.?

You may send your donations to the Alalusi Foundation, which is a
non-profit organization that will give all proceeds to the family. Your
donation though this foundation is tax deductible.

Make checks payable to Alalusi Foundationand you MUST write Rahimi
Family in the Memo section of the check.

There are many areas that the foundation deals with and we don’t want
any funds to get mixed up. You may send your donations to:

Alalusi Foundation c/o Marianne Nsour
36454 Alicante Dr
Fremont CA 94536

Jazzak Allah Khair for your duas and inshallah hopefully you will be
able to help donate something to the family so they at least don’t have
to add financial worries to this very difficult time in their lives.
Thank you all in advance and may Allah (swt) reward you for whatever
you can help with.?

News report of accident

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