Promoting Sustainability through WAQF: A Vision for Higher Education

Professor Dato' Dr. Noor Inayah Bt. Ya'akub

“WAQF’s goal is sustainability. Unlike endowments that are already established, WAQF presents opportunities for collaboration and collective sustainability. We aim to sustain as a community, not rely on a single individual. As I mentioned earlier, there are alternative income generation methods for private universities, including philanthropy through endowments, WAQF, and other charitable donations”, shared Professor Dato’ Dr. Noor Inayah Bt. Ya’akub, President & Vice-Chancellor, Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“It’s essential to note that the concept of WAQF is evolving significantly. In the past, we primarily focused on immovable assets, but now we’re exploring cash WAQF, which has received support from the Central Bank of Malaysia and the Security Commission. Malaysia has 13 states, each with its religious council, which adds complexity to governance. However, this diversity can be a strength as these councils are the main custodians of WAQF, including cash WAQF”, added Professor Dato’ Dr. Noor.

Enhancing university income generation through WAQF has been part of the Malaysian higher education blueprint since 2015, and it’s expected to continue for the next few years. We are diversifying our income sources beyond tuition fees, including academic and research, asset monetisation, financial management activities, corporate alliances, endowments, WAQF, and fundraising. This diversity is crucial for sustainability, especially for private universities.

Implementing various modes of WAQF funding is essential. There are 12 forms of cash WAQF, including shares, insurance, direct cash WAQF, mobile cash WAQF, corporate cash WAQF, deposit cash WAQF, WAQF mutual funds, and certificate cash WAQF. These methods have received approval from the Central Bank of Malaysia and are especially relevant for Islamic banks.

Encouraging unrestricted donations to endowments is also crucial. I also serve on the board of directors of the premier trust in Malaysia, where there are substantial unclaimed funds due to weak governance. To address this, we’re considering introducing new schemes like ‘far wheels’ and ‘hiah’ to facilitate donations during one’s lifetime while ensuring they benefit descendants.

The government is supporting these initiatives through tax deductions for companies and individuals who donate to WAQF. Globally, WAQF is gaining recognition for its potential to benefit society, as seen in discussions at various international conferences and symposiums.

She further stated that “To create a sustainable ecosystem for higher education, we must strive to provide free education to students regardless of their background. This can be achieved by using WAQF proceeds to support students during periods when they are awaiting financial aid approvals, offering free or subsidized accommodations, and providing scholarships.”

We are also exploring the possibility of establishing a WAQF commission at the federal level to harmonise governance and ensure proper oversight of WAQF assets. This is essential to manage the vast WAQF land holdings in Malaysia, some of which have already been successfully developed.

“WAQF is a practical and workable approach to achieving sustainability, and it’s not limited to Muslims; it benefits all members of society. Collaborating with state religious councils, government ministries, and various organizations is crucial to realising the full potential of WAQF in Malaysia and beyond”, she concluded.

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