ADVERTORIAL: Interview with Ammar A. Shata, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Alkhabeer Capital

The Islamic Waqf (endowment) structure is a leading form of charitable social activity that has been at the center of Islamic civilization throughout history. Although the Western World was influenced by the concept of the Islamic Waqf and its noble objectives, the Waqf system, with its background and purposes, remains a unique and outstanding characteristic methodology of the Islamic civilization, as the principal’s benefit is charitable, even when the Waqf is a family Waqf.

We sat with the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Alkhabeer Capital, Mr. Ammar A. Shata, to learn more about Islamic Waqf, its stages, development, future outlook and the vital role it plays in societies in our modern age.

Waqf has been a central component of Islamic history for more than 1400 years. What is the current state of the Waqf industry in the Islamic World today?

Islamic Waqf is a religious endowment that is based on a donation (tabarru’) of ownership of an income generating asset and uses the proceeds for charitable purposes, be they social, educational, cultural or otherwise. The goal of the Waqf is to allocate the principal capital for a benefit to a certain entity or entities, as determined by the Waqf founder, known as the Waqif.

The Waqf Industry has developed over centuries to include serving science and research. Historically, Waqfs had unique goals and objectives. This is evident when we look at scientific and cultural success stories from the days of the Ottoman Empire, and continues to exist today, hundreds of years later.

Take, for example, a Waqf that was founded to ensure the upkeep of the horses of soldiers after their martyrdom, as a form of honoring the martyrs.

There have also even been a number of Waqf structures to take in stray animals, for the purpose of feeding them and caring for them, similar to animal shelters in the United States and Europe.

What characterizes Waqf? And what is its effect on the development of society?

Waqf structures aim to support and develop civil society organizations non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The development and expansion of independent entities and social services is the key to the development of society as a whole, and serves society’s objectives and interests, making it an independent and self-sufficient society, that does not rely on government resources. This leads to the development of a sector that is as efficient and effective as the private sector, and is more efficient than the public sector.

The importance of support and development of civil society organizations has led to the awareness in the West and the non-Islamic World of the importance of the Waqf concept. For example “Trust Funds”, which are now a huge industry, borrow on many concepts of Waqf. Just as important, endowment funds that support universities in the United States have reached over US $ 500 billion in value, according to NACUBO 2014.

Throughout history, governments have tried to control Waqf funds and wealth in order to control civil society organizations and their ability act independently of the aims of the government. But when Waqf is directed by the state towards specific or political objectives, such control is considered wrong and causes harm to the Waqf itself, its efficiency and its objectives. Unfortunately, there are many instances throughout history where Waqf assets in Islamic and non-Islamic countries have been hampered by government intervention.