The waqf and South Africa
A little history….
The precise date of the advent of Islam in this country remains enigmatic. Recent studies indicate that its arrival from the north may have taken place as early as the 15th or 16th century when Arab Muslim traders reached Mozambique.
During the Dutch occupation in the 17th century, the arrivals were political prisoners, slaves, servants, refugees, apolitical prisoners, voluntary migrants, and political exiles.
Islam was to be preached in secret and practiced in private until 1804, when religious freedom was proclaimed.
Then Muslims came to Natal from southern India in 1860 at the behest of the British government as indentured laborers to work on the sugar cane plantations. When the contracts expired after three to four years, they became free residents of the territory.
From 1869, the second wave of Indians entered South Africa as migrant passengers who were merchants or their employees. They were mainly from Gujarat, Maharashtra, or Uttar Pradesh and settled in Natal, Transvaal, and Cape Town. Islam flourished the most among this group; they thus formed the nucleus of the nascent Muslim community. One of the conditions for these traders to come to Port Natal was that they should not have state interference in their religion. This explains the rapid growth of mosques and religious schools (called madrasas) wherever they have settled. One of the reasons this sector enjoyed the greatest wealth came from the activities of the awqaf. Many of the influential ulemas in these ranks had close ethnic ties and perspectives with their Indian counterparts, thus facilitating accepting the latter’s statements by many local Muslim philanthropists.
The first African Muslims to arrive in this country were the “Zanzibaris,” so-called because they had been redirected from Zanzibar to Natal. They were once slaves brought to Natal between 1873 and 1880 to alleviate the labor shortage. They came from northern Mozambique, Tanzania, Comoros, Zanzibar, Malawi, and possibly Somalia. When their contract period expired, they moved to Durban and the surrounding area, to places like Bluff, Berea, Umgeni, Verulam, and Pinetown.
Gradually, some indigenous peoples (such as Africans, Métis, Whites, and others) also adopted Islam.
Since the beginning of the last decade of the 20th century, migrants from various countries in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Eastern Europe have settled down, giving the Muslim community a cosmopolitan spirit…
On the donor side, a pioneer in this field was Saartjie van de Kaap, whose real name was probably Sārah. It made land available for extensions to an existing mosque. It was indeed a remarkable act of a Muslim woman in the days of slavery when prejudices against Muslims were high.
Saartjie’s feat has been emulated for the establishment and management of at least 397 mosques in South Africa, according to 2014 figures (Muslim Directory, 2014). Living in the minority, Muslims have constantly been forced to spend on their faith and practice activities.
These local, municipal, and neighborhood awqaf covered the costs of building and maintaining the mosque centers and salaries of employees such as imams (who led the congregation’s daily prayers).
Wealthy families established family trusts to benefit all eligible persons specified in their policies and did not benefit their family members exclusively. Liberal tax incentives led some wealthy people to invest in family trusts for tax evasion purposes.
Finally, local Muslims funded many private Muslim schools that were an important feature of the apartheid landscape like other denominational schools. Many were formed in protest in response to the ideologies of the apartheid state.
The first Muslim schools, known as the Muslim Missionary Schools, were established at the beginning of the 20th century, the first being the Rahmaniyeh Institute in Cape Town, founded by Abdullah Abdurahman 1913. These missionary schools were established throughout Cape Town and surrounding areas like Paarl and Worcester, as far as Kimberley and Port Elizabeth. Like other missionary school systems, they were subsidized by the apartheid state and served as a primary type of education for Blacks, Métis, and Indians. They provided schooling for Muslim children whose parents were concerned about the dominant Christian ethos in state and missionary schools. Through this arrangement, communities were free to provide the buildings, while the state provided these schools’ infrastructure.
In other provinces where Muslims resided, Muslims contributed to such state-subsidized schools in many towns in the former provinces of Transvaal and Natal. (They currently cover the following provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Northwest).
Over the past 40 years, 13 additional private Muslim primary schools, 20 private Muslim secondary schools, and 16 institutions of advanced Islamic studies have been funded by local Muslims. This highlights the impressive commitment of Muslim South Africans to the legacy of the waqf.
The common trajectories of many organizations revolve around education, professional skills, health care, mosques, in addition to social and relief services. Some individual bodies focus on burial and prison services as well as housing.
The waqf in South Africa has broadened its scope by focusing on leadership development, economic challenges, and agriculture. However, solid concrete projects seem rare.
The waqf has not been sufficiently highlighted in South African oral and written literature as a unique means of philanthropy, empowerment, and economic growth. As a result, its status as a unique engine of social and economic prosperity is ignored.
To this is added a vision that limits it practically in practical terms to that of zakat, which implies, at best, minimizing eligible non-Muslim beneficiaries. Grants are often limited to the construction and maintenance of villages, the restoration of tombs, and religious, pious, and charitable purposes, which contrast with secular projects.
However, with the Muslim community has evolved in the context of colonialism and apartheid, it is common to find strong racial, ethnic, and religious factors for charity. Religious differences seem to take longer to wear off, as the foundation for giving rests on religious doctrine and regulation.
On the other hand, charities and charities haven’t done much better either. Like NGOs operating in the country, donors from donors are more effective in responding to emergency relief crises than in providing long-term solutions.
A striking example is the proliferation of Islamic colleges, which far exceed the needs of the country.
Moreover, while Muslims have spent millions on their brethren in war and disaster-stricken countries, many ignore the plight of local black Muslims, some of whom have nothing but water to satisfy their hunger. Breaking the fast in Ramadan.
The restricted application of the waqf by South African Muslims is evident due to their lack of understanding of its dynamic nature. The influential brotherhood closest to most benefactors has strong ties to their Indian counterparts, to whom they have remained indebted so far.
It would be beneficial to bring in-depth conceptual clarity on waqf’s concept and function in Islam to promote philanthropy, empowerment, and economic progress.
Also, the awqaf directors must be ethical individuals, grounded in the relevant aspects of Islamic law, as well as in economics and management, and professional fund managers must be appointed to oversee the investments.