By Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido
I begin, after praising Allah and sending blessings to the beloved Prophet peace be upon him, with three stories from Nigeria. They are all real. The first is of a rich man who died and was survived by a wife and her two children. His estate included mansions in choice areas, high worth investments, company shares, farmlands, etc. This “beloved” wife was advised to make a waqf (perpetual charity) of just a mosque as a source of everlasting reward for the late husband from the hard-earned wealth he spent his life gathering. She was reminded that less than one per cent of his wealth could do it. The wife answered in one word: “Impossible”! Rather, she offered to cook rice and beans every Friday and give to the begging Almajiris around as sadaqah. To be fair to her, she did so for some months until she met a new darling husband with whom she now enjoys her inherited, halal fortune! End of story!
The second story is that of a religious and highly influential personality who died and left behind several sons and daughters, all of whom had already grown wealthy and influential. The deceased’s bosom friend, who was the custodian of many of his possessions, approached the heirs. He pinpointed a plot of land in a choice area in one of the largest Nigerian cities and offered that if they would designate it as a perpetual charity, he would build an ultramodern Islamic centre there as a waqf for their late father. This, he said, was to create a ceaseless flow of rewards to their late father. Alas! To his face, they simply said no! And the rest is history.
The third is the story of a woman philanthropist who was the wife of an influential person. She was known for her dedication to building mosques, schools, among other charitable interventions. After her demise, the husband learned of several uncompleted mosques and schools that were part of her charitable initiatives. He called her children to a conference and suggested that from her inheritable wealth, they should dedicate what would be enough to complete such ongoing projects. And what a small portion of her wealth was that! They unanimously rejected his offer, departing in a “just give us our money” mood. It was the father who used his resources to finance the completion of the projects. I gather that he was lucky to have learned some lessons here and begin to emulate his late philanthropist wife. He actually increased his budget for Islamic philanthropy as he was already known for charity also. May Allah accept it for him, and for her.
I am sure by now you, my dear reader, have started to recollect several similar stories you have heard on several occasions or which might have even happened close to you. I also have many to share. But these ones suffice as examples. At least for now. What lesson, then, have you learned from this?
Now, remember the Prophetic hadith in which he explains that the moment a person dies, his reward fetching deeds terminate except three; waqf or perpetual charity being the first of them. The other two reward sources are the prayer of a pious child and beneficial knowledge. Interestingly, in the hadith is an equitable distribution of reward sources of some sort. The wealthy folks no doubt have access to the “lion share” in terms of perpetual charity. Beneficial knowledge is the share of the scholars essentially. For the non-rich, non-scholar believer, giving a good upbringing to his/her children guarantees them prayers from pious children and a continuous flow of reward.
Many owners of surplus resources miss the opportunity of making a waqf due to procrastination and other flimsy considerations. By doing so, they deny themselves the most important investment of their lifetime. How can Allah give you the opportunity of making an investment that may pass a millennium fetching you rewards only for you to refuse to do so? Daniel Crecelius explains to us that several waqfs, created for the provision of various social, religious, educational, economic and welfare services free of charge to the public, have survived for five centuries, and some for over a millennium. Now! Imagine yourself, in your grave, receiving “alerts” of rewards daily while charting with the Angels! Can you imagine the amount of reward you would earn by continuously creating benefits, solving problems, drawing happiness to thousands or millions of needy and poor lives for decades, centuries or even a millennium after your departure from this deceptive world? Consider the following stories.
You already know the third caliph of the Prophet, Uthman bin Affan (may Allah be pleased with him). After the migration to Medina, access to water became a great challenge for the believer. They had to buy from a Jew who owned a well called Ruma. The Jew was so wicked, charging exorbitant prices, and making life difficult for the believers. The solution was for the Muslim community to own it. The Prophet peace be upon him announced a guaranteed direct entry certificate to Jannah for whoever purchased it. Uthman did. He surrendered it as a waqf. People now could get water at zero cost. This charity became blessed and continued to expand. During the Umayyad period, it began to grow date palm trees in its surroundings. Many grew. The Ottoman Empire paid particular attention to developing the trees generating income from them. The returns would then be shared into two; a portion distributed as charity and the other saved. Later, the Saudi Arabian authorities opened a bank account in the name of Uthman Bin Affan. They save half of the returns and distribute half in charity. As the savings grew, a hotel was built in Medina, still in the name of Caliph Uthman. Half of the returns is reinvested while the other half, amounting to about 500 million Riyals annually (equivalent to about USD14 million) is distributed in charity. 1400 years of ceaseless reward, thanks to waqf!
Then the story of the great philanthropist, lady Zubaiyda, daughter of Ja’far al-Mansūr, granddaughter of the second Abbasid Caliph Abū Ja’far al-Mansūr; wife of the 5th Abbasid Caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd and mother to the 6th Abbasid Caliph, al-Amīn. Although she died in 216 AH (832 CE) in Baghdad, her source of reward is still yet to! In 186 AH (802 CE), she visited the Holy land as a pilgrim. She then noticed the serious difficulty people experienced in Mecca vis-à-vis accessing water. There were no reliable wells and springs from where to fetch portable water. The people rather relied on rainfall or poor wells that were irregular in providing water. She then ordered her treasurer to look for “world-class” engineers and professionals from different cities to embark on the work of constructing a befitting well. Having observed how difficult the project would be due to the nature of the soil which was rocky and hard, she declared her readiness to pay a dinar for every single digging, until they reached water level. Soon, highly professional engineers and experts flooded Mecca and started work, surveying between hard rocks until they were able to sink the well. In the end, they parted with the dinars and she parted with the never-ceasing reward! She dedicated the well as a waqf for the residents and visitors of Mecca. Water became abundantly available. Water scarcity became history.
But not only this. Zubayda also did a waqf for the waqf; waqf of rentable houses and landed properties for the maintenance of the water wells. The ‘Ayn Zubaydah has been described as the largest waqf known in history in terms of the cost of its capital, the magnificence of its design, as well as its contributions to welfare in a sustainable manner. Importantly, the Well of Zubaydah, as it came to be known, has remained functional and productive to date. About 1200 years? It is being utilized by the people of the city as well as visiting pilgrims to the Holy land.
Dear reader! Make a waqf. Look around you. Investigate; what is the greatest problem of the poor around you? Food? Water? Lack of a clinic? Lack of a school for their children? Lack of capital for the poor widows who need money-generating ventures? Make a waqf to provide a sustainable solution for them. Build a plaza, a shopping complex, a rentable house, a garden or buy shares and dedicate as waqf for funding such charitable courses. Do not wait for your wife to make sadaqah of rice and beans for you on Fridays! If you want to enjoy your wealth perpetually, why not just make a waqf NOW?
Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido is the Chairman, Zakah & Waqf Foundation, Gombe, Nigeria. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.