By Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido
Bleak Economic Future on Losing bread Winner
Think of it; the moment you die, the socioeconomic status of your children and wives changes. Your children (those young among them especially) become orphans, and your wives are called widows. While alive, you worked hard and earned for their feeding, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare and general wellbeing. The moment you die, they lose a breadwinner. If in your lifetime you have searched from the Islamic Sharī’ah, you would have learned the art and science of planning beyond your lifetime for these prospective widows and orphans. After relying on Allah, you would have built for them a prospect such that they would live a life of meaning, success, prosperity and contribution, insha Allah. And here comes the relevance of family waqf; waqf, in general, being the Islamic instrument for institutionalising philanthropy and ensuring perpetuity in giving!
Family Waqf as a superb socioeconomic institution enables one posthumously to maintain his parenthood and breadwinner status for his family, generates him reward permanently and preserves the dignity of his progeny everlastingly. In family waqf, you find one of the essential instruments for planning the future prosperity of your progeny.
Family Waqf as Solution
Family waqf, also called posterity waqf, is a kind of endowment created as a futuristic investment for the sustainable prosperity of the endower’s relatives or friends. It is often called a restricted waqf, distinct from a public waqf whose benefits go to an open class of beneficiaries. It can be for the immediate family; wives and children. It may also include parents. It can be made for the extended family, depending upon the financial capacity of the endower. One can make a family waqf for a child with a special need, say one with sickle-cell disease. The beneficiaries of a family waqf, in short, are those defined by the endower.
Significantly, although the primary beneficiaries of this form of waqf are those pinpointed from the endower’s family, time may expand the scope of the recipients of its fruits. When, for example, the revenues generated from the waqf grow so large beyond the family’s need, or when the family gradually goes extinct after some long time, the waqf could be converted to a public waqf, expanding the coverage of those who enjoy its benefits. Therefore, what distinguishes a family waqf from a general public waqf is its scope of defined beneficiaries. Virtually all other rules of its governance are the same with public waqf. It can be made a direct waqf, one that creates direct benefits, on an investment waqf whose revenues are distributed to the designated recipients.
Family waqf can be made for the provision of all forms of welfare and empowerment services for the family. It can be made for education, healthcare, feeding, clothing and other needs. It can also be made, specifically for the sponsorship of Hajj to family members. In this regard, instead of spending five million naira for two or three members of the family to perform Hajj this year, the same amount can be invested as a waqf, such that after its maturity, the proceeds from the investment waqf can be used to sponsor Hajj for a certain number of family members every year. With proper management and Allah’s barakah, instead of three family members, dozens of them can enjoy Hajj from the same seed money even long after the demise of the original donor. Waqf multiplies benefits and rewards manifold.
More often than not, you hear people complain over the demands of their family members overwhelming them even as they want to contribute. But little do they know they have a satisfactory answer in family waqf. For example, suppose you know you spend two million naira for the education of your children and extended family annually. Why not make an investment waqf so that the proceeds of the waqf relieve you of any spending in that direction in some years to come?
Form and Functioning of the Family Waqf
A person can build a rentable shopping complex, subscribe to Islamic bonds (Sukuk), buy shares of a halal company, and dedicate the same and profits thereof as a waqf for the education of his children and grandchildren. Likewise, one can build an orchard full of date trees, mango trees and other fruit-bearing trees, dedicating them as a waqf for the future specific or general financing of the needs of their children.
When the endower specifies in the waqf deed that it is only for the education of his children, then, as a rule, no part of the rentals shall be spent on other needs, just as the resources cannot be used to fund the education of children other than his, except when the yields grow far beyond the education of the designated siblings. If the endower dedicates it to education and healthcare, its proceeds cannot be diverted to feeding the family or other things except under absolute necessity. All this is to safeguard the sanctity of the waqf, ensure its sustainability, and guarantee the continuous flow of its yields in line with the overall goals and objectives for which it is created.
The good thing is that, like all other waqfs, making it a family waqf makes the investment/asset inalienable. It prevents it from being counted among the inheritable wealth of the endower, as it will remain a separate entity that creates benefits perpetually to the entire qualified beneficiaries. The asset can neither be sold nor given as collateral. It remains a waqf asset. This way, even when the children need other things, they source them outside the waqf, allowing the waqf to maintain its defined purpose perpetually.
The idea behind family waqf stems from Islam’s emphasis on ensuring the wellbeing of a person’s family and biological relations and the need to spend continuously on all aspects of their needs; spiritual, intellectual, biological, physiological, socio-cultural, and so on. Talking about spending, the Qur’an draws attention to prioritising spending on the family. When, for instance, the companions continued to ask the Prophet (SAW) how best to organise their spending, Allah intervened with a divine spending formula: that whatever you plan to spend for good or charity, direct it to your “parents, relatives, orphans, the needy and the traveller” (Qur’an 2: 215).
Your family, in short, occupies the first three spaces on your scale of spending preference. They are the primary beneficiaries of your giving, be it obligatory or voluntary. Now, if, as the Prophet declares, the most pleasing act in the sight of Allah is one that is perpetual and sustainable; then it becomes apparent that the most rewarding spending on the family is the “gift that keeps on giving”, that is a waqf that keeps bearing fruits to the family.
Start Early, Start Now!
It is important you begin the waqf plan early. Many people start their marital lives with moderate incomes, which, with little adjustments, a futuristic mindset and financial discipline, are sufficient to be divided into consumption, saving and little investments. However, financial shortsightedness often prevents them from allocating some portion of that “meagre income” to what would ease their financial burdens and create a sustainable flow of income – and reward- for themselves and their family in the future. Little do they realise that as their family grows, so do their financial burdens. If these are added to inflation and other economic unpredictables, the complexity of the situation worsens.
Many people do not also realise that the best immunisation from the negative socioeconomic consequences of shrinking disposable income is to begin early implementation of an effective financial plan. Many begin to regret when the regret cannot change anything; they would want to start to cry when the head is already cut off!
So, plan for the future of your beloved wives, children and relatives. That is a Sunnah, a well-established one, for that matter. A viable and well-managed revenue-generating waqf can do that for you. You get double rewards; you safeguard your family’s future Islamically and earn rewards perpetually. Make an effective plan for their feeding, sheltering, education, medicine, and socioeconomic prosperity. Make a waqf for their Hajj, ‘umrah and general spiritual wellbeing. That is sunnatic. Do not miss the opportunity to practice this multidimensional Sunnah, the Sunnah of family waqf. Our dear mother and wife of the Noblest Prophet, Aisha, reports to us that the Prophet (peace be upon him) dedicated his seven gardens as waqf to benefit the clans of Banū Abd Muttalib and Banū Hāshim as recorded by Bayhaqi.
We also see emphasising family waqf in the guidance of the Prophet to his companions. After the revelation of the verse “By no means shall you attain righteousness/piety unless you spend of that which you love; and whatever good you spend, Allah knows it well” (3:92), Abu Talha met the Prophet and said, “This is what Allah has revealed, and the most treasured of all my wealth is this garden, Bayruhā’. I have set it aside as a ṣadaqah to attract reward from Allah. Therefore, you should administer it the way you wish”. The Prophet was amazed by this gesture. And so he said, “Certainly your wealth is blessed. Having heard what you have said, I recommend that you dedicate it as a perpetual charity to your relatives”. Based on this Prophetic advice Abu Talhah made it a waqf for his close relatives and cousins (Bukhari and Muslim).
It is interesting also that most companions of the Prophet are reported to have implemented this Sunnah. For example, Caliph Abubakar dedicated a house as a waqf for his son, and Umar dedicated a waqf near Marwa to his son. Also, Zubayr endowed a house in Makkah, another in Egypt, and yet another in Medina as waqfs for his children. Amr b. ‘Āss endowed a house and another huge property in Mecca for his children, just as Hakīm b. Hizām also dedicated a house as a waqf in Mecca and another in Medina for his son. After reporting all of these, Ibn Qudamah says in al-Mughniy, “All this are intact till date”.
Family waqf is a Sunnah of the Prophet, his companions and generations of Muslims in the last fourteen centuries. It is a well-developed institution that grew as a robust instrument for family empowerment and societal development until it faced the orchestrated wrath of the colonial monsters. The colonialists saw it as an institution that gave families and societies independence against their mercilessness and hence officially abolished it in Muslim nations like Egypt, Morocco, and so on.
Sadly, there is hardly any evidence of its practice as enshrined in Islamic law and civilisation here in Nigeria. With the growing waqf awakening in Nigeria, one hopes that a new page would be opened for entrenching this all-important Islamic civilisational institution. The good news is that with each family doing it, we gradually build a new waqf generation. Through that, we give a big blow to poverty at family levels before we finally eject it out of our communities. The early we sow, the earlier we reap. The more we sow, the more we reap. May we begin this journey NOW.
Abdullahi Abubakar Lamido, Chairman, Zakah and Waqf Foundation, Gombe . He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.