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Jakarta Post

What's next for the Indonesian Waqf Board?

  • Fahmi M. Nasir and Sharifah Zubaidah Syed Abdul Kader

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Kuala Lumpur   /   Tue, July 24, 2018   /   03:40 pm
What's next for the Indonesian Waqf Board? In Indonesia, waqf revival has been very significant in the past decades after the consolidation of regulation and bureaucratic procedures in the waqf sector in the form of Law No. 41 of 2004 on Waqf and the establishment of the Indonesian Waqf Board (BWI) in 2007. (Shutterstock/File)

In Indonesia, waqf revival has been very significant in the past decades after the consolidation of regulation and bureaucratic procedures in the waqf sector in the form of Law No. 41 of 2004 on Waqf and the establishment of the Indonesian Waqf Board (BWI) in 2007.

We might have been thinking that with overwhelming effort and commitment from waqf stakeholders, the waqf sector has developed exponentially to revive its former glory. Everything looks so promising that its future is brighter than ever. Unfortunately, such is not the case. The majority of waqf assets are still neglected and undeveloped. Even the total numbers of waqf assets and its true potentials are not known.

To develop this sector, we need to deal with facts and numbers. As far as waqf in Indonesia is concerned, the issue of the role and competency of BWI in developing and mainstreaming waqf and embracing technological innovation should be taken into consideration.

First, let’s have a closer look at the BWI which celebrate their 11th anniversary on July 13, 2018. BWI was given huge responsibility to revive the waqf institutions nationwide by carrying out various functions whether as a motivator, facilitator, regulator and other supporting roles. The huge responsibility and the overlapping functions of the BWI have pros and cons, but the benefit of the doubt must be given as majority of waqf properties has been neglected for many years.

The effort of BWI in governing and streamlining waqf development in Indonesia might have brought a positive effect on the waqf sector nationwide. However, it is important to note, the fact that there are many suggestions, from within and without BWI, on the need to revitalize the governance of waqf in Indonesia indicates that the waqf governance spearheaded by BWI has not been able to achieve their intended targets.

This could be observed from various news reports or a commentary in the opinion section at The Jakarta Post, which from time to time has highlighted the need to manage waqf assets effectively. For example, various measures inter alia changing of paradigm, strengthening of regulations, strengthening of human resource and initiating pilot projects should be taken immediately to significantly improve waqf development in Indonesia.

The other burning issue is the inability of BWI to give a clear picture of waqf in Indonesia in terms of the total assets of waqf properties nationwide as until now, no survey has been done. Existing literature often mentions the big potential of Indonesia’s waqf assets, but no precise data is available so far. Certainly, many stakeholders are eager to know the real potential.

BWI could point to the lack of funding as the reason why they are not able to conduct a nationwide survey of waqf properties. However, with a bit of creativity, the BWI can easily overcome the lack of funds for survey. BWI just needs to liaise with the Ministry of Home Affairs and request for collaboration to command every village in Indonesia to undertake the waqf survey. BWI can provide necessary forms, preferably online, to be filled in by the head of village and their secretary.

Furthermore, BWI should significantly increase the quality of their website. The current website is very poor as far as the information on the website is concerned. We cannot even find who the current BWI commissioners for the periods between 2017 and 2020. The waqf data presented there is also very basic. There is no data on the current status of waqf properties development nor are there financial reports.

BWI could learn much from looking at the website of Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) at www.muis.gov.sg and its subsidiary Warees Investments Ptd Ltd at www.wares.sg. We can easily find any important information on waqf assets in Singapore in those two websites. We may even easily read their comprehensive annual and financial reports which in turn will attract more people to donate or create waqf as they can see how transparent and professional  Warees is at looking after waqf properties.

Second, as we are now in the era of disruptive innovation, BWI should embrace technological innovation to unlock the potential of Indonesian waqf.

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum stated in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, that the most important lesson from the first industrial revolution was the extent to which the society embraces technological innovation as a major determinant of progress. He went on to state that technology and digitization will revolutionize everything.

One of the digital revolutions that could be utilized for waqf development is blockchain. Schwab explained that blockchain is a secure protocol where a network of computers collectively verifies a transaction before it can be recorded and approved. At the moment, the best known blockchain application is bitcoin. However, in the future it will be able to serve as a registrar for various things such as birth certificates, medical records as well as title of ownership.

Some countries and institutions are already investigating the blockchain potential in various sectors. In the waqf sector, Finterra, a Singapore based financial technology company has developed a crowdfunding platform that uses blockchain to create ‘smart contracts’ that would be tied to specific waqf projects. They hope that their Finterra’s Endowment Chain will be able to provide a more efficient way to raise money and to manage waqf properties. They also hope to be able to play a prominent role in the global movement of the so called cryptophilanthropy.

BWI should embrace this new development as blockchain technology could expedite the documentation of waqf assets in Indonesia as well as utilizing blockchain or cryptophilanthropy for crowdfunding may address the perennial problems of lack of funding for waqf development in Indonesia.

What’s next? Well, as we can’t afford the continuous delay of waqf development in Indonesia, we need the BWI to start addressing their shortcomings and embrace the technological revolution to have a positive and profound impact on waqf revival for the betterment of the Indonesian society.

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Fahmi M. Nasir is the founder of the Center for Study and Consultancy of Waqf, Jeumpa D’Meusara (JDM) and Ph. D Student in waqf law and governance at Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He can be reached at [email protected] and https://www.facebook.com/fahmi.m.nasir .

Dr. Sharifah Zubaidah Syed Abdul Kader is an Associate Professor at Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia and can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.