Banking, Finance & Takaful Interviews

HQ Special: Importance of Waqf in a country’s Socio-Economic Development, the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Waqf is a powerful nation-building tool!

HalaalQuest met Mr. Senajid Zajimovic recently for an Exclusive Interview. He is currently the Director of Waqf Directorate in the city of Sarajevo. Mr. Zajimovic shared some insights on the development of Waqf in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

HQ: Dear Mr. Zajimovic, please  elaborate briefly the meaning of  Waqf for our readers that are not so familiar with the term? 

Mr. Senajid: Waqf literally translated means to preserve or to contain. In the Shariah Law, Waqf is a charitable endowment that has been defined as a permanent voluntary portion of one’s wealth – in monetary or any other physical form.

Waqf belongs to The Creator, Allah, thus it can never be gifted, sold or inherited. In line with this Waqf can only be used for purposes that are according to the Shariah Law. In a social sense, Waqf is a financial and social institutions that in a way contributes to the economic, religious and cultural quality of life of an individual as well as to the development of a society. 

HQ: When it comes to the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, how was Waqf implemented  and who are the most known Waqifs?

Mr. Senajid: The emergence of Waqf in Bosnia and Herzegovina dated back to the 15th century to the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the establishment of a system based on Shariah Law. With the Ottomans arrival, the towns were developed in the form of “kasaba” mostly in the rural areas of the vicinities. One of the institutions that greatly and mainly contributed to the development of cities was Waqf.

The establishment of cities in conquered parts of the territory was the only result of state policy, while Waqf appeared as executor of this policy conditioned by public needs. This is understandable because the Ottoman state had to be active in the formation of cities, which represented the centers of authorities and cultural life.

Analyzing the development of Waqf in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it can be noticed that it bloomed in the first half of the 15th  and 16th  century when the most famous Waqifs were also present: Ishak-beg Ishaković, Gazi Husrev-beg, Rustem-paša Opuković, Mehmed-paša Sokolović, Ferhad-beg Sokolović etc.

Gazi-Husrev Beys Mosque
Gazi-Husrev Bey’s Mosque – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

In spite of all the inconveniences and pressures that have taken place on Waqf, some of the Waqf of these most valuable charities have been preserved and serve their purpose even today.

HQ: What role did the Institution of Waqf in Bosnia hold  throughout the economical aprising, especially after the war 1995?

Mr. Senajid: Throughout history there have been four types of Waqf: religious, educational, economical and social.

The Waqfs in Bosnia have played a major role in building, later on re-building and building again today, in all of these four aspects. As an example, during the war  around 800 mosques and masjids have been destroyed, and after the war the Waqf Directorate has managed to restore and rebuild all of them, including building around 400 new mosques where needed and this is just one of the above mentioned segments. 

Further, in the educational aspect, we can take the example of schools. Before the war we had only one Religious Islamic School – Madrasah present, now we have 6 Madrasahs and three Islamic Universities, we also have our Bosniak High School, pre-schools that we have built through waqf and many more. 

Apart from schools and universities, economic projects  have also been undertaken, such as rebuilding the Isa-bey Hamam, building the Business Center Odobasina etc. All of these have established a self maintaining revenue stream to self sustain and fund other educational and cultural wakes too. Another aspect through which the Waqf Directorate has helped and continues supporting the society is the humanitarian aid they provide to those in need, helping the elderly, or community in need such as in times of floods that happened recently. 

Aladza Mosque destroyed completely during the ’95 War – rebuild and reopened in 2019 to its original state.

Additionally, projects that help boost the community’s well-being similar to those we have already established, houses for children with special needs, house for children that are fighting cancer etc. Through all these and many more projects Waqf has helped rebuild and continues supporting the growth of our community in socio-economical, religious and educational segments.   

HQ: In countries such as Bosnia, namely secular country where Waqf and Zakat are not included systematically in the governing  law, what are some challenges and drawbacks that your institution has been facing? 

Mr. Senajid: There are a few actually, not only drawback that our institution faces but the country itself, because including Waqf and Zakat within the law enables more benefits to all parties involved.

We can see in other countries such as Malaysia or Singapore where Waqf and Zakat have been systematically included into the law, it enabled the countries and the people to prosper from such implementation through  various outcomes ie. tax reductions for Zakat payers and Waqf funds for infrastructure building etc. 

Currently, the Waqf Directorate holds only 20% of the total Waqf in Bosnia, most of the Waqf has been taken away and given to the country – this was done purposely during the war to lessen the impact and economic strength that the Islamic Community was holding. For the same reasons the current government does not want to give it back, the fear of having a strong economic religious group is to strong, yet we are still insisting on getting it back under our care as per the initial Waqifs will.  Through gaining the access back to these Waqfs we can continue contributing and expand the scope of our contribution to the society. 

In my opinion, it’s in the best  interest of countries to support the building of Waqfs and systematically including zakat into its laws to enable a more diversified income of funds for its development. 

Mr. Senajid in front of the destroyed Isa-bey Hamam before reconstruction.

HQ: In your experience to what extent can Waqfs help and boost the economy of a country? 

Mr. Senajid: In Islam Waqf is considered a living matter, as our beloved  Prophet s.a.w. advised that the only deed that will never be terminated is ongoing sadaqah jariah or Waqf. Thus, if we want to live forever in the memory of people and pluck good deeds till the Day of Judgement, then we should help them with something that they are in need of in the given moment. 

That was a successful recipe for a long lasting memory that many Waqifs have used to engrave their names into the cities throughout whole Bosnia. 

Waqf usually can take care of problems for which the government does not have the time nor the resources to tackle. As most  governments only take care of the basic needs of people, such as employment, country’s administration and so on. With this many other necessities remain which  the government cannot attend to. 

Throughout history we could see that governments in one of the biggest Islamic Kingdom that existed – the Ottoman Kingdom, the country has taken care of the territory and safety of people while leaving the urbanization and  infrastructure of cities into the hands of private sectors and wakafs.  

In today’s society, we should follow this example and the public, private sector together with the non-governmental institution which is waqf too, should unite and achieve what the government alone cannot handle. 

hamam today
Isa-bey’s Hamam after reconstruction.

With such approaches, we have managed locally to realise many projects but only due to the combined forces of all three sectors. Such approach can help boost infrastructure,  other community projects, funding of other valuable projects that are self sustainable, but in order to succeed all three sectors have to be ready to collaborate. 

HQ: Any closing remarks and advice? 

Mr. Senajid: As the old proverb says – History is the teacher of Life. We truly can learn a lot from it. As we can see in our own history, all these kingdoms have failed, the Ottoman Kingdom, Austo-Hungarian Kingdom etc.  but Waqfs have stayed, even all the wars – Waqfs have survived, they have been restored and continue serving communities world wide.

I hope our communities will see the value of this system, and they will try to reap from the power waqafs enable and in turn build better tomorrow for our youth. 

HalaalQuest would like to thank Mr. Senajid Zajimovic  for devoting his time and effort in providing extensive answers about Waqf in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Copyright by HalaalQuest 2019

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