The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Islam Warns Against Commercial Loans

The Qur'an says, Allah does not declare war on anyone except those who deal in ribah (interest on loans). It also says intoxicants and gambling are Satan's handwork that people should abstain from them. But for ribah, the Qur'an does not only say it's a sin, but Prophet Muhammad classified it among the seven major sins.

He said, a man who receives ribah commits an offence of more than 36 acts of fornication. Because of this the prophet established Waqf projects for the social benefit of all, as an alternative to ribah. Waqf means a long-term, multigenerational venture in terms of real estate or moveable assets like cash and providing services such as education, health and businesses for economic development instead of getting loans with interest.

Prof Magda Ismail Mohsin, a lecturer of Islamic Finance at the Global University in Malaysia, has advised Muslims to invest in Waqf by voluntarily mobilising donations for various community development programmes. She said this during the closing ceremony of the third Southern Africa cadre training programme at Colosseum hotel, in Pretoria, South Africa.

The workshop was sponsored by Islamic Development Bank (IDB). It also aimed at promoting self-reliance and sustainability of Waqf projects. It drew Muslim scholars from Uganda, Namibia, Zambia, Zanzibar, Malaysia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Mauritius. Mohsin said Waqf was encouraged by Prophet Muhammad because of its ability to get people out of poverty.

"Waqf is voluntary permanent dedication to Allah and it remains Allah's property forever. Waqf [is] wealth carefully invested. Only the profits from Waqf investment are spent on projects. Waqf is like a fruit tree, year after year the tree grows and there is more fruit to enjoy over time," Mohsin said during her lecture. Sulaiman Kiggundu, the secretary for Waqf Uganda, expressed the need to have a Waqf fund to ensure trusteeships of Muslim property that has been abused.

"Most of Waqf property in Uganda has not been registered, especially land which has no titles and clear trustees. Therefore, this has caused many individuals in Uganda to steal Waqf property and own it, yet it was [meant] for community development," Kiggundu said. He added: "Once the property has been created as Waqf, it can never be given as gift, or be inherited, or sold.

It belongs to Allah and the corpus; Waqf property always remains intact." In his teaching, Prophet Muhammad said when Muslims die, they are asked three things; how they managed their time, how they acquired their wealth and how they spent it. Moshin said Waqf is practised in Singapore; Muslims have managed to come up with a high commercial building where they do a lot of investments and many citizens there have escaped poverty.

"Compulsory monthly contributions are made by Muslim employees in Singapore depending on their monthly gross income through an automatic check-off system. The amount deducted from the salaries is channelled through the Central Provident Fund (CPF), to Singapore Islamic Religious Council (MUIS) who acts as the trustee," she said.

"The collected amount is channelled to finance charitable purposes such as building mosques and educational programmes." The Senior Advisor for Ilegacy Global Ltd in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mohamad Hisham Dafterdar, said Waqf property has been lost to some governments due to lack of registration documents like land titles to protect them.

Dafterdar urged Muslims to work hard and register all Waqf properties so that the money generated out of such properties can benefit the rightful owners. The Islamic Development Bank's Muhammed Obaidullah said although Waqf is very important, it faces a lot of challenges such as keeping huge amounts of its funds in commercial banks, which is not productive because it does not generate the desired benefits.

Makerere University Business School Imam, Sheikh Muhammad Ali Waiswa, said they would sensitise more students about the importance of Waqf and also discourage them against ribah "which retards the country's economy".

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