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The history of the development of higher education waqf in Malaysia

Article  in  International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology · March 2018


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Rifin Mohamad Khairul Izwan Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia , Bangi Selangor Malaysia


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International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET)
Volume 9, Issue 3, March 2018, pp. 549–557, Article ID: IJCIET_09_03_055
Available online at
ISSN Print: 0976-6308 and ISSN Online: 0976-6316

© IAEME Publication Scopus Indexed


W. K. Mujani (Corresponding Author)
Department of Arabic Studies and Islamic Civilization, Faculty of Islamic Studies,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

M. S. Mohd Taib
Department of Arabic Studies and Islamic Civilization, Faculty of Islamic Studies,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

M. K. I. Rifin
Department of Arabic Studies and Islamic Civilization, Faculty of Islamic Studies,
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

K. Aboo Talib Khalid

Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA)
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia

Waqf is an Islamic financial instrument which can be utilised in solving various
educational issues in Malaysia. It is a known fact that waqf education institutions are
significant assets in the development of knowledge amongst the Muslim communities.
Waqf provides Muslims with opportunities not only to acquire knowledge but also as a
channel to do good deeds. This article will review the beginnings of educational waqf
in Islamic civilisation during the days of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) up to the
present day and also the history of educational waqf in Malaysia. It will also
elaborate on the concept, definition and types of waqf. Consequently, this article will
highlight the importance and functions of educational waqf institutions in Malaysia’s
education development. In addition, this article will also look into several suggestions
which could be implemented towards making waqf as possible solutions to
educational issues. It can be concluded that Malaysia has a very long history of
educational waqf and waqf properties such as lands and buildings, can be developed
to bring about significant contributions to the development of higher education waqf
in Malaysia.
Keywords: Waqf, Financing, Higher Learning Education, Properties, Malaysia 549

The History of the Development of Higher Education Waqf In Malaysia

Cite this Article: W. K. Mujani, M. S. Mohd Taib, M. K. I. Rifin and K. Aboo Talib
Khalid, The History of the Development of Higher Education Waqf In Malaysia,
International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology, 9(3), 2018,
pp. 542–557.

The Arabs have known the concept of waqf and practised waqf in its various forms even
before the birth of Islam even though the term waqf was not used at that particular time. Apart
from waqf, systems such as commerce which include buying and selling, rental and lease, and
marriage were already being practised by the Arabs during the pre-Islam period. Places of
worship such as al-Haram mosque in Mecca, al-Aqsa mosque in Palestine, synagogues and
churches constructed before the birth of Islam were for the benefit of the public. After the
birth of Islam, these systems were strengthened with guidelines based on the principle of
justice to prevent fraudulent practices. Waqf is a form of property transfer where the property
is held in trust and only the proceeds (produce or income) from the property are used for
general or specific charitable causes. Waqf can be defined as a detention of a person‟s
property for the benefit of others. Property being endowed (waqf) must meet certain criteria
such as being in good condition and non-perishable. The objective of giving away one‟s
property for waqf is to provide benefits to others and in doing so gain close proximity with
the Almighty (Gazalba, 1982). The laws of waqf are based on Quranic and prophetic
interpretations as well as consensus amongst Islamic scholars. Numerous verses in the Quran
promote charitable giving (Sadaqa), spending for good causes (Infaq) and other acts of charity
(Salamon, 1985). Allah has said in Surah Ali „Imran, verse 92, “You can never attain
righteousness unless you spend in the cause of Allah that which you dearly cherish; and
whatever you spend, surely it is known to Allah” (Quran translation). Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) said, “When the son of Adam dies, no further reward is recorded for his actions, with
three exceptions: charity whose benefit is continuous, knowledge from which benefit
continues to be reaped or the supplication of a righteous son (for him or her) (Mujani et al.


Waqf in its literal meaning has existed even before Islam was introduced to the Arabian
Peninsula. This is evidenced by the existence of places of worship which were constructed for
the benefit of the masses. Produce and proceeds from monasteries were used to maintain and
upkeep the facilities and also providing remunerations for the caretakers (Abu Zuhrah, 1971).
The al-Haram and al-Aqsa mosques were the foremost waqf in the history and civilisation of
mankind. Even the churches and synagogues were endowed by righteous people so that the
public can use the facilities for worship. The term waqf was only known after the birth of
Islam even though giving endowment has been a practice within the Arabs tribes and
communities long before Islam was introduced (Haji Othman, 1982; Mujani et al. 2012c).

2.1. Waqf during the Period of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Waqf is a significant institution in Islam. The practice of waqf started during the period of
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even though there were conflicting narrations about the first
property to be endowed and by whom. Scholars were divided in determining the first waqf in
Islam, whether it was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) or „Umar bin al-Khattab. In a hadith
narrated by „Umar bin Shabah from „Amr bin Sa„d bin Mu„az; “We asked about the first waqf
in Islam. The Muhajirin (emigrants who emigrated with the Prophet from Mecca to Medina) 550

W. K. Mujani, M. S. Mohd Taib, M. K. I. Rifin and K. Aboo Talib Khalid

said it was „Umar while the Ansar (helpers - the early Muslims from Medina) said it was the
Prophet (pbuh).” Those who opined that the first waqf was made by the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) during the Hijrah (emigration from Mecca to Medina) where the Prophet (pbuh)
constructed the Quba‟ Mosque. Consequently, upon arriving in Medina, the Prophet (pbuh)
bought a piece of land for 800 dirham from Bani al-Najjar and constructed the Nabawi
Mosque (Kahf, 2000).
Some scholars pointed out that the first waqf meant for social purposes was from „Umar
bin al-Khattab as evidenced by the hadith narrated by ibn „Umar: “ „Umar bin al-Khattab
gained possession of a piece of land in Khaybar; so he came to see the Prophet (pbuh), to
consult him about it. He said, O Messenger of Allah! I have got a piece of land in Khaybar of
which I have never obtained more valuable property than this; (Although I aspire to reach out
to Allah) what is your advice or suggestion about it and the best course of action to take? The
Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “If you wish, make the property itself to remain inalienable,
and give (the profit from) it to charity.” So „Umar bin al-Khattab made it a charity on the
condition that it shall not be sold, nor given away as a gift, nor inherited, and made it a charity
among the needy and the relatives and to set-free slaves and in the way of Allah and for the
travellers and to entertain guests, there being no blame on him who managed it if he ate out of
it and made (others) eat, not accumulating wealth thereby (Mujani, 2012d).
In the third year of Hijrah, the Prophet (pbuh) gave away seven dates plantation including
Shafiyah, Barkah, A‟raf and Dalal. The righteous companions such as Abu Thalhah, Abu
Bakar, Mu„az bin Jabal and „Uthman bin „Affan followed the example set up by the Prophet
(pbuh) by giving away their properties for waqf. Abu Talhah gave away his much loved
plantation Bairaha. Abu Bakar gave a piece of land while Mu„az bin Jabal gave away his
house known as Dar al-Ansar as waqf. „Uthman bin „Affan, meanwhile bought a well al-
Rawmah and gave it as waqf for public usage (Muhidib, 2005).
From the above examples, it is clear that waqf is retention of property whereby its
proceeds are for the benefit of the public. Amongst the waqf during the time of the Prophet
(pbuh) are pieces of land for the construction of mosques, dates plantations and houses used
as learning centres. The waqf by the Prophet (pbuh) for the construction of a mosque is seen
as an important foundation in his quest to propagate Islam to mankind. This is due to the fact
that a mosque not only serves as a place of worship but also as learning and administrative
centres. The mosque in its most important function is a place where knowledge is shared with
the public and in the case of the mosque waqf by the Prophet (pbuh), the mosque is a
prominent place where Allah‟s revelations were disseminated to the public (Ismail et al.,


A good education system is an important factor in moulding the character and thinking of a
nation‟s generation. This is evidenced from great civilisations where the masses are mostly
educated and knowledgeable. The failure to provide adequate and high quality education may
jeopardise a nation‟s leadership potential. Islamic education has proven to mould and nurture
well-balanced, pious and positive minded individuals. It is clear from the sayings of the
Prophet (pbuh), “When the son of Adam dies, no further reward is recorded for his actions,
with three exceptions: charity whose benefit is continuous, knowledge from which benefit
continues to be reaped or the supplication of a righteous son (for him or her)” where charity,
knowledge and piety are emphasised.
The Quba‟ mosque was the first education institution to be built with the aim of creating a
society with good physical and spiritual qualities. The mosque which was endowed by the
Prophet (pbuh) in 622 A.D. was built on the virtue of piety and the fear of Allah. In the 551

The History of the Development of Higher Education Waqf In Malaysia

Quran, Allah said: “Never stand thou forth therein. There is a mosque whose foundation was
laid from the first day on piety; it is more worthy of the standing forth (for prayer) therein. In
it are men who love to be purified; and Allah loveth those who make themselves pure”. Six
months after the Quba‟ mosque was built; the Nabawi mosque in Medina was the second
mosque waqf by the Prophet (pbuh). According to a narration, the plot of land was bought by
the Prophet (pbuh) from two orphans, Sahl and Suhayl. The Prophet (pbuh) emphasised the
role of a mosque as a centre for community development encompassing the spiritual, physical
and mind. Both the Quba‟ and Nabawi mosques were the second education institution in
Islamic civilisation after the house of al-Arqam bin Abi al-Arqam during the pre-emigration
period (Ishak, 1995).
After the period of the Prophet (pbuh), education institions saw a steady growth. During
the reign of the Ummayad caliphates (660 A.D.-750 A.D.), education entities such as Kuttab
(elementary school), Madrasah (college) and the famous Baitul Hikmah (House of Wisdom)
were endowed either by the Caliphs or the government. During this period, the students,
teachers and scholars were given sustenance by the government. This practice was continued
during the reigns of the „Abbasid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman caliphs and
sultans so that the students, teachers and scholars can focus on the quest of knowledge
without having to worry about their daily sustenance (Langgulung, 1991; Mujani, 2013;
Mujani, 2012a; Mujani, 2012b). The caliph al-Ma‟mun (198 H.-218 H.) was the first to
advocate the establishment of waqf agencies with the aim of producing and collecting income
to finance Islamic education institutions. Baitul Hikmah was the first higher education
institution funded by these waqf agencies in Baghdad (Shalaby, 1976).
Waqf institutes continue to flourish during the „Abbasid (754 A.D.-1258 A.D.), Ayyubid
(1171 A.D.-1249 A.D.) and Ottoman (1299 A.D.-1924 A.D.) with the establishment of
thousands of schools, libraries and universities. During the early 12th century, there were more
than seventy schools being fully funded by proceeds from waqf in Jerusalem alone. In
Turkey, 142 universities were funded by waqf proceeds while in Cyprus, 87 schools and
universities were run solely on waqf. While in Cecenistan (Chechnya) and Azerbaijan, 800
and 786 universities respectively were funded by waqf sources. Several prominent
universities namely al-Qurawiyyin in Fez, al-Nizamiyyah in Baghdad and al-Azhar in Eqypt
at one time or another were financed by waqf proceeds.
al-Azhar University, built in 975 A.D. is the world‟s oldest university which provide free
education from the elementary level up to the tertiary level (Hashim, 1990). However, as the
Islamic caliphates and nation-states weakened and crumbled, education institutions started to
decline as the number of Muslims endowing their properties dwindled. al-Azhar University
however continued to be funded by waqf proceeds until today. In 1986 alone, more than £147
million was allocated by the university to finance the development and expenditure of its 55
faculties which include remunerations for 6154 academicians (848 professors, 819 associate
professors, 1517 lecturers, 1456 assistant lecturers and 1510 readers). al-Azhar continued to
be at the forefront of Islamic education and it also plays an important role in Islamic
propagation throughout the world (Kahf, 2000).


Muslims in Malaysia have been practising waqf in education ever since Islam was introduced
to the Malay world. It is a benevolent tradition which should be promoted and enhanced.
Waqf in education exists in many forms such as hostel, scholarship, allowance, building and
learning tools waqf which include books, tables and others.
Traditional Islamic religious schools (sekolah pondok) were amongst the first waqf in
education in the Malay Peninsula. These schools were established by Malay scholars upon 552

W. K. Mujani, M. S. Mohd Taib, M. K. I. Rifin and K. Aboo Talib Khalid

their return from their studies in Mecca and Egypt. These religious schools mainly in Pattani,
Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, Perak and Seberang Perai were very popular among the
Muslim communities during the late 19th century until the early 20th century.
Findings from several researches showed that Madrasah al-Attas, Pekan Pahang now
known as Sekolah Menengah Agama al-Attas was the first madrasah to be built on a waqf
land. The land was endowed by al-Habib Hassan al-Attas. However some believed that
Madrasah al-Masriyah, Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, founded by a religious scholar Haji
Salleh al-Masri was the earliest waqf education institution to be established in the Malay
Peninsula (Osman, 1976; Mujani et al. 2014a).
This was followed by Madrasah al-Iqbal, Singapore in 1907. Consequently, many schools
and madrasah were built using proceeds from waqf such as:
1. Madrasah Khairiah Islamiah, Pokok Sena, Kepala Batas, Pulau Pinang founded in
2. Maktab Mahmud, Kedah, founded on 16th June 1936.
3. Madrasah Masyhor al-Islamiyyah, Pulau Pinang, founded in 1916.
4. Maahad al-Ihya al-Syarif, Perak, founded on 15th April 1934.
5. Madrasah Arabiah Kluang, Johor, founded on 8th May 1946.
6. Kolej Islam Malaya, Klang. Selangor, founded on 25th February 1955).
The establishment of these madrasah provided easier passage for students of the madrasah
to further their religious studies in Middle-East universities especially al-Azhar University
(Mujani, 2012e).


There are two categories of property which may be endowed, i.e., immoveable property such
as land and buildings and moveable property such as books, carpets and vehicles. In Malaysia,
the Department of Waqf, Zakah and Hajj (JAWHAR) has been entrusted to manage waqf
properties. The department‟s objective is to empower, improve governance and advance
socio-economic development of the Muslim community, particularly in the field of waqf,
through close cooperation with State Islamic Religious Authorities (MAIN) and other related
agencies. The function of this department is to properly maintain and administer waqf
properties in line with the function of the council being the trustee of all waqf, including
receiving and coordinating the proceeds from waqf (Mujani, 2011).
Waqf share is type of waqf which was recently introduced. It is a combined (Mushtarak)
waqf from contributions received from society in the form of a waqf trust fund which will be
converted into permanent property termed as Badal or substitute for currency. Waqf has
significantly contributed to the economic development around the world especially in Muslim
dominated countries. Even in countries where the Muslims are minorities, for example
Singapore, there are 170,000 Muslim workers who contribute to a waqf scheme which
collects as much as SGD 6 million annually (Mujani et al., 2012).
Seeking knowledge is fundamental in a Muslim‟s life as the very first verse revealed to
the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) commanded him to read. Therefore the establishment of
educational institutions has been one of the most important agenda in Islamic history.
Institutions of educational waqf mostly were established or built using property endowed by
Muslims. Since education is a continuous activity which comprise the elements of teaching,
training, guidance, and leadership with specific focus on the transfer of various disciplines of
knowledge, religion-cultural values and useful skills from one generation to another or by an
individual to another (Mujani et al., 2013). 553

The History of the Development of Higher Education Waqf In Malaysia

Waqf and education are almost synonymous in Islam. The mosque is one of the earliest
waqf educational institutions established during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The
Quba‟ Mosque was founded by him when he arrived in Medina in the year 622 A.D.,
followed by the construction of the Nabawi Mosque and other waqf educational institutions in
the early days of Islam. Since the 17th century A.D., many educational activities have been
funded by waqf and voluntary contributions. The concept of educational waqf has given birth
to permanent educational institutions such as Cordova University in Andalus, al-Azhar in
Egypt, Madrasah Nizamiyah in Baghdad, Islamic University of Islam Indonesia, Pondok
Pesantren Darunnajah in Indonesia, Madrasah al-Junied in Singapore, al-Jamiah al-Islamiah
in Medina and others which produced thousands of world-renowned scholars (Haji Latif et al.,
The success of Islamic waqf institutions was so impressive that it was emulated by the
West which rebranded waqf in the forms of foundations, trust or endowment. Oxford and
Cambridge universities in the United Kingdom as well as Harvard and Stanford in the United
States are among several universities which were founded on endowments from well-
established funds. Harvard University, for example, is reported to be one of the richest
universities with endowment assets worth more than US$30 billion.
Consequently, the concept of endowment fund has become the drive of Western progress
particularly in the field of education and medicine. Provision of funds from a “Philantrophic
Waqf” i.e., waqf to help the poor and needy and for the purposes of community interests such
as provision of public facilities, education, health, scientific research and libraries is seen as
having a great role and potential in funding educational programs.
In a study, it was found that the funding of education through waqf instrument helps
reduce the problems of school dropout and lagging behind among poverty stricken Muslim-
Malay children. The study also highlighted the four factors which determine the success of
waqf implementation for education: society‟s awareness, demographic situation, i.e. a high
Muslim population, stable Muslim economy and professional and efficient governance
(Mujani et al., 2014b; Mujani et al., 2016).

The practice of endowing one‟s property has existed long before the birth of Islam although
the term waqf was only introduced after Islam was firmly established in the Arab Peninsula.
Waqf is an instrument that benefits both the endower and the receiver, where the endower
hopes to please the Almighty Allah and the receiver‟s needs are fulfilled at the same time.
Waqf has progressed tremendously so much so that dedicated organisations were set up to
manage and administer the waqf system. Today, waqf is not restricted to immoveable
properties only but also include movable properties including waqf shares. Waqf for the
purpose of education started since the days of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Educational waqf in Malaysia has progress by leaps and bounds since Islam was
introduced to the Malay Peninsula. Today educational waqf is seen as an important instrument
with great potential to be further developed. It is therefore important for the educational waqf
to be managed professionally so as to reap maximum benefits not only to the benefactors
(students) but also to the education institutions. Hence it is essential to preserve and fortify the
educational waqf institutions so that continuous benefits can be reaped by the Muslim
communities in particular and the Malaysian public as a whole.
This paper would like to put forward a few suggestions in order to enlighten the public on
the true meanings and concept of waqf. This will hopefully expose the Muslim communities
on the broader scope of waqf which is traditionally restricted to property waqf for the
construction of mosques and cemeteries. If waqf properties can be used to build institutions of 554

W. K. Mujani, M. S. Mohd Taib, M. K. I. Rifin and K. Aboo Talib Khalid

higher learning coupled with a systematic waqf mechanism to fund students, it surely will
bring greater benefit to the future generations.
1. Rekindling the practice of waqf. It is important for Muslims today to revive the waqf
institution. Throughout history, it was proven that waqf greatly contribute to the
development, stability and prosperity of the Muslim communities. Waqf is important
instrument in Islamic financial system. Hence, the best practice for Muslims is to
encourage implementing waqf projects which assist Muslim students to further their
education. With the waqf money, it can assist Muslim students who need educational
assistance which enable them to learn at primary or higher educational level for free.
Priority will be given to Muslim students who are poor, students who learn in learning
institutions where the education cost is high and students who stay in a country where
the majority of people are non-Muslims. Waqf is very important in promoting
education. The important pillar in Islamic finance is waqf institution. For example,
one-third of agriculture lands in Egypt at one time were waqf lands. Waqf can be used
for long term development which can bring benefit to a wider spectrum of the
community, from scholarships for poor students, poverty eradication to maintenance
of mosques and public amenities. Waqf for education can greatly contribute to the
social and economic development of the poor which in effect contribute towards
sustainable development. It is therefore pertinent to expose the community to the true
meaning and concept of waqf and subsequently encourage the community to actively
participate in waqf especially in higher education waqf.
2. Role of the government. The government plays an important role in promoting and
helping students pursue higher education. This can be achieved by funding educational
projects and establishing mechanisms which provide support for students pursuing
higher education. Both the state and federal government set aside certain allocation in
their annual budget to provide scholarships to poor and needy students. The
government can also initiate the development of waqf education institutions and
encourage the Muslim communities to participate in waqf education.
3. Waqf finance institution - establishment of Waqf Bank. Islamic financial institutions
have the obligations to contribute to the development in education and social services.
For instance, these institutions can provide interest free loans (Qardul hasan) to needy
students and the poor. Although most Islamic financial institutions provide such loans,
its scale is too small compared to the other loan portfolios. The establishment of a
waqf bank may provide a formidable solution in addressing the needs of Muslims in
general and needy students in particular.
4. Cash waqf. The Muslim communities can create waqf funds to help poor and needy
students pursue their higher education. Apart for education, these waqf funds can also
be channelled for other purposes such as construction of mosques, schools, houses,
hospitals, orphanages, old folk‟s homes, cafeteria (food waqf) and housing estates. In
addition, a systematic network can be established to provide jobs opportunities
especially for the poor and down trodden. Through waqf, the rich and fortunate can
contribute to the wellbeing of their fellow brethren and at the same time please Allah.
May the practice of waqf continue to flourish amongst the Muslims.

This research was carried out under Project 3, Sub-project A: Perception of Multi-Ethnic
Community towards Higher Education Waqf (LRGS/2013/UKM-UKM/SI/03/01) which is
part of LRGS Grant [LRGS /2013/UKM–UKM/SI/03] under the title „Sustainability of Waqf 555

The History of the Development of Higher Education Waqf In Malaysia

Institutions in Empowering National Higher Education‟. The writers would like to thank the
Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia for providing this grant.

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