The first Wakaf we know about in Singapore was created in 1820. This is the Wakaf of the Omar Mosque in Kampung Melaka, beside the Singapore River. It was endowed by Syed Omar Ali Aljunied – a successful trader from Indonesia but who came originally from the Hahdramaut (now known as Yemen). Syed Omar also made a Wakaf of the Bencoolen Mosque and the properties that supported it.
A number of important Wakaf in Singapore were established in the 19th Century – by merchants who had come from Yemen and brought with them the rich tradition of Wakaf from the land of their birth. Wakaf were also established by those traders and money changers who had come from India. They began with the building of Masjid Jamae in the 1820s, followed by other mosques and they established a number of Wakaf – such as the Wakaf of Ahna Ally Mohammad Kassim – so that we now have a total of 14 Wakaf founded by the Indian community.
Trade has played an important role in creating wealth in our Muslim community so, to the Arab and Indian traders we must also add the Bugis from the Indonesian Archipelago. Amongst their descendants we have the Wakaf of Hajjah Daeng Tahira bte Daeng Tadaleh, and a reminder that 30 Wakafs, or a third, of the Wakifs in our history have been created by females. Our Muslim women were great philanthropists.
But the sad fact is that no new Wakaf have been created since the 1970s, with the Wakaf created by Shaikh Taha bin Abu Bakar Mattar. Possible reasons for no new Wakaf are that:
Property prices have risen so much that bequeathing a property as Wakaf is not possible for many Muslim Singaporeans;
People speak of ‘donor fatigue’: of too many charities and good causes are targeting Muslims and ‘chasing the same dollar.’ Our possible donors are asked to give to mosques, madrassahs and a whole range of charitable organisations;
Much more information on Wakaf needs to be published and promoted so that Muslims realise what they can do and can achieve.
All Wakafs are vested in Muis. There are currently 91 Wakafs. 68 are Muis managed while 29 are trustees managed. The largest beneficiaries are mosques where over 60% are distributed to them while madrasah disbursement is allocated at about 10%.
In adherence to the will of the Wakaf contributors (Wakif), we also disburse to foreign countries (usually the Wakif’s country of origin or holy sites i.e. Mecca & Medina). This makes up about 13% to date.
The beneficiaries are varied in accordance to Wakif’s discretion stated in their respective will. Syed Omar Bin Ali Aljunied, is one such Wakif where he not only Wakaf the Omar Kg Melaka Mosque, but also Bencoolen Mosque and its properties.
Another Wakif who has contributed significantly to the Muslims community is the Wakaf of Daing Tahira Bte Daeng Tadaleh. This is a Wakaf of Bugis descendents, the beneficiaries include the mosques, madrasahs, poor and needy, expenses for sickly, burial cost for poor Muslims and for Muslims who suffer from disaster and accidents.
While 2/3 of the wakif are males, females account for 1/3 or the Wakaf. This shows that the Muslims women are also great philanthropist during the earlier years.