Bank Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh said the waqf funds can be fully utilised in other socio-economic development programmes in the country. (pix by MOHD FADLI HAMZAH)

SEPANG: The scope of waqf funds need to be expanded in Malaysia beyond the traditional norms of building mosques and Muslim cemeteries.

Bank Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh said the waqf funds can be fully utilised in other socio-economic development programmes in the country.

"We need to clarify a lot of issues about waqf. Waqf can complement the government's efforts in improving the quality of life for all Muslims in the country," Shukry told reporters after officiating the International Shariah Scholar Roundtable (iSHAR) here this evening.

Cash waqf, he added, had been identified as one of the major tools that could resolve poverty issues in Malaysia.

In fact, waqf has been included in the Ninth Malaysian Plan as a major economic initiative in prospering the Muslim community in the country.

In order to eradicate poverty, Shukry said waqf funds should be distributed within four key sectors, namely health, education, economic development and financial assistance for small enterprises.

Even though a lot of waqf efforts have been made by various parties in the country, Shukry said the waqf collection system needs to be streamlined and improved professionally.

"Waqf involves our financial system. Syariah-compliant banks like Bank Rakyat do not face any major challenge in managing the waqaf funds because we are Syariah-compliant," he explained. "Be it in terms of how we keep the money or distribute the money, it is managed based on syariah principles."

In September this year, six Islamic banks in Malaysia, inked the Waqf fund strategic collaboration agreement to advance the value-based intermediation function of the Islamic banking industry within the Waqf segment.

The banks — Bank Rakyat, Affin Islamic Bank Bhd, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd, Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd, Maybank Islamic Bhd and RHB Islamic Bank Bhd signed the Waqf Fund Strategic Collaboration Agreement, witnessed by the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM).

This initiative will allow Malaysians to use the banking channels of the six Islamic banks and participate in the development of identified waqf projects.

Shukry reiterated that the Islamic banks, with the existing infrastructure, risk and banking expertise will join forces to generate positive and sustainable impact to the economy, community and environment.

He revealed that his team are still in talks with various state religious councils to implement selected waqf development projects across the country.

The focus areas of the waqf projects will be around four sectors — economic empowerment, education, health and investment.

"We will make further announcement when we are ready. But the maximum amount of the waqf project is RM5 million each, as stipulated by AIBIM," he said.

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