Wakaf Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain is being used “in line with the original intention” of bequeather, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) in response to claims alleging that the Muslim charitable endowment is being used for a Chinese temple.
MUIS said in a statement on Monday (21 June) that the property under the wakaf “had been in a dilapidated state and was not generating any income” to meet the original purpose of the endowment.
The property, situated at No 5 Lorong 9 Geylang, was intended by the bequeather to be used as a madrasah (Islamic school), said the council.
Thus, in 2002, MUIS said it migrated Wakaf Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain to 11 Beach Road, a 999-year leasehold commercial property.
According to the statutory body, doing so “would be the best and closest alternative to fulfilling the wishes of the wakif (bequeather)”, as the original property could no longer be used as a madrasah.
If left in its original condition and location, the bequeather’s intent for making the Wakaf could not be achieved, said MUIS.
“Since the migration, MUIS has been able to disburse the yield from the wakaf to full time madrasah, in line with the original intention of the wakif,” it added.
Over the past seven years, the Wakaf has disbursed more than S$200,000 in total to Madrasah Al-Maarif, Madrasah Alsagoff and Madrasah Wak Tanjong.
MUIS noted that it is reaching out to the surviving members of the wakif’s family “to reassure them that the wakif’s wishes are being respected” and to ensure that “the broader intention behind the creation of the Wakaf continues to be fulfilled”.
The issue of Wakaf Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain arose when a user named Mohamed Ismail Ismail posted about the matter in Facebook group Suara Melayu Singapura on 18 June.
“My great grandfather wakaf property mismanaged by MUIS.
“I’m very sad and angry,” Mr Mohamed wrote.
The screenshot attached to Mr Mohamed’s post is that of a Substack newsletter published on 16 June by an author named Murray Hunter.
Said Substack post, titled “Alleged Financial and operational Irregularities at MUIS”, included a photo of a Chinese temple captioned “Geylang Road Lorong 9 No 5”.
“The intention of the Haji Pitchay Meerah Hussain Wakaf was to fund an Islamic school, they got a Chinese temple instead,” the portion from the screengrab read.
In his newsletter, Mr Hunter alleged that the “majority of Wakaf property management is undertaken by a private company Wares Investments Pte Ltd., which is not subject to auditor general audits, thus accounts and financial transactions are not available either to client, or public scrutiny”.
The Auditor-General’s report for the financial year 2012/13, he added, also “found irregularities in tendering for construction and repair of buildings” with regards to properties covered by certain wakaf.
Mr Hunter added: “Asia Sentinel has been told that some premises have been used as massage parlours, and a Chinese temple, while some people with no kin in Singapore have been refused, and/or given delayed assistance with burials.”
“There have been a number of court cases, where families have taken to court MUIS, and families have taken MUIS to court over their alleged mis-handling of family wakaf. MUIS has also been criticised for taking high management fees, where they are managing properties on behalf of families,” he continued.
Under the Administration of Muslim Law Act, MUIS has the authority to administer of all wakaf in Singapore to ensure that properties under such an endowment remain viable and that returns for the intended beneficiaries can be maximised.
The Fatwa Committee advises MUIS in the process of doing so.
In October 1985, the Fatwa Committee provided guidance on the permissibility of wakaf redevelopment as well as asset migration, known as istibdal wakaf as practiced in other Muslim countries.
As a result, the value of a number of these wakaf has been enhanced, including the Wakaf Bencoolen development, the Red House, Alias Villas, and 11 Beach Road, said the Council.
MUIS said is has been able to substantially increase disbursements to beneficiaries. Such disbursements and returns are recorded in its Annual Report and presented through its Annual Wakaf Disbursement Ceremony, it noted.