17 August 2022

The Spirit of Voluntarism & Waqfmeans that a volunteer’s intention or niyah must be clear. Not name and fame. Not for worldly gain. Not to please anyone else but Allah, writes Zeinoul Abedien Cajee.

Voluntarism is not a new phenomenon. Early in the prophetic era, several companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) were actively involved in the transformation of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. These were not salaried cadres. Even the army of the Prophet (S) was a volunteer army.

Voluntarism is basically the act of providing service with time and skills without the expectation of financial reward or a salary. Several NGOs worldwide depend largely on volunteers to carry out their social services. The Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement engage over 500 000 volunteers.

Resala in Egypt has 100000 volunteers. Many of these organisations have very structured volunteer recruitment, retention, training, and management programmes.

Many of our own organisations operate on a volunteer basis. Some Imams may also serve as volunteer Imams rather than as salaried employees.

According to Good Deeds Blog, a record more than 77 Million American adults volunteered with an organization in 2019. That’s about 30% of all people over the age of 18 in the entire country with a population over 328 million. What motivates a volunteer to offer himself or herself to serve? There are various reasons that researchers into this topic have offered. Commonly people say they want to give back, contribute towards a cause they care about, or to improve their community. But there are many other subjective reasons. People want to socialize, want to populate CV’s, want to build skills, want to share skills and expertise, for religious and spiritual reasons, want to do something different from normal work chores, materialising a passion… and a whole lot more.

There is also something called ethical voluntarism. A voluntarism that is driven by a deep sense of devotion to the Divine being to do the right thing. This is where we find motivations coming from our Islamic heritage. This is where a Muslim/ Muslima should find his/her purpose and reason for volunteering. Service, servitude, and bondage to Allah is the very purpose of creation. Allah says: “And (I) have not created jinn and insaan except to worship in servitude to Me (alone)” “Wa mā khalaqtul-jinna wal-insa illā liya’budụn”.(Az-Zariyat 51: 56)

Furthermore Allah commands: Say: Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, Lord of the Worlds.” (Al-Anaam 6:162). So, our motivation should be exclusively to seek the pleasure of Allah by serving Him and Him alone. This means that a volunteer’s intention or niyah must be clear. Not name and fame. Not for worldly gain. Not to please anyone else but Allah.

“They swear by Allah to you ˹believers˺ in order to please you, while it is the pleasure of Allah and His Messenger they should seek, if they are ˹true˺ believers.” (Taubah 9:62)

The very essence of waqf is voluntary. There is no compulsion. But there is encouragement and justification from the Sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) and his pious companions (RA). There are several verses in the Glorious Qur’an where Allah commands and urges us to strive with our wealth and ourselves.

“Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive with their wealth and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward…” (Nisaa 4: 95)


Several verses of the Qur’an allude to striving in the path of Allah with our wealth and persons: Those who have believed, emigrated, and strived in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah. It is they who will triumph. (Taubah 9:20) followed by “Their Lord gives them good news of His mercy, pleasure, and Gardens with everlasting bliss .(Taubah 9: 21) “and strive with your wealth and your lives in the cause of Allah. That is best for you, if only you knew. (Taubah 9:41)

See also (Taubah 9:88), (Taubah 9: 100), and (Taubah 9:111).

Khalil Gibran in his famous book “The Prophet” emphasizes the issue of giving of self over possessions where he states: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”.

About generosity he further says: “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” Both these quotes are telling.

Apart from giving our wealth as waqf, giving of our time, skills, expertise, energy and effort is also a waqf as we are investing in the aakhirah as many of the above verses allude. Allah repeatedly asks us to strive with our wealth and our persons. Ultimately our motivation and spirit for voluntary work and waqf is to please Allah from the goodness of our hearts. No more. No less.

History is replete with voluntary giving of wealth and lives. The waqfs of the Prophet (S), Sahaba (RA)… Abu Talha, Umar ibn Al Kahttaab, Abu Bakr, Sumaya Fatima Fihri, Sara van den Kaap, Hajee Ahmed Lockhat, Shah Muhammad, Sultan Mehmet, Zubeida (the wife of Caliph Haroon Al Rashid). And there are countless stalwarts who have given of themselves voluntarily in the cause of justice, freedom, and equality.

*Awqaf SA invites you to serve as a volunteer for the pleasure of Allah.

*Zeinoul Abedien Cajee [CA (SA) MEd] is the founding CEO of AWQAF SA.

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