Why Should a Community Entrust Its Center’s Title to NAIT?
In our Islamic tradition, titles to religious properties, including mosques, Islamic centers, and schools are held by a waqf (Islamic trust) institution. Waqf properties, or the value of these properties, become restricted on a perpetual basis, to serve the Islamic objectives prescribed at inception. In Muslim countries, awqaf ministries and other waqf entities organized by religious authorities or individuals protect and perpetuate the waqf properties. In the United States, NAIT discharges this important responsibility. NAIT can raise funds to perform this vital function, so that the service is provided at no cost to the centers. Since NAIT’s founding in 1973 by the Muslim Students Association of U.S. & Canada (MSA, the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America -ISNA), communities all over the United States have entrusted the titles of approximately 300 properties of Islamic centers and schools to NAIT.
The fundamental motivation for entrusting the title of a center to NAIT is that the founders who establish Islamic centers, and the committed successors who perpetuate them, want to keep these centers true to the Islamic purpose for which they were established. Many Islamic centers founded in the U.S., Europe, and Australia in the 19th and early 20th century became social clubs, or were lost through demographic changes, disrepair and property taxes. Placing a center in trust with NAIT ensures that a third party of national scope and stature is responsible for the preservation of the center for the Islamic aims for which it was founded. The trust document between the Islamic center and NAIT leaves the administration of the center to the local community, but requires NAIT to preserve it to serve the Muslim community in the cause of Islam.
In this arrangement, the local community conveys the title of the Islamic center property to NAIT as its trustee. NAIT is then bound to hold the title and and the property for the exclusive benefit of the local community as beneficiary under the terms of a trust agreement. The property is possessed, used, and operated by the beneficiary (the Islamic center) exclusively for religious, educational, and similar activities in compliance with Islam, the beneficiary’s constitution/by-laws, and the terms of the trust agreement. The trust agreement has been updated in light of recent developments. NAIT does not administer these institutions nor interferes with their daily management, and instead, responds to their needs.
In addition to this main goal, being a part of the NAIT family of centers provides a platform for the unity of Muslims, which Islamophobic forces are aiming to subvert. The centers might benefit in other ways when it entrusts its property to NAIT. Such benefits include the fact that center’s assets are protected from liabilities arising from its organizational activities, such as lawsuits by a disgruntled individual or due to the mistakes of its officers.
NAIT has advanced millions of dollars in interest-free loans to centers to complete their infrastructure projects. Relationship with NAIT (e.g. the case of Tulsa, Oklahoma) can help in inducing the signing of construction contracts in the face of limited immediate availability of construction funds. Affiliation with NAIT helps in obtaining and renewing property tax exemption, and in dealings with the IRS.
During the last three decades, not one Islamic center or school has been lost through a lien or a court-imposed liquidation. Indeed, NAIT has been able to recover properties that were sold by county officials. For example, NAIT recovered a Muslim cemetery that was sold due to omissions of the local managers; the recovery cost to NAIT was high, but was only a fraction of the property value, and it averted heartache for the families of the deceased.