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
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