Sharifah Rokiah Centre of Excellence
For centuries, this ideal was put into practice through enduring institutions such as the wakf, defined as 'an alienable endowment for a charitable purpose that cannot be given away or sold to anyone'. An instrument of planned philanthropy for the betterment of society, wakf requires the benefactor and the management to espouse the principles of the faith, and trustees are responsible not only for maintaining the gift but also seeking to enhance the value of the endowment and maximise its benefits to the beneficiaries.
The Sharifah Rokiah Centre of Excellence is Syed Mokhtar Albukhary's wakf, his gift to the poor, the vulnerable and the forgotten of the world. Named in honour of his mother, Sharifah Rokiah, it is built on family land and managed by the foundation as an integrated complex of educational, healthcare and commercial facilities. The 550-million Centre is Syed Mokhtar Albukhary's biggest pro-poor initiative.
Apart from being inspired by the Muslim social ethic, the Sharifah Rokiah Centre of Excellence also resonates the call made by the United Nations Millenium Project 2002: to empower the poor by equipping them with proven, powerful and practical care, knowledge and technologies. It represents one man's intervention to help a few thousand people escape extreme poverty, something that currently confines more than 1 billion people worldwide.
The centre sprawls over a 30.35-hectre (75-acre) site in Alor Setar, the birthplace of Syed Mokhtar. It is dedicated to community service based on the principle of equal opportunity, upholding the right of the poor to quality education and quality healhcare, with access to privileges that the rest take for granted.
The Sharifah Rokiah Centre of Execellence interates the haves and have-nots - the poor of Malaysia with the poor of the world; the smart with the handicapped; the less fortune with the more fortune residents of the local community.
At the heart of the centre is the private non-profit Albukhary International University, exclusively for the community of Albukhary scholars. Alongside it are welfare and healthcare facilities for the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly. Along the border are public facilities that are easily accessible to the local residents of Alor Setar and its environs. This includes a mosque, a community centre and a shopping mall.
The buildings are laid out in a pedestrianised envionment of tree-lined streets and landscapped lawns. The grounds are open to the public, but the university and healthcare facilities are reserved for a select few: the poor, regardless of race or religion. And they have the privilege of enjoying them free of charge.
The development has transformed the skyline of Alor Setar, with its showcase of buildings that reflect the rich diversity of the Islamic design tradition. In doing so, it brings into the public realm the multi-ethnicity of the Islamic civilisation, giving the man-on-the-street an appreciation of the cultural heritage of the far-flung Muslim diaspora.