The issue of the distribution of Zakat to non-Muslims is still not over. Today, I saw three news articles of statements on the issue made by the CEO of Zakat Pulau Pinang, the Mufti of Negeri Sembilan, and the Mufti of Pahang. All of them stressed that Zakat is not to be distributed to non-Muslims.
“It cannot be given to non-Muslim individuals. If it is to be given to non-Muslims, it will be done through NGOs or associations that conduct dakwah (Islamic outreach),” said Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Rahman Osman, the Mufti of Pahang.
Many, some Muslims included, do not understand the meaning of Zakat. It is a mandatory religious obligation decreed by Allah SWT for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. Its role in society is to preserve social harmony between the wealthy and the poor through a more equitable way for the redistribution of wealth.
I wrote two days ago (Zakat is for the Rulers to decide) that as the Head of the religion of Islam in their respective states, the affairs of Islam come under the purview of the Rulers – their Constitutional prerogative. And it is because of this prerogative prescribed by the Constitution that had the Sultan of Selangor issue a media statement on the issue.
His Royal Highness is very concerned about the number of Muslims who fall into the categories of poor, hardcore poor and the needy. A check in all the nine districts of Selangor through a page maintained by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU), the number stood at 21,621 people in 2009, 50,947 in 2018, and up until the end of September 2019, it was 54,568 people. On average, 3,300 Muslims enter the list of Zakat recipients every year!
Selangor has the highest GDP in Malaysia. In 2010 it was RM177.7 billion. In 2018 it was RM322.6 billion. Although its labour force has increased from 3.2 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2018, its percentage of the unemployed has also increased from 2.4 percent (77,900 people) to 2.8 percent (99,600 people). Rapid urbanisation in a short span of time and migration of workforce from other states into Selangor have contributed to escalating economic and social costs – rentals, housing, transport, land. This has in turn imposed the burden of employment generation causing an increase in unemployment, the inability to offer higher wages, and incidence of poverty.
When we talk about the poor, hardcore poor and the needy, we no longer talk about people begging on walkways or even the homeless. We now look at those earning less than RM2,000 a month, with very little or no savings, and cannot survive two to three months without work. This is the reality that we now face – rapid urbanisation presents an increase in the number of the urban poor. Those who are particularly vulnerable are those with low education level, low-skilled, handicapped, single parent, the youth, the elderly, orphans who have to leave their orphanage when they turn 18. These are the people His Royal Highness is very concerned about.
Take the Petaling district for instance. In 2009, 2,478 Muslims qualified for Zakat aid. By 2015, 7,248 Muslims in the district were qualified for Zakat aid. In 2018, it was 7,781. By the end of September this year, that number is 7,858.
The amount of aid distributed in Selangor was RM279.2 million in 2009. By the end of 2018 it was RM414.6 million..
The same pattern can also be seen in Pahang where in 2015 its population was at 1.61 million. That increased to 1.66 million in 2018. With about 75 percent of its population being Muslims, Zakat aid distributed in 2015 was RM113.4 million. In 2018 it was RM140.8 million. A 3-year study led by Emeritus Professor Chamhuri Siwar of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia between 2008 and 2011 found that the highest incidence of hardcore poverty in rural Pahang was observed among the Malays (97.33 percent), while for the urban areas of Pahang it was again the Malays (72.22 percent).
Therefore, as the Head of State and Islam, His Royal Highness the Sultan of Selangor was right in pointing out that although Islam emphasises on humanity, Zakat aid collected from Muslims are only to be given to Muslims in need who fall into the eight categories mentioned in my earlier article. His Royal Highness added that in Selangor there are still many Muslim people who fall into both the rural and urban poor categories and are in dire need of Zakat aid. This is because almost 60 percent of its population are Muslims and its population increases by about 100,000 annually.
Zakat is a matter of Islam, for Muslims. Article 11 (3)(a) and (b) of the Federal Constitution states that Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs and establish and maintain institution for religious or charitable purposes.
What Anwar Ibrahim et al. should have advocated was for the establishment of similar tithe collection institutions by respective religions instead of peddling articles of Islamic affairs for his own popularity and political mileage.