The efficiency of zakat collection and distribution were among concerns raised by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during an unscheduled visit to the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) yesterday.
His Majesty noted that the Zakat Collection and Distribution Division under the Brunei Islamic Religious Council, MoRA was upgraded into the Department of Zakat, Waqaf and Baitulmal Affairs on Muharam 1, 1445 Hijrah corresponding to July 19, 2023.
His Majesty said that after being upgraded to a department, the administration of zakat should be conducted smoothly and efficiently, especially its collection and distribution.
The monarch also inquired about the total zakat amount collected to date, and how much has been distributed to eligible recipients as well as how the distribution has been conducted.
His Majesty questioned whether zakat distribution is mainly based on waiting for the eligible applicants to come forward, or if there are proactive measures to identify and reach out for those eligible.
The monarch also questioned the need for applicants to wait a long time for the results of their application.
His Majesty said that some asnaf fakir miskin (the poor and destitute group), have waited a very long time for the result of their application, which they need urgently.
“The same goes for the asnaf Al-Gharimin, some of whom wait for months or even up to a year to learn whether their applications are approved or rejected.”
The monarch added, “If there is already a guide outlining categories of those who are or are not entitled to receive the zakat, applicants should no longer have to wait for such a long time or visit the office multiple times just to inquire about their applications.”
His Majesty also emphasised the importance of proactive measures to identify eligible recipients who may face obstacles in applying for zakat, such as the elderly; those who are unaware of the Baitulmal or how to apply; those lacking facilities or conveniences to apply; and those who have failed to receive assistance from the village head to apply.
His Majesty highlighted that village heads play a crucial role in assisting with zakat applications.
“The obstacles and inconveniences facing eligible applicants may occur without being noticed.
“Village heads can help in this matter. However, instances have surfaced where some have failed to provide assistance, even making excuses or denying applicants’ eligibility. If zakat coordinators are aware of these situations occurring, then the relevant parties must proactively monitor and seek out those eligible to receive zakat, especially in remote areas.
“Accordingly, relevant parties including the Ministry of Home Affairs must also know the procedures of village heads and penghulus in carrying out their duties for the welfare of the village residents.”
The monarch emphasised that leaders have responsibilities towards the residents.
“Leaders, including village heads and penghulus, cannot rest on their titles. Their duty is to serve and contribute to the welfare of their communities,” His Majesty said.
“Leaders should not simply wait for issues to arise, but take a proactive approach in understanding and addressing the needs of the people. This is a trust that need to be fulfilled, and not to be ignored.” – Rokiah Mahmud