The role and function of the Department of the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) is to advise His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, on all affairs concerning Islam, including zakat management, collection and distribution.
This was noted by Acting Secretary of MUIB Haji Abdul Aziz bin Haji Akop, while deliberating his Main Paper II, ‘Urustadbir Perlaksanaan Zakat Di Negara Brunei Darussalam’ (The Governance of Zakat Implementation in Brunei Darussalam), during the second day of the International Conference on Fiqh Al-Zakat Education (PAPFIZ), on June 7.
“The collection and distribution of zakat (tithe) in Brunei are conducted by appointed amils (zakat collector) chosen from among Mosque Affairs officers, including Imams and bilals,” he said.
“Aside from that, appointed amils are comprised of mukim penghulus; village heads; religious teachers; uniformed officers, namely the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF), Fire and Rescue Department (FRD); and government officers.”
He also disclosed that applicants would need to undergo several processes such as background checks, taking reports, attending meetings at committee levels and many more.
“That is why it takes some time before certain applications can be endorsed,” he said.
The Acting Secretary of MUIB also revealed that BND17,784,474.36 in zakat funds was collected from January to December 2020, of which BND977,815.56 was collected from 346,103 individuals paying zakat fitrah and BND16,806,658.79 from 5,620 individuals paying zakat harta (property tithe).
The figures show a slight reduction, compared to January to December 2019, where BND18,292, 599.82 was collected, with zakat fitrah amounting to BND980,254.22 and zakat harta totalling BND17,312,345.60.
In terms of zakat harta perniagaan (business property tithe) from January to December 2020, 35 companies in the Brunei-Muara District paid their zakat, while the Belait District recorded 27 companies. No collection figures were recorded for the Tutong and Temburong districts.
These figures show an increase in those paying zakat for business property compared to 2019, with 36 companies for Brunei-Muara District, 13 for the Belait District, one in the Temburong District and no records for Tutong District.
In Brunei, the asnaf defined as eligible to receive zakat fall into six groups: fakir (destitute), miskin (poor), amils (zakat collectors), muallaf (Muslim converts), al-gharimin (those in debt) and ibnu sabil (travellers).
For the poor and the destitute, the distribution of zakat is categorised into three schemes: monthly, scheduled and yearly within a two-year period. The monthly distribution is based on monthly financial assistance, basic needs, school needs and the payment of house rent.
For the monthly assistance, the head of the family will receive BND200 per month or the wife will receive BND100 per month.
In respect of basic necessities, each will be given BND65, while the children will receive BND60 for school necessities.
In terms of house rent, the allocation of zakat distribution is BND500 per month or lower, for one family.
Meanwhile, scheduled zakat distribution is used for the repairs, construction or purchase of a house; the financing of schooling fees; financial assistance and equipment for businesses; medical treatment; and higher education fees.
The yearly distribution includes the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration or the preparation for early-year school essentials.
The Acting Secretary of MUIB further said that from January to December 2020, total of 1,956 zakat distribution applications. From the figure, 582 new applications; 676 re-apply for the zakat distribution and 695 were applying for schedule zakat distribution.
All the applications are done manually, by filling out forms. When the National Welfare System (SKN) was introduced with the purpose of centralising all of the applications, SKN MUIB received 3,879 cases from July 15, 2020, up to December 31, 2020.
In 2021 – from January up to June 3 – within a period of six months, SKN MUIB received 1,931 cases from those who have applied for zakat distribution online. In addition, MUIB receives at least eight to 14 new applications on a daily basis.
In 2020, the number of people who applied for the Asnaf Fakir Miskin Zakat Distribution for a two-year period was 18,329, comprising 5,403 heads of families and 12,926 dependents.
The number shows a huge increase from 2019, where there were 13,474 applicants, of which 3,986 were heads of families and the remaining 9,488 were dependents.
The Acting Secretary of MUIB then cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting loss of jobs from the economic impact, as one of the contributing factors for an increase in the number of applicants.
He said that in the management and administration of zakat, MUIB has encountered several issues and challenges, including the increasing number of those applying for zakat distribution; the static zakat total collection which amounts to around BND17 million to BND18 million a year; the need to disseminate information; the need for collaborative support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs); and the need for a whole-of-nation approach.
Among the challenges he mentioned are passivity among recipients and the failure to submit quotation prices after their applications were endorsed; the difficulty in tracking and contacting the recipients; and lack of cooperation when entering their activities in the log book, particularly those who received zakat distribution in the form of capital for boats, engines and fishing equipment.
He also pointed to the fact that there are few professional workers who can guide, motivate and counsel zakat distribution recipients, along with the lack of willingness to be self-driven and committed, because without these, recipients can hardly make any progress.
In addition, the limited number of officers in monitoring and handling the matter is also a part of the challenges faced by MUIB.
The Acting Secretary of MUIB also called on NGOs to cooperate with the council, but advised them to seek information from MUIB first regarding the persons whom they intend to assist.
As an example, he cited several cases which went viral on social media or other platforms, but had already been addressed by either MUIB or the Community Development Department (JAPEM).
“Prior to providing assistance, the cases need to be investigated and processed. That is why there has been a delay in channelling assistance to the needy,” he said.