BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam called for changes to the country’s zakat management system, as a way to put an end to poverty.

In a titah in conjunction with Nuzul Al-Quran on Friday, the monarch said zakat  is the best system for managing the economy, as it redistributes wealth from the rich and allocates rezeki (income or sustenance) to the those in need.

This redistribution of wealth allows the poor to climb out of poverty and become independent, he said, and in the future they will no longer require assistance but can also contribute zakat.

His Majesty encouraged zakat recipients to use their money as capital for a new business or enterprise: “If this is attainable, then there is no doubt that it is a great success in the administration of zakat.” 

HRH Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office (R), HRH Prince ‘Abdul Malik (C) and HRH Prince ‘Abdul Mateen (R) attend Nuzul Al-Quran celebrations at the ICC, Berakas, on June 1, 2018. Nuzul Al-Quran is an Islamic holiday which commemorates the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Photo: Infofoto

Giving zakat, or tithes, is considered a religious obligation and is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims whose wealth sits above the minimum threshold are obliged to pay 2.5 percent ‘tax’ on their assets, known as zakat harta, which is then redistributed to the needy and new converts to Islam.

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Another, smaller, form of alms, known as zakat fitrah, is paid at the end of the holy month of Ramadhan, so poor Muslims are provided with the means to celebrate Eid.

“Believing in Al-Quran means that we are obliged to practice all the teachings of Al-Quran including the payment of zakat,” the monarch said.

“The system will create a community that is strong and and stable. This is the wisdom of zakat, that is why I want its administration to continue to be strengthened.”

His Majesty, followed by the Crown prince, greets guests at the ICC during an event to mark Nuzul Al-Quran on June 1, 2018. Photo: Infofoto

His Majesty also urged the relevant parties to realise the need for change to the current zakat management system. 

“Change is a dream desired by all progressive societies… Change is no doubt synonymous with progress… We want a wave of change to bring us forward.”

He added that zakat management should not be static: “It is reasonable for zakat management to be improved or changed, as these improvements or changes can open up ways to overcome any difficulties.”

A total of $17.4 million was collected in zakat harta in 2016, according to the most recent statistics from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. A further $1.2 million was collected in zakat fitrah.