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One complexity is the identification of the ‘asnaf’. Think 60 per cent of 34 million, and you will know what we mean. -- NSTP Archive

ZAKAT — the money given by the Muslim haves to the Muslim have-nots (asnaf) — is an important pillar of Islam. And it needs to be distributed to the asnaf as soon as possible.

But distribution of zakat has not always been easy. Nor speedy. Suggestions to improve it have been plenty. Academics from local institutions, too, have offered their ideas, all in the effort to make the zakat distribution system more effective and efficient.

It would be unjust to put all the blame on the zakat organisations. Things have become a lot more complex. Certainly more complex than it was when zakat was first collected and distributed 1,441 years ago. One complexity is the identification of the asnaf.

Think 60 per cent of 34 million, and you will know what we mean. That is the number of Muslims in Malaysia. To pinpoint an asnaf from this isn’t elementary. The other is their location. Throw in the length and breadth of Malaysia — all of 330,803sq km — into the distribution equation, you get the sense of the bugbear.

Three states — Selangor, Melaka and Penang — seemed to have discovered a remedy. The zakat organisations of the three states have taken on board the MyKasih system developed 10 years ago by DIV Services Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Dialog Group Bhd.

The system was first developed to distribute petrol subsidies — E-petrol — to the deserving. What is good for refined crude may be good for other refined things, it appears. And at the added value of speed and accuracy, says MyKasih Foundation deputy chairman Jeff Perera.

MyKasih system’s selling point is, if we can label it that, the use of the MyKad. Perera says MyKad makes all the difference: the zakat reaches the asnaf, not anyone else. The three states seem to think so too. Of the three, Selangor’s E-Taisir has been the longest — since 2013 — on the MyKasih system. Melaka’s and Penang’s track record is less aged: three and one respectively.

Take the case of Selangor. According to Lembaga Zakat Selangor (LZS) distribution division head Abdul Basith Hamid, the state distributed RM829.9 million last year, compared with RM616.5 million a year earlier. An impressive 35 per cent spike.

Is it due to the new system? Hard to tell. More analysis may be needed. But it does give access to numbers and trends. LZS is now publishing annual reports that give a breakdown of zakat collection and distribution. A good step towards transparency, it must be said.

Melaka has a similar story to tell. Here, the E-Taisir driven by MyKasih moults into MyAsnaf, just 126km south. In this state, where history is said to have begun, the Melaka Religious Council’s (MAIM) spokesman says it reaches out to some 8,000 asnaf families with a RM200-a-month cash for essential necessities programme. Some 70 enterprises help make the MyAsnaf scheme successful.

Is E-Taisir and MyAsnaf the way to go? Selangor and Melaka seem to think so. And Penang? It didn’t take the call this time. Perhaps it will when we call next.

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