KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 ― In an unprecedented move, the Perlis Fatwa Committee has declared that poor minorities in the state will also be able to receive zakat (alms), funds otherwise reserved for Muslims only.
The letter announcing the decision was posted on the Facebook page of Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin earlier this afternoon.
“Zakat to Non-Muslims under Asnaf “muallafah qulubuhum” (those who wish to harmonize their attitude and perception towards Islam) may be granted on the benefit that is determined by the Ulil Amri (those entrusted with authority),” the February 3 letter read.
The committee added that the practice of distributing alms to the poor followers of other faiths was also done by Prophet Muhammad.
Asri said the distribution of zakat money to poor minorities will be done by the Perlis Islamic Department based on eligibility.
“The part about giving zakat to non-Muslims will be done by MAIP based on needs,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Netizens, both Muslims and non-Muslims, praised the announcement on Asri's Facebook profile.
“Agree..Hope the goodwill will make non-Muslims want to embrace Islam. Prosperity to all,” wrote a user by the name of Norliana Harun.
“Luv u DMAZA this is the way to portray the beauty of Islam to Non-Muslims,” wrote another user.
Asri could not be reached for comments.
The Perlis mufti has been a vocal critic of the way religious bodies in the country deal with zakat funds.
He had repeatedly alleged in the past that red tape was preventing poor Muslims from accessing the fund despite collections amounting to millions of ringgit.
Over the years, the country's Islamic bodies have faced tougher scrutiny over the way zakat funds have been managed.
In 2011, the issue made national headlines after news report that a homeless Muslim woman had asked for help at a Church went viral.