GEORGE TOWN, Nov 1 ― Muslim recipients should be prioritised when distributing Islamic tithes or zakat, said Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Mohd Noor amid calls for reforms.
He said said this was because the contributions come solely from Muslims who pay the tithe as a religious obligation.
“Non-Muslims who are poverty stricken can obtain assistance from other governmental resources such as the Welfare Department,” he said in response to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s suggestion that such funds also be extended to non-Muslim recipients.
Wan Salim said distributions should only go to non-Muslims if collections exceed what was needed for Muslim recipients.
He said according to the al-Quran, zakat could be extended to non-Muslims with the purpose of making them to favour Islam, to encourage them to help Muslims against the latter’s enemies, or for them to sympathise with Muslims.
He said zakat funds were meant to use the Muslim poor using the contributions of fellow Muslims who were better off.
“The needs of Muslims should be considered first even though on principle, whether zakat should be extended to non-Muslims or not is solely up to the government to decide based on public needs,” he said.
At a recent international conference on zakat, Port Dickson MP Anwar called for reforms of the zakat institution.
He also suggested the distribution of zakat to non-Muslims, citing an opinion by prominent Muslim jurist Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Anwar said Islam encouraged the distribution of zakat to non-Muslims in a multi-racial society but qualified that this should not be at expense of the Muslim poor.