Muis is entrusted with the responsibility of administering and managing Zakat in Singapore. Beyond that, Muis is also entrusted with the amanah of ensuring that the community’s contribution is disbursed to all eight asnaf equitably, as stipulated in the Holy Quran and syari’ah.
Although there are no religious references to guide the disbursement portions to the eight asnaf, the Zakat and Fitrah Committee has ascertained that a majority of annual Zakat collection is disbursed to asnaf fakir and miskin – the poor and needy.
WHO ARE THE POOR AND NEEDY?
Different countries have different definitions and identifications of the poor and needy. In Singapore, for the disbursement of Zakat to asnaf fakir and miskin, Muis takes on the view that the poor and needy are those who fall under the most vulnerable subset category under the poor. Hence, Zakat financial assistance is rendered to the lowest 5% of Singapore’s income earners.
To determine those who fall under the bottom 5% income in Singapore, Muis adopts a means-testing approach of calculating the Per Capita Income (PCI) of its Zakat assistance applicants. This presently stands at $400.
The PCI is reviewed annually to ensure that zakat assistance continues to meet the evolving needs of the community. A successful applicant will be provided with sustained Zakat assistance without any attachment or conditions and beneficiaries are not required to adhere to any action plans or achieve individual goals.
On average, Muis disburses $1.1 million of zakat to 4,300 households every month. This translates to over 13,000 people who benefit directly from monthly Zakat financial assistance.
A majority of these Zakat beneficiaries – about 65% of them, are considered as ‘Long-Term’ beneficiaries because they receive 12-months of Zakat FA which would usually be renewed every year. These Long-Term beneficiaries are mainly those who have a PCI of $400 and below, and are also suffering from problems such as chronic illness, elderly poverty, disabilities, etc.
Other than the Long-Term beneficiaries, those who are facing transitional problems such as retrenchment, insufficient income, incarceration, etc. would be categorised as Short-Term beneficiaries who would typically receive the monthly Zakat FA for a period of 6 months.
SUPPLEMENTARY AND SUPPORT PROGRAMMES
While zakat financial assistance may help vulnerable families to tide through in terms of necessities, it is not enough to meet the multiple needs which expand beyond finances. To ensure the wider needs of zakat beneficiaries, Muis works closely with a larger network of support from national agencies for referrals.
For example, beneficiaries are encouraged to explore assistance schemes from ComCare, administered by the Social Service offices (SSOs) so that they could be connected to other channels of assistance that covers issues such as employment, childcare, healthcare, counselling, and other specialised services.
Muis also works closely with Social Development mosques to implement support programmes aimed at different groups of beneficiaries. The SD Core Programme, for example, is open to all Zakat beneficiaries and their families and it aims to equip beneficiaries with necessary life skills. This includes financial management, motivation and self-esteem, religious guidance, and family and parenting skills. The programme is run at various mosque clusters and it is organised in collaboration with partner agencies such as People’s Association (PA), Community Development Councils (CDCs), Malay Muslim Organisations (MMOs), and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
Zakat beneficiaries who are aged or who have chronic illnesses are given special attention through the Befrienders scheme. It is a volunteer-based befriending service that matches volunteers from the mosques with long-term zakat beneficiaries. The role of the volunteers is to develop a friendship with zakat beneficiaries through regular home visits. The visits are done to check in on the beneficiaries and to ensure that they are not at risk of being socially marginalised or isolated.
It is hoped that this would be the first steps towards nurturing a caring and active community in an organised way – one that emphasises with the plight of zakat beneficiaries.