With the approach of the holy month of Ramadan, the Yemeni government is stepping up measures to encourage zakat payment and prevent it from falling into the hands of extremist groups.
Yemen's cabinet in April reviewed a Ministry of Local Administration report on zakat funds collected over the past year and directed the Ministry of Information to broadcast educational programmes throughout the year via all audio and visual media outlets, urging citizens to pay zakat to the state.
The media and mosques play a pivotal role in spreading awareness about the necessity of paying zakat to the state, while scholars, mosque preachers and murshids (religious counsellors) take part in media programmes so the message can reach a larger audience, said Yasser Thabet, director general of zakat at the Ministry of Local Administration.
Raising awareness about this necessity is crucial in order to prevent the funds from going to al-Qaeda or other extremist groups, he said.
"This is where the role of the media, preachers, scholars and murshids comes into play in raising awareness among citizens about first, paying zakat, and [second], not being deceived by individuals who try to collect [zakat] for personal purposes, so these funds do not go to groups that carry out operations aimed at destroying the country," Thabet said.
The Ministry of Endowments and Guidance works throughout the year to raise awareness about the importance of paying zakat, and the necessity of paying it to the state, said Sheikh Jabri Ibrahim, director general of preaching and guidance at the ministry.
Scholars and murshids must direct citizens to pay zakat year-round, "because the payment of zakat is not confined to the month of Ramadan, as some might imagine", he told Al-Shorfa.
They can also use talk shows, programmes on satellite channels and local radio stations, as well as the written press, to spread this message, he added.
"Zakat is a means to develop society, not the other way around," Ibrahim said.
Some citizens may be reluctant to pay zakat to the state because they believe it does not disburse the proceeds as specified under sharia, said Mustafa Nasr, head of Yemen's Studies and Economic Media Centre.
"The National Dialogue Conference addressed this problem and approved the formation of an independent body charged with collecting zakat and disbursing the proceeds to the eight categories of beneficiaries specified by sharia," he said.
He said he hopes this would contribute to increasing zakat proceeds.
Nasr said he is confident that Yemeni merchants and citizens are determined that their zakat does not go to extremist groups.
Zakat revenue contributes to strengthening the economy because it is connected to goals such as justice, fairness, growth and stability, and plays a role in remedying economic problems, he said.
(Al-Shorfa.Com / 02 June 2014)---
Alfalah Consulting - Kuala Lumpur: www.alfalahconsulting.com
Islamic Investment Malaysia: www.islamic-invest-malaysia.com