Do zakat givers prefer to identify the beneficiaries by themselves and pay zakat to them? Or do they prefer to depend on intermediaries for fulfilling this important Shariah obligation? Given that some zakat givers use the services of intermediaries in varying degrees, what type of intermediaries are preferred over others? How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the sentiments of zakat professionals as they strived to optimize their zakat collection during the last ten days of Ramadan this year? These and similar questions that must have crossed the minds of many observers of the zakat scene and stakeholders of the Islamic social finance sector.

From traditional methods to digital platforms, the Islamic social finance sector is witnessing a rapid increase in innovations and ideas to enhance zakat collection and distribution. In an attempt to find answers to these questions and strengthen the process of mainstreaming of the sector, IBF Net, an organization based in Kuala Lumpur launched a pair of surveys in collaboration with the Jakarta-based World Zakat Forum. The surveys were conducted in four international languages covering a large section of the global Muslim societies during the second half of Ramadhan 1441H with an aim to gauge and study zakat donors preferences as well as that of zakat professionals who are handling the zakat funds.

The results of the surveys (can be accessed at: iiibf.com/zakat-survey) throw up some interesting insights. Most zakat professionals expect a modest decline in zakat giving by businesses due to the impact of the pandemic. The impact on individual giving was less than clear-cut. While a large percentage of zakat givers use the services of intermediaries in varying degrees, the incidence of “self-management” is also significant indicating a possible “trust-deficit” among zakat givers towards intermediaries. It also raises the possibility of a gross understatement of reported data on zakat collections that focus on intermediaries alone. Among the intermediaries, zakat givers have a clear preference for Islamic NPOs. Most do not appear to be inclined at present to consider international development institutions and the latter have to strive to bridge the awareness and trust gap. Neither the givers nor the professionals displayed any age or gender related bias. Both groups however, displayed a strong affinity bias that is in conformity with the mandates of the Shariah.

Based on the surveys conducted, IBF Net feels that there is a serious need to collect and collate market intelligence, not just for the zakat sector or the Islamic social finance sector, but for the entire Islamic business and finance (IBF) sector, which are grossly under-researched currently from a marketing point of view. IBF Net has therefore embarked on an enhanced product – IBF Intelligence – that aims to recreate the IBF Network on a Blockchain’ to enhance data collection and curation in the industry. This service will help organisations to engage in ethical and authentic data collection conforming to the best of global practices and Islamic traditions. It will further enable existing and aspiring organizations in the halal ecosystem to take “evidence based” decisions based on insights from authentic survey responses. IBF Net is currently looking for technology partners for this program and invites interested individuals or organizations to connect.

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