One of the delegates at the World Zakat Forum held at New York City during 28-29 May 2014, who made an instant impact among the participants with his excellent presentation and unbounded enthusiasm was Elnur Salihović. Br Elnur heads the Zakat Office of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. My brief interaction with him on the sidelines of the Forum whetted my appetite to learn more about the community initiatives in B&H, especially in the matter of management of zakat.
Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina was introduced to the local population in the 15th and 16th centuries as a result of the Ottoman conquest of the region. Currently, it is the dominant religion in the region with about 45 percent of its 3.8 million population being Muslims. The history of modern zakat management may be traced to the organised collection and distribution of zakat beginning in 1970 by establishing Gazi Husrevbey madrasa’s fund. During the communist era zakat funds were main source for financing Islamic school and establishing Faculty of Islamic studies in Sarajevo. It continues to be the driving force for the development of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a secular state. Therefore, religious communities are not part of the state apparatus and operate free from any governmental control. The Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is an indepentent organisation within the country responsible for all matters related to Islam and religious affairs of Muslims within the country and abroad, including management of zakat and awqaf.
The Riyasat of the Islamic Community
The Riyasat of the Islamic Community is the highest Islamic religious and administrative organ of the Islamic Community. The head of the Riyasat is the Raisu-l-ulama. Including the Raisu-l-ulama, the Riyasat is consisted of 15 members. The members of the Riyasat ex officio are: the Deputy Raisu-l-ulama, the Secretary-General of the Riyasat, the presidents of Mashikhats of the Islamic Community and director of the Waqf Head Office. The remaining members of the Riyasat are elected by the Council of the Islamic Community in the following manner: four members from among the Muftis, two members from among the deans and principles of Islamic educational institutions, and two members from among outstanding members of the Islamic Community who are not employed by the Islamic Community. The mandate of the members of the Riyasat is four years.
The areas of activity of the Riyasat of the Islamic Community are:
- organization of Islamic religious life
- Islamic education (ma’arifi affairs)
- construction and maintenance of premises of the Islamic Community
- organization and activities of the organs and institutions of the Islamic Community in the Bosniak diaspora
- cooperation with Islamic organizations and institutions world-wide
- administrative and legal affairs; and
- economic and financial affairs of the Islamic Community.
The responsibilities of the Riyasat of the Islamic Community are:
- to take care of the entirety of Islamic religious life and to ensure that all activities within the Islamic Community are based on the principles of the Shari’ah Law
- to supervise the work of the executive organs and institutions within the Islamic Community
- to appoint, transfer and dismiss the Grand Imams, the Imams, the Khatibs and the Muallims
- to appoint and dismiss the deans and principles of Islamic educational institutions
- to approve the curricula of Islamic educational institutions as well as curricula and textbooks for Islamic studies in state schools
- to assure the protection of the religious rights of Muslims
- to rule on the dress and symbols of religious representatives of the Islamic Community
- to supervise the collection of Zakat and the Sadakatu-l-fitr, and to administer the Fund of the Baitul-mal
- to approve the establishment of the new Waqfs for religious purposes
- to make decisions about exchange of the Waqf property
- to establish and maintain direct relations with Islamic Communities around the world
- to hand down decisions concerning registrations in Islamic educational institutions
- to certifiy the selection of teachers/professors made by the academic councils of the Faculty of Islamic Sciences and the Teachers’ Academies
- to establish contacts with other religious communities
The Riyasat of the Islamic Community may establish permanent and temporary commissions.
The Riyasat of the Islamic Community submits report of its activities to the Council of the Islamic Community.
The Riyasat is thus, the main governing body and decision-maker for all important matters within the Community, including zakat management. Its Zakat Office is responsible for the coordination of the strategies and decisions of the Riyasat and Council of the Community. The Zakat Office organises promotion and collection of zakat within the Community and coordinates all factors on lower levels involved in system of promotion and collection of zakat.
The Council of the Islamic Community
The Council of the Islamic Community is the highest representative and the main legislative body of the Islamic Community. The responsibilities of the Council are:
- to approve the Constitution and other rules which regulate the organization and activities of the organs and institutions of the Islamic Community
- to passe the regulations on the use of the flag and logo of the Islamic Community
- to provide the guidelines for the work of the organs and institutions, and for the management of the property of the Islamic Community
- to approve the budget and read and approve the financial report of the Riyasat of the Islamic Community
- to establish institutions and funds and to approve the establishment of companies and associations within the Islamic Community
- to appoint, transfer and dismiss the Muftis
- to select the members of the Riyasat of the Islamic Community
- to appoint and dismiss the Secretary-General of the Riyasat and to approve the election and dismissal of the director of the Waqf Head Office
- to appoint the members of the Constitutional Court of the Islamic Community.
The Council consists of 83 members, who are elected in electoral districts. The electoral districts and the number of delgates of each district are:
Sarajevo: 13 members
Tuzla: 10 members
Bihac: 7 members
Banja Luka: 7 members
Gorazde: 7 members
Mostar: 7 members
Travnik: 7 members
Zenica: 7 members
Novi Pazar, Serbia: 5 members
Zagreb, Croatia: 5 members
Ljubljana, Slovenia: 3 members
Cologne, W Europe: 3 members
Chicago, N America: 1 member
Sydney, Australia: 1 member
The election of the members of the Council is carried out by special bodies composed of two delegates for each Jamat in the electoral district. The delegates of the Jamat to the electoral body are elected by the Jamat Assembly. The election of the members of the Council of the Islamic Community is based on respect for territorial representation so that one member of the Council is elected for a given number of Muslims. All the members of the Council of the Islamic Community from one electoral district will be elected in one place by the electoral body, in accordance with the above. The electoral body of one electoral district may not have fewer then fifty members.
The Council of the Islamic Community has a president, a vice-president and a secretary. The president, vice-president and secretary of the Council of the Islamic Community are elected by the members of the Council at the constitutive session of the Council of the Islamic Community. The Council of the Islamic Community may establish permanent and temporary commissions. The president of the Council of the Islamic Community call for the sessions of the Council at least twice per annum. It is mandatory for the president of the Council to call a sesssion of the Council of the Islamic Community upon a request either one quarter of the members of the Council, or by the Riyasat of the Islamic Community, or by the Raisu-l-ulama.
The Council of the Islamic Community plays an important role in zakat management whose main responsibility is approval of decisions of Riyasat, especially related to the distribution of zakat. The Council consists of elected delegates of members of the Community. One third of delegates are from employees of the Community and two thirds have to be delegates who are not employed in the Community. The Rulebook on collection of zakat in the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina defines all necessary matters related to the collection. In 2004 The Council passed the Rulebook on the Fund Bayt al-Mal. The Rulebook defines the distribution of zakat.
Zakat office of ICB&H
The Zakat office of the Islamic Community of B&H was established in 2009. The primary activities and goals of Zakat Office of ICB&H include:
- Management of the system of promotion, collection and distribution of zakat
- Organisation of meetings, seminars and other forms of training for collectors and potential zakat payers
- Preparation of promotional materials and instructions for the calculation of zakat
- Everyday correspodence with zakat payers and all factors involved in zakat promotion and collection
- Establishment of the system for fast and adequate solving the problems in the field
- Field visits, information and education of factors involved in the system of promotion, collection and distribution of zakat on all levels and
- Establishment of cooperation with successful institutions for the promotion and collection of zakat in the world
The organization structure is presented below.
Major achievements of the Zakat Office since 2009 include:
- Production of Windows and web application ”Zakat Calculator ‘’
- Production of film about zakat and its distribution to all TV stations in B&H (showed on all main TV stations in the country)
- Many programs for radio stations and internet campaigns
- Publication of book ‘’How to calculate zakat?’’
- Improvements in communication between zakat payers and the Office
- Enhanced cooperation with business people through the establishment of a business club ”Business Forum of members of ICB&H”
Fund (Baytul-Mal) of Islamic Community in B&H
The constitution of ICB&H defined that zakat shall be collected in a Fund (Bayt al-Mal). Further, the Assembly of ICB&H issued a Rulebook on the Fund (Bayt al-Mal) in 2004 that defined the Fund (Bayt al-Mal) itself and specified the rules to govern fund management and other matters important to the functioning of the Fund. The Fund itself is managed by Riyasat of Islamic Community in B&H. According to the Rulebook, the funds are to be used to support education in middle, high and higher educational institutions operating within the Islamic Community in B&H, to maintain and improve of islamic education through mosques, da’wa activities, to assist sustainable return of refrugees, as well as other forms of Islamic work taking place through the organs and institutions of ICB&H that raises religious cultural, and educational level of Muslims, and for other purposes that are of general benefit to Muslims and Muslim communities.
The latest figures for zakat distribution reflect the above.
- Islamic schools and faculties: 51.9%
- Cultural and educaitonal institutions of ICB&H: 12.3%
- Media of ICB&H: 10.3%
- Support to projects of Muftis and Imams’ organization: 9.7%
- Dawah activities: 6.9%
- Support to the poor, needy, families of shaheed and returnees: 6.3%
- Scholarships: 1.7%
- Cost of collection: 0.8%
Overall, the zakat collection efforts have been quite cost-efficient. The utilization of zakat appears to have made a significant impact on the development of the society as well as in mitigation of consequences of war and economic crisis.
(Based on responses to my queries to Br Elnur who always surprized me with his enthusiasm and prompt replies)
Mohammed Obaidullah | October 04, 2014