As Ramadan approaches, many Kuwaitis began selecting organisations to donate their zakat during the holy month.
NGOs and state institutions typically handle donations and zakat collections, but some Kuwaitis are not confident that their zakat reaches their intended recipients.
In response to public concern, officials at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour developed regulations governing zakat collection, including a requirement that organisations publicise the names of alms recipients.
"With the approach of the holy month, the ministry completed implementation of the annual regulation for the collection of donations in mosques, and co-operated with the Ministry of Religious Endowments [and Islamic Affairs] to implement the Ninth Project, which regulates the collection of cash donations during the month of Ramadan," said Munira al-Fadhli, assistant undersecretary for social development at the ministry.
"[The Ninth Project] prohibits charitable organisations from collecting cash donations except through approved vouchers printed by the ministry, and all organisations are required to furnish a comprehensive report on the amount they collect through the project and how funds are disbursed inside and outside the country," she said.
"After the crisis broke out in Syria, many tried to send aid to unarmed civilians there and many other parties that started collecting aid donations in the form of cash, medicine and food," said Mohammed al-Sayegh, a Kuwaiti.
"But no one knows if the aid and donations actually reached their intended recipients or were held back at collection centres, and this is the ongoing debate we re-visit every year," he said.
Al-Sayegh said many people who offer zakat payments "prefer to rely on trustworthy acquaintances or family members in Kuwait to deliver the money to the intended recipients for fear the recipients would not receive them".
"There are those who save their donations and give them out in one lump sum during the holy month of Ramadan, " Haya al-Hamad, another Kuwaiti resident, said. "But many do not know how to reach families in need of aid and thus rely on governmental organisations, such as Beit al-Zakat and Islamic Aid among other governmental and non-governmental organisations operating under state supervision."
"It is the best way to ensure that the money does not go to terrorist groups or other illegal organisations anywhere in the world," she added.
Dr. Abdul Latif al-Sareekh, a counsellor and lecturer on human development, said zakat strengthens ties between members of a community.
"Zakat infuses a spirit of brotherhood in the community, otherwise it would not have been imposed as a duty on every Muslim," he said.
"It is not a duty and necessity in Islam alone, but also in all heavenly religions sanctioned by God because it strengthens the bonds of love between members of the community and removes the differences between them," al-Sareekh said. "Parents need to instil it in the hearts of their children at an early age so they get accustomed to being kind to the less fortunate and learn to show compassion towards them upon becoming adults."
"For over 15 years I have relied on someone close to me who works in the humanitarian aid field in Africa to deliver my zakat. He travels there specifically to visit with families that need aid," he said.