By: YB Senator Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri, Minister of Prime Minister Department (Religious Affairs)

Compared to the other ministers who have a long experience in the state and national governance, I might be seen as an underdog. A village boy, came from religious study, emerged in apolitical image and not as loud as other politicians in debating. Of course, I was a village boy who only knew how to soak in sweat with cows and buffalos after school time, all of a sudden became a minister!

Nevertheless, it has never been an issue to me because people of Malaysian (regardless of religion and race) who have been following me since years ago, they knew and saw what I did throughout the time when I was the Mufti of Federal Territories. There is nothing I need to hide.

I am not proud of the Integrity Icon Award and National Anti-Corruption which I received recently in December 2019 by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. It was a very heavy responsibility for me to carry out when holding the position.
Allah SWT says:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ

Meaning: “Surely Allah commands you to render back the trusts (i.e. the spirit, the physical body, the soul and the free will) to His Owner (to Allah) and that when you judge between people you judge with justice.” (Surah al-Nisa’: 58)

There are five key words (OIERJ) which are conveyed by Him in this verse:
i. al-Amr (Order)
ii. al-Amanah (Integrity)
iii. al-Ahl (Expertise)
iv. al-Hukm (Ruling)
v. al-’Adl (Justice)

I try to view from a different perspective in national governance.

As a responsible individual who spearheads the religious agencies in Federal Territories, there are five things which I emphasise most; identity, value, platform, outcome, future and ‘what’s next’?

With a clear identity, questions like who you are, what are the problems, and who you solve them for can be answered amiably. It will lead to a clear marketing goal, offer and message.

Mostly important for an organisation is to get rid of silo thinking. Usually silo thinking happens in an organisation when the leader, department, manager, group or staff who shows excellent work performance but fails to organise work governance to create excellence of organisational performance. These silo thinking clusters will eventually compete with each other in getting budget, money, equipment and workforce. This weakens the organisation.

What is the value that ought to be brought? When looking at my position as a Minister of the Prime Minister Department (Religious Affairs), maybe there will be a response, “Surely Islamic values!”. To me, it is enough to heed to the principle:

العِبْرَةُ بِالْمُسَمَّيَاتِ لَا بِالْأَسْمَاءِ
“Lesson is based on what is named, not names.”

The philosophy of Islamic ethics and morale is universal in character. As I am a Muslim, surely I would prioritise Islamic values to be applied in governance.

However, use any term and comparison with any philosophical idea of ethics and morale in the East and West which is suitable with the nature of humans, if being studied deeper, it would surely exist in the discourse of the Islamic ethics and moral philosophy which is based on al-Qur’an and al-Sunnah. It is the two sides of the same coin.

Social media is the best platform and should be benefited comprehensively to spread information. This is not the time to be in a respective zone, closeted and alienated from the virtual world. If the television has prime time, social media has no specific time. That is the advantage as well as disadvantage of it.

The people need information as fast as possible. If it is late, anything can happen either it is in control or out of control. Thus, the government agencies should benefit and ensure the usage of social media and the spread of information that is transparent, prudent and giving positive impact to the public sector.

The Prophet SAW said:

وَإِنَّمَا الأَعْمَالُ بِالخَوَاتِيم

Meaning: “Verily the deeds (of a servant) are decided by the last actions.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, No. 6607)

The deeds here means good deed or bad deed. The meaning of “the last actions” is what is done by the end of age and life. This is what has been explained by al-Baji in Syarah al-Muwatta’ that the last deed of a person is his right and with it he is given reward.

Whoever shifts from bad deeds to the good deeds, he is counted as a repentant person. Whoever shifts from iman (faithful) to kufur (unfaithful), he is murtad (apostate).

Islam is a religion which emphasises its believers to have a clear vision and mission. Thus, Rasulullah SAW stressed the above matter. Indirectly, those who think for virtue at the end will be driven to do good deeds throughout their life.

Organisation which has goal and purpose as well as good result-based performance management will achieve success with His permission and takes into account the law of cause-effect (causality).

I agree with Ziauddin Sardar’s opinion in his book Islamic Futures: The Shape of Ideas to Come that the future can be controlled and shaped in line with the society’s goal and desire. Yes, indeed the future is on His will and power, yet Allah SWT does not command us to stop trying.

The Prophet SAW when following the deceased took something then make a line on the ground thus said:

مَا مِنْكُمْ مِنْ أَحَدٍ إِلَّا وَقَدْ كُتِبَ مَقْعَدُهُ مِنَ النَّارِ، وَمَقْعَدُهُ مِنَ الجَنَّةِ» قَالُوا: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَفَلاَ نَتَّكِلُ عَلَى كِتَابِنَا، وَنَدَعُ العَمَلَ؟ قَالَ: «اعْمَلُوا فَكُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ لِمَا خُلِقَ لَهُ، أَمَّا مَنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ السَّعَادَةِ فَيُيَسَّرُ لِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ السَّعَادَةِ، وَأَمَّا مَنْ كَانَ مِنْ أَهْلِ الشَّقَاءِ فَيُيَسَّرُ لِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الشَّقَاوَةِ»، ثُمَّ قَرَأَ: {فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَى وَاتَّقَى وَصَدَّقَ بِالحُسْنَى} [الليل: 6] الآيَةَ
Then Rasulullah SAW read the words of Allah:

فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَىٰ وَاتَّقَىٰ ﴿٥﴾ وَصَدَّقَ بِالْحُسْنَىٰ ﴿٦﴾

Meaning: “So he who gives (in charity) and fears (Allah). And (in all sincerity) testifies to the best.“ (Surah al-Lail: 5-6)

What’s Next?
There are several essential points which should be contemplated, if you agree with all of which I have mentioned above.

i. Small changes in management can make an organisation innovative.

ii. Focus on what unites everyone in the organisation. Not hierarchy, position, grade and level. A good leader supposedly gives a direction, not various directions.

iii. Individual performance will bring nowhere if it is not in line with the group’s values and objectives.

iv. Organisational leaders need to be more humble and practice openness principle and transparency. I used to read a research which reported that 63% of leaders claimed that they practiced the principle but only 29% of staff agreed with the leaders’ statements.

v. Eventually, it is up to the managers, bosses or leaders to respond to this call or remain at the current level. If we want to change, then the work culture should be restructured completely to achieve the goal, together.

May this benefit to all.


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