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We have reinstated Personality Interviews in our magazine, with the intention of introducing our readers to the Islamic banking and finance professionals that they know or have heard of, and would like to know more about them more personally. Our second personality for this new version of interviews is the Chief Executive Officer of Rumah Zakat, an award-winning institution in Indonesia. He is an inspiring leader for the youth of Indonesia and has successfully changed the management model of Rumah Zakat by implementing a transformation programme that had social and economic impacts for the public.Our readers would like to know more about your Empowered Village programme, which aims to map the local potential and develop its community.

The Empowered Village programme is our way of empowering Indonesia with the goal of changing behavior, mindset and developing an empowered local economy. This intends to overcome the problem of poverty by combining the strengths and assets owned, as well as collaborating with other parties, especially the Village Government. Empowered Village is an area-based empowerment initiative with integrated programmes for education, health, economy, environment and disaster preparedness accompanied by a companion who we refer to as Inspirational Volunteer. For the sustainability of the programme, new economic ecosystems are planted which we call community-owned enterprises.

‘Begins From Us’ is another venture of Rumah Zakat, a movement to optimise zakat and waqf funds for the betterment of society. Can you tell us some of your success stories?

In 2006 I joined Rumah Zakat, when I started my career as a ZIS Consultant, and become CEO in 2012. During this period, Rumah Zakat has successfully underwent a transformation, from a traditional to professional organisation. Since my assuming the role of CEO, uit has further transformed into a digital philanthropic organisation. It is a remarkable story spanning over 22 years. Rumah Zakat has benefitted 35.5 million people, has helped 1800 Empowerment Villages, setting up 18 Juara Schools, 9 clinics and is trusted by more than 500,000 donors. It has also received ISO certification. Our good governance is evidenced by 14 times Unqualified Opinion (WTP) in Shari’a financial audit. We are also a member of UN special consultative committee, and continue to receive appreciation, locally and globally.

What, in your point of view, is the potential and value of zakat in economic development and can this instrument be used to develop the Islamic finance industry and be a source of relief to communities.

I often interpret zakat, infaq, sadaqa and waqf (ZISWAF) instrument as a celestial instrument, which Allah has given to us, Muslims, for the welfare of the umma. Zakat, infaq and sadaqa (ZIS) are helpful for short-term consumption and waqf for the long term. If those ‘who have’ share with those ‘who don’t have’, the poor and the weak will not get poorer or weaker. Interestingly if they do so, the strong will not be adversely affected. However, this will establish justice and economic equity.

As a CEO, how do you manage to motivate your team in such crucial times? Please share with our readers some of the leadership secrets and your leadership approach.

1. A leader must focus on ibada, along with professional work. Even if they do little they must do it with istiqama (strong upright intentions). A leader is the one who is able to add Allah’s mercy in institutional activities.

2. Good understanding of the vision can foster enthusiasm, which in turn gives hope to grow in future. It is important not to lose sight of the vision and not to forget instil it in every member of the team.

3. Leaders must have ambition but not for themselves but for the institutional progress and to always provide the best example for the team.

Rumah Zakat won the Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) Excellence Awards 2020 for the category of Zakat Management. How will this achievement shape your personal focus and your professional commitment?

Alhamdo lillah, I would like to say thank you once again for this award. For us, this award is our mandate and motivation to be more trustworthy and professional in providing good benefits in Indonesia and the world.

Industrial revolution 4.0, FinTech and Blockchain are the talk and technologies of today. How has Rumah Zakat taken advantage of these technologies to further its agenda of zakat management in the economic and financial development of the society?

Industry 4.0 is both an opportunity and a challenge. Rumah Zakat carries out a series of digital transformations for people, processes and technology. For the people category, we strive to build the mindset of employees to adapt to change through implementing an innovative, effective and efficient work culture to grow exponentially. In the process, we have built a digital transformation squad whose job is to analyse, then develop, until finally various solutions are born to answer the challenges of 4.0 industrial revolution. And of course, the solution to these challenges require technology that can accelerate the innovation process at Rumah Zakat. Until now, to make it easier for muzaki to donate, we have built various applications such as sharinghappiness (crowdfunding platform), (easy donation application), (influencers charity auction site), and Digital Islamic Style (application for Muslim worship).

Why is sustainability becoming an important component of strategic thinking for the leaders of today? How is your organisation playing its part in achieving the sustainability goals by the UN?

Sustainability is a very important component both in organisational sustainability and in programme management and hopefully, it can have long-term impact and benefit in poverty alleviation efforts. The empowerment programme carried out by Rumah Zakat has adopted 17 SDGs, by running the Empowerment Village programme. Integrated in the village area is local potential mapping in the fields of economy, environment,health, education and disaster preparedness. We believe that each village area has its own unique potential and community development needs.

The world is fast becoming orientated towards the use of social media. What role can social media play in creating awareness around Islamic finance?

In my opinion, one of the keys to growing Islamic finance is by continuing to educate. In this digital era, a tool that can leverage upon social media in Shari’a economic education is more effective, efficient and has a wider reach.

As a CEO, what is your take on the leadership crisis in the Muslim world?

Muslim leaders must have a good relationship with Allah. It happens to be the case that there is no world Muslim leader who can unite all Muslim-majority countries. This is despite we all having the same vision. Perhaps Muslim masses have failed to convey this message to their leadership. There is a need for Muslim leadership that must not only listen to their people but also implement their vision.

What habits have you included in your daily routine to strengthen your leadership skills?

Habits of reading, networking and mentoring. Reading of current news, journals, business books is a form of learning something new. Networking is not only to meet new people and learn from them but to also continue and maintain our relationship and contact with them. Mentoring is for others and also for ourselves; when we give a lecture, others listen and would ask questions. Answering these questions is a challenge in itself and allows us to better understand them.

What have been some of the challenges that you have come across in your career? The biggest challenge I have encountered is how to manage people in the organisation. Many would join us with different backgrounds, skills and goals of life, and it is my biggest challenge to bring these people in to walk on the same path as I have chosen for myself.

At the end, what is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring leader?

 One piece of advice for aspiring leaders is that a leader must perform special Ibada (worship). Allah is the best planner. If something does not go as what we have planned, it might be because Allah has a better plan for us. Keep striving and believe that whatever that comes our way is best for us.

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