by BERNAMA/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
MORE than five years back, Shahrina Abdul Hadi and her family stayed in a cramped one-bedroom flat in Jalan Sentul here and at night, due to space constraints, some of her children would sleep either in their father’s old run-down van or in the open like homeless people.
The income her husband Mohd Rizuan Ismail, 41, earned as a hawker was barely sufficient to meet their daily needs.
“There were times we couldn’t pay the rent and even my husband’s vehicle was repossessed as we failed to make the monthly payments. In fact, we were receiving zakat (from the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Council) to make ends meet,” said Shahrina, 36, who has five children aged between four years and 14 years.
(Zakat or tithe is a form of income tax under Islamic law that Muslims who meet the criteria are obliged to pay. The authorities use zakat payments to assist the poor and needy communities.)
The impoverished family’s fortunes took a turn for the better in 2016 after the Malaysian Islamic Consumers Association (PPIM) offered to assist Shahrina and her husband to develop their food business.
Today Shahrina, who hails from Kulim, Kedah, and her family have emerged from the clutches of poverty and reside in a more comfortable, three-bedroom flat at Jalan Sibu here.
In fact, from being zakat recipients, the couple is now paying zakat regularly as they are financially stable.
NASI LEMAK STALL, BOTTLED SAMBAL
Initially, Shahrina and her husband were provided financial assistance to open a nasi lemak stall at the Masjid Jamek LRT area here. Their ikan bilis (anchovy) sambal turned out to be a big hit with customers and their business flourished.
In March this year, they were invited to participate in the Asnaf Business Centre project, a new initiative undertaken by PPIM and Malakat Mall in Cyberjaya to provide an avenue for petty entrepreneurs in the hardcore poor category to market their products.
Under the initiative, Shahrina put her cooking skills to good use by producing a range of food products and marketing them at Raudhah Grocer located on the ground floor of Malakat Mall.
Besides her signature Toqqi brand ikan bilis and squid sambal, she is also marketing her own peanut sauce, black pepper sauce and muruku (a savoury, crunchy Indian snack) under the same brand.
The products are all made and bottled or packed by Shahrina and her husband at a unit at Vila Putri here that is owned by PPIM.
For Shahrina, who still operates her nasi lemak stall, nothing is more satisfying than seeing her bottles of sambal disappearing from the racks of Raudhah Grocer at top speed due to the good demand.
“It’s such a nice feeling to see my products being snapped up by customers,” she said, expressing her gratitude to PPIM and Malakat Mall for giving the poor an opportunity to improve their economic well-being.
She supplies about 300 bottles of sambal to Raudhah Grocer every month, with each bottle priced at RM6.85.
PPIM chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan told Bernama the Asnaf Business Centre (ABC) initiative was aimed at providing economically-disadvantaged entrepreneurs with an outlet to market their products.
“Our primary aim is to free the hardcore poor from the grips of poverty so that they can become zakat payers,” he said.
Nadzim said PPIM and their partner Malakat Mall aspire to see “zero hardcore poverty” in Malaysia by 2030.
“It’s not impossible to achieve this target if people give their support and buy their products at Malakat Mall,” he said, adding that only economic power can change the fate of the Muslim community.
He added that the ABC initiative is also extended to Muslim entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines whose products will also be promoted and sold at Malakat Mall.
Nursyazana Hasnan, a 29-year-old civil servant who shops at Malakat mall regularly, was full of praise for the ABC project, saying that it is hard for the poor and needy to survive without support.
Raudhah Grocer store manager Syahidan Hamidon, 45, said consumer support for the products marketed under the ABC initiative has been good.
“Now we want to expand their range of products so that our customers can have more choice,” he added.