As enjoined by the Holy Koran, devout Muslims everywhere
aspire to fulfill Islam's Fifth Pillar (one of five obligatory duties), the pilgrimage to
Mecca. Required only of those who can afford it, the haj has for centuries inspired
believers to enterprise, thrift and self-imposed hardship to accumulate wealth sufficient
for the journey. For Muslims in distant Southeast Asia, the pilgrimage was costly, arduous
and fraught with hazard. Few could undertake it.
Since its establishment as an
independent state Malaysia has striven to bring the pilgrimage within the means of more of
its Muslim citizens, and to make their trip to Mecca orderly and safe. The Pilgrimage
Management and Fund Board, Tabung Haji, has now largely achieved this goal under the
creative leadership of Dato' HAJI HANAFIAH BIN HAJI AHMAD. HANAFIAH entered the Civil
Service from the University of Malaya and was posted in 1963 toJiddah, Saudi Arabia.
Encountering Malaysian pilgrims scrambling for food and accommodations amidst strange
surroundings, he energetically undertook to help them. These efforts prompted Prime
Minister Tun Abdul Razak to choose HANAFIAH as Tabung Haji's Deputy Director General in
1974. Within three years he was made Director General.
Aware that many pilgrims are rural folk without experience in foreign travel, HANAFIAH
has expanded Tabung Haji's activities to make it an effective "people's
organization." Formerly discouraged by ignorance and bureaucratic hurdles, pilgrims
now seek assistance from the 69 branch offices of Tabung Haji throughout the country which
coordinate the issuing of passports, visas and health documents, and which brief the
pilgrims thoroughly about each stage of their prospective journey. Today's pilgrim is
whisked from Malaysia directly to Jiddah aboard jets chartered by Tabung Haji from the
national airline, staffed with personnel trained to attend to their needs. From Jiddah
buses carry them to prearranged quarters around Mecca. Throughout the holy rituals they
are cared for by Tabung Haji staff members who provide information, banking facilities and
familiar Malaysian foods, and who organize mobile clinics and a hospital to keep illness
and mortality to a minimum. Today the vast majority of Malaysia's pilgrimsnearly
25,000 annuallyavail themselves of Tabung Haji's comprehensive services.
Financing their pilgrimage has been a chronic problem for most Muslims; savings for
this event formerly might be hidden away beneath the house floor in earthenjars or
secreted in a bamboo rafter. But today, due to public confidence instilled by HANAFIAH,
over 1,000,000 Malaysians deposit their savings with Tabung Haji, which keeps individual
computerized accounts. This growing fund is astutely invested in oil palm plantations,
rubber estates, electronics firms, real estate and other profitable projects. Besides
earning an approximate eight percent dividend for its investorsall in strict keeping
with Islamic precepts Tabung Haji serves a secondary purpose, as a source of capital
for spurring Malaysia's progress.
Born 49 years ago in Kedah, HANAFIAH personifies a new generation of Malaysian civil
servants who have been trained at home and abroad since independence. Under his devoted
and upright leadership Tabung Haji's 900-member professional staff is providing facilities
whereby Muslims may both carry out the precepts of Islam (which is Malaysia's off'icial
religion), and enhance their own prosperity. The new 38-story office tower which houses
the organization's national headquartersa gleaming architectural wonder on the
skyline of Kuala Lumpuris a dramatic symbol of Tabung Haji's high national profile
and its importance to Malaysia today.
In electing Dato' HAJI HANAFIAH BIN HAJI AHMAD to receive the 1987 Ramon Magsaysay
Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his enabling tens of
thousands of devout Malaysian Muslims to accumulate savings and safely and economically
make a cherished pilgrimage to Mecca.