It is an obligation for Muslims to pay zakat (tithe), which is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Every year, many do so through the zakat collection centres run by the government.
However, for various reasons, others have chosen to give alms directly to the needy.
Therefore, Terengganu mufti Ismail Yahya's assertion yesterday that zakat not paid through the government as invalid and a "sin" has sparked debate in the Muslim community.
Malaysiakini conducted a brief popular poll among zakat -paying Muslims in Kuala Lumpur.
Those who do not make their contributions through the government said they did not want the authorities acting as a "middleman".
They also appear to have a lack of trust in zakat collection centres.
Yusof Talib, 63, said he had paid zakat through the zakat collection centre when it was first set up in 1990 but stopped the following year.
Yusof said this was because he was taken aback after the agency asked him to declare his annual income statement and value of his assets.
"The first year it was normal but by the second year, the zakat centre seemed to be acting like a bank.
"I have stopped paying zakat through the zakat centre since and have been contributing directly to the needy," he said.
'Money going elsewhere'
Yusof added that allegations such as those revealed by the PKR-linked NGO National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) - that funds to help orphans were used for Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Jamil Khir Baharom's trip to the US - also did not inspire confidence.
"Money that we give and is meant for the needy ends up somewhere else; that shouldn't happen," said the engineering consultant.
Zakat collection falls under Jamil's portfolio. Jamil had denied any wrongdoing, stating that his trip to the US was for official business.
Meanwhile, housewife Roslina Abdul Majid, 52 said she doesn't pay zakat through the government because the bureaucracy is slow in responding to requests.
"I've given zakat directly to the poor whom I know. They needed money from the zakat centre but the centre was slow in acting, so I just give alms to them directly," she said.
Roslina said the zakat institution should not wait for the needy to come to them but be more proactive by going out to identify these individuals and help them.
Ahmad Sabri Idris, 34, pays zakat through the government but believed that NGOs are doing a better job in identifying those in need.
"The zakat centre does help the poor but I see NGOs are more active in going to the ground to identify the poor compared to the zakat centres," he said.
Denied zakat assistance
A woman, who only wanted to be known as Anum, related how her five siblings were denied zakat assistance after their parents abruptly passed away.
Recalling the incident in 2000, Anum said the zakat centre had cited that she had a job and refused to grant them assistance.
Anum said together with her husband, they earned a total of RM3,000 but it was not enough to support her five siblings as they have their own children to raise, on top of being tied to a home and car loan.
"You can imagine how difficult it was for us; my younger siblings had to work at restaurants while still studying.
"Had they given us even RM100 or RM50 a month, it would have at least helped to reduce our burden," she said.
Anum said that she hoped zakat money would be given to those who need them.