Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund
The Mosque Building Fund (MBF) was established in 1975 as a means of gathering funds for the building of mosques in new public housing estates in Singapore.1 Following the formation of the Mendaki Foundation in 1984, the MBF merged with the Mendaki Fund and was renamed the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF).2 Muslims voluntarily contribute to this fund by having a fixed amount deducted from their salary every month through the Central Provident Fund (CPF).3 In 2015, the MBMF collected close to S$24 million by these means.4
Background and history
In the early 1970s, some Muslims who were being resettled from their villages into Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats found themselves without a community mosque in their new estate.5 After several rounds of discussion, Muslim community leaders in Toa Payoh, a new satellite town at the time, decided to go from door to door to collect funds for a new mosque. However, their progress was slow and the donations gathered were insufficient.6
A turning point came when then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew initiated meetings with members of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS; also known as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) and Malay members of parliament (MP) at the Istana. The meeting on 10 December 1974 was attended by officials such as then Minister for Social Affairs Othman Wok, then MUIS president Buang Siraj, Ahmad Mattar, then Parliamentary Secretary for Education and the mufti, Syed Isa Mohd Semait.. Thus was born the concept of having a fund to which Muslims could voluntarily contribute through the CPF.7
The idea for the MBF was first introduced in parliament on 21 March 1975 to facilitate the collection of donations for the construction of mosques at new housing estates. During the parliamentary session, Kampong Kembangan MP Haji Mohd Ariff Suradi suggested further uses for the MBF such as the maintenance of mosques, payment of bills and other miscellaneous expenditure. However, Othman disagreed, stating that the MBF had the specific purpose of raising money for the purchase of land, and the construction of mosques.8 The Administration of Muslim Law (Amendment) Bill was passed by parliament on 19 August 1975 to provide for the establishment of the MBF. The Administration of Muslim Law (Amendment) Act came into force on 1 October 1975.9
The MBF began collecting donations through the CPF in May 1975. Less than two years later, in April 1977, Toa Payoh residents witnessed the inauguration of their new mosque, Masjid Mujahirin.10
Up till 1994, HDB presided over the design and construction of mosques, but the Mosques Division of MUIS has shouldered the task since then. The division regularly organises design competitions to select the appropriate architectural firm to design any new mosque. The tasks of furnishing and maintaining new mosques after completion as well as redeveloping older mosques are often left to each mosque's management board, which is appointed by MUIS.11
Initially, the minimum monthly contribution was S$0.50 per person, regardless of salary level.12 Due to increasing construction costs, the rate was revised to S$1 a month in 1977.13 After the MBF merged with the Mendaki Fund in 1984, the minimum contribution became S$1.50. This rose to S$2 in 1991 due to an increase in the Mendaki component of the fund. In November 1995, higher contribution rates were introduced for those earning more than S$1,000 a month. The revision in contribution rates was required to meet the needs of the growing Muslim population, and the rise in education and building construction costs.14 The contributions are used to fund the building and upgrading of mosques, religious education initiatives, as well as Mendaki’s programmes.15
Mosque Upgrading Programme
Introduced in 2009, the Mosque Upgrading Programme (MUP) was launched to renovate and improve existing mosques, increase prayer spaces, and incorporate barrier-free accessibility provisions for the convenience of congregants.16
Expanded use of funds
On 17 November 2008, the AMLA was amended in parliament to expand the use of the MBMF to include the upgrading of old mosques, and the enhancement of education at madrasahs (Islamic schools) such as through curriculum improvement, information technology services and teacher training.17 It was also announced that in line with the expanded usage, monthly contributions to the MBMF would increase by between S$0.50 and S$5 in order to raise an additional S$3 million a year. The increase took effect in 2009.18
This decision to increase the contribution rates was controversial, largely due to concerns over the channelling of part of the funds to madrasahs. In order to assure the Muslim community that the funds would only be utilised to finance pertinent projects, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Yaacob Ibrahim issued an official statement that the accounts of the MBMF would be subjected to external auditing and that funding outcomes would be closely monitored. MUIS would also make public the financial statements of the Joint Madrasah System at the end of each financial year, as well as publish online the land and construction costs for each MBMF mosque. Similarly, to alleviate public concerns, madrasah fees were raised to ensure that parents bear a bigger share of the cost of rejuvenating the madrasah education system.19
Nurhaizatul Jamila Jamil & Sharon Teng
1. “The Building of Mosques: Mosque Building Fund,” Postimperial and Postcolonial Literature in English, accessed 4 August 2016.
2. “About: Background,” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, accessed 4 August 2016. 3. Postimperial and Postcolonial Literature in English, “Building of Mosques.”
4. Zul Othman, “Spending Wisely; MBMF Accounts to Be Externally Audited; Funding Closely,” Today, 18 November 2008 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, Strengthening Institutions Empowering Community: Annual report 2015 (Singapore: Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, 2016)
5. Mosque Building & Mendaki Fund, “About.”
6. Anthony Green, Continuing the Legacy: 30 Years of the Mosque Building Fund in Singapore (Singapore: Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, 2007), 42, 54–55. (Call no. RSING 297.355957 GRE)
7. Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “About”; Green, Continuing the Legacy, 43, 45.
8. Green, Continuing the Legacy, 46; Parliament of Singapore, Budget. Ministry of Social Affairs, vol. 34 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 21 March 1975, cols. 754–56.
9. Parliament of Singapore, Administration of Muslim Law (Amendment) Bill, vol. 34 of Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 19 August 1975, cols. 1190–96; Administration of Muslim Law Act, Cap 3, The Statutes of the Republic of Singapore, 2009, rev. ed.
10. Green, Continuing the Legacy, 46, 48, 55.
11. Postimperial and Postcolonial Literature in English, “Building of Mosques.”
12. Postimperial and Postcolonial Literature in English, “Building of Mosques”; “Why Is There an Increase to the MBMF Contribution Rates?” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, accessed 1 August 2016.
13. Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “Increase to the MBMF Contribution”; Green, Continuing the Legacy, 48.
14. Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “Increase to the MBMF Contribution.”
15. “Who Benefits from MBMF?” Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, accessed 4 August 2016.
16. Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “Mosque Building: The Impact,” accessed 4 August 2016.
17. Zakir Hussain, “Changes to Muslim Fund Passed,” Straits Times, 18 November 2008, 29 (From NewspaperSG); Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “Who Benefits from MBMF?”
18. Hussain, “Changes to Muslim Fund Passed”; Othman, “Spending Wisely”; Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, “Increase to the MBMF Contribution.”
19. Othman, “Spending Wisely.”
The information in this article is valid as at August 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.