• In 1977, Hanafiah became Director General of Tabung Haji, the Pilgrimage Management and Fund Board. Knowing from past encounters with fellow Malaysian pilgrims, especially those from rural areas how many needed support so they need not scramble for food and accommodations, HANAFIAH expanded Tabung Haji’s activities to help these pilgrims.
  • He made the Tabung Haji into an effective “people’s organization” with 69 branches throughout the country coordinating the issuing of passports, visas and health documents, and organizing briefings for the pilgrims. Their travel to Saudi Arabia, from air transport to board and lodging and any need for travel information and health services were also supported by Tabung Haji. Ten years after Hanafiah took the helm of Tabung Haji, the vast majority of Malaysia’s pilgrims—nearly 25,000 annually—were availing themselves of its comprehensive services.
  • Public confidence in the “people’s organization” saw over 1,000,000 Malaysians deposit their savings with Tabung Haji, which maintained individual computerized accounts. The growing fund was 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 investors—all in strict keeping with Islamic precepts— Tabung Haji served a secondary purpose, as a source of capital for spurring Malaysia’s progress.
  • The RMAF 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.”


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 to Jiddah, 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 pilgrims—nearly 25,000 annually—avail 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 earthen jars 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 investors—all 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 headquarters—a gleaming architectural wonder on the skyline of Kuala Lumpur—is 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.


I would like first of all to thank the members of the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for erecting me as the 1987 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service.

The late Ramon Magsaysay is regarded as a defender of the people, a president dedicated to eliminating injustice and exploitation, one who had a vision for a better future for the common man. He cared for all and wanted to ensure that the people were not squeezed or cheated by those with greater power, influence or wealth.

One of the main aims of the Malaysian Pilgrims Management and Fund Board (Tabung Haji) is to prevent the exploitation of ordinary pilgrims by middlemen—a situation which was rife during the colonial period. Since formation, Tabung Haji has been able to eliminate the middleman at all levels, help make the pilgrimage more orderly and provide better facilities for about 25,000 pilgrims each year.

Before the establishment of Tabung Haji, Muslims in Malaysia, 70 percent of whom live in the rural areas and make up the poorest section of the population, used to save for the haj by keeping their money in pillows, under the bed, in cupboards or in jars buried in the ground. These traditional methods of saving—designed to avoid having their money tainted by interest which is forbidden by Islam—were not only detrimental to the rural economy but also to national economic growth.

The government formulated a scheme to invest money put aside for the haj in business activities which are permitted by Islam. From 1,281 depositors with approximately US$20,000 worth of deposits in 1963, Tabung Haji today has over 1,000,000 depositors and assets worth some US$500,000,000.

Tabung Haji’s economic activities in oil palm and cocoa plantations, housing and industrial concerns bring benefit not only to the depositors who receive a yearly share of the profits, but also to the economy of the country, creating thousands of jobs for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Tabung Haji is not only an institution serving the needs of Muslims but the population at large.

An important lesson learned from the success of Tabung Haji is the necessity of political support and the avoidance of political interference. The Malaysian government’s support for Tabung Haji has been an essential ingredient in its success. But even more important has been its non-interference in the professional and business decisions of the board. There is no dearth of brilliant economists and planners in Asia, but lack of political support, as well as the disease of political interference, corruption and nepotism, have meant that the plans of many organizations have not achieved their target.

Members of Tabung Haji’s staff have developed an attitude of genuine respect for the dignity and importance of all who deal with the organization. They are always available to the people. The organization has been able to develop this spirit of service and dedication among its staff as we believe that public service is a trust. Of ricers of Tabung Haji regard themselves as servants of the people who have put their trust in the organization. They have eliminated bureaucratic hurdles and difficulties facing the people and made its services easily accessible to all, with minimum difficulty and cost.

To me this Award is not only an acknowledgment of the innovative and pioneering role of Tabung Haji in serving the needs of Malaysian Muslims—and of Muslim minorities in other countries in the Pacific region—in performing their religious obligations, but also of its important role in contributing to the economic and social development of Malaysia. The latter benefits both Muslims and non-Muslims.

I am indeed honored to serve as chief executive of this organization with its dedicated and loyal staff and, as a Malay, I am proud to accept this Award, which is dedicated to the ideals of one of the Malay world’s illustrious sons, the late President Magsaysay.


The constitution of the Federation of Malaysia has three interesting provisions that are pertinent to understanding the work of Dato’ HAJI HANAFIAH BIN HAJI AHMAD. Islam is recognized as the official state religion, although freedom of worship is guaranteed to all citizens. The constitution specifically charges the government to give favored treatment to Malays (the majority and indigenous peoples) in order to reverse the economic imbalance they have suffered relative to the minority populations of Chinese (34 percent) and Indians (10 percent). And in the constitution Malays are defined as Muslims, followers of Islam.

Islam (submission to the will of God) is summed up in the profession of faith: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is His prophet.” But to practice this faith Muslims must observe five rules, or “pillars.” They are in order: reciting the profession of faith; praying five times a day facing Mecca; paying the zakat, a specified tax; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and embarking upon a pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca, the holy city on the Arabian peninsula.

The last pillar, the haj, is required of any Muslim who can support himself during the journey and can arrange for the provision of his dependents during his absence. The pilgrimage ceremonies take place between the 9th and 13th days of the lunar month of Dhu al-Hijja and consist of seven times circumambulating the Kaaba, the small stone building in the center of the Great Mosque of Mecca, and running seven times between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwa. On the 9th day pilgrims journey to the Plain of Arafat where they stand together from noon to sunset for prayers and sermon. Being present at Arafat is the essential requirement of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims complete their devotional activities on the 13th day after throwing stones at the three pillars of Mina ( “throwing stones at the devil”). All Muslims hope to make the haj. Many sacrifice throughout their lives to save enough to do so and to achieve thereby the coveted title “haji,” one who has made the haj.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)