Sultan Awards Outstanding Religious figures
By Hj Ahmed Shaheeb & Aziz Idris

His Majesty consented to honour Pehin Khatib Haji Mustafa bin Haji Murat and Haji Hamdani bin Haji Garif with Imam Excellence Award and Bilal Excellence Award respectively during the national Israk Mikraj celebration 1431 Hijrah at the International Convention Centre in Berakas yesterday.

Pehin Khatib Haji Mustafa of Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque has served 27 years with the Mosque Affairs Department. He is well respected for his vast knowledge and experience, as well as unwavering commitment in carrying out his duties as an imam.

The imam has also organised a number of activities and religious programmes to enliven the atmosphere of the mosque in bid to propagate the Islamic faith.

When asked on the importance of the award, Pehin Khatib Haji Mustafa said, "I hope that this will motivate other imams to perform their duties earnestly."

He also advised them to strive to improve their recitation during ibadah for the benefits of their congregations.

He added, "I'm honoured to be presented with the award. (And) I (would) be judged by Allah."

Meanwhile, Haji Hamdani has been serving the Mosque Affairs Department for eight years, and is now based in Sultan Sharif Ali Mosque, Sengkurong.

He said it is the top priority for both imams and bilals to be present at the mosque most of the time, so as to prepare for prayer times and other duties.

He also lauded the Department of Mosque Affairs, under the Ministry of Religious Affairs, for their continuous effort in organising workshops to better the pronunciation in the summon of Azan, including recital of verses during prayers.

"We must all do our part in protecting and continuing devotion to our ibadah," he added.

In addition to the awards, Pehin Khatib Haji Mustafa also received a cash prize of $10,000, while Haji Hamdani received a cash prize of $5,000.

They also each received an honorary certificate, souvenir and first-class health benefits at any government hospital in the country. - Borneo Bulletin (11th July 2010)