Oct 12 A group of Islamic endowments, or awqaf,
and the Dubai government have launched an international
organization tasked with improving investments made in the
sector, the founding members said late on Tuesday.
The Awqaf International Organization (AIO) aims to
coordinate commercial efforts of sharia-compliant charitable
foundations from around the globe, to give them economies of
scale and improve profitability.
Awqaf receive donations from Muslims around the world to
operate social projects such as mosques, schools and welfare
They have amassed huge holdings of real estate, commercial
enterprises and other assets, which according to a Dubai
government estimate total $1 trillion globally.
"It is crucial that we consolidate our efforts to manage and
invest awqaf assets, capital, and returns in a sharia compliant
manner," said Imad Kaddoura, secretary general of Awqaf Canada,
one of the founding members of the AIO.
Management of some awqaf assets has been criticised as
inefficient, with money often tied up in property or bank
deposits that earn miniscule or even zero returns, imposing
economic costs on local economies.
The AIO would help awqaf customize initiatives according to
geographies to achieve maximum social impact, said Zeinoul
Abedien Cajee, national coordinator of Johannesburg-based Awqaf
The body has also been tasked with recommending unified
templates for legal frameworks and overseeing applications of
sharia standards in accounting, reviewing, and governance, said
Husain Benyounis, secretary general of Awqaf New Zealand.
Dubai first announced the initiative in 2013, as part of
efforts by the emirate to expand in several areas of Islamic
business, from banking to the processing of halal food.
The founding members include awqaf from South Africa,
Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and the emirates of
Dubai and Sharjah.
(Reporting by Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by Eric Meijer)