DUBAI // Charitable donors are being urged to look beyond mosques, the traditional beneficiaries of the endowments known as awqaf, when deciding where their money should go.
They should consider supporting schools, clinics and those with special needs, says the head of the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation. Another priority is the provision of an orphanage.
Dubai has hundreds of mosques but no home for children who have lost their parents, said Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, the foundation's secretary general.
The foundation, part of the Dubai Government, acts as a charitable trust, collecting the endowments, investing the money and using the proceeds in the manner selected by the donor. The endowments are made in accordance with Islamic law.
Awqaf is not mentioned in the Quran but are referred to in some hadiths, which are the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.
"With awqaf, the first thing that comes to everybody's mind is a mosque and we want to change that," said Mr Al Rais.
"We want to invite them here and go through it with them so they can make the right decision about where the community needs their assistance."
The foundation has five awqaf accounts - mosques, health, education, social and general.
"Out of the returns on investments last year and the year before, and this year, 80 per cent goes back to be spent on the mosques," Mr Al Rais said.
"I have just 20 per cent in the other four funds. In 2010-11 we transferred Dh44 million to be spent on the maintenance and salaries of the employees of the 250 mosques that we are responsible for. I'd like to see people put more into the other funds."
He stressed that he did not wish to reduce the value of the mosque fund but raise the others up to the same level.
Donors can contact the foundation, whose experts advise on how endowments can best be used to help the community.
"We want to urge people: if you want to do something, please call us, we'll give you solutions."
He added that "we need clinics, we need schools, hospitals, an orphanage. We need money in the social fund, the general fund and the education and health funds.
"You want to help the community? We'll help you to help the community - that's our responsibility."
The foundation received a large endowment last week, and the proceeds will be channelled into the general fund.
The largest single endowment received to date was Dh20m given by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor to provide apartments in Al Quoz for people on low incomes.
Mr Al Rais revealed he was expecting to receive an even larger amount within the next few weeks.
He said it was not only the rich who could make a difference with their donations, and some endowments came from non-Muslims.
In one case, a huge sum was collected from the community in small amounts to fund a project.
"Nobody came and gave me Dh10m. No, this was Dh200s and Dh500s, and 1,000 and 5,000 and 10,000 … and we collected Dh60m.
"If you have a dirham that you can spare, we would be more than happy to take it off your hands.
"Once you've taken money out your pocket and you want to spend it on somebody else, someone you don't know, that's the most dear thing."