Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

Founder of first Islamic bank Saeed Lootah dies at 97

The businessman founded Dubai Islamic Bank and co-founded S.S.Lootah Contracting Company with his brother Sultan

Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Lootah, founder of Dubai Islamic Bank, died at age 97. Courtesy S.S. Lootah Group.
Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Lootah, founder of Dubai Islamic Bank, died at age 97. Courtesy S.S. Lootah Group.

Saeed Lootah, founder of the world's first Islamic bank and a prominent Dubai businessman, has died at the age of 97.

"He was a self-made merchant, with a mark on Dubai's economy," Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said on Twitter. "I have known in him a bright mind, wisdom and tranquility."

The Emirati entrepreneur set up Dubai Islamic Bank, the UAE's biggest Islamic lender, in 1975 to provide a Sharia-compliant alternative to conventional banking.

"We are deeply saddened on the passing of Haj Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Lootah, the founder of Dubai Islamic Bank. Our success and legacy of being the first Islamic Bank became a reality due to his vision and dedication," DIB said on its Twitter account.

In January, DIB completed its acquisition of Al Noor Bank, in deal that will create one of the largest Islamic banks in the world, with total assets of more than Dh275 billion.

Tributes to Mr Al Lootah poured in from across the UAE's business community over social media.

"Islamic Finance sadly lost another pioneer in Haj Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Lootah," Iqbal Khan, chief executive of Fajr Capital, said on Twitter. "We owe him and so many of our industry's giants a debt of gratitude."

Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Damac, tweeted that the UAE has "lost one of its pioneering thought leaders".

"Hajj Saeed Ahmed Al Lootah has played a pivotal role in the development of our nation, establishing a foundation for us to thrive in global economies with the creation of the first Islamic Bank. His name and contributions will remain etched in our hearts for posterity."

In addition to DIB, the Emirati businessman also established a construction company in 1956, the S.S.Lootah Contracting Company, as a joint venture with his brother Sultan.

Since then, the family-owned S.S. Lootah Group diversified into various key sectors including real estate, energy, food, hospitality, financial services, applied research, education and healthcare.

Born in 1923 in Dubai, the Islamic finance pioneer died on Sunday. His lifetime spanned sea faring in a quest for pearls to establishing various companies, societies and colleges.

A firm believer in the importance of education, he set up Dubai Medical College and Dubai Pharmacy College.

On the S.S. Lootah Group's website, the banker and philanthropist said "business exists fundamentally to serve people".

In a video highlighting his musings, he speaks about the difference in mindset between generations of traders.

"In the old days, traders were different than today. Today traders want to make money, but the early traders wanted to build up the world."

Updated: June 29, 2020 03:24 PM

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