Saleh Abdullah Kamel, who passed away on Monday at the age of 79, is a Saudi billionaire businessman and the founder of one of the Middle East's largest conglomerates, Dallah al-Baraka Group (DBHC).
Kamel established the company in 1969 as a small proprietorship and grew it into a diversified international conglomerate, incorporating investments in billions in over 40 countries worldwide. DBHC has been ranked 5th among the top 100 Saudi companies for the last ten years.
Kamel is also the chairman of the General Council for Islamic Banks and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce.
He played a pioneering role in promoting Saudi Arabia as a regional economic force and Jeddah as a leading international port and hub for global commerce.
He focused on combining the efforts of DBHC and the Chamber of commerce with mega-infrastructure projects such as King Abdullah Port, the Economic City, the new railways, and the King Abdullah International Airport.
He has been called ‘the father of contemporary Islamic finance’ and has received Malaysia's Royal Award for Islamic Finance in November 2010.
He was actively involved in efforts to expand trade among member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries.
Kamel was a strong advocate of philanthropy as a powerful socio-economic development mechanism in the Kingdom.
He estimated the total value of Islamic zakat in Saudi Arabia at 1 trillion Saudi riyals and believed that such a huge amount could be used to solve many economic and social problems in the country. He said that people should pay zakat for real estate properties that have been offered for sale.
“We Muslims should understand the economic wisdom behind the system if we collect and use zakat properly for it can bring about substantial improvement in our economic conditions. If we had collected zakat from real estate property we would not have faced housing or land problems,” he told Arab News in an interview.
In 2010, his son and CEO of DHBC, Abeddallah Saleh Kamel donated $10 million to Yale University to set up the Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization at Yale Law School.
Kamel also served as a member of the boards of trustees and directors in many institutions and foundations such as the Arab Thought Foundation, King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Gifted, the international academy for info & Media Sciences, Arab Academy for Financial & Banking and the Islamic Solidarity fund.