Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsubeaei (1915 – 2017)
A journey of poverty and wealth
In November 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, posthumously bestowed Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsubeaei with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering role in the global development of the Islamic economy, particularly the Islamic finance industry.
The story of Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsubeaei, who passed away in August 2017 at the age of 102, is relatively unknown outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but is nevertheless an inspirational journey – a portrait of a man who, in turbulent times, overcame great hardship to achieve immense success.
Born in 1915 in the town of Unayzah, Mohammed Alsubeaei lost his father at the tender age of eleven. The death of his father had a seismic impact on Mohammed Alsubeaei, who felt morally responsible to support his mother and younger brother Abdullah despite his very young age.
Alsubeaei subsequently left his home and education to work for his uncle Nasser in the holy city of Makkah, where merchants from across the Islamic world gathered for trade and commerce. He vividly remembered his first journey to Makkah in his book: “…the trip was tedious, the road long, and the water scarce. We reached a well called Al-Atimah, near Al-Dawadimi, whose water was muddy, but we drank it anyway, because we could find no other.”
Working up to sixteen hours a day, Mohammed Alsubeaei’s first job entailed carrying water to his uncle’s home as well as doing odd jobs in his shop. Through his integrity, maturity, and hard work, he secured more lucrative employment, working in the construction industry as a clerk and an inspector before fortuitously meeting his first business partner, Sulaiman Bin Ghunaym.
This first venture, a shop in Al-Judriah which specialised in thawbs and cotton goods, marked his first commercial success and the beginning of his illustrious business career. Gradually, money exchange developed as a promising business opportunity and this eventually became Mohammed Alsubeaei’s main profession. In 1938, Alsubeaei and his brother established the Mohammed and Abdullah Ibrahim Alsubeaei Company for Money-Changing and Trade.
The currency exchange marked his formal entry into the financial services industry, and by the early 21st century, his company – Mohammed Alsubeaei & Sons Investments Company (MASIC) – had grown to become amongst the largest private investment institutions in Saudi Arabia. The company’s assets under management have doubled in the last few years, and its overseas investment portfolio has grown exponentially. MASIC has investments spread across growth sectors such as financial services, real estate, agricultural (aquaculture), manufacturing, industrial and retail and was the pioneer behind several Islamic financial companies, including: Bank Al Bilad, Fajr Capital, and Jadwa Investment.
Despite his significant business achievements, Mohammed Alsubeaei will be remembered, first and foremost, for his dedication to charitable causes and helping the less fortunate. Alsubeaei was known across the Kingdom for his compassion and benevolence, with a poignant motto: “May I be able to extend blessings to others as God has blessed me.”
Mohammed Alsubeaei instilled a strong sense of social responsibility in the company. This is epitomized by the establishment of the Mohammed & Abdullah Alsubeaei Charity Foundation, which in the fourteen years since its inception, has donated generously to support humanitarian, religious, cultural, and social projects in the Kingdom and is an active member of the King Abdulaziz and Associates Foundation for Sponsoring the Gifted. He was also a founding member of both the Charitable Organisation for Caring for Orphans and the Charitable Organisation for Caring for the Disabled, and many others. However, known for his modesty, Mohammed Alsubeaei often stated that he preferred not to talk about his charitable endeavors except from the standpoint of encouraging others to do the same.
Full of hope and ambition, Mohammed Alsubeaei, in his quest for success, was guided by his faith: “For those who fear God, He prepares a way, and He provides in a way one cannot imagine.” His life’s values were reflected in everything which he did in his personal and professional life, and were built around his faith. Nowhere was this more evident than during the holy month of Ramadan where Mohammad Alsubeaei sat at the gate of the holy Kaaba with his brother Abdullah and their children and grandchildren between the Asr and Maghrib, praying for peace and prosperity for all of humanity. In an era where so much emphasis is placed on public persona and wealth accumulation, Mohammed Alsubeaei was a humble man who exhibited true Islamic values to create successful businesses and serve the communities he was so proud to call his own.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) grant the respected Mohammed bin Ibrahim Alsubeaei’s soul peace and admit him among his most righteous servants in Jannat ul Firdous and may Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) guide his family to follow in his footsteps and be an inspiration to the Ummah. Ameen.