Islamic Funds in the DIFC - 10 Leaves

  • 22-03-2020
DIFC is one of the world’s top eight onshore financial centers and offers a secure and efficient platform for businesses and financial institutions to reach into and out of the emerging markets of the region. The quality and independence of DIFC’s regulator, the prevailing common law framework, excellent infrastructure and tax efficiencies make it the perfect base to take advantage of the rapidly growing demand for financial and business services in the MENASA region.


DIFC fills the time-zone gap for a global financial centre between the leading financial centres of London and New York in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East.

Why setup an investment fund in the DIFC?

The DIFC is a leading financial hub in the region. Besides offering a wide range of financial service activities, the centre also provides an integrated environment and world-class standard of living. It is well regarded in the international community as well.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority, or DFSA, acts as the independent regulator of fund managers and investment funds setup in the DIFC, which provides a high degree of comfort to individual and professional investors. The DIFC offers both Domestic Fund Manager and External Fund Manager licenses, both of which allow for the management of DIFC Public fund, DIFC Exempt fund and DIFC Qualified Investor Fund. The DIFC Registrar of Companies (ROC) offers multiple fund structures, included open-ended and closed ended investment companies, and GP-LP structures.

With DIFC Funds, Fund Managers can target the GCC market, and the wider MENASA region, taking advantage of the numerous Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties that the UAE has in place. Zero-rate personal and corporate tax also make the DIFC an attractive destination to setup and manage investment funds.

Specific Advantages:

Here are some specific advantages of establishing in the Dubai International Financial Centre:


  • Legal framework supports cross-border activities.
  • 100% foreign ownership permitted.
  • No restriction on foreign talent or employees.
  • No restrictions on capital repatriation.


  • Zero tax for 50 years on profits, capital or assets from 2004.
  • Zero tax on employee income.


  • Highly regarded, independent regulator.
  • Independent, English-speaking, common law judicial system.
  • Distinct from the UAE legal system.
  • Risk-based regulatory approach.


  • Central to regional deal making.
  • High concentration of international firms, investment funds, wealth management firms, banks, and financial institutions.
  • World-class regional and international law and auditing firms, and other professional services.
  • The largest fund domicile in the region.


  • Management offices, holding companies and family offices are located closer to the assets they own or manage.
  • The Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) is increasingly the centre of gravity for the global economy.
  • Dubai plays a central role in the growing South-South trade, principally between Asia and Africa.
  • Well-positioned to harness the potential of emerging markets.
DIFC Islamic Funds:

Islamic funds are funds which are fully compliant with the Islamic (Sharia) principles. Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam, which is derived from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and fatwas (the rulings of Islamic scholars).

Investors, whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim, can invest in DIFC Islamic funds. Some investors may invest in Islamic funds for religious purposes. Others may look at them as socially responsible financial products, or for portfolio diversification.

Key features of Islamic Funds:

Islamic funds can make investments that comply with Sharia only - all other non-Sharia compliant investments are prohibited.

Prohibited investments may include:

  • investments in conventional financial services or instruments that make financial returns by earning interest.
  • investments in businesses that involve products or activities that are forbidden by Sharia principles. These include gambling, pork-related products, arms and defence, hotels, cinemas and genetics.
  • engaging in transactions involving speculation (such as short-selling)

A Fund Manager must be authorised by the DFSA to conduct Islamic Financial Business or an Islamic Window before setting up an Islamic Fund. Also, the Fund Manager is required to:

  • Appoint a Sharia Supervisory board to the Fund;
  • Have Sharia-compliant systems and controls;
  • Maintain Islamic business policies and procedures manuals; and
  • Obtain approvals from the Sharia Supervisory board, for the relevant fund documents.

Types of Funds:

A DFSA Islamic fund can be a Public Fund, or a Professional Fund.

Public Funds:

Public Funds are open to Retail Clients (as defined by the DIFC), and hence subject to higher levels of regulation. The other features of a Public Fund in the DIFC are:

  • No minimum subscription limit;
  • Units are offered to the general public;
  • Can have any number of unit-holders; and
  • Have to comply with IOSCO principles.

Exempt Funds:

Exempt Funds are open only to Professional Clients (as defined by the DIFC). The other features of an EF are:

  • Minimum subscription of US$ 50,000; and
  • Units are offered to persons only by way of a Private Placement.

Qualified Investor Funds:

Qualified Investor Funds are open only to Professional Clients (as defined by the DIFC). The other features of a QIF are:

  • Minimum subscription of US$ 500,000; and
  • Units are offered to persons only by way of a Private Placement.

Costs for a DFSA Islamic window:

The DFSA application costs for an Islamic Window endorsement is US$ 5,000. Sharia Boards usually cost from US$ 15,000 to vet the investment objectives and strategy of the fund, to ensure compliance with Sharia principles. Ongoing monitoring is also required, and this can add to the annual costs.

Setting up a fund structure in the DIFC:

Setting up a fund in the DIFC requires either a) setting up a Domestic Fund Manager or b) licensing an existing fund manager in a recognized jurisdiction, to act as the External Fund Manager of the DIFC fund. Read this article to know more about the licensing process and associated costs.

An Islamic fund in the DIFC will also need to appoint some service providers to carry out critical functions, such as fund administration and audits. Read this article on the different services associated with maintaining an Islamic fund in the DIFC. 

Did you know that a Private Placement Memorandum, or PPM, is the key document for DIFC Investment funds? The PPM details material information on the fund and serves as the backbone of the legal documentation involved. Read this article to know more about the documents required for setting up an Islamic fund in the DIFC.

Our services include assistance in:
1. Reviewing the fund structure and advice on the applicable regulatory framework;
2. Preparation of the Regulatory Business Plan and comprehensive financial projections;
3. Preparation of all policies, processes and manuals required;
4. Provision of Outsourced Compliance Officer and Outsourced Finance Officer services;
5. Finalising the legal structure, including holding company setup and customisation of Memorandums;
6. Preparation of complete fund documentation, including Private Placement Memorandums, Subscription Agreements and Fund Constitutions;
7. Assistance in finalisation of all service providers, including Fund Administrators, External and Internal Auditors; and
8. Finalisation of leased space, bank account opening and obtaining Financial Services Permissions.


Contact us to discuss your fund requirements today!

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