EXCLUSIVE: Islamic charity run by lawyers has bank account frozen after probe launched into finances
INQUIRY: Zain Siddiqi giving a lecture (YouTube)
AN ISLAMIC charity run by two lawyers has had its bank account frozen as a probe has been launched into its finances and the content of its lectures.
The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into The Suyuti Institute, based in Birmingham.
The charity is run by two trustees Shaykh Zain Siddiqi, 44, and Affifa Kiran, 32, who are solicitors at Saints Solicitors LLP, which shares the address of the charity.
The institute says its aim is to advance the Islamic Faith through education and distributing literature, but complaints were received about the content of a lecture given by a trustee, who has not been named by the commission.
SCHOLAR: The late Shaykh Abdul Wahab Siddiqi (YouTube)
Mr Siddiqi is from a family of scholars and was taught by his late father, Shaykh Abdul Wahab Siddiqi, who set up the Hijaz College and University, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, where he now lectures.
On the Hijaz College website, Mr Siddiqi is described as "the Head of the Naqshbandi Hijazi Spiritual Sufi Order" and it says "many thousand of people in over 34 countries have pledged their spiritual allegiance to him."
According to Mr Siddiqi's Facebook page he has travelled the globe giving lectures on Islam for the past 19 years.
A Charity Commission spokesman said: "Concerns were raised with the commission about a lecture given by a trustee of the charity and whether the content of that speech was appropriate and furthered the charity’s purposes."
The commission is refusing to confirm if the concerns about the lecture relate to Islamic extremist content.
TRUSTEE: Afifa Kiran (Facebook)
While investigating, the government regulator of charities uncovered concerns about finances within the charity and potential conflicts of interest.
The spokesman said: "As a result of these concerns the regulator met with the trustees and conducted a visit and books and records inspection at the charity.
"At the visit, the commission learnt that the charity had taken over a private trust linked to one of the trustee’s late mother, which included all of its assets and liabilities.
"The commission has specific concerns relating to the management of conflicts of interest and whether the trustees have acted in the best interests of the charity to accept the assets and liabilities of the private trust.
"The commission is also concerned that this decision has exposed the charity to significant financial risk."
The inquiry will examine the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees, to establish whether charity laws have been complied with, whether there has been any private benefit to the trustees of the charity, if the trustees operated the charity in the public interest, and whether there has been misconduct and/or mismanagement by trustees.
An order to freeze the bank accounts of the charity was made on January 18.
According to the charity's website and social media, it provides "a unique and unprecedented platform that has been providing advanced learning in the sacred sciences of Islamic law and theology."
FOUNDER: The late Shaykh Abdul Wahab Siddiqi outside the Hijaz College he founded (Facebook)
Charity Commission records show that the institute is currently two months late in filing its last required annual accounts for 2016.
It was four and five months late respectively with its two previous years' accounts.
In 2014 it raised more than £115,000 and spent just around £4,700, but in 2015, the charity's income was just £13,000, of which it spent around £8,000.
Saints Solicitors, which avoided compulsory strike off action by Companies House in 2013 and 2014, is currently more than a month overdue in filing its annual accounts for 2016.
Mr Siddiqi is also a trustee of two Warwickshire-based charities Hijaz Community Trust and Jamia Islamia Trust, which are connected to the college.
We tried to contact Miss Kiran and Mr Siddiqi through contact numbers for the charity and the solicitors but got no response.