The 500 Most Influencial Muslims – 2009

18 12, 2009

Grand Mufti makes the top ten

December 18th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

South Africa punches above its weight in the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.

JOHANNESBURG – The list of top 500 most influential Muslims has just hit our shores. South Africa has a couple in the list, while Africa makes a good showing. The infamous Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden didn’t even make the top 50 though.

The list stops counting at 50. It’s probably too hard to discern between the guy at position 456 and position 457. Looking at the top 50, South Africa doesn’t feature, but Africa takes positions three and ten.

To break into the top 500, a Muslim has to be in the top 0.00003% most influential muslims worldwide. South Africa has 2.4% of that select group. We’re batting above our weight category as SA only has 0.048% of the world’s Muslims.

South Africa manages to get 12 of the 500. They are:

Hashim Amla
In 2004 he became the first South African cricket team player of Indian descent

Zain Bhika
South African singer-songwriter and pioneer performer of nasheed songs

Zeinoul Abedien Cajee
CEO of the National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa

Prof Farid Esack
Professor at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. After the end of apartheid rule in South Africa Nelson Mandela appointed him to the position of Gender Equity Commissioner

Ferial Haffajee
Haffajee is editor of the ‘Mail and Guardian’

Maulana Igshaan Hendricks
President of the Muslim Judicial Council of Cape Town

Sheikh Seraj Hendricks
The Mufti of Cape Town. One of the highest authorities on Islamic scholarship in South Africa

Naeem Jeenah
He is a progressive Muslim activist and an international solidarity activist currently working with the Freedom of Expression Institute in Johannesburg

Professor Ebrahim Moosa
Political writer for the Cape Times

Shafiq Morton
Award-winning journalist, photographer and presenter of the current affairs programme ‘Drivertime Show’ on the Muslim radio station Voice of the Cape

Ebrahim Patel
Current minister for economic development of South Africa and a former spokesperson for Cosatu

Dr Imtiaz Ismail Sooliman
Founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation. It is the largest disaster relief organisation of African origin on the African continent

Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda, is just a name on the list under the “Radicals” section. He doesn’t make the top 50.

He is described in the list as “the son of a wealthy Saudi businessman. The leader of Al Qaeda, he is considered the most wanted man internationally for several terrorist attacks-the largest of which were the September 11 attacks in New York City, that resulted in the deaths of 3 000 civilians.”

The Leader of Hamas Khaled Mashaal, however, is rated 34th, so more influential/important than Bin Laden.

For those wondering, a Mufti is the highest official of religious law in a Sunni Muslim country.

Table 1: The top 20 most influential Muslims in the world.

1. His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

2. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei,
Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran

3. His Majesty King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco

4. His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

5. His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey

6. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id al Sa’id, Sultan of Oman

7. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani, Marja of the Hawza, Najaf

8. His Eminence Sheikh Al Azhar Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of the Al Azhar University, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Mosque

9. Sheikh Dr Yusuf Qaradawi, Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars

10. His Eminence Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a, Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt

11. His Eminence Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Aal al Sheikh, Grand Mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

12. Mohammad Mahdi Akef, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood

13. Hodjaefendi Fethullah Güllen, Turkish Muslim preacher

14. Amr Khaled, preacher and social activist

15. Hajji Mohammed Abd al Wahhab, Ameer of the Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan

16. His Royal Eminence Amirul Mu’minin Sheikh as Sultan Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto

17. Seyyed Hasan Nasrallah, secretary general of Hezbollah

18. Dr KH Achmad Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia

19. Sheikh Salman al Ouda, Saudi scholar and educator

20. His Highness Shah Karim al Hussayni, The Aga Khan IV, 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims


18 12, 2009

Ten Indians among 500 most influential Muslims in the world: Georgetown University List

December 18th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

The list of 500 most influential Muslims in the world had hit headlines in India due to the names of some celebrities. Though such lists shouldn’t be taken too seriously, still, they do evoke interest.

Many of these influential persons include monarchs and sheikhs of middle-east apart from heads of religious organisations and sects. Some of them haven’t made much impact on public consciousness across the globe but have influence in their own countries and territories.

However, like most lists that draw criticism and commendation at the same time, the Georgetown University’s selection comprises a number of Muslim scholars, professionals, thinkers, doctors, experts in various fields et al.

Importantly, the highest number of Muslims included in the list are from United States of Ameria [71] followed by Britain [32]. The countries together make for over 100 personalities. And this is the positive aspect of the listing. The rankings are only for the top 50.

Of the 10 Indians in the list the head of the Dawoodi Bohra communit Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, former President Abdul Kalam, Islamic scholar Wahiduddin Khan and preacher Zakir Naik are the notable ones.

The names of Shahrukh Khan and AR Rahman, who have also been included in the list, were splashed in papers because of their celebrity status. Others are Maulana Mahmood Madani, Asghar Ali Engineer, Syed Ameen Miyan Qadri and Ahmad Sheikh Abu Bakr.

There are 16 persons from Pakistan including Abdus Sattar Eidhi. Even Bilawal Zardari has found a place. The list has Muslims from almost every country ranging from Canada to New Zealand.

Countries that make up for most personalities in the list inlude Iran 25, Saudi Arabia 24, Egypt 23, Turkey 20, Indonesia 15, South Africa 12, Morocco 11, Iraq 11, Jordan 10, Lebanon 10, Palestine 10 and France 5. Rest of the countries have less than five persons each in the list.

There are biographies of the personalities making it to the top 50. All the 500 persons have been categorised as scholarly, administrative, political, preachers, women, lineage, youth, philanthropy, art & culture, media and even radicals.

There are around 45 women. Though one can name many other individuals that have greater impact, the 2009 edition of the list, which is the first, and would become an annual feature, seems to be an interesting exercise.

Read the entire list here. The photos add to its attraction.
Urdu Muslim India Islam Poetry Religion Hindu Shairi Ghalib Literature Ada Lucknow Meer Faiz Indian Muslim Blog Cricket Ghazal Blogger Islamic Hindi Kavita Shayar Sahitya


17 12, 2009

Two locals named among most influential Muslims

December 17th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

A retired University of Waterloo professor emeritus and a Kitchener native have been named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.

The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, based in Amman, Jordan, last month listed Mohamed Elmasry and Ingrid Mattson among our planet’s most influential Muslims.

Mattson, a Kitchener native who became a Muslim in 1987, is president of the Islamic Society of North America — the largest organization serving Muslims the United States and Canada.

She is also a professor of Islamic studies at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn.

Mattson is listed among the most influential Muslim women for her work as an academic and chaplain as well as for being the first woman, and first convert to Islam, to serve as the North American group’s president.

“I am humbled and embarrassed,” Mattson wrote in a recent email after returning from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

“I know that there are many, many Muslims across the world who are extraordinarily more courageous and exemplary as they serve their communities — especially Muslim women in Afghanistan, Thailand, China, Iraq, etc.  

“Many people might not know their names, but God certainly knows what they are doing and they inspire me.”

Elmasry, a longtime professor in the electrical and computer engineering department at the University of Waterloo, was included for his work as a scholar and as the founder and former president of the Kitchener-based Canadian Islamic Congress.

“It is an honour to be selected . . . I always love what I do, hoping that I can make a difference,” Elmasry wrote in an email to The Record. “Now I am still an active researcher and involved in alternative media as one of the founding editors of the (online) e-weekly The Canadian Charger.”

He is listed among four Canadian Muslims who are scholars in various fields.

John Esposito, a prominent scholar of Islamic studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., served as one of the chief editors of the compilation.

Statements on The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre websites say it’s an independent non-governmental research institute working to “protect, preserve and propagate traditional, orthodox, ‘moderate’ Islam.”

It’s the first time the centre has compiled the list. For the complete list of 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, visit the centre’s websiteat


14 12, 2009

The 500 most influential Muslims of the world?

December 14th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

The Amman, Jordan-based Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in collaboration with the Prince Alwaleed BinTalal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Georgetown University, Washington DC, has issued a list of 500 most influential Muslims in the world.

The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre is an off shoot of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought which launched the Amman Message in November 2004 in a bid to reach a broad definition of who is a Muslim. The Amman Message, unanimously approved by Muslim scholars, attempted to describe what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent Islam and what actions do not?

To reach a precise definition of who is a Muslim, the Amman Message recognized the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shi’a and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic Theology (Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism (Sufism), and of ‘true’ Salafi thought. Based upon this definition it forbade takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims. The Amman Message also set forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas (Islamic rulings), thereby restricting ‘ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam.’

The 500 Most Influential Muslims is an extension of the Amman Message. The Editors of the list have not given any criteria for choosing an influential personality but the list unveils a pattern and agenda behind the selection.

“The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” is the title of the 202 pages book that contains the names and introduction of these personalities. The list is Edited and Prepared by Ed Marques and Usra Ghazi. Prof John Esposito and Prof Ibrahim Kalin served as the Chief Editors of the project.

The first chapter of the book sets the tone of the enterprise. The introduction of Islam is taken from the writings of the Italian Muslim scholar, Vincenzo Olivetti, the author of a controversial book: Terror’s Source: The Ideology of Salafism and Its Consequences.

Echoing the Rand Corporation’s arbitrary division of 1.5 billion Muslims into four categories (Fundamentalists, Traditionalists, Modernists and Secularists), the authors divided Muslims into three broad ideological categories i.e. Traditionalists, Moderates and Fundamentalist. Not only that, they also provided a specific percentage of the Muslims belonging to each category. According to the authors, 96% Muslims are Traditionalists, one percent Moderates and three percent Fundamentalists. No source is given for this important and specific data.

The authors describe the Traditional or orthodox Islam, to which 96% Muslims belong, as non-politicized Islam, largely based on consensus of “correct opinion.” The Traditionalist Muslims include the adherents of all the Sunni and Shi‘a sects as well as the Ibadi sect. The followers of Islamic mysticism (Sufism) or mystic brotherhoods are also included in this category.

The Islamic Fundamentalism, to which three percent Muslims adhere, has been described as “highly politicized religious ideology popularized in the 20th century through movements within both the Shi‘a and Sunni branches of Islam—characterized by aggressiveness and a reformist attitude toward traditional Islam.” The authors include in this category the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Ikhwan Al Muslimeen, Wahabis or Salafis as well as the adherents of the “revolutionary Shi’a ideology” of the late Imam Khomeini of Iran.

Islamic modernism is described as a reform movement that started in the 19th century by politically-minded western-educated Muslims who had “scant knowledge of traditional Islam.” They blamed the technological weakness of the Muslim world on the ‘traditional Islam’ and called for a complete overhaul of Islam, particularly the Islamic law (sharia) and doctrine (aqida).

After setting in the broad outlines of the project the authors divided the 500 personalities into 15 categories: Scholarly, Political, Administrative, Lineage, Preachers, Women, Youth, Philanthropy, Development, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, Media, Radicals, International Islamic Networks and Issues of the Day.

Let us analyze the first 50 most influential Muslims which are profiled in detail in the list that includes Muslim rulers, two elected leaders, sect leaders, scholars, well-known Muslim religious leaders (Ulema) as well as a lay preacher.

A glance of the list indicates that the authors have political considerations in mind. The first two choices are telling and confirm beyond any doubt this argument. King Abdullah Ben Abdul Aziz tops the list while Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran is named as the second top Muslim leader. In this way both top Sunni and Shia political leadership has been accommodated.

At the same time the five other autocratic Muslim rulers are included: King Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id of Oman, Emir Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Sultan Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III of Sokoto.

Only two elected Muslim leaders are included in the list: President Abdullah Gül of Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Surprisingly, two Generals also found place in the list: General Mohammad Ali Jafari, Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

The three Shia sect leaders included are: Imam Mohammad bin Mohammad al Mansour, Imam of the Zaidis; Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismailis and Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhannuddin, 52nd Imam of Bohras. The list also names the prominent Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani, Marja of the Hawza, Najaf.

The Barelvi and Sufi leaders: Sheikha Munira Qubeysi, Leader of the Qubeysi Movement of Syria; Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse, Leader of Tijaniyya Sufi Order of West Africa; Sheikh Mehmet Nazim Adil al Qubrusi al Haqqani, Leader of Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order of Cyprus; Abdullah ‘Aa Gym’ Gymnastiar, Indonesian Naqshbandi Preacher and Professor Sayid Ameen Mian Qaudri, Barelwi Leader and Spiritual Guide of India.

Sunni religious leaders: Sheikh Al Azhar Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of the Al Azhar University; Mohammad Mahdi Akef, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood; Dr Yusuf Qaradawi, Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and Hajji Mohammed Abd al Wahhab, Ameer of the Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan.

Grand Muftis: Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a, Grand Mufti of Egypt; Sheikh Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Aal al Sheikh, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Sheikh Professor Dr Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Political parties leaders: Seyyed Hasan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah (Lebanon); Khaled Mashaal, Leader of Hamas (occupied Gaza); Dr Achmad Hasyim Muzadi, Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest socio-religious party Indonesia; Dr M Din Syamsuddin, Chairman of Muhammadiyya, the second largest socio-religious party of Indonesia; Dato’ Haji Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, Religious Guide of the Islamic Party of Malaysia; Maulana Mahmood Madani, Secretary General of Jamiat Ulemae-Hind, India and Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh.

Muslim scholars: Sheikh Salman al Ouda of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Dr M Sa’id Ramadan al Bouti of Syria; Sheikh Mohammad Ali al Sabouni of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad al Tayeb, President of Al Azhar University Cairo; Pakistan’s Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, deputy chairman of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Deputy-Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars of Qadrawi; Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic Studies professor at George Washington University, USA and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Founder of Zaytuna Institute, California, USA.

Moderate religious leader/preacher: US-based Hodjaefendi Fethullah Güllen, Turkish Muslim Preacher. London-based Amr Khaled is enlisted as a lay Preacher and Social Activist. Interestingly, once British cabinet secretary and one of Tony Blair’s closest aides Sir Andrew Turnbull, intended to seek Amr Khaled’s aid in furthering the British government’s agenda regarding Muslims.

Abdul Qader Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program finds a place in the first top 50 personalities. However, in introducing Abdul Qader Khan, the authors have unwittingly borrowed western terminology to describe Pakistan’s nuclear bomb as “Islamic Bomb.” We never hear “Jewish Bomb” for the Israeli nuclear bomb, “Hindu Bomb” for the Indian nuclear bomb, “Confucius Bomb” for the Chinese and “Christian Bomb” for the nuclear bombs of France, Russia, U.K and USA.

The list of the so-called ‘Radical Muslims’ is surprising. It includes Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri. If Osama Bin Laden is considered as one of the most influential personality then probably he should top the list because of a wide-spread impact of his personality on the Muslim world. Ironically Osama’s half brother, Bakr bin Laden, is honored in the category of Development. Bakr is the chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group, a sizable multinational construction company with operations in Saudi Arabia and over 30 countries — making him an increasingly influential power broker in Saudi business capital.

Among the Muslim political leaders is President Hamid Karzai, who was recently re-elected in a controversial election and whose writ does not extend beyond his presidential palace. Pakistan Army’s Chief of Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani is named as the most influential figure, although now Pakistan has a democratic setup with an elected president and prime minister.

The seven-million strong American Muslim community is delighted to see the names of 71 American Muslims in the list while one of them, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the founder of California-based Zaytuna Institute, is listed in the first 50 most influential Muslims. Many are astonished with this choice since Keith Ellison, the first American Muslim Congressman or President of the Islamic Society of Northern America (ISNA), Ingrid Mattson, are probably the most popular and influential in the American Muslim community. Congressman Keith Ellison is accommodated in the list of political leaders and also listed in the ‘list of Honorable Mentions.’

The officials of three major Muslim civil rights groups – Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are included in the list while other major civil rights groups such as American Muslim Alliance (AMA), American Muslim Voice (AMV), Muslim American Society (MAS) and the United Muslims of America (UMA) have been ignored.

The United Muslims of America (UMA) is one of the oldest American Muslim organizations, established in 1982. One of its founding President, Dr. Islam Siddiqui, was appointed by President Clinton as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and President Obama has appointed him as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the US Trade Representative. Ironically in the list of political leaders there are only two entries i.e. Congressman Keith Ellison and Rashad Hussain, who is appointed as the Deputy Associate Counsel to the president by President Barrack Obama.

The American Muslim Alliance (AMA) was established in 1992 with a mission to encourage Muslim participation in political parties and the electoral process. In the 2000 elections the AMA President, Dr. Agha Saeed, played a key role in a bloc Muslim vote to the Republican Party presidential candidate, George Bush. Dr. Saeed is also the Chairman of the American Muslim Taskforce, an umbrella organization comprising 12 major American Muslim civil advocacy groups.

The American Muslim Voice (AMV), headed by Samina Faheem Sundas, is relatively new civil rights/peace group but its grassroots is widely recognized by mainstream civil rights and interfaith and peace groups. The AMV along with over thirty diverse peace partners organized sponsored a vigil and iftar (fast breaking) outside the White House on September 11, 2009, on the 8th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks. This was the first time that any American Muslim group organized such a vigil in Washington DC.

The Muslim American Society (MAS), launched in 1992, is another major American Muslim civil rights group currently led by Mahdi Bray who once served as a liaison with President Bush’s White House Faith-Based Initiative Program. Bray is a National Co-convener of Religions for Peace – USA. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Alliance and the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

The authors of the book have used an arbitrary figure (without giving any source of information) of 4.5 million for the American Muslims while according to a CAIR study of 2000 the American Muslim population is estimated between six and seven million. Based in part on that report, most media organizations, as well as the White House and the State Department, have said that there are at least 6 million Muslims in the country. However, the PEW Research Center’s one million dollar agenda-driven survey of American Muslims in 2007 said that the population of the American Muslim community is no more than 2.35 million. Tellingly the PEW figure is closer to the estimates announced by the American Jewish Committee in October 2001. The AJC study – titled Estimating the Muslim Population in the United States – claimed that the best estimate of Muslims in the United States is 2.8 million at most. The 2007 PEW survey, just like the AJC report, was another desperate attempt to discount the role and undercut the influence of American Muslims. For more about the issue of American Muslim demography, please read: Hidden agenda of PEW Center’s million dollar survey of American Muslims

The famous Roman Consul Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, Cui bono – To whose benefits? Let the maxim of Cassius apply to the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims of the World.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine the American Muslim Perspective: email:


14 12, 2009

“I’m a proud Indian first” – Shahrukh Khan

December 14th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Georgetown University in USA has come out with a list of 500 of the world’s most influential Muslims, including Shahrukh Khan, former Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam, and composer A R Rahman. A chat with SRK on how he feels about being in that list:

Buzz up!
How do you feel on being the only one from the entertainment world being selected in the top 500 besides A R Rahman?
I don’t think a list of this nature is of a competitive type to feel proud about. It’s not about a list of awards that I have won. I am a Muslim by birth and because of the kind of cinema I do, I assume must be influencing lives of people across the world. I have been actively working in the film industry for 18 years and my work has gone across the world, my films and done well in many places including Germany, Poland, Dubai, USA, Morocco and South East Asia. People know me well because of my films but I never felt that I was different. I’m in the field of mass communication and am doing my work. That’s it.

Why do you feel you were chosen?
I think it could be because of the kind of films I do. I try to do films that have variety and are about goodness and hope. They give a direction to a life. I have done films on romances to patriotic dramas like Chak De! and funny entertainers like Om Shanti Om — films that try to give a kind of positive message to people. I hope in this I am able to influence the lives of many, especially youngsters and children. It’s about giving some kind of direction to their lives. Like I might tell my children to study hard or teach them how to lead a good life.

What do you feel is your contribution as an educated liberal Muslim in the world today?
These are categories I am not comfortable with as I don’t think I have done much to justify the tags. Though I am very proud to be a Muslim and an educated and liberal one at that, I am immensely proud to be Indian. I have very strong views on religion and how people should behave but that’s about it. I just do my work. I truly believe your work defines you. I am not a social activist. I spend time with my family. At the most, I teach my kids to do namaaz and pray to Allah. Maybe I have given neat and clean hits which has given me money and fame but for me it’s been like a good regular job. I have chosen to do cinema which has a very positive impact and that’s what influences people and gets me the tags.

Your next film is My Name Is Khan. Do you feel it’s a more international film which should be seen by all and will have a far-reaching influence?
I have never been a strong advocate for global cinema because I don’t think our films turn the tide around though my directors and distributors feel otherwise. Having said that, I will add that MNIK is a very special topic about humanity in the garb of a Muslim character. The basic tenet of any religion — be it of Allah, God or Bhagwan — is that you have to be a good human being and Khan in MNIK is one. The way Karan has handled his love story in a dramatised form is amazing. It’s a love story where the character has to overcome obstacles in the path of love and that obstacle is the world view. How he overcomes that to win his love is what MNIK is about. The film is made on a large canvas and made larger with Fox coming on board. The subject material is adapted in terms of humanity in a very entertaining way. And with Karan, the best filmmaker in India today directing the film and Fox distributing it — the message of love, the way it has been shot internationally and the way of releasing it, might have all the possibilities of an international release. It’s going to be released in a way no Hindi film has been released internationally before with mega prints and the trailer releasing with Avatar in a first of its kind.

To you, who’s the most influential person in the world?
Like every movie star’s influence changes with every B-O release, I think even across the globe people’s influence changes. Today, there is not just one global influence but a collective of influences. I don’t believe the world can be run by one influential person right now. The world has become too intelligent to be demarcated by one person. It’s the good thoughts of many. Like Bill Gates, Mukesh Ambani, Obama are very influential and wonderful in their field of work but collectively, they are fantastic.

To you, what is true power or influence?
For me, in means to be able to affect people in a positive manner and bring a smile on their faces. It should be able to affect young minds in a good sense.


14 12, 2009

SRK among 500 most influential Muslims in the world

December 14th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Being one of the most successful stars in Bollywood brings with itself loads of accolades and awards. This time Shah Rukh Khan finds himself in the august company of former Indian President Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam and Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman. The trio have been included in the list of The 500 most influential Muslims in the world released by Georgetown University, USA.

The actor has been included in the ‘Arts and Culture’ segment of the list and has been lauded for ‘campaigning for better relations between India’s Muslim and Hindu communities’.


12 12, 2009

Kalam, Shah Rukh in most influential Muslims list

December 12th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

NEW DELHI: In a first of its kind survey of the world’s most influential Muslims, Georgetown University has come out with a list of 500 among

whom are prominent Indians like former President A P J Abdul Kalam, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan and music maestro A R Rahman.

What, however, has come as a surprise is the choice of an Urdu professor at Aligarh Muslim University for his propagation of moderate Sufi views in a region being blighted by jihadi terror.

Professor Sayid Ameen Mian Qaudri, ranked 44 on the list, is a “leader of a South Asian Sufi movement based in a volatile region where religion has been used as a platform for violence”, the editors said in their comment.

Another interesting selection is that of Maulana Mahmood Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and MP, who has campaigned against Islamic terror. “Madani has been outspoken in his opposition to the misuse of the term ‘jihad’ as a tool of terrorism in India,” the university said justifying the highest rank — 36 — given to him among his compatriots on the list.

Noted Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer, leader of the progressive Dawoodi Bohra movement, finds space for his “take on Islam and contemporary issues”.

Another choice for the ‘scholarly’ category is spiritual leader Wahiduddin Khan, hailed by the volume as “Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world”. His approach, it is pointed out, is “popular among Indians, both Muslim and non-Muslim”.

Interestingly, the list, which features Osama bin Laden, Maulana Masood Azhar and Hafiz Mohammad Saeed among the ‘radicals’, has focused on the moderate faces of Islam from India. Zakir Abdul-Karim Naik is another such Islamic teacher included for promoting understanding about Islam.

Recalling Kalam’s role in India’s weaponisation programme as scientific adviser to the government, the editors said, “This moved India from being a state with nuclear technology to a state with nuclear weapons.”

An Indian who figures among influential media personalities is Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria. Selected from the US, Zakaria is acknowledged as one of America’s “foremost public intellectuals”.


11 12, 2009

AMU Professor ranked World’s 44th most influential Muslim

December 11th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Aligarh: Professor Saiyed Mohammad Ameen Mian Qadri of the Urdu Department at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has been ranked the 44th most influential Muslim in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of the Georgetown University, USA.

The Prince Al-Waheed Bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University has published a new book entitled the 500 most influential Muslims in the World 2009. It has ranked the Professor as 44th most influential Muslim in the World.

Professor Qadri is a leader of the Indian Barelvis and a Sajjada Nasheen or Sufi disciple of the Khanquah-e-Barkatiya, Marehra sufi tradition which stems from the Qadriyyah tradition of eminent Sufi master Abd al Qadir al Jilani.

He is also the leader of a South Asian Sufi movement. It thrives as an active and socially engaged mystical movement. The Barelvis are an apolitical group that emphasizes social cohesion and spiritual upliftment.

He is patronizing a large number of institutions of modern and oriental tradition, has written several books on Urdu literature, and translated various books on mysticism.

Prof. Ameen is the founder of Albarkat Educational Institutions and under its aegis several institutions are run.


5 12, 2009

Azizah Publisher Chosen as ‘Influential Muslim’

December 5th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Tayyibah Taylor didn’t believe it when she learned that she was named as one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims.

“It was a complete surprise, and it wasn’t anything I applied for,” said Taylor. She is the publisher of Azizah, a Muslim women’s magazine based in Atlanta.

Taylor was one of 72 U.S. Muslims listed in the new book, “The 500 Most Influential Muslims – 2009.″ The book was funded by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, a think tank in Amman, Jordan, and co-edited by Georgetown University professors John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin.

“This is the first report of its kind that has been done. They didn’t notify me, there was no awards ceremony, no monetary prize, but of course being a part of such a great list is worth so much more,” Taylor said.

The report identifies 500 prominent Muslims in 15 fields, such as scholarship, politics, philanthropy, development, science and technology, arts and culture, and media.

Esposito, director of Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, said undertaking the project was important because it introduced people to Muslim leaders around the world. “There are more than the Muslims famous because they are heads of countries or are wealthy, but there are also Muslim writers, Nobel laureates, philanthropists,” he said.

Taylor said the report is a testament to the great contributions of Muslims, especially American Muslims. “Some people still have horrible images of Muslims,” she said, “but this is definitely a way to transform the stereotypical image.”

But Taylor also said that being recognized was a reflection of the magazine and the strength of Muslim women everywhere.

The perception in the Muslim world is that all Muslims in America experience discrimination, said Taylor. In the Western world, she said, people think all Muslim women are “oppressed and have no freedom.”

Azizah magazine is undoing these misconceptions.

“For centuries,” Taylor said, “the stereotype was that Muslim women were defined by Muslim men or a non-Muslim, but Azizah magazine gives the opportunity for the Muslim woman to define herself.”

Founded in 1999, with a current international circulation of 40,000, Azizah magazine was inspired by an international Muslim women’s conference Taylor attended in Chicago in 1992.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic to encapsulate all of this power, experience in a magazine … a vehicle for our voices?’ People don’t know about the intellectual, spiritual and social contributions we have. I wanted to share this with the world,” she said.

The magazine’s content reflects the diverse experiences and strengths of Muslim women. “It isn’t just ‘how to find a husband,’” Taylor asserted.

Azizah magazine was the recipient of the 2009 New America Media ethnic media award for best reporting on environmental issues. The series, entitled “Color Me Green,” highlights environmental consciousness in Islam and environmental leadership by Muslim women.

According to Esposito, the report on influential Muslims will be released each year and include committees of researchers to ensure that key Muslim leaders from around the world are recognized for their work.


3 12, 2009

The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2009

December 3rd, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

DEC 3 — The past couple of weeks has shown that Malaysians are featured in the “500 most influential Muslims in the world” list. The research categorised influential people into 15 categories — depicting the source of influence, among others, Scholarly, Political, Administrative, and Lineage. It is interesting to note that Women is also in one of the categories.

The research done by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC) of Jordan exerted that influence is hard to be quantified, thus those who are in the top 50 position are monarchs, religious scholars, or leaders of religious networks.

It also exerted that geography played a vital role in determining how influential someone is. Let’s say you are a religious scholar living in the Middle East, you are more likely be more influential than those living outside the region. North America and Europe are homes to many influential Muslims, considering the number of high-ranking institutions situated in these regions.

You are probably aware that the RISSC has placed Tuan Guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat, at the 42nd position in the list.

Other Malaysians on the list are Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri (Women), Zainah Anwar (Women), Prof Dato’ Dr Osman Bakar (Scholarly), Anwar Ibrahim (Political), Mohideen Abdul Kadir (Development), Prof Dr Mohd Hashim Kamali (Scholarly) , Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Political) and the nasheed group, Raihan (Arts and Culture).

It is also noted that only the top 50 is ranked. The other 450 appear unranked. But, there are 12 names that appeared in a list  said to have an influence, compared to the top 50 people.

I can’t help but wish to put into context the 42nd name on the list, make some commentaries on the relevance of the list on  the Muslimah’s movement in Malaysia, and track some trends on the future of influence/popularity in the Muslim world in the coming years. These are my interests, among other things that I too wish to write on.

Without any royal connections, being far from the Middle East, and not in command of a big oil reserve under his feet, I would say number 42 is quite something. I try to differentiate between two subjective things — influence and popularity. You have Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan at number 46 — A Pakistani Nuclear Scientist — the father of ‘Islamic Bomb’ who made Pakistan into a Muslim country with nuclear weapon.

Osama bin Laden made into the list — as a radical. I believe he is more popular than our own Tuan Guru, but in this case RISSC made him less ‘influential’.

I do believe however RISSC has considered popularity as one of the most important aspects to denote influence. Amr Khaled for who is at 14th place in the list is an example of this. A televangelist whose website said to rival Oprah Winfrey’s, Amr Khaled has been ranked as the 13th most influential person in the world by Time magazine.

Now it gets harder to quantify influence and popularity.

Said to have source of influence in the Administrative, Political and Scholarly  spheres, — Tuan Guru Nik Aziz is written in the book as a Spiritual Leader of the largest political party in Malaysia. The RISSC also added that he is a “spiritual leader of Malaysian Islamic politics, and holds very important sway over the tenor of politics in the nation” — I can’t help but agree, he really deserves the spot.

Tuan Guru Nik Aziz is always in the middle of controversies. But at every turn, one can learn something from his method of handling problems — by employing two of the most important Islamic elements, which are the spiritual and intellectual. He is a teacher to both his rivals and his friends.

In the time of writing, the 42nd most influential Muslim in the world is asked to resign his position.

It is not a surprise when two members of Sisters in Islam (SIS) made it to the list under the Women category. Zainah Anwar and Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri are both members of the movement, and being in the list is proof that despite the many critics hurled towards SIS, the world community is beginning to accept them. Musawah, a Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family, which was launched on February 2009, has been initiated by SIS, indicates just how sophisticated the movement is.

Prof Amina Wadud who was a lecturer in International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) between 1989 and 1992 also made it to the list in the same category as an influential Muslim in the United States.

However, not a single first lady of this Muslim country however, made it to the list. Turkey has Hayrunnisa Gul — the first First Lady in Turkey to wear the hijab. I begin to have a secret wish that the next person who becomes the first lady in the future, will also have an influence on the Muslimahs of the country and beyond. A good influence, I mean.

This shows that the Malaysian Muslimah Movement is not far from being influential, but the many criticism hurled their way, can’t help but makes me think if there is truth that Muslim women in Malaysia don’t speak their minds, or are they wrong to making SIS as a representative of the Malaysian Muslimah.

But then, who is the most influential women in the Muslim world? Number 31 — Syeikha Munira Qubeysi — is a leader of a women only Islamic movement. She is an educator, and she has more than 75,000 students.

The Malaysian Muslimah Movement has alot to learn from her. Meanwhile, critics have to do better. They should wipe-out inaction from their vocabulary. And there is a lot to be done, when there are only 43 women in the 500 long list.

Revisiting Amr Khaled at number 14, there are a lot of reasons to see why he was given this spot. He owns the most popular personal website in the world with 20 million regular users, 232,219 fans on 79 Facebook groups, and 2 million hits on 200 Youtube videos. He makes everything seems possible to the average person.

At number 19, we can see supervisor, Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda. IslamToday.Com has 2000 daily hits. Sheikh Salman is also featured in many TV appearances, with global reachability.

These are ‘ordinary people’ who have major influence in the Muslim world. The list boasts royalties, grand muftis, spiritual leaders, presidents and head of nations. It seems that you and I have a shot here — by hosting a website that caters to many. But you can always opt to follow the footsteps of Osama or Obama — the latter accused as a Muslim, and does is not given a place in the list.

Whatever it is, the media is playing a very important role in the new age. Whether you own one or you opt for the alternative, is beside the point. Having both however, is one of the strategies that media giants adopt. CNN for example, being an old media agency, provides a personal touch by making their newscasters active on Twitter.

In the next 10 year, the list will have to consider the influence made on the youths of today. Influence and popularity tend to be similar in the new world. You are said to have an influence if people are able to look you up easily on Google, able to communicate with you through the various social networks, that you have plenty of connections with important people, for instance those who have a say in the Parliament, and that you are listed in Wikipedia.

While it is getting more subjective to quantify influence today, the published list helps. Fellow Muslims may look at it and see that there are people out there doing real work to help better the world, and they are Muslims. They can be proud of people featured, and also have faith that they can do something major, even though they are inside the Muslim community — assumed to be restrictive by many who do not understand Islam.

Others can have a look on the list and track the trends of Muslims, and where they are heading. They can identify who are the ones representing Islam in their community and learn from them.

The list has shown that there is a very thin line separating popularity and influence. The Issues of the Day category however, compensates the subjective “popularity equals influence” equation. The category boasts names that are involved in the recent issues in the world of today — I might even say this is where the real work is being done, though it may have either good or bad influence.

RISSC welcomes everyone to contribute to the list next year by sending emails to them. The list will become something to look forward to in the coming years, though I now wish that there will also be a list on “Muslims of the year”. The subjective influence/popularity can be put out of the equation — and those who really did contribute something, those that matter in the Muslim world made it to the list.

Hilman Nordin is a reader of The Malaysian Insider.


24 11, 2009

Recep Erdogan is Number Five Influential Muslim

November 24th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is number five of world’s most influential Muslims according to issued list of most influential Muslim personalities.

The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World is a first of its kind published by the Prince Al-waleed Bin Talaal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding of Georgetown University, Washington DC in conjunction with the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan.

According to the list, Turkish Prime Minister is next after Saudi King Abdullah, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the King of Morocco Mohammed, and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Main criteria for listing were the influence of listed persons both in their own countries and on the world stage.

Twenty Turkish persons made the list including Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul (number 28) and U.S.-living Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen (number 13).

Turkish papers say Erdogan is the only top-seeded leader who has been elected by democracy way. The Justice and Development Party, headed by Erdogan, was named as ‘aggressive adherent of the secular values with conservative-democratic slant’. Abdullah Gul was named as the ‘first Turkish president with Islamic past.’


21 11, 2009

Azerbaijani president included in “500 most influential Muslims of world” book

November 21st, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was included in a book “500 most influential Muslims of the world,” the International Institute of Islamic Thought reported.

The book, which lists the 500 most influential people in the Muslim world and was published under the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, underscores that Aliyev is the leader of the country, whose population follows the basis of the moderate Islam and which is the active member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Caucasus Muslim Spiritual Leader, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh is another representative from Azerbaijan in this list.

The book also includes Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s President Abudulla Gul, Saudi King Abdullah Ibn Saud, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Sultan of Oman Kabus ben Said, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the spiritual leaders of Iran, the rulers of the Asian Muslim countries.


20 11, 2009

Indonesians Make a Mark As ‘Influential Muslims’

November 20th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

Notable Indonesian figures, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, made it into “The 500 Most Influential Muslims — 2009,” a book that lists and provides short biographies of outstanding Muslims from the fields of politics, religion, women, the media and radicalism.

The book, edited at Washington’s Georgetown University, is the first in what is planned to be an annual survey of top Muslim personalities worldwide.

Having steered Indonesia toward a strong democracy while working toward eradicating terrorism, Yudhoyono made the list’s most influential in the political category.

Gus Dur was also mentioned in the same category, as the cleric who rallied against the formation of an Islamic state in Indonesia.

Scholar Azyumardi Azra, a prominent Indonesian academic who serves as advisor to the vice president, was also included on the list.

Indonesians who made it into the top 50 were Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama, who ranked 18th on the list.

Abdullah “AA Gym” Gynastiar, Indonesia’s most popular preacher, ranked 48th.

Indonesian women also made their mark.

Tuti Alawiyah, the nation’s former women’s empowerment minister, is dean of As Syafi’iyah University, Indonesia’s oldest institution of Islamic education. Siti Musdah Mulia, who chairs the women’s arm of the NU, helped produce the Counter Legal Draft, aimed at revising the Islamic legal code on the banning of polygamy and child marriages.

Lily Zakiah Munir, the only woman and sole Muslim to serve on the monitoring commission for the Afghan elections, is founder of the Center for Pesantren and Democracy Studies, an organization that educates Islamic boarding schools about rights and political participation.

Maria Ulfah, the first woman to win the international Qur’an recitation competition, serves as director of the women’s department at the Institute for Qur’an study in Indonesia.

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, considered the philosophical leader of the terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, made it in the radicals category.


19 11, 2009

The world’s most influential Muslims?

November 19th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

A list of the 500 ‘most influential’ Muslims in the world has left me confused, and not just because my name isn’t there

I was in Cairo International Airport earlier this week, scrolling through Facebook to see what my friends were up to, when I saw Shahed Amanullah had updated his status to say he was one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world.

I followed his link (pdf) to see who or what constituted influence these days. The result was a strange mix of clerics, dictators, terrorists and billionaires. It’s a fascinating document – all 202 glossy pages of it – and comes complete with a potted guide to Islam and a handy league table to show which country has the highest success rate.

“We have strived to highlight people who are influential as Muslims, that is, people whose influence is derived from their practice of Islam or from the fact that they are Muslim,” says the introduction.

Influence is a tricky concept, it continues, and in a variety of different ways each person on this list has influence over the lives of a large number of people on the earth.

“The 50 most influential figures are profiled. Their influence comes from a variety of sources; however they are unified by the fact that they each affect huge swaths of humanity.”

The above provide the overarching criteria for selection but there are more than a few anomalies. A quick glance reveals that being good and being influential are not mutually exclusive – Adnan Oktar makes an appearance. Not being observant presents no barrier to inclusion either as I was always under the impression that Zaha Hadid is an atheist.

Dave Chapelle is also on the list. Dave Chapelle? Have they seen his R Kelly skit? The writer and comedian has never confirmed whether he is Muslim or not, so the judging panel might as well have included Ronnie O’Sullivan as one of the 500. But if you’re talking about affecting “huge swaths of humanity” then surely Osama Bin Laden should be at the top spot? He isn’t. It’s King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah is custodian of the two Holy Mosques so he has a position of responsibility, but influence? The following paragraph is more revealing: “King Abdullah reigns over a land of massive crude oil reserves, Saudi Arabia has approximately 25% of the world’s proven oil reserves, making him a key player in the global petroleum industry.”

Bin Laden is on the list – as a radical. Funny, I thought he was a terrorist. This chapter is reserved for “infamous individuals [who] have incredible influence on vast amounts of people, often cited for heinous acts and controversial statements made from their platforms of authority.”

Alarm bells also ring over the lack of women featured. They get a separate section from the men. Too many of the top 50 are either heads of state, which automatically gives them an advantage when it comes to influence, or they have inherited their position. Lineage is a significant factor – it has its own category – and the predisposition to include children of important people reveals a mindset that indicates achievement is an optional extra.

There are some spot on assessments. Khamenei’s decisive role in geopolitics is undeniable. Erdogan’s position is also accurate. But this ambitious exercise seems more than a little inconsistent and ill-judged.


17 11, 2009

POLL: The world’s top 500 Muslims? Read and vote

November 17th, 2009|The 500 Most Influencial Muslims - 2009|

If you’ve ever been confused by Muslim names you read in the news or unsure who’s important in the Islamic world, help is near. A new book entitled “The 500 Most Influential Muslims – 2009″ lists prominent Muslims from different fields — politics, religion, women, media, even radicals — with informative short biographies explaining who they are. It starts with an overall “top 50″ list and then surveys the most prominent Muslims in their fields.  Here it is in PDF.

The book, edited by Professors John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin at Georgetown University in Washington, is the first in what is planned to be an annual survey of the top Muslim personalities around the world. It’s a joint effort by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Esposito is director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center and Kalin is spokesman for the Common Word dialogue initiative we’ve written about on this blog before.

As the editors say in their introduction: “Influence in the Muslim world is particular to its context. There is not a clear hierarchy or organised clergy for Muslims to identify a leader, such as a patriarch for Orthodox Christians or a pope for Catholics.” They took a mix of factors into account in working out their top 50 list and have even asked readers to send in suggestions for next year’s list. You can vote for your candidate for “most influential Muslim” in the poll at the bottom of this post.

(UPDATE: The online poll has been closed after more than 1.8 million votes but comments are still open. See the results below.)

abdullahSo who are the world’s most influential Muslims, according to this book? Here are the top 10:

1. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, custodian of the two Holy Mosques
2. Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
3. King Mohammed VI, king of Morocco
4. King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
5. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of the republic of Turkey
6. Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id al Sa’id, sultan of Oman
7. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani, Marja of the Hawza, Najaf
8. Sheikh Al Azhar Dr Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, grand sheikh of the Al Azhar University, grand imam of Al Azhar Mosque
9. Sheikh Dr Yusuf Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars
10. Sheikh Dr Ali Goma’a, grand mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt
(Photo: Saudi King Abdullah, 17 Nov 2009/Philippe Wojazer)

A few initial comments about these 10 andthe other 40 ( check the PDF for the full list):

– Lots of kings and sultans crowding the top of the full list, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan the highest elected politician (5th). “Influential” is clearly interpreted broadly here, including political, religious and other types of influence.

– The first solely religious leader is Iraq’s  Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani (7th), and even he has political power behind the scenes.

–  Fethullah Gülen, who won an Internet poll on “the world’s top public intellectuals ” in Foreign Policy magazine last year apparently thanks to a click-in campaign by his supporters, still comes a strong 13th.

– The heads of  Hezbollah (Seyyed Hasan Nasrallah, 17th) and  Hamas (Khaled Mashaal, 34th) are also listed.

– The highest-ranking American (and highest-ranking convert, it seems) at 38th place is Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder of the  Zaytuna Institutein Berkeley, California. Right after him comes the highest-ranking European, Sheikh  Mustafa Ceric, grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

aqkhan– Even  Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani scientist behind Islamabad’s nuclear program who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, gets ranked (46th).
(Photo: Abdul Qadeer Khan, 28 Aug 2009/Mian Khursheed)

Beyond the top 50, there are chapters on leading Muslims in different fields but no ranking. So Osama bin Laden is there under “radicals,” Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) under “arts and culture” and microcreditor Mohammad Yunus under “development”. There are short essays on Islam and the Muslim world. All in all, an excellent reference work.

What do you think? Who is the most influential Muslim in the world? To give us your own view, enter the name of your choice into the box below. The poll will automatically tally the answers and produce a top 10 according to the number of votes each person receives.