The 500 Most Influential Muslims
The cover of the 2009 edition
|Author||John L. Esposito, İbrahim Kalın, Usra Ghazi, Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding|
|Series||1st Edition (2009)|
2nd Edition (2010)
3rd Edition (2011)
4th Edition (2012)
5th Edition (2013/14)
6th Edition (2014/15)
7th Edition (2016)
8th Edition (2017)
9th Edition (2018)
10th Edition (2019)
|Publisher||Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Createspace|
|January 16, 2009|
|Media type||Online, print|
The 500 Most Influential Muslims (also known as The Muslim 500) is an annual publication first published in 2009, which ranks the most influential Muslims in the world.
The publication is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan. The report is issued annually in cooperation with Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in the United States.
The publication highlights 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. Nominations are evaluated on the basis of the influence that particular Muslims have had within the Muslim community and the manner in which their influence has benefited the Muslim community, both within the Islamic world and in terms of representing Islam to non-Muslims. "Influential" for the purposes of the book is defined as "any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim World".
The publication defines eligible entries with the following: "Traditional Islam (96% of the world's Muslims): Also known as Orthodox Islam, this ideology is not politicized and largely based on consensus of correct opinion—thus including the Sunni, Shi'a, and Ibadi branches of practice (and their subgroups) within the fold of Islam, and not groups such as the Druze or the Ahmadiyya, among others."
The book starts with an overall top 50, ranked the most influential Muslims in the world. The remaining 450 most prominent Muslims is broken down into 15 categories without ranking, of scholarly, political, administrative, lineage, preachers and spiritual guides, women, youth, philanthropy/charity, development, science and technology, arts and culture, Qu'ran reciters, media, radicals, international Islamic networks and issues of the day. Each year the biographies are updated.
The publication also gives an insight into the different ways that Muslims impact the world and also shows the diversity of how people are living as Muslims today. The book's appendices comprehensively list populations of Muslims in nations worldwide, and its introduction gives a snapshot view of different ideological movements within the Muslim world, breaking down clearly distinctions between traditional Islam and recent radical innovations.
The 500 most influential Muslims were chosen largely in terms of their overt influence. The top 50 is dominated by religious scholars and 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. The top 50 fits into six broad categories as follows: 12 are political leaders (kings, generals, presidents), four are spiritual leaders (Sufi shaykhs), 14 are national or international religious authorities, three are "preachers", six are high-level scholars, 11 are leaders of movements or organizations.
The book has given the first place to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. Second place went to Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran. King Mohammed VI of Morocco found third place and King Abdullah II Al-Hussain of Jordan occupied fourth place. Fifth place went to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The first solely religious leader is Iraq's Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in seventh place. Fethullah Gülen came 13th. The heads of Hezbollah; Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah listed 17th and Hamas Khaled Mashaal listed 34th.
The highest-ranking American (and highest-ranking convert) at 38th place was Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder of the Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, California. Right after him comes the highest-ranking European, Sheikh Mustafa Cerić, grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In total 72 Americans are among the 500, a disproportionately strong showing. Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad) was the highest ranked British Muslim, in an unspecified position between 51st and 60th, considerably higher than the three other British people who made the list – the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi; the UK's first Muslim life peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed; and Dr Anas Al Shaikh Ali, director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought.
The women featured had a separate section from the men. There were only three women listed in the top 50. Sheikha Munira al-Qubaysi (number 21), an educator of girls and women; Queen Rania of Jordan (number 37), who promotes global education; and Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned of Qatar (number 38), who is chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.
The listing also includes an extensive Arts and Culture Section. The general Arts and Culture Section included the names of singers Salif Keita, Youssou N'Dour, Raihan, Yusuf Islam and Sami Yusuf, Dawud Wharnsby; musician A. R. Rahman (India); film stars Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan; comedian Azhar Usman and martial artist Ma Yue. All the Qāriʾs (Quran reciters) listed in the book are from Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Policy magazine's Marc Lynch stated, "Esposito and Kalin's methodology seems strange. Any list in which the Sultan of Oman (Qaboos bin Said al Said, who was sixth) outranks, say, Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen (placed 13th) or the Aga Khan (Aga Khan IV, who was placed 20th) seems odd to this observer..."
In 2010, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz topped the list as the most influential Muslim in the world for the second consecutive year. Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei maintained second place. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan moved into third place. Jordanian King Abdullah II was placed fourth above Moroccan King Mohammed VI who moved down to fifth place.
In 2011, achievements of a lifetime were given more weight than achievements within the current year. which meant that the lists of names were going to change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year. The Arab Spring had no impact on Saudi King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's influence, it had boosted King Mohammed VI of Morocco's influence, who moved up to second place, and it had no effect on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who came in third place.
Erdoğan was expected by many to receive the top spot in light of the Arab Spring. Erdoğan was credited with Turkey's "Muslim democracy", and was seen as the leader of a country that, as the Brookings Institution said, "played the 'most constructive' role in the Arab events."
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani influence rose during the Arab Spring, moving him to sixth place. He had driven much of the Arab Spring through the coverage given by Al Jazeera, given financial support to protesters and political support to Libya, making him arguably the biggest enabler of the Arab Spring.
There were more Muslims from America than any other country again with 41 spots on the 500 list. Countries with the next highest number of names were Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, with 25 Muslims each, followed by Indonesia, with 24. It lists the winners according to 13 categories, including spiritual guides, Quran reciters, scholars, politicians, celebrities, sports figures, radicals, and media leaders.
For the fourth year running, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz topped the list. He was followed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at second place. Erdoğan's advance gave him advantage over Moroccan King Mohammed VI who took the third place. Fourth place went to Dr Mohammed Badie, whose name appeared in the top 10 for the first time. He was followed by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani who took the fifth place. Sheikh Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad el-Tayeb and prominent Islamic scholar Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi who is President of Global Association of Muslim Scholars, also made it to the top 10 ranks.
In 2013, the list was edited once again by Professor Emeritus S. Abdallah Schleifer of the American University in Cairo.
The top of the list went to Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Sheikh of the Al Azhar University for the prominent role played by him in Egypt's troubled democratic transition His astute decision making over the past couple of years has preserved the traditional approach of Al-Azhar which faced threats from Islamists and Salafis in the years that have followed Mubarak's fall. His public support of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's coup also gave it a strong religious grounding that was necessary for it to achieve the legitimacy needed to prevent a civil war, effectively making him a "king-maker" and cementing his place at the top of the list. He was followed on the listing by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud and Iranian Grand Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei.
Reflective of the wider trajectory of the Arab Spring, this year's list showed a decline in influence from Muslim Brotherhood associated figures Dr Mohammed Badie, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Coup kingpin General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who was previously unlisted now ranks at 29.
The US dominates the list again with 41 inclusions including Muhammad Ali, Dr Mehmet Oz, Rep. Keith Ellison, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and Fareed Zakaria. Representing the UK are Mo Farah, Yusuf Islam, Riz Khan, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Cambridge's Dr Timothy Winter and 18 others.
In 2014, the chief editor of the list was again Professor S Abdallah Schleifer. The top spot went back to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, due to his being the "absolute monarch of the most powerful Arab nation." The list accords him the place in light of Saudi Arabia being home to Islam's two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, which millions of Muslims visit throughout the year, as well as the kingdom's oil exports. Rounding out the top three are Dr Muhammad Ahmed al-Tayeb, grand sheikh of Al-Azhar University and grand imam of Al-Azhar mosque, and Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The top nine are all political leaders and royals, including Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The top 50 fit into six broad categories: 12 are political leaders (kings, generals, presidents), four are spiritual leaders (Sufi shaykhs), 14 are national or international religious authorities, three are "preachers", six are high-level scholars, 11 are leaders of movements or organizations. In total 72 Americans are among the 500 most influential Muslims, a disproportionately strong showing, but only one among the top 50, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson of Zaytuna Institute listed at number 38.
In 2015, the top 50 was again dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. The top five, was King Abdullah of Jordan; Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of Egypt's Al-Azhar University; King Salman of Saudi Arabia; Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and King Mohammed VI of Morocco. Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan came in at Number eight, but surprisingly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not make the Top 50 this year or last, though he is still listed in the 500. The prime minister of Iraq did not make the list, but Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani did, coming in at number nine.
There was 32 newcomers to the 2016 list. 22 Indians featured on the list. As in past years, there continued to be more Muslims from the United States than any other country. Since at least 2012, the U.S. has outpaced nations with a far larger Muslim population, with at least 40 notable people of influence, with Pakistan (33), Saudi Arabia (32), Egypt (27) and the UK (27).
Current top ten
|Rank||Change||Name||Citizenship||Age||Image||Occupation||Source of Influence||Influence||School of Thought||Previous rankings|
|January 1, 1946||Grand Sheikh of the Al-Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque||Administrative||Highest scholarly authority for a majority of Sunni Muslims, runs the foremost and largest Sunni Islamic university with close to 400,000 students.||Traditional Sunni||25 (2009)|
7 (2010) 18
8 (2012) 1
1 (2013/14) 7
2 (2014/15) 1
|2||1||King Abdullah II of Jordan||
|January 30, 1962||King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan||Political, Lineage||King with authority over approximately 7 million Jordanians and outreach to Traditional Islam. Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem.||Traditional Sunni||4 (2009)|
7 (2012) 3
4 (2013/14) 3
|3||King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud||
|December 31, 1935||King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques||Political||King with authority over 26 million residents of Saudi Arabia and approximately 14 million pilgrims annually.||Moderate Salafi||Unlisted (2009)|
|4||Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei||
|July 17, 1939||Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran||Political, Administrative, lineage||Supreme Leader of 77.7 million Iranians.||Traditional Twelver Shi‘a, Revolutionary Shi'ism||2 (2009)|
3 (2010) 1
5 (2011) 2
6 (2012) 1
3 (2013/14) 3
|5||King Mohammed VI of Morocco||
|August 21, 1963||King of Morocco||Political, Administrative, Development||King with authority over 32 million Moroccans.||Traditional Sunni, Maliki||3 (2009)|
5 (2010) 2
2 (2011) 3
5 (2013/14) 2
|6||16||Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani||
|October 5, 1943||Deobandi leader||Scholar||Leading scholar of Islamic jurisprudence who is considered to be the intellectual leader of the Deobandi movement.||Deobandi||27 (2009)|
31 Unlisted (2010) 4
32 (2011) 1
25 (2013/14) 7
19 (2014/15) 6
22 (2016) 3
|7||2||Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani||
|August 4, 1930||Marja' of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq||Scholarly, Lineage||Highest authority for 21 million Iraqi Shi‘a, and also internationally as religious authority to Usuli Twelver Shi‘a.||Traditional Twelver Shi‘a, Usuli||7 (2009)|
8 (2010) 1
10 (2011) 2
13 (2011) 3
8 (2013/14) 5
7 (2014/15) 1
9 (2016) 2
|8||Recep Tayyip Erdoğan||
|February 26, 1954||President of the Republic of Turkey||Political||Leads government of 75.7 million Turkish citizens.||Traditional Sunni||5 (2009)|
2 (2010) 3
3 (2011) 1
2 (2012) 1
6 (2013/14) 4
8 (2016) 2
|9||14||Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah||
|1935 (age 83–84)||President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies||Administration of Religious Affairs, Scholarly||Leading contemporary scholar of Islamic Jurisprudence.||Traditional Sunni, Maliki||30(2009)|
31 (2011) 1
29 (2012) 2
23 (2013/14) 6
20 (2014/15) 3
23 (2016) 3
|10||Amir Hajji Muhammad Abd Al Wahhab||
|1923 (age 95–96)||Leader of the Pakistan chapter of the Tablighi Jamaat||Administration of Religious Affairs, Scholarly||Leader of an international organization with chapters in 120 countries and annual conferences that attract million.||Hanafi, Deobandi||15 (2009)|
16 (2010) 1
17 (2012) 1
13 (2013/14) 4
10 (2014/15) 3
Previous top ten entrants
|Rank||Change||Name||Citizenship||Age||Image||Occupation||Source of Influence||Influence||School of Thought||Previous rankings|
|11||5||Qaboos bin Said al Said||
|November 18, 1940||Sultan of Oman||Lineage, Political, Development||Leader of 4 million citizens and residents of Oman.||Traditional Ibadi||6 (2009)|
9 (2011) 3
12 (2011) 3
9 (2013/14) 3
8 (2014/15) 1
6 (2016) 2
|12||5||H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan||
|March 11, 1961||Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces||Administration of Religious Affairs, Philanthropy, Charity and Development, Political||Military and political leadership.||Traditional Sunni||22 (2009)|
18 (2011) 4
15 (2012) 3
10 (2013/14) 5
9 (2014/15) 1
7 (2016) 2
|31||1||Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi||
|September 9, 1926||Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars||Scholarly||Leading scholar for global Muslim Brotherhood movement, host of Ash-Shariah wal-Hayat on Al Jazeera with 40 million viewers worldwide.||Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi||9 (2009)|
14 (2010) 5
13 (2011) 1
16 (2013/14) 3
31 (2014/15) 15
32 (2016) 1
|48||33||Hodjaefendi Muhammet Fethullah Gülen||
|April 27, 1941||Turkish Muslim preacher and founder of the Gülen movement||Scholarly||Figure of spiritual and social leadership for millions of Turkish Muslims and others around the world.||Traditional Sunni||13 (2009)|
15 (2011) 2
10 (2011) 5
11 (2013/14) 1
14 (2014/15) 3
15 (2016) 1
|55||39||Sheikh Ali Gomaa||
|March 3, 1953||Grand Mufti of The Arab Republic of Egypt||Scholarly, Political||Legal authority for 87 million Egyptians.||Traditional Sunni, Shafi‘i||10 (2009)|
12 (2011) 2
14 (2013/14) 2
15 (2014/15) 1
16 (2016) 1
|Top 450||Dr Mohammed Badie||
|August 7, 1943||Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood||Administrative, Political, International Islamic Networks||Leader of a transnational movement in Egypt and across the Middle East, Africa, the United Kingdom, and United States.||Sunni, Muslim Brotherhood||Unlisted (2009)|
8 (2011) 4
4 (2012) 4
36 (2013/14) 32
Top 450 (2014/15) 414
Top 450 (2016)
|Unlisted||450||Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani||
|January 1, 1952||Emir of Qatar||Political, Administrative, Lineage, Philanthropy||Political leader of over 1.5 million residents of oil-rich Qatar.||Moderate Salafi||Unlisted (2009)|
6 (2011) 15
5 (2011) 1
Top 450 (2014/15)
Top 450 (2016)
|Unlisted||President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono||
|September 9, 1949||President of Indonesia||Political, Development||Leader of 233.5 million citizens and residents of Indonesia.||Traditional Sunni||Unspecified (2009)|
11 (2011) 2
9 (2011) 2
7 (2013/14) 2
|Unlisted||Deceased||King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz||
|August 1, 1924 – January 23, 2015 (aged 90)||King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques||Political, Administrative, Lineage||King who had authority over 26 million residents of Saudi Arabia, 2.4 million Hajj pilgrims and approximately 14 million Umrah pilgrims annually.||Moderate Salafi||1 (2009)|
2 (2013/14) 1)
1 (2014/15) 1
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