December 4, 2009
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The Amman, Jordan-based Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in collaboration with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Georgetown University, Washington DC, has issued a list of 500 most influential Muslims in the world.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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
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.
elected Muslim leaders are included in the list: President Abdullah Gül of Turkey and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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.
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,
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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.'
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 http://www.amperspective.com/html/hidden_agenda_of_pew.html
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.
Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine the American
Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com
Author and journalist.
Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality;
Islam in the Post-Cold War Era;
Islam & Modernism;
Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America.
Currently working as free lance journalist.
Executive Editor of American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com