500 Most Influential Muslims – 2011

November 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

muslim500-cover-2011-web2A new book has been released very recently (available here). 

This is the third edition of the book, which came out for the first time in 2009 and has since been updated annually.

The price of the book is $39.99, and in fact this new edition may be a must-have book for anyone writing about Islam, as it provides snapshots of many key and influential people, not to mention a snapshot of Islam itself.

There are several new qualities in this new edition.  The size and layout have been changed; there is an essay on the Arab Spring; there are quotes from the top 25 and from some others; there are statistics about the top 25 and some others; the bios have been expanded; there is an “Arab Spring box” for the top 50 to show whether the Arab Spring was a plus or a minus for each of the top 50; higher quality photography; expanded honorable mentions section, new obituaries section; updated Muslim population statistics; new maps; expanded glossary.

There is also a companion website (www.TheMuslim500.com). 

The format is improved and despite some changes in position, mostly the same people are in the book. 

Hamza Yusuf has fallen a few places.  The USA is very well represented as before.  Tariq Ramadan is among the honorable mentions but not in the top 50.

There is an excellent discussion of the major schools of thought in the book.

The book’s Introduction was written by a Muslim convert from Judaism, Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, who teaches at the American University in Cairo.  In his introduction he provides an excellent defense of monarchy based on Qur`an, ahadith, and Islamic scholarship, quoting Ghazi bin Muhammad at length, who in turned argued:  “Traditional, Orthodox Islam has always endorsed monarchy as such.”  

It is “the best – and perhaps only conceivable form of government because it can best deliver justice and adherence to God’s laws.”  Islamic Monarchy, he says, “whilst not democratic as such in the modern sense of ultimate power being derived and delivered through universal suffrage, nevertheless makes participative consultation (shura) of experts, the learned and the wise (16:43; 21:7; 4:83) incumbent on the ruler…”

Moreover, he also gives extensive time to Dr. Yusuf Ibish, who taught political thought at the American University of Beirut and who taught a “rather obscure” course on Islamic Political Thought, meaning traditional Sunni Islamic political thought of Imam Abdul Hamid Al-Ghazali” and others.  “Modern Islamic or Islamist political thought is usually a coupling of any number of 19th and 20th century Western ideologies – be they left-wing Leninist (Marxist) or right-wing Leninist (Fascist—be that hyper-nationalist or racist) or the kinder ideologies of Social Democracy (the welfare state) and Democracy blended with Islamic pieties…”

Schleifer gives these arguments in defense of monarchy into the context of the modern tumult in the Arab world and in turn argues that perhaps the grass roots efforts to topple the leadership in Egypt and Tunisia was actually not responsible for their success, but rather the interference of the armies in those two countries.

The House of Islam.  The book has a brilliantly written 10 page introduction to Islam (reprinted by permission of Vincenzo Oliveti) followed by several charts, which manages in such a brief space to define all or most of the major subsets or alternative (and sometimes complementary) models of Islam that exist until today.

This overview is followed by the “Amman Message” (see more at www.ammanmessage.com) which is a restatement of the “historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the three points of the Amman Message,” namely (1) that the four Sunni schools and the two Shi’a schools adherents are Muslim.  Calling any of those people an apostate is impossible and impermissible.  His/her blood, honor and property are inviolable.  Further, it is impossible and impermissible to declare anyone who subscribes to the Ash’ari creed or who practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate.  Further, “it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.” (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than there is difference between them.” (3) Acknowledgment of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas; no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of Islamic jurisprudence determines [for its own adherents]. No one can claim unlimited ijtihad and create a new school of Islamic thought.

After this brief but excellent introduction, the book dives into the top 50 influential Muslims.  The first, again, is His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The second is the king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI.  Third is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has gone several steps up since the issue of 500 Muslims from two years ago.  Most of the top 25 are politically powerful people.  Slipping to fifth place was Grand Ayatollah Hajj Syyid Ali Khamenei.

Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order, is listed by the book at number 48. Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse, leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, is listed at number 26.

The first scholar listed is Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al Azhar mosque.  In fact, of the top 25, eight are scholars from across the world, representing several different schools of thought.  Three are leaders of movements, including Tablighi Jamaat, Ikhwan and Hezbollah.  Sheikha Munira Qubeysi, leader of the Qubeysi movement of scholarship for Muslim women, is among the top 25

The book’s top 25 also includes Dr. Amr Khaled.

Where before (in 2009) the book seemed to sway towards political correctness, by being sure to mention a prominent Shi’a political leader after mentioning the Saudi political leader, now it seems to focus more clearly on those people that the authors consider important—although there seems to be some bias in the still very high status of Hamza Yusuf Hanson (43), disproportionate to his world stature.  While Mr. Hanson is building the Zaytuna Institute, he hardly compares with some of those ranked below him; and also does not compare with those near in proximity but above him.  Does it make sense that the president of Palestine is only seven ranks above Hamza Yusuf? Mahmoud Abbas has the capacity to move newspapers by the ton simply by saying a choice sentence.  By contrast, Hamza Yusuf Hanson’s influence is really confined to an investment in the future of traditional Muslim scholarship in the US.  Certainly his influence is not more powerful than the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who is ranked at #44, immediately Hanson’s junior.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani is listed among the top 500, as a spiritual guide in North America.

Paging through the book you will notice a huge improvement in the quality of the pictures—this book is one that is suitable to display on a coffee table.

Muslim 500 – A Listing of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World

November 17, 2009 by · 12 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

mabda500cover-v2 A fascinating new book has just been issued by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center (in Jordan) in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

The book lists the 500 most influential people in the Muslim world, breaking the people into several distinct categories, scholarly, political, administrative, lineage, preachers, women, youth, philanthropy, development, science and technology, arts and culture, media, and radicals.

Before this breakdown begins however, the absolute most influential 50 people are listed, starting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The top 50 fit into 6 broad categories as follows:  12 are political leaders (kings, generals, presidents), 4 are spiritual leaders (Sufi shaykhs), 14 are national or international religious authorities, 3 are “preachers,” 6 are high-level scholars, 11 are leaders of movements or organizations.

The 500 appear to have been chosen largely in terms of their overt influence, however the top 50 have been chosen and perhaps listed in a “politically correct” order designed not to cause offense.  For example, the first person listed is the Sunni political leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah.  The second person listed is the head of the largest Shi’a power, Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.  As these are not the two Muslim countries with the largest populations, and do not even represent the two countries with the most spiritual or religious relevance (Saudi Arabia yes, Iran no) therefore clearly the decision of spots one or two appears to have been motivated by a sense of political correctness.

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 is listed surprisingly at number 38.  The world leader of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi order, however, Sheikh Nazim al Haqqani, with millions of followers worldwide, spiritual adviser to kings, presidents, doctors, lawyers, professors and others across the spectrum of profession, race, and ethnicity on seven continents, is listed at number 49.  While Sheikh Hamza Yusuf has successfully built the Zaytuna Institute, his influence is confined mostly to American academia, scholars and students.  Surprisingly, Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, (at number 34) is listed before any American Muslim. 

It seems strange that Yusuf is the only American listed in the top 50. Especially when Rep. Keith Ellison (D-5-MN), Tariq Ramadan and Ingrid Mattson are listed among the “honorable mentions” in the book (“honorable mentions” were almost among the top 50 but not quite—they are still listed among the 500).  Ingrid Mattson alone is likely more influential than Hamza Yusuf Hanson, for instance.  Not to mention Rep. Keith Ellison.  Even the Nobel prize winner Mohammad Yunus is listed only among the honorable mentions.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani in the USA is listed among the most influential scholars in the Muslim world, and his relative Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon and its leading Sunni scholar, is also among the most influential scholars.  The Shi’a marja Ayatullah Sayeed Mohammad Fadlallah is the other listed scholar for Lebanon. 

The 18 prominent American Muslims in the Scholars section of the book also include Yusuf Estes, Sulayman Nyang, Muzammil Siddiqui, Sherman Jackson, Zaid Shakir, and Nuh Keller.  Two Americans are listed as Political figures in North America.  Nine Americans are listed as Administrative leaders, including Siraj Wahhaj—surprising to list him as an administrative leader rather than a preacher.  One Canadian is listed under the Lineage section, namely Jamal Badawi, but no Americans.  Under the Women heading appear six very recognizable names, perhaps most recognizable among them Ingrid Mattson, the controversial Amina Wadud, and the extremely influential Dalia Mogahed (who wrote the perhaps watershed work Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.)  Two Americans are listed in the Youth category.  Under the Philanthropy category is listed one person, Dr. Tariq Cheema, co-founder of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists.  13 Americans are listed under Development, including strangely the boxer Mohammad Ali.  Four Americans are listed under Science and Technology, perhaps most recognizably Dr. Mehmed Oz, who frequently appears on morning television to help explain medical situations to people, and who shows an interest in the overlap between traditional medicine and spirituality.  Seven Americans are listed under Arts and Culture, including the notable actors Mos Def and Dave Chappelle, also the calligrapher Mohammad Zakaria.  Nine Americans are listed in the Media section, including Fareed Zakaria and the filmmaker Michael Wolfe.

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.

People who are themselves prominent scholars contributed to or edited the book, including of course Georgetown University’s Professor John Esposito and Professor Ibrahim Kalin.  Ed Marques and Usra Ghazi also edited and prepared the book.  The book lists as consultants Dr. Hamza Abed al Karim Hammad, and Siti Sarah Muwahidah, with thanks to other contributors.

The entire book is available online (here:  http://www.rissc.jo/muslim500v-1L.pdf) and we hope that it will be available for sale soon inside the United States.  Currently it is not available.

To encourage the printing and release of the book in the United States you can contact Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at cmcu@georgetown.edu, or by phone at 202-687-8375.

11-47