Al Azhar Grand Sheikh named world’s most influential Muslim

Sheikh Ahmad al Tayyeb

The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar university in Cairo, Ahmad al Tayyeb, has been named the most influential Muslim in the world, according to a new survey.

The 67-year old is considered by some to be the foremost authority for Sunni Muslims because he is head of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious scholarly institution.

The honour was bestowed on him by the “Muslim 500,” an annual publication which ranks the most influential Muslims in the world.

The Muslim 500 is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan in cooperation with Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in the United States.

Al Tayyeb was appointed by the former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, in 2010. He is considered to be one of the most moderate Sunni clerics in Egypt and holds a PHD in Islamic philosophy from the Sorbonne University in Paris.

He has strongly rebuked the Salafi anti-Shia preaching that has increased in Egypt since the Syrian civil war. He has also promoted unity with Christians amid a backdrop of strained communal relations.

Prior to his appointment as the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and president of al-Azhar University, al Tayyeb was a member of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

He initially refused to resign from his position in the NDP saying there was no conflict between his role at Al-Azhar and membership in the party, but did so after this attitude met strong criticism from both media and different parts of Egyptian society.

Al Tayyeb was widely considered a regime loyalist who took a firm stance against the Muslim Brotherhood. And indeed on 3 July 2013, al Tayyeb backed the removal of Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, from the post of Egyptian president.

However, he did express disaspproval of bloodshed when the Egyptian army moved with brutality against peaceful Muslim Brotherhood protestors shortly afterwards.

The other figures who filled the rest of the top 10 spots were:

2. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

3. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

4. King Abdullah of Jordan.

5. King Mohammed of Morocco.

6. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan.

7. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.

8. Iraqi Shia leader Ayatollah Sistani.

9. Sultan Qaboos of Oman.

10.  Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the UAE.

Other notable figures who made the top 50 were:

11. Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.

16. Saudi scholar Sheikh Salman Al-Ouda.

23. Mauritanian scholar Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah.

26. Hezbollah leader Seyyed Hasan Nasrallah.

29. Egyptian defence minister General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

31. Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

32. Egyptian preacher Amr Khaled.

41. American scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson.

48. Pakistani Sheikh Tahir Al-Qadri.

50. Khaled Mashal, leader of Hamas.

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