The annual “Muslim 500” list of the world’s most influential Muslims has named King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the top position.
The makers of the list set out to ascertain the influence Muslim individuals have on their worldwide community of 1.7 billion, be it cultural, ideological, financial or political.
Split into 13 categories, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan picked figures from across a spectrum of fields, including politics, celebrity, sports, science and technology.
The top spot went 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 Madina, which millions of Muslims visit throughout the year, as well as the kingdom’s oil exports.
Rounding out the top three are Dr Ahmad Muhammad al-Tayyeb, 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.
British Muslims included on the list are Islamic Relief founder Dr Hany Al-Banna; athlete Mo Farah; Islam Channel CEO Mohammad Ali al Harrath; journalists Mehdi Hasan and Rageh Omaar; singer Yusuf Islam; Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain; Shaykh Shams Ad-Duha of Ebrahim College; and the preacher Amaar Nakshawani.
“There have been some criticisms of the list in that it is very focused on royalty and there are not enough women on it,” said Muddassar Ahmed, who was on the list’s social issues section as chief executive of Unitas Communications Ltd, a leading British reputation management consultancy.
However, “my view is that, sadly, I think it is an accurate reflection of where power lies in the Muslim world.”
The list also features a section on the world’s most influential extremists, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at number one due to the group’s sweeping territorial gains in recent months.
But why include extremists in a list ranking Muslim pioneers? “They too have influence, a negative influence but a major one,” said Schleifer. “Extremism is a major problem in the Muslim world. We’d be burying our heads in the sand if we acted as if it didn’t exist.”