The Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar University in Cairo has been named the world’s most influential Muslim.
The honour was bestowed on Shaikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb 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.
The 70 year old Egyptian is considered by some to be the highest scholarly authority for Sunni Muslims, and he runs the foremost and largest Sunni Islamic university.
Al-Tayyeb was appointed as Grand Shaikh of al-Azhar in March 2010 by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He was formerly the president of Al-Azhar for seven years and prior to that, served for two years as the most powerful cleric in Egypt as its Grand Mufti.
He has served as the Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Aswan, and the theology faculty of the International Islamic University in Pakistan. He has also taught in universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
He is considered to be close to the Egyptian regime and a staunch opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This August, during the World Islamic Conference held in Grozny, Chechnya, he defined the Sunni community as those who follow Imam Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari and Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and the scholars of Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi’i juris-prudence, as well as the “moderate” scholars of Hanbali school. He also included the Sufis following in the way of Imam al-Junayd. However, his omission of Salafis caused huge controversy.
Al Tayyeb leads the second-oldest university in the world, where teaching has continued without interruption since 975 CE. Al-Azhar represents the centre of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence and is a key institution that issues authoritative religious rulings and has provided extensive Islamic education to Egyptian and international students since its inception over a millennium ago.
The other names which made the top 10 in the list were:
2. King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan.
3. King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia.
4. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran.
5. King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
6. Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Deobandi leader.
7. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani, Marja of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq.
8. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey.
9. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.
10. Mohammed Abdul-Wahhab Amir of Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan.
No British Muslims made the top 50 but there were honourable mentions for Professor Timothy Winter (Sheikh Abdal-Hakim Murad), Dean and founder of the Cambridge Muslim College; the nasheed artist Sami Yusuf; and the athlete Mo Farrah.
Meanwhile, the top extremists were:
1. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, ISIS leader.
2. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda leader.
3. Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi, spiritual leader of Al Qaeda.
4. Abu Muhammad Al-Julani, Jabhat Fatah al Sham leader.
5. Abubakar Shekau, Leader of Boko Haram.
6. Ahmad Umar, Ahmad, Leader of al-Shabaab.
7. Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of the Indonesian Mujahedeen Council.