The Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar University in Cairo has been named the world’s most influential Muslim for the second year running.
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.
Sheikh Tayyeb was appointed as Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar in March 2010 by former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. He leads the second-oldest university in the world, where teaching has continued without interruption since 975 CE.
Al-Azhar is also currently the largest university in the world, having risen from a group of three schools in the 1950s to its current state with 72 feeder schools, and close to 300,000 students studying there at any one time.
The Muslim 500 said: “His scholarly influence as a leading intellectual of Sunni Islam spans the globe. 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.”
The publication added: “Over the past years of political uncertainty and unrest in Egypt and in particular during the months that led up to the Egyptian armed forces deposing Muhammad Morsi as President of Egypt, Tayyeb attempted to mediate between Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government on the one hand and opposition political forces on the other. It was the only time Morsi and the opposition sat together and given their mutual intransigence, Tayyeb’s attempt at mediation did not succeed.
“While Tayyeb has been outspoken against the Muslim Brotherhood for their exploitation of Islam as a political ideology, al-Azhar has experienced recent tensions with the establishment of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. President al-Sisi has increasingly called on a ‘religious revolution’ and efforts to ‘renew Islamic discourse,’ which have been met by ambivalence by the Azharite establishment.”
In August 2016 during the World Islamic Conference held in Grozny, Chechnya, Sheikh Tayyeb 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 jurisprudence, as well as the “moderate scholars” of Hanbali school. He also included the Sufis following in the way of Imam al-Junayd.
The rest of the list of the top 10 most influential Muslim figures was dominated by political personalities:
2. King Salman of Saudi Arabia
3. King Abdullah II of Jordan
4. Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei , Supreme Leader of Iran
5. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey
6. King Mohammed VI of Morocco
7. Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Deobandi leader
8. Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani, Marja of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq
9. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies
10. Sheikh Al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz, Director of Dar Al Mustafa, Tarim, Yemen.
The highest British Muslim on the list in 48th place was Sadiq Khan who was elected Mayor of London in May 2016.
The Muslim 500 said: “Much has been made of his British-Pakistani ethnicity and Islamic faith, but he has stressed that those parts of his identity only strengthen his willingness to serve all elements of society. He has worked to build cohesion among London’s diverse communities and been commended for his responses to the terror attacks on London…
“As the first Muslim Mayor of London, the uptick in terrorism has placed Khan under the increased scrutiny of right-wing hate groups, but he has managed to unite Londoners in the face of adversity and continues to enjoy a popular and diverse backing.“
Other British Muslims who appeared on the list included:
Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad, Cambridge Muslim College and Ebrahim College
Malala Yousufzai, Pakistani/British education campaigner
Sami Yusuf, Musician
Dr Hisham Hellyer, Royal United Services Institute
Maulana Yusuf Motala, Dar ul Ulum, Bury
Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Islamic scholar
Sheikh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada, British Muslim Forum
Sayeeda Warsi, Politician
Dr Manazir Ahsan, The Islamic Foundation
Sheikh Ahmed Babakir, Rumi’s Cave
Ammar Nakshawani, Shia Muslim lecturer
Sheikh Abd al-Qadir As Sufi, Murabitun World Movement
Hany Al-Bana, Islamic Relief
Sheikh Hasan Ali, Islamic lecturer
Moazzam Begg, Human Rights activist
Mehdi Hasan, Journalist
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, Book Foundation
Mufti Yusuf Mangera, Islamic lecturer
Fuad Nahdi, Journalist and Interfaith activist
Asif Aziz, Aziz Foundation
Shabir Randaree, Entrepreneur
Nemat, Shafik, London School of Economics
Dr Salim Al-Hassani, Scientist
Riz Ahmed, Actor
Yusuf Islam, Musician
Rageh Omaar, Journalist
Ahmed Salim, 1001 Inventions
Nadiya Hussain, Television personality
Mo Farah, Athlete
Zayn Malik, Musician