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7 South Africans on Muslim 500 list

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Seven South Africans have made the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims of 2016, almost half of whom feature within the scholarly section of the annual list. The Muslim 500 seeks to recognise individuals that have made significant contributions in the year between each edition. It also features detailed insight into different aspects of the religion (House of Islam section) and tackles topics of importance that have affected Muslim communities the world over.

As is the case each year, the 2016 edition’s top 50 compromises mostly political and religious leaders, with a few exceptions. A detailed biography is given of each individual within the top 50 as well. The remaining 450 are divided into 13 different categories. These are namely:

Scholarly; Political; Administration of Religious Affairs; Preachers & Spiritual Guides; Philanthropy, Charity & Development; Social Issues; Business; Science & Technology; Arts & Culture; Qur’an Reciters; Media; Celebrities & Sports Stars.

The final and most controversial of the categories focuses on extremists, with ISIS-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi topping the section ahead of al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Boko Haram’s, Abubakr Shekau.

The seven South African entrees, listed by section and accompanied by their biography as listed in the book are:


Mufti Ebrahim Desai – A prominent Deobandi sheikh, Mufti Desai runs, issuing numerous fatwas online through the Camperdown-based Islamic institution Darul Iftaa, Madrassah Inaamiyyah where he is the principal mufti and a senior lecturer.”

Farid Essack – A Muslim scholar who has authored many famous written works, a gender equality commissioner appointed by Nelson Mandela, a politician, a worker against apartheid, and an advocate of interreligious dialogue. Through the organization of Muslim Call, Esack calls out to hundreds of people and has created close ties with interfaith groups opposing apartheid. He is also active in helping Muslims infected with HIV in South Africa and currently holds the position of Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.”

Sheikh Seraj Hendricks – Mufti, imam and teacher at the Azzawiya Mosque. He is a leading scholar on Sufism in South Africa and a patron of Dome Publications. Hendricks is seen as one of the highest authorities on Islamic scholarship for South Africa’s large and affluent Muslim population.”

Ebrahim Moosa – Professor of Islamic Studies in Keough School of Global Affairs, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and in the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame. Ebrahim Moosa’s interpretative and historical research on questions of tradition, ethics and law includes two monographs as well as several edited and co-edited books. His prize-winning book Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination was awarded the Best First Book in the History of Religions by the American Academy of Religion. And, he is the author of ‘What is a Madrasa?’ (2015). Moosa is also regarded as a prominent public intellectual. In 2007 he was invited to deliver the 2007 King Hasan Lecture (Durus Hasaniyya) to his Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco in Arabic.”


Dr Imtiaz Sooliman – the founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation. It is the largest disaster relief organization of African origin on the African continent. His organization has delivered over $37 million in aid to 25 countries around the world. The organization has also designed and developed the world’s first and largest containerized mobile hospital, which has been deployed in Bosnia. It also runs 24 development projects in South Africa and Malawi. He was awarded South Africa’s Order of the Baobab for distinguished service in April 2010.”


Zain Bhikha -South African singer-songwriter and a pioneer performer of nasheed songs. He is known for his collaborative efforts with other prominent Muslim entertainers, including Yusuf Islam and Dawud Wharnsby-Ali. Bhikha also writes and directs plays as well as creative expression workshops conducted specifically within schools.”


Hashim Amla – South African cricketer. In 2004 he became the first South African team player of Indian descent. As a devout Muslim, he has actively campaigned to remove all alcohol-promoting logos from merchandise and playing gear. He was named one of the Wisden cricketers of the year in 2013.”

To read the full list of the Muslim 500, download the free PDF copy at VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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