“The publication you have in your hands is the first of what we hope will be an annual series that provides a window into the movers and shakers of the Muslim world. We have strived to highlight people who are influential as Muslims, that is, people whose influence is derived from their practice of Islam or from the fact that they are Muslim”.
“We think that this gives valuable insight into the different ways that Muslims impact the world, and also shows the diversity of how people are living as Muslims today”.
So says the introduction of a new book, The 500 Most influential Muslims in the World – 2009 (published by the Royal Islamic Strategic Centre and Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding).
Okay. But when you discover your name there under the Media category, it’s time to reel with amazement. Me?
I got the news earlier today via Canadian journalist Nazim Baksh, who e-mailed Shaikh Seraj Hendricks in South Africa, who e-mailed me. I was dumbfounded.
But so was Shaikh Seraj Hendricks, who did not know that he was also on the list!
All-in-all twelve South Africans were recognised: Prof Farid Esack, Maulana Igshan Hendricks, Prof Ebrahim Moosa, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, Ferial Haffajee, Zainul Abdidin Cajee, Zain Bhika, Hashim Amla, Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel and Naeem Jeenah.
Of course, there have been omissions. For example, where is Ebrahim Rasool? And the authors of the publication – with Prof John Esposito at the helm – freely admit this, adding that “influence” in itself is a tricky concept.
But to see twelve South Africans in this list, I think, is quite an astounding achievement – especially if one considers that there are over 1,5 billion Muslims in the world, and that we constituted 12% on the list.
To say that I’ve been humbled by this experience is an understatement.