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Most influential Muslim 500 released, no changes for SA

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One of the world’s leading scholars of Islamic jurisprudence Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani tops the annual Muslim 500 List for 2020 released on Tuesday. The list comprises of the world’s most influential Muslim figures and takes an in-depth look at the religious and political figures in the international arena. The list of influential Muslim figures from South Africa has remained the same as the 2019 edition, save for the exclusion of Rashid Latiff.

The purpose of the publication, according to its introduction, is to “ascertain the influence some Muslims have” on the global Islamic community and the rest of the world. It defines influence as “the power to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim world”.

“There are approximately 1.93 billion Muslims in the world today, making up 25% of the world’s population, or just under one-quarter of mankind. As well as being citizens of their respective countries, they also have a sense of belonging to the ‘ummah’, the worldwide Muslim community. This publication sets out to ascertain the influence some Muslims have on this community, or on behalf of the community. Influence is: any person who has the power (be it cultural, ideological, financial, political or otherwise) to make a change that will have a significant impact on the Muslim world.”

The publication of the list is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular viewpoint from any mentioned individual. It is merely an attempt at organising and measuring the levels of influence different figures in the Muslim world have today.

Muslim individuals from a range of categories of influence are selected and mentioned.

These categories include:

• Scholarly
• Political
• Administration of Religious Affairs
• Preachers and Spiritual Guides
• Philanthropy/Charity and Development
• Social Issues
• Business
• Science and Technology
• Arts and Culture
• Qur’an Reciters
• Media
• Celebrities and Sports Stars
• Extremists

Global top ten

The top ten most influential Muslim figures for the year 2020 are:

  1. HE Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani – Scholar and Deobandi Leader
  2. HE Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei – Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  3. HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan – Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces
  4. HM King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud – King of Saudi Arabia Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  5. HM King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein – King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem
  6. HE President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – President of the Republic of Turkey
  7. HM King Mohammed VI – King of Morocco
  8. HE Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani – Marja of the Hawza, Najaf, Iraq
  9. HE Sheikh Al-Habib Umar bin Hafiz – Scholar and Director of Dar Al Mustafa, Tarim, Yemen
  10. HM Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id Al-Sa’id – Sultan of Oman

Persons of the year

The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan was listed as the Muslim 500’s Man of the Year, while US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was listed as Woman of the Year.

South Africa

The most influential South African figures in the different categories were:


  • Mufti Ebrahim Desai – a prominent and world-renowned scholar
  • Farid Esack – a scholar of the Qur’an and Contemporary Islam who has authored many famous written works on Islam and is “arguably the world’s leading Islamic Liberation Theologian.
  • Sheikh Seraj Hendricks – the mufti of Cape Town, the resident Sheikh at the Azzawia Institute, and Dean of the student body at the Madina Institute.
  • Ebrahim Moosa – the Professor of Islamic Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and in the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame. His interpretive and historical research on questions of tradition, ethics, and law includes two monographs as well as several edited and co-edited books.

Philanthropy / charity & development

  • Dr Imtiaz Sooliman – founder of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, the largest disaster relief organization of African origin on the African continent.

Arts & culture

  • Zain Bhikha – internationally renowned South African singer-songwriter and a pioneer performer of English nasheed songs.

Celebrities & sports

  • Hashim Amla – acclaimed South African cricketer who became the first player of Indian descent in the South African national cricket team. 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.


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