Welcome to the fourth annual issue of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.
There are 1.65 billion Muslims in the world today, making up approximately 23% of the world’s population, or one-fifth 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. Note that the impact can be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view of course. The selection of people for this publication in no way means that we endorse their views; rather we are simply trying to measure their influence. The influence can be of a religious scholar directly addressing Muslims and influencing their beliefs, ideas and behaviour, or it can be of a ruler shaping the socio-economic factors within which people live their lives, or of artists forming popular culture. The first two examples also point to the fact that the lists, and especially the Top 50, are dominated by religious scholars and heads of state. Their dominant and lasting influence cannot be denied, especially the rulers, who in many cases also appoint religious scholars to their respective positions.
This doesn’t discount the significant amount of influence from other sectors of society. The publication selects Muslim individuals from a range of categories of influence, 13 in total: (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 and Radicals). How to measure this influence is of course the most challenging aspect of the publication, and the one where opinions diverge the most. Influence can sometimes be gauged on a quantitative basis; the number of people influenced, the number of books written, the amount of sales etc., but more often it is related to the qualitative and lasting effect of that influence. The achievements of a lifetime are given more weight than achievements within the current year. This means that our list of names will change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year.
This list acts as opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community.
This year we have an expanded introduction (more than double the size of last year’s) surveying the major events in the Muslim World from the past year.
We have also expanded and reformatted our Issues of the Day section, now approximately five times larger than previous issues. For the first time we feature exclusive pieces by distinguished guest writers.
We have also added write-ups about major initiatives that have reached notable milestones in the last 12 months (see A Common Word on page 115 and Altafsir.com on page 158)
Last year we added an obituary section but fortunately this year none of our previous listees have passed away (as of printing), making it unnecessary to include for the 2012 edition.
Last year we introduced a specific section on each profile of the Top 50 on how the Arab Spring affected them. We have updated this section under the new title ‘Arab Summer?’
Our website [www.TheMuslim500.com] which was launched last year has already proven to be a popular destination. We have recently updated the Influence feed which shows the latest news on many of the Top 500. We welcome your feedback and will take nominations for the 2013 edition through it. Please subscribe to our newsletter through the website to keep posted of updates relating to our publication and website.