Welcome to the ninth annual issue of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.
There are approximately 1.84 billion Muslims in the world today, making up 24.38% 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. 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 shaping 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:
- Administration of Religious Affairs
- Preachers and Spiritual Guides
- Philanthropy/Charity and Development
- Social Issues
- Science and Technology
- Arts and Culture
- Qur’an Reciters
- Celebrities and Sports Stars
The individuals are listed in each category according to geographical region (Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, North America, South America), then in alphabetical order by country and surname.
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 followers, the number of books written, the amount of sales etc., but more often it is not something measurable in quantitative terms and is more related to the qualitative and lasting effect of that influence. A combination of social metrics, public opinion (we have a month-long open call for nominations every year, and all of the suggestions are considered) and expert opinion are the basis of this attempt to measure influence. The achievements of a lifetime are given more weight than achievements within the current year. People who are trailblazers, or the lone voice in a remote area are also taken into account as we give weight to people breaking barriers and to local influence as well as global influence. This means that our list of names will change gradually, rather than dramatically, year-on-year. This list acts as an opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community.
What’s In This issue?
As can be seen from the front cover, we have added a new feature – Persons of the Year; two people who have made significant contributions in this particular year. Our distinguished chief editor explains why we have added this section. We always receive many questions around the word ‘influence’ and we hope the piece ‘A Note on Influence and the Muslim 500’ will address one aspect of this. As well as the updated Top 50 and 450 lists, we have our regular House of Islam essay which gives an overview of Islam and its branches. Our Guest Contributions section has exclusive articles covering a wide range of issues. We have added a new section; ‘Book Reviews’ where we review some of the important books that have been published recently. The ‘Major Events’ section provides a timeline of the major events that have taken place over the past year. Our two Appendices provide us with lots of statistics. Appendix I shows total population and Muslim population by country, for all the countries in the world. Appendix II compiles a list of the highest Muslim Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users, as well as the highest in the world. We now have two indices; an index by name and an index sorted by country (the former includes names of all the 500 Muslims listed in the book as well as our guest contributors, book reviewers and people listed in the obituaries whereas the latter index includes only the names of the selected 500 Muslims).
To give a richer visual experience we have also included several calligraphy pieces throughout the book, which we hope will serve as a beautiful reminder to pause and reflect as you go through the book. We have also added write-ups within the main body of the text about major initiatives (see Generations of Peace on page 148page 148, A Common Word on page 110page 110, the Marrakesh Declaration on page 117page 117, Free Islamic Calligraphy on page 134page 134, Altafsir.com on page 164page 164.
Our website—www.TheMuslim500.com—is a popular destination. We welcome your feedback and will take nominations for the 2019 edition through it.