In October, Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC) published its latest edition of The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims of 2023. With almost 2 billion Muslims in the world, the publication aims to unite the worldwide Muslim community and eradicate the ever-growing ignorance about Islam.
With such a large population, the publication intended to highlight the immense efforts made by Muslims around the world. What’s more, it’s about showcasing to the world, the impact and influence they have had upon Muslims and Islam. According to the RISSC, influence in this context is defined as, ‘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 or Muslims’.
Whether it’s the work of a Muslim scholar or the influence of a king upon his people, the list sets out to measure influence objectively.
1. His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud
It’s no surprise that The King of Saudi Arabia – who is also the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques – has topped the list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims. Crowned in 2015 after the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, King Salman has a huge responsibility for his 35 million residents of Saudi Arabia as well as the 14 million pilgrims that visit annually. The king has also contributed heavily towards humanitarian affairs with a total of $4 billion donated to war-torn countries.
2. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei
Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is the second Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Born in Mashhad, Khamenei was heavily involved in the struggle with the Pahlavi Regime in the sixties and seventies. What’s more, he was also involved in the revolution in 1979 and became president between 1981-1989. Serving as a supreme leader of 84 million Iranians, Khamenei deeply believes that people are all equal and that there should be no privilege for a certain class or group.
3. His Highness Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani became a ruler at the young age of 33. With a small population of 400,000 (12% of the total population), Qatar is classed as the richest country per capita in the world. Sheikh Tamim completed his studies in a private school in the UK after which he graduated from the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. Supervising the bid to host the World Cup in 2022, Sheikh Tamim has had seven stadiums built for the event.
4. His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
As well as serving as the President of 86 million Turkish citizens, President Erdoğan has welcomed 4 million refugees into the country. Renowned for his humanitarian contributions, he has also won over the hearts of Muslims worldwide, thanks to his unapologetic voice and support for Muslims. One of Erdoğan’s greatest accomplishments was reclassifying the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. The history of the building dates back to 537 when it was a cathedral. In 1453, it was converted into a mosque by Sultan Mehmed II. However, in 1935, in accordance with Atatürk’s vision, the mosque was converted into a museum.
5. His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al-Hussein
HM King Abdullah II is the king of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and also serves as the Custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem. What’s more, he is also the 41st generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. King Abdullah achieved a high rank in the publication for one reason; his integral role in the issue of Palestine. He may not be a religious scholar, nor is he the ruler of a rich country, yet he stands as the central voice for the central cause of the Islamic world. With Jordan being the neighbour, a huge responsibility falls upon the country and King Abdullah to create peace between the two countries.
In sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth place, we have the following:
6. His Eminence Justice Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani (Pakistan)
7. His Majesty King Mohammed VI (Morocco)
8. His Highness President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (UAE)
9. His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Al-Sistani (Iraq)
10. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia)