Welcome to the fifth annual issue of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims. There are 1.7 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 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 ininfluence 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 Stars and Extremists. 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 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.
We are pleased to announce that publishers from Turkey and Indonesia will be translating and publishing this issue of the Muslim 500. This will make it accessible to a large number of non-English speakers, and we hope this will open the door to receiving more feedback from these communities. This year we have our annual introduction surveying the major events in the Muslim world from the past year. We have also added a new section; ‘Major Events’ that provides a timeline of the major events that have taken place over the past year. Our Honourable Mentions section is now 25% larger than before and we have expanded the biographies of the Final 450 making it several pages longer than previous editions. We have expanded the number of exclusive pieces from distinguished guest writers in our Issues of the Day section, which is now nearly 60% larger than before. To give a richer visual understanding of the Muslim world we have not only increased the number of photographs in the Top 25 section but have, for the first time, added some in the Issues of the Day as well. 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 A Common Word on page 117, Altafsir.com on page 164, Free Islamic Calligraphy on 161 Free Islamic Calligraphy). 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 2014/15 edition through it.