I’m always sceptical of these polls, but according to the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan, Dr Timothy Winter – or Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad as he is now known – is Britain’s most influential Muslim.
Murad, who is Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University, eschews the encomium.
I’m an academic observer who descends occcasionally from my ivory tower and visits the real world. If you stop most people in the street they’ve never heard of me. In terms of saying anything that makes any kind of sense to the average British Muslim I think they have no need of my ideas at all.
The poll lists the 500 most influential Muslims around the world with King Abdullah, the ruler of Saudi Arabia, ranked in first place. Disappointingly, the first eleven names are all heads of state with the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr Mohammed Badie, breaking the trend in twelfth place.
It raises the question of just what constitutes ‘influence’ and how it is measured. Influence is too easily confused with approbation, though this is a misleading determination.
After all, shouldn’t Osama bin Laden be included in a list of the world’s most influential Muslims? That is not to approve of his actions, but a recognition of the impact his movement has had on contemporary Islam.
Similarly, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hussein Sistani from Iraq comes in at eighth place, a position belying his actual influence. Shia Islam, unlike its Sunni counterpart, recognises an ordered and structured official clergy. Sistani is among its most senior ranking. For example, when Sistani ordered the Shia’s of Najaf not to support the insurgent Mahdi Army in late 2004, its support base almost completely fell away.
These polls always tend to reveal more about those who compile them than anything else – so, over to you in the comments section below: who are the world’s most influential Muslims in your opinion and why?