The Sultan of Sokoto and spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria, Abubakar Sa’ad, has been named as the 18th most influential Muslim leader in the world.
The recognition was contained in the fifth edition of the annual publication of The Muslim 500. The fifth edition chronicles the world’s most influential Muslims for the year 2013/2014.
Abdallah Schleifer, a Professor & Senior Fellow at Kamal Adham Centre for Television & Digital Journalism at the American University in Cairo, who wrote forward in the current edition, stated that there are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world today, making up approximately 23 per cent 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,” Mr. Schleifer said in describing the nominees in the edition.
He also said the publication sets out to ascertain the influence some Muslims have on the community, or on behalf of the community.
He described such influence to include 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.
He said the impact can be either positive or negative, depending on one’s point of view of course.
He added that 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 publication recognised the Sultan for his important administrative influence in Nigerian religious life.
It said that the Sultan is highly influential as head of the Nigerian National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs; adding that as the Sultan of Sokoto, he is considered the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s 74.6 million Muslims, who account for roughly 50 per cent of the nation’s population.
“Leadership of this council means that the Sultan of Sokoto remains the only figure that can legitimately claim to speak on behalf of all Nigerian Muslims.
“This role has become increasingly influential over the years with a rise in interreligious tensions between Nigeria’s Muslim- majority north and Christian-majority south,” it said.
The publication also recognised the role of the Sultan in the on-going insurgency in the northern part of the country by members of Boko Haram sect.
“The Sultan has started many initiatives to counter and reduce the influence of the terrorist group Boko Haram, including inviting an international joint Muslim-Christian Delegation to visit Nigeria,” it said.
The current edition is the fifth in the series of The Muslim 500, which was first published in 2009.
It is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre Amman, Jordan, in cooperation with Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in the United States of America.
The current edition identified the Grand Sheikh of the Al-Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque, Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb, as the most influential Muslim in 2013/2014.
He was closely followed by King Abdullah bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia, and Ayatollah Hajj Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.
The Muslim 500 has already began accepting nominations for the 2014/2015 edition.