U.S. dominates list of world’s ’500 Most Influential Muslims’

There are more Muslims from America than any other country on this year’s “The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims,” compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, a respected think tank in Jordan, including two in the top 50.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a California-born convert who founded Zaytuna College, an Islamic college in Berkeley, Calif., and is a leading Islamic authority in America, ranked No. 42, two places ahead of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic studies professor at George Washington University known for his work in Islamic philosophy.

America’s roughly 2.6 million Muslims are a tiny fraction of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but they took 41 spots on the 500 list. Countries with the next highest number of names were Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, with 25 Muslims each, followed by Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, with 24.

“Compared to the global Muslim population, the representation of U.S. Muslims in this list is disproportionate, but yet representative in the way they shape global discourse,” said Duke University Islamic studies professor Ebrahim Moosa.

The first Muslim college in America

Zaytuna College is the first Muslim college in the US; the college is currently seeking accreditation from accrediting bodies in the United States, as well as recognition from major educational institutions in the Muslim world, such as Egypt’s al-Azhar University.

Its very existence in America repudiates notions of Islam as an exclusively Eastern ideology, and it indicates that Islam and Muslims can be authentically American, writes Shazia Kamal. The college’s very existence in America repudiates notions of Islam as an exclusively Eastern ideology. Its presence instead indicates that Islam and Muslims can be authentically American, and can contribute to the nation’s sociological, political and cultural advancement.

Zaytuna College seeks to promote the same vision in its students, which it welcomes from all faith traditions. It endeavours to draw on principles from the Qur’an and from the teachings of some of the greatest Muslim scholars in history, like Imam Al Bukhari, a 9th century scholar of the study of hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) and Imam al Ghazali, an 11th century jurist and Sufi mystic. Zaytuna College will communicate Islam’s tenets and practices to the broader American public and serve as an alternative source of information to five-second media bytes that perpetuate a one-dimensional Islam.

Scholars in the United States planning on starting an Islamic college

A plan to launch the country’s first four-year accredited Islamic college is moving closer to fulfilling its vision. Advisors to the project have scheduled to have a June vote to decide whether the proposed Zaytuna College – what some are calling a “Muslim Georgetown” – can open in the fall of next year. Imam Zaid Shakir and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf of California have spent years planning the school, which will offer a liberal arts education and training in Islamic scholarship. “As a faith community our needs aren’t any different than the needs of any other faith community,” Shakir told the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals. Others have tried to start Muslim colleges around New York and Chicago, but such previous plans have remained obscure or quickly unfolded; Zaytuna college, however, appears to be a real potential.