Mahathir shot up over 400 places on this year’s list of 500 influential Muslims – but Singapore’s President still ranked higher

Also on the list were politicians Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah, and controversial preacher Zakir Naik.
The Straits Times, Reuters, Instagram/chedetofficial,Facebook/Dr Zakir Naik

Within a year, Mahathir Mohamad has shot up 406 places on an annual ranking of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims.

The Malaysian Prime Minister went from 450th place last year to 44th place on the Muslim 500 list for 2020, which was published on Monday (Sep 30).

Singapore President Halimah Yacob also made the list, coming in six spots ahead of Mahathir in 38th place.

Coming in top was Pakistani scholar Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, a former judge specialising in Islamic jurisprudence and finance.

This year’s ranking also included Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah, and controversial preacher Zakir Naik.

Halimah Yacob: 38th place

The Straits Times

Singapore President Halimah Yacob – who came in 41st last year – was noted by The Muslim 500 for her post as Singapore’s first female and ethnic Malay President.

Describing a “humble” childhood following the death of her father at eight years old, the publication said Halimah helped out at home at the cost of her studies, but later went on to obtain a masters in law.

“As President she has promoted initiatives for supporting a cohesive society, strengthening interfaith and recognizing all workers who contribute to Singapore’s growth. She has a strong international profile, regularly meeting world leaders,” the Muslim 500 said.

Mahathir Mohamad: 41st place


PM Mahathir – who won the “Muslim Man of the Year” title in last year’s list – was noted for his support for liberal Muslim values, his contributions to establishing Muslim institutions in Malaysia, and his “miraculous” landslide victory at the 14th General Elections.

The publication also mentioned his expected retirement next year after handing power over to Anwar.

Read also: Mahathir is Malaysia’s most admired man by far – big names like Jackie Chan and Bill Gates can hardly compare

Anwar Ibrahim and Wan Azizah Wan Ismail


While not within the top 50, People’s Justice Party head Anwar Ibrahim received an honorable mention for his position as Malaysia’s PM-in waiting, with mentions of his time in exile and a “controversial” and “unjust” imprisonment for allegedly committing sodomy.

Also mentioned were his royal pardon in 2018 and unlikely alliance with Mahathir.

Meanwhile, Anwar’s wife and current Deputy PM Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was among the remaining 450 individuals, who were not ranked in any particular order.

Wan Azizah was noted for her post as Malaysia’s first female Deputy PM, her background as a medical doctor, and her entry into politics following Anwar’s arrest.

“Since 1993, her political journey has been largely defined by [her husband’s] struggles,” the publication said.

Read also: Shakespeare was Anwar’s ‘best companion’ in jail, he says

Zakir Naik

Facebook/Dr Zakir Naik

Also among the remaining 450 personalities was controversial Indian preacher Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, who made headlines in August after delivering a public speech peppered with racial insensitivities that resulted in mass calls for him to be deported home.

Naik – who is living in Malaysia under Permanent Resident status – is wanted by India for charges of money laundering and inciting terrorism.

Describing him as a “popular preacher and comparative religion specialist in the mould of the legendary Ahmed Deedat (an influential 20th century missionary)”, the publication listed Naik’s major achievements as founding the Islamic Research Foundation and Peace TV, which broadcasts his public debates with other faith leaders.

Read also: ‘I owe an apology to everyone who feels hurt’: After police ban, Zakir Naik says racist remarks were misunderstood