Living Islam

Tuesday, Jun 18th

Last update:10:52:35 AM GMT

You are here: Home

The 12 South Africans featured in the 500 Most Influential Muslims - 2009

E-mail Print PDF

The 500 Most Influential Muslims for 2009 was released earlier this month and although the list has attracted many criticisms   worldwide about the hierarchy and content, the piece below focuses rather on the profiles of the South Africans. The Holy Quran in Surah 3 Verse 104, states: “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones to attain felicity.” Congratulations to these individuals and may from amongst us indeed rise honourable leaders and contributors of tomorrow. Hashim Amla is the first South African of Indian descent to reach the national squad. His requests to have logos promoting alcohol removed from his playing gear have been successful. His elevation to the South Africa side was a poorly kept secret after he reeled off four centuries in his first eight innings of the 2004-05 season, after being appointed captain of the Dolphins (formerly Natal) at the tender age of 21.









Farid Esack (born 1959) is a scholar, writer, and political activist known for his opposition to apartheid, his appointment by Nelson Mandela as a gender equity commissioner, and his work for inter-religious dialogue. Esack spent eight years as a student in Karachi, completing the traditional Dars-i-Nizami program of Islamic studies and becoming a moulana or Muslim cleric.  Returning to South Africa in 1982, Esack became involved with activities of the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa. He, along with three other members, left the organization in 1993 and helped form the Muslim anti-apartheid group Muslims Against Oppression, which later changed its name to Call of Islam, which became an important affiliate of the United Democratic Front.

Esack addressed hundreds of protest meetings, formed ties with inter-faith opponents of apartheid, and became a leading figure within the World Conference on Religion and Peace.[1]. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Birmingham, England, and pursued postdoctoral studies in Biblical hermeneutics at the Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology, Frankfurt a.M., Germany. Esack has also been involved with the organisation Positive Muslims, which is dedicated to helping HIV-positive Muslims in Africa. In May 2005 Farid Esack delivered the second Mandela Lecture sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, Amsterdam. Esack was the Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts until 2008.
[Source: Wikipedia]. Sheikh Seraj is one of the most prominent figures of authorities on Islam in South Africa and is a leading scholar on Islam. Sheikh Seraj also serves as the Mufti of Cape Town.

Ebrahim E.I. Moosa is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology. Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion's Best First Book in the History of Religions (2006) and editor of the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries of South Asia. Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town.

Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India's foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London. Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town's Department of Religious Studies in South Africa till 1998 and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain, and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs. Currently he is completing a book titled, Islam After Empire : Text, Tradition and Technology and working on another book, titled Between Right and Wrong: Debating Muslim Ethics . In these writings Moosa explores some of the major challenges that confront a tradition-in-the making like Islam , in a rapidly changing world. Moosa examines the way religious traditions encounter modernity and in the process generating new conceptions of history, culture and ethics.

Dr. Moosa serves on several distinguished international advisory boards and is associated with some of the foremost thinkers, activists and role-players in the Muslim world and beyond. He advised the first independent South African government after apartheid on Islamic affairs and serves on committees of the Organization of Islamic Conference in addition to others. He also has extensive experience in human rights activities. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation to research contemporary Muslim ethics and issues of philanthropy in the Muslim world. For further details and access to research materials please visit Dr Moosa’s website

Zain Bhikha was born on the 9 August 1974 in Pretoria, South Africa to parents Rashid and Mariam Bhikha. The only son, with three sisters, Zain showed a keen interest, from a young age in entertaining his friends and family with his beautiful singing. Zain was not aware of his full potential until 1994 when he won a singing competition on Radio 702, a local radio station. A simple song which he recorded on his home karaoke system brought him out tops among mostly professional participants. After this great accomplishment, he seriously considered recording an album.

This consideration was put into action after he was approached by The Pretoria Muslim School who asked him to write and record their school anthem. Zain took it a step further and composed a full album, entitled “A Way of Life”. This was a compilation of basic Acapella Islamic songs, mostly in English covering the various tenets of Faith. The album, which was the beginning of greater things, only took Zain two weeks to complete. [Source: Zain Bhika website]

Mr Cajee is the CEO of the National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa which is a charitable endowment (waqf) receiving organization that invests endowment funds and spends only the income generated from investments to fund a variety of community development projects and programmes promoting Integrated Community Development and Self-Reliance.

Ferial Haffajee is the first female editor of a media corporation and holds the position as Managing Editor for the Financial Mail in South Africa. She was awarded the Top Woman in Media by MTN & The Media Magazine in 2006. She was also a Black Management Forum regional leader for 2004.






Moulana Isghaan Hendricks is the President of the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa which is non-profit organization (NPO) or a faith-based organization (FBO), which was established in 1945. It is one of the oldest, most representative and most influential religious organizations in South Africa and enjoys local, national and international credibility.

9.    Naeem Jeena
Mr. Jeena is an international activist, who previously held the position of President of the Muslim Youth Movement in South Africa. He currently works with the Freedom of Expression Institute of South Africa.

10.    Shafiq Morton
Shafiq Morton is a well-known photo-journalist wit thirty years experience. He was one of the pioneering forces behind the creation of the community radio station, Voice of the Cape, where he is currently a presenter of the late afternoon DriveTime Show. He is the author of “Notebooks from Makkah and Madinah” – a devotional travelogue, and “Welcome to Israel”. He has edited a surfing magazine, has travelled extensively, has free-lanced as a photographer and has served as a South African correspondent for Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s English daily. He has covered stories such as the apartheid state of emergency, Namibia’s independence process, the release of Nelson Mandela, the 1994 elections, PAGAD and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On his various travels he has reported on, amongst others, life in Palestine, the United Nations in New York, the famine in Niger, the taking of humanitarian aid to war-torn Lebanon, the Lockerbie incident from Libya, the Topkapi Palace in Turkey, the religious sites of Jordan and the Hajj.
In 2004 he was presented The Friends of al-Aqsa Award for his contribution towards awareness of Palestine through his on air series, Letters from Palestine.
[Source: &]

Mr. Ebrahim Patel is the Minister of Economic Development of South Africa. He was awarded a special medal by UCT in 2008 at the June graduation ceremony, in recognition of his public service. He also received the Global Leaders of Tomorrow award from the Davos-based Global Economic Forum in 1994.





Dr Sooliman is the Founder, Director and Chairman of the Gift of the Givers Foundation (Waqful Waqifin Foundation). In 2003 his organisation became the first in South African history to receive 60 million Rand from the South African government for humanitarian aid for KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Province. He gave up his career as a Medical Doctor to pursue the field of humanitarian aid. In 1992 he founded Gift of Givers Foundation. In 1993 he was awarded The President’s Order of the Star of South Africa, by former President F.W. de Klerk. In 2002 he received a Letter of Commendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Please register or login to add your comments to this article.