Malawi’s Islamic Information Bureau (IIB) National Coordinator Sheikh Dinala Chabulika has been named one of the most 500 influential Muslims in the world for 2011 by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre is an independent research entity affiliated with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, an international Islamic non-governmental, independent institute headquartered in Amman, Jordan.
According to a document which Malawi Muslims official website has a copy, Sheikh Chabulika is the only Muslim from the landlocked country, which is said to have a Muslim population of 2,011,000 out of 15,710,938 people representing a 12.8 percent – statistics Muslims vehemently say is unrealistic.
The publication selects Muslim individuals from a range of categories of influence, 14 in total: (Scholarly, Political, Administration of Religious Affairs, Preachers and Spiritual Teachers, Philanthropy/Charity and Development, Social Issues, Business, Science and Technology, Arts and Culture, Qur’an Reciters, Media, Celebrities and Sports Stars, Radicals, and Issues of the Day).
The list acts as an opportunity to shed some light on the many challenges and pioneering triumphs that are present at the very crux of shaping the Muslim community.
The Sheikh has been among the most influential Muslim figures for three years consecutively since the program started in 2009.
This year, Sheikh Chabulika is in a category of Social Issues. Individuals in this category address various social issues such as health, education, women’s rights, the environment, human rights and conflict resolution.
The centre said of Sheikh Chabulika: “He is known as an Islamic rights activist and has taken it upon himself to present the need to address social issues as religious duties. Chabulika works on health issues, exploitation and has built bridges with non-Muslims in Malawi. He has also fought against the forced teaching of religious texts to school children.”
In 2009, he was ranked alone in Malawi and he was in the category of Administrative while in 2010 he was joined by Kingo’mbe, Sheikh Aman who was in the category of Development.
The centre also described King’ombe as the Spiritual Advisor of the Celebrations of the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
“He is a cleric responsible for the organization of the festivities. The festivities are attended by thousands of Muslims from around Africa. In 2009 King’ombe extended an invitation to the Christian population of Malawi to partake in the festival,” it says.
However, this year, King’ombe has been dropped and only Chabulika appears on the list representing Malawi.
Reacting to the recognition, Sheikh Chabulika said he felt being humbled to be part of the most influential Muslims in the world.
“My aim is not to get popular but to play a role in propagating Islam. Therefore the recognition means that I have a positive impact in the society,” he said.
Commenting on the category in which he has been included, Sheikh Chabulika said he likes championing for Muslims human rights as the world is campaign for human rights for all.
“You know it is sometimes interesting to see our Muslims sisters denied to put on their Islamic attires more especially in this country where we have a constitution which stipulates that citizens have freedom of dressings. If a Muslim lady is working at the bank or any other public offices is told not to put on head scuff or risk being fired.
“Therefore it is responsibility for every individual Muslims to fight against these malpractices that are aimed at destroying Islam,” said Chabulika.
Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah bin ‘Abd Al ‘Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia tops the list as the world’s most influential Muslim. His global influence comes from being the absolute king of the most powerful Arab nation.
Saudi Arabia has two Holy cities of Mecca and Madina, which millions of Muslims visit throughout the year; its role as the world’s main exporter of crude oil and refined petroleum products ensures its central international role in politics and the world economy, and its huge da’wa network makes its influence felt in all Muslim countries.
The 88 year old has been on top since the initiative was introduced in 2009.
The publication sets out to ascertain the influence some Muslims have on this community, or on behalf of the community.
The Influence any Muslim 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.
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 forming popular culture.
Other Islamic figures included in the list are Mufti Ismail Menk, Founder of Gift of the Givers Foundation Imtiyaz Soolayman, Nasheeds artists Maher Zain, Daud Ali and Zain Bikha, Football players such as Bacary Sagna (who plays for Arsenal football club in England), former French midfielder Zinedine Zidane and Algerian striker (who is regarded as a hero for scoring a winning goal against Egypt that made his team to play at the 2011 world cup in South Africa), Fredric Kanoute and many others.
Reporting by Ali Blessings Idi in Blantyre