From the Encyclopædia Britannica Almanac 2003
The 250 persons listed below, in the opinion of Britannica’s editors, have had the greatest influence—good and bad—on the course of history and the state of the world as it is today.
‘Abbas I (byname ‘Abbas the Great; 27 Jan 1571, Herat, Persia [now in Afghanistan]—19 Jan 1629, Mazandaran, Persia [now in Iran]), Persian ruler, shah of Persia from 1588 to 1629, who expelled Ottoman and Uzbek troops from Persia, created a standing army, and fostered commerce and the arts; Persian artistic achievement reached a high point in his reign.
Muhammad ‘Abduh (1849, Nile Delta area, Egypt—11 Jul 1905, near Alexandria, Egypt), Egyptian religious scholar, jurist, and liberal reformer who led the late 19th-century movement in Egypt and other Muslim countries to revitalize Islamic teachings and institutions in the modern world.
Abu Bakr (also called As-siddiq [Arabic: "The Upright"]; c. 573, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—23 Aug 674, Medina, Arabia [Saudi Arabia]), Muhammad’s closest companion and adviser, who succeeded to the Prophet’s political and administrative functions, thereby initiating the office of the caliphate.
Akbar (in full Abu-ul-fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar; 15 Oct 1542, Umarkot, Sind [now Sindh province, Pakistan]—16 Oct 1605, Agra, Mughal Empire [India]), Mughal ruler; greatest of the Mughal emperors of India (1556–1605); extended Mughal power over most of the Indian subcontinent, won the loyalty of non-Muslims in his realm, and reformed, strengthened, and centralized its administrative and financial system.
‘Ali (in full ‘Ali Ibn Abu Talib; c. 600, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—January 661, Kufah, Iraq) religious and secular leader; son-in-law of Muhammad and fourth caliph, reigning 656–661. The question of his right to the caliphate resulted in the only major split in Islam (into Sunnah and Shi’ah branches). Revered by the Shi’ah as the only true successor to the Prophet.
Muhammad ‘Ali (1769, Kavala, Macedonia, Ottoman Empire [now in Greece]—2 Aug 1849, Alexandria, Egypt), Egyptian ruler; viceroy and pasha of Egypt (1805–49), founder of the dynasty that ruled Egypt from the beginning of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. He encouraged the emergence of the modern Egyptian state.
Yasir ‘Arafat (Muhammad ‘Abd ar-Ra’uf al-Qudwah al-Husayni; 24? Aug 1929, Cairo, Egypt?) Palestinian statesman; president (from 1996) of the Palestinian Authority, chairman (from 1969) of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and leader of Fatah, the largest of the PLO groups. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, 1994.
Averroës (Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd; 1126, Cordoba, [Spain]—1198, Marrakech, Almohad Empire [now in Morocco]) Muslim religious philosopher who integrated Islamic traditions with ancient Greek thought; produced an influential series of summaries and commentaries on Aristotle and Plato and wrote several major treatises in defense of the philosophical study of religion.
Hasan al-Banna’ (1906, Egypt—February 1949, Cairo) Egyptian political and religious leader who established a new religious society, the Muslim Brotherhood, and played a central role in Egyptian political and social affairs.
Harun ar-Rashid (Feb 766/Mar 763, Rayy, Iran—24 Mar 809, T’us [near modern Meshed], Iran), fifth caliph of the ‘Abbasid dynasty (786–809), who ruled Islam at the zenith of its empire.
Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali (624, Medina, Arabia [now Saudi Arabia]—10 Oct 680, Medina), Shi’ite Muslim hero, grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and son of ‘Ali (the fourth Islamic caliph) and Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad. He is revered by Shi’ite Muslims as the third imam.
Saddam Hussein (in full Saddam Hussein At-Tikriti; 28 Apr 1937, Tikrit district, Iraq) Iraqi military leader and politician; president of Iraq from 1979.
Ibn Khaldun (in full Wali Al-din ‘abd Ar-rahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abi Bakr Muhammad Ibn Al-hasan Ibn Khaldun; 27 May 1332, Tunis [Tunisia]—17 Mar 1406, Cairo, [Egypt]), Arab historian, who developed one of the earliest nonreligious philosophies of history.
Ibn Sa’ud (in full ‘abd Al-’aziz Ibn ‘abd Ar-rahman Ibn Faysal Ibn Turki ‘abd Allah Ibn Muhammad Al Sa’ud; 1880, Riyadh, Arabia—9 Nov 1953, at-Ta’if, Saudi Arabia), Arabian tribal and Muslim religious leader who formed the modern state of Saudi Arabia and initiated the exploitation of its oil.
Isma’il I (17 Jul 1487, Ardabil?, Azerbaijan—23 May 1524, Ardabil, Safavid Iran), Iranian royal; shah of Iran (1501–24) and religious leader who founded the Safavid dynasty (first native dynasty to rule the kingdom in 800 years) and converted Iran from the Sunni to the Shi’i sect of Islam.
Ja’far ibn Muhammad (also called Ja’far As-sadiq [Arabic: "Ja’far the Trustworthy"]; 699/700 or 702/703, Medina, Arabia [now Saudi Arabia]—765, Medina, Arabia [now Saudi Arabia]) Islamic leader; sixth imam, or spiritual successor to the Prophet Muhammad, of the Shi’ite branch of Islam and the last to be recognized as imam by all the Shi’ite sects.
Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (in full Jamal Ad-din Al-afghani As-sayyid Muhammad Ibn Safdar Al-husayn; 1838, Asadabad, Persia [now Iran]—9 Mar 1897, Istanbul, Ottoman Empire [now in Turkey]), Muslim politician, political agitator, and journalist whose belief in the potency of a revived Islamic civilization in the face of European domination significantly influenced the development of Muslim thought in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
esus Christ (also called Jesus of Galilee or Jesus of Nazareth; c. 6–4 bc, Bethlehem, Palestine, Roman Empire [now in Israel]—c. ad 30, Jerusalem, Palestine [now in Israel]) Hebrew prophet, the founder of Christianity, revered by Christians as the son of God.
Ruhollah Khomeini (original name Ruhollah Musawi; 17 May 1900, Khomeyn, Iran—3 Jun 1989, Tehran, Iran), Iranian Shi’ite cleric who led the revolution that overthrew Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1979 and who was Iran’s ultimate political and religious authority for the next 10 years.
Mahmud (in full Yamin Al-daula Abu’l-qasim Mahmud Ibn Sebüktigin; 971—30? Apr 1030, Ghazna, [Afghanistan]), Islamic sultan of the kingdom of Ghazna (998–1030), originally comprising modern Afghanistan and northeastern modern Iran but, through his conquests, eventually including northwestern India and most of Iran.
Malcolm X (original name Malcolm Little, Muslim name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz; 19 May 1925, Omaha NE—21 Feb 1965, New York NY), American black militant leader who articulated concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the early 1960s.
Mehmed II (30 Mar 1432, Adrianople, Thrace, Ottoman Empire [now Edirne, Turkey]—3 May 1481, Hunkarcayiri, near Maltepe, Ottoman Empire [now in Turkey]), Ottoman Turkish sultan (1444–46 and 1451–81). Captured Constantinople and conquered territories in Anatolia and the Balkans that comprised the Ottoman Empire’s heartland for the next four centuries.
Moses (fl. 14th–13th century bce), Hebrew prophet, teacher, and leader who delivered his people from Egyptian slavery. He founded the religious community known as Israel and organized of the community’s religious and civil traditions. In the Judaic tradition, he is revered as the greatest prophet and teacher.
Muhammad (in full Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Mut talib ibn Hashim; c. 570, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—8 Jun 632, Medina, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]), Arabian prophet; founder of the religion of Islam and of the Muslim community.
Gamal Abdel Nasser (15 Jan 1918, Alexandria, Egypt—28 Sep 1970, Cairo, Egypt), Egyptian army officer, prime minister (1954–56) and then president (1956–70) of Egypt.
Nizam al-Mulk (Arabic "Order of the Kingdom"; original name Abu ‘ali Hasan Ibn ‘ali; 1018/19, Tus, Khorasan, Iran—14 Oct 1092, near Nehavand, Iran), Persian vizier of the Turkish Seljuq sultans (1063–92), best remembered for his large treatise on kingship, Seyasat-nameh(The Book of Government; or Rules for Kings).
Saladin (Arabic in full Salah Ad-din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub ["Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph, Son of Job"]; 1137/38, Tikrit, Mesopotamia—4 Mar 1193, Damascus, [Syria]), Muslim sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and the most famous of Muslim heroes; he recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, ending an 88-year Christian occupation.
Solomon (Hebrew Shlomo; fl. 10th century bc), Hebrew king, traditionally regarded as the greatest king of Israel; maintained his dominions with military strength and established colonies outside Israel. The pinnacle of his vast building program was the famous temple at Jerusalem.
Süleyman I (byname Süleyman the Magnificent, or The Lawgiver; Nov 1494/Apr 1495—5/6 Sep 1566, near Szigetvár, Hungary), sultan of the Ottoman Empire (1520–1566) who undertook bold military campaigns that enlarged his realm and oversaw the development of the most characteristic achievements of Ottoman civilization in law, literature, art, and architecture.
Timur (byname Timur Lenk, or Timurlenk [Turkish: "Timur the Lame"], English Tamerlane or Tamburlaine; 1336, Kesh, near Samarkand, Transoxania [now in Uzbekistan]—19 Feb 1405, Otrar, near Chimkent, [now Shymkent, Kazakstan]), Turkic conqueror of Islamic faith, chiefly remembered for the barbarity of his conquests from India and Russia to the Mediterranean Sea and for the cultural achievements of his dynasty.
Umar I (in full ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab; c. 586, Mecca, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—3 Nov 644, Medina, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]), Arabian royal; the second Muslim caliph (from 634), under whom Arab armies conquered Mesopotamia and Syria and began the conquest of Iran and Egypt.
‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (before 615, Medina?, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]—17 Jun 656, Medina, Arabia [now in Saudi Arabia]), third caliph to rule after the death of the Prophet. He centralized the administration of the caliphate and established an official version of the Qur’an.