Michael Hart: The Most Influential Person in History


Above is a depiction of Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih and his army

“My choice of Muhammad [] to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.

Of humble origins Muhammad [] founded and promulgated one of the great world religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.

The majority of persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centres of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad [], however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Mecca, in southern Arabia, at the time a backward area of the world, far from the centres of trade, art and learning…

The Bedouin tribesman of Arabia had a reputation as fierce warriors. But their number was small; and plagued by disunity and internecine warfare, they had been no match for the larger armies of the kingdoms in the settled agricultural areas to the north. However, unified by Muhammad [] for the first time in history, and inspired by their fervent belief in the one true God, these small Arab armies now embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. To the northeast of Arabia lay the Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanids; to the northwest lay the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, centred in Constantinople [1]. Numerically the Arabs were no match for their opponents. On the field of battle, though, the inspired Arabs rapidly conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. By 642, Egypt had been wrested from the Byzantine Empire, while the Persian armies had been crushed at the key battles of Qadisiyya in 637, and Nehavend in 642.

But even these enormous conquests – which were made under the leadership of Muhammad’s [] close friends and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab – did not mark the end of the Arab advance. By 711, the Arab armies had swept completely across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain.

For a while, it must have seemed that the Moslems would overwhelm all of Christian Europe. However, in 732, at the famous Battle of Tours, a Moslem army, which had advanced in to the centre of France, was at last defeated by the Franks. Nevertheless, in a scant century of fighting, these Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the word of the Prophet [], had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean – the largest empire the world had yet seen.”

[Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, 1991, pp. 33-35]

[1] Constantinople was later conquered by Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih in 1453. In a hadith, the Prophet predicted:

“Verily you shall conquer Constantinople. What a wonderful leader will he be, and what a wonderful army will that army be!”

Narrated from Bishr al-Khath’ami or al-Ghanawi by:
Ahmad, al-Musnad 14:331 #18859 [sahih chain according to Hamza al-Zayn] al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak 4:421-422 [sahih according to him and al-Dhahabi concurred] al-Tabarani, al-Mu`jam al-Kabir 2:38 #1216 [sahih chain according to al-Haythami 6:218-219] al-Bukhari, al-Tarikh al-Kabir 2:81 and al-Saghir 1:306 Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Isti`ab 8:170 [hasan chain according to him] al-Suyuti, al-Jami` al-Saghir [sahih according to him]

Ibn Hajar on the Sin of Living without a Caliph (Imam)

final caliph

The following is a hadith related by Bukhārī:

Abu Rajā’ related from Ibn ‘Abbās that the Prophet ﷺ said: “If someone dislikes what his Amir does, he should be patient. Anyone who separates himself from the Sultan even a hand’s breadth will die the death of al-jāhilīyyah.”*
(Kitāb al-Fitan, Chapter 2)

Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī explains the meaning of the phrase مات ميتة جاهلية:
“To die as those who died in the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance (al-jāhilīyyah) means the state of death: to die in a state of misguidance with no Imam [Caliph] to obey, as the inhabitants of that era had no such kind of ruling. The hadith doesn’t mean that the Muslim will die as a kāfir but as a disobeying Muslim. This Hadith has possible definitions: To resemble between the state of death between the disobeying Muslim and the Jāhil, even if the Muslim was not in reality a Jāhil; or, to frighten and reprimand, and this meaning is not the apparent one… Ibn Baṭṭāl said: this hadith is an argument to not disobey the Sultan even if he is wronged. The scholars agreed unanimously on the obligation of obeying the empowered Sultan and (engaging in) jihad under his commandment. As well the scholars consider that obeying the Sultan is better than disobeying him as this act prevents bloodshed and mitigates the masses.”
[Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī) commentary on hadith #7053]

*cf.: “Whosoever dies without a bay‘ah (pledge of allegiance to a caliph) on his neck dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.” [Hadith in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Nafi]


“Whosoever dies without an Imam dies the death of al-jāhilīyyah.
[Musnad Abu Dawud 259, Sahih Ibn Hibban 10/434, Mu’jam Al-Kabir, Tabarani 19/388, Musnad Ahmad 61/5, Sharh Al-Maqasid 4/239, al-Haythami in Majma’ az-Zawa’id 5/228]

Ibn Hajar on Arab Rulers

ibn saud and percy cox

From the commentary of Hadith Jibril by Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī:

…The man said: “Messenger of Allah! When is the Final Hour?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “The one who is questioned about it is no more informed at all than the questioner. However, I shall tell you about its preconditions (ashrāṭihā). When the slave girl gives birth to her master – that is one of its preconditions. And when the naked and barefoot are the top leaders of the people – that is one of its preconditions. And when the shepherds compete in building tall structures – that is one of its preconditions. [It is] among five things none knows but Allah.” [aḥīḥ Muslim]

“are the top leaders of the people” This means the kings of the earth as explicitly stated in al-Isma‘īlī’s and Abū Farwa’s narrations. Those meant are the people of the desert, as explicitly stated in Sulayman al-Taymī’s and other narrations: “Who are the barefoot and naked?” He replied: “The little Arabs (al-‘urayb).”

Al-Ṭabaranī narrates through Abū Hamza, from Ibn ‘Abbās, from the Prophet ﷺ: “Part of the overthrow (inqilāb) of the Religion is the affectation of eloquence by the boors (al-naba) and their betaking to palaces in big cities.” Al-Qurṭubī said: “What is meant here is the prediction of a reversal in society whereby the people of the desert will take over and hold sway over every region by force. They will become very rich and their primary concern will be to erect tall buildings and take pride in them. We have witnessed this in our time.” Of identical import are the ḥadīths “The Hour will not rise until the happiest man in the world will be the depraved son of a depraved father (luka‘ ibn luka‘)” and “If leadership is entrusted to those unfit for it, expect the Hour,” both of them in the aḥīḥ.

[Hāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī, فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري (Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī). English translation of excerpts in Sunna Notes Volume 3, Studies in Ḥadīth and Doctrine: The Binding Proof of the Sunna by Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, AQSA Publications, UK, 2010, pp. 159-160, 196]

Ibn Ḥajar al-‘Asqalānī was born in Cairo in 773 H (1372 CE). A Shafi‘i Imam and hadith master (hafiz), he reached the level of Commander of the Faithful in Hadith, the only rank above that of hadith master. He first learned literature and poetry, but then devoted his considerable talents to hadith, which he studied under the renowned African master al-Zayla‘i and others in Cairo, Yemen and the Hijaz. His works were popular in his own lifetime and were hand-copied by the greatest scholars of the era. Known as Sheikh al-Islam, scholars travelled to take knowledge from him, and he was appointed to the judiciary in Egypt several times. He authored a number of works on hadith, history, biography, Koranic exegesis, poetry and Shafi‘i jurisprudence, among the most famous of them his fourteen-volume Fatḥ al-Bārī Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī [The victory of the Creator: a commentary on the “Sahih” of Bukhari] which few serious students of Islamic knowledge can do without. He died in Cairo in 852 H (1449 CE).
[Excerpted from The Reliance of the Traveller by Shaykh Nuh Keller]

Hadith: The Knots of Islam will be Untied One by One

The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said*:

لَيُنْقَضَنَّ عُرَى الْإِسْلَامِ عُرْوَةً عُرْوَةً فَكُلَّمَا انْتَقَضَتْ عُرْوَةٌ تَشَبَّثَ النَّاسُ بِالَّتِي تَلِيهَا وَأَوَّلُهُنَّ نَقْضًا الْحُكْمُ وَآخِرُهُنَّ الصَّلَاةُ

The knots of Islam will be undone one by one, each time a knot is undone the next one will be grasped, the first to be undone will be the Rule [of Islam; The Caliphate] and the last will be the Prayer (Salah).

Narrated by Abu Umamah al-Bahili (ra)

And in another version of the hadith authenticated by al-Hakim in his Mustadrak:

Verily, the knots of Islam will be undone and there shall be misguided rulers.

Commentary on the hadith from The Sixty Sultaniyya:

A: It was the Prophet ﷺ who tied together the knots of Islam, including the uppermost knot of ruling after he established the Islamic state between the Ansar [Helpers], the Muhajiroon [Emigrants], and the non-Muslims in and around Yathrib (Medina) after Hijra from his own people of Mecca.

B: As mentioned by Imam Mawardi, the leadership has been prescribed as the succession of the Prophet ﷺ in protecting the deen and governing the societal affairs. In this respect, Imam Baidawi mentioned that the Imamah/Khilafah is the succession from the Prophet in the establishment of the laws of the Shari‘ah and the protection of the territory. So without the Imam the laws lie unapplied and the territory is not protected effectively.

C: The hadith indicates that it is the uppermost knot that keeps the subsequent knots safe from being untied. This is since it is the ruler that is responsible to apply Islam in its entirety, to implement the limits proscribed by Allah سبحانه وتعالى and to protect the society.

D: Imam Ahmed mentioned without an Imam (for the Muslims as their leader) there would be fitna, and the destruction of the symbols of Islam ending with the Prayer is a great fitna.



  1. al-Bukhari, Ta’rikh al-Kabir, 4:233.
  2. Imam Ahmad from Fayruz al-Daylami from his father in the Musnad, 4:232, hadith no. 18068 (hasan, Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
  3. al-Tabarani, Mujam al-Kabir, 8:98, hadith no. 7486.
  4. al-Hakim, al-Mustadrakala ’l-Sahihayn, 4:469, hadith no. 7022 where he declared the isnad (chain of transmission) as sahih
  5. Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, 15:111, hadith no. 6715 with a very strong isnad (Shaykh al-Arna’ut).
  6. Al-Mundhiri, al-Tarhib wa’l-Targhib, 1:263 with a sahih chain of transmission
  7. Al-Haythami, Majmaal-Zawa’id, 7:284 where he comments that the narrators of the hadith are all sound (rijaluhu rijalun sahih).

Hat Tip: Dar al-Nicosia