The title of sheikh is often held by royalty in the Middle East, but it can mean so much more. In Arabic, the term sheikh means man of old age, and it’s a title that is not easily earned. Only the most revered and respected Muslims can earn this honorable title, and that generally means that a sheikh is a male over the age of 40. However, women can earn the title shaykhah or sheikha. Daughters and wives of sheikhs can often hold this title. Muslims who earn the term sheikh have often diligently studied the religion of Islam, are well versed in the teaching of the Qur’an and live according to Sunnah, which is the way of life designated to Muslims by Muhammad. A person can be designated a sheikh if that person has completed undergraduate university studies in Islamic studies and is also trained to give lectures.
Islam is the second largest religion in the world, surpassed only by Christianity, and it’s also the fastest growing. Islam is most widely followed in Asia. Over 1 billion people in Asia recognize themselves as Muslim; most of these people live in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia. There are over 500 million Muslims in Africa and the Middle East.
Because of the large oil reserves and the number of wealthy families in the Middle East, some Sheikhs in the region are extremely wealthy – some Sheikhs in the Middle East are ranked as some of the world’s richest billionaires. In most of the Arab nations, members of the Gulf Royal Houses use the terms sheikh and sheikha, so many royals make the list of richest sheikhs. Because the wealth of some royal families in the Arab peninsula is so secretly guarded it is possible that some of the world’s richest sheikhs are even richer than estimated, but with information available publicly, these are the richest sheikhs in the world.
7. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, $2 billion
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is the current ruler of Qatar, he became the Emir of the State of Qatar after his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated the throne in 2013. This makes him the youngest reigning monarch in the world. As the head of the Qatar Investment Authority, he invested billions in British companies like Harrods, Barclays and Sainsbury’s.
6. Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, $2.2 billion
Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani became a success despite his family name, not because of it. His title Sheikh is not related to any royalty/political position. He is a distant relative of the ruling Al Thani’s in Qatar; it is believed that some family branches can be marginalized to prevent coups. He owns Al Faisal Holding Company, which operates in various industries such as real estate; Al Faisal Holding Company is heavily involved in luxury hotels and high-end commercial real estate development.
5. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, $2.4 billion
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani was the Emir of Qatar from 1995 until 2013. During his reign, the nation produced nearly 85 million tons of natural gas, which lead Qatar to be the richest country in the world per capita. He abdicated the throne last year to be succeeded by his son. Sheikh Hamad took power from his father after a bloodless coup.
4. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, $4.5 billion
According to a report by Forbes in 2010, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has seen his net worth plummet in recent years due to the heavy debt loads of the United Arab Emirates, of which he is the vice president. He is also the constitutional monarch of Dubai. As of 2010, his investment company Dubai Holding owed banks $12 billion. As the Crown Prince of Dubai, he named his yacht – the third largest in the world – ‘Dubai’. He is interested in horse racing and owns horse-breeding operation Darley Stud; it is believed that he is the largest spender in the sport of horse racing.
3. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, $4.9 billion
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and the half brother of the nation’s president/ He is also the minister of presidential affairs for Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Mansour is the chair of Al Jazira sports company which operates soccer, handball, volleyball and basketball teams in Abu Dhabi. He also owns English soccer club Manchester City F.C, through the holding company City Football Group (parent company Abu Dhabi United Group). He is the chair of Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment Company.
2. Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi, $14.3 billion
Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al Amoudi is ranked as the 63rd richest person in the world, and he divides his time between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. He is also the second richest Saudi citizen and the richest black person. His title as Sheikh is strictly due to his wealth and accomplishments, as he is not a member of any royal family (Saudi Arabia does not officially give members of it’s royal family the title of Sheikh). It is believed he is not only the largest foreign investor in Ethiopia, but Sweden as well. He earned his wealth thanks to his large portfolio of oil, mining and agriculture assets.
1. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, $18 billion
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has an estimated personal net worth of around $18 billion. However, the Al Nahyan family may have a net worth around $150 billion plus. Sheikh Khalifa is the current Emir of Abu Dhabi and the president of the United Arab Emirates. He has officially held presidential office since 2004 but was acting in a presidential capacity since the 1990s, when he was Crown Prince, due to his father’s poor health. He runs the world’s second largest wealth fund, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which holds assets estimated at $773 billion. The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is named after him.