Sarwar Khawaja recently spoke at a high profile award ceremony in London, The Muslim 100, an event celebrating the top 100 most influential Muslims in the UK, Europe and the World. The Muslim 100 is part of a wider concept known as The Power List, celebrating the achievements of men and women in the UK and beyond in business and in life. But what is influence, and how can it be best used to make a difference in society?

One definition of ‘influence’ is “the power to have an effect on people or things”. Those who have influence have a role to play in the improvement of life for other people. Khawaja’s inclusion in The Muslim 100 was based on his services to education and human development, and education is one of the most important ways in which influential individuals can make a difference.

The former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, once said that “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” Education has a universal impact on communities, and in particular the family unit. Those who champion developments in education help to encourage a lifelong sense of liberation and possibility for communities, families and individuals around the world.

One of the fundamental goals of education is to help improve the lives of all people. Education is important because at all stages of life, it helps us all to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our communities, our countries and our world. Whether it’s addressing global issues like climate change, or seeking to solve problems like poverty and health inequality, education offers the chance to understand the issues that affect people, and helps to create ways through which to resolve those issues.

American philosopher Eric Hoffer perhaps said it best when he stated “The only way to predict the future is to have power to shape the future”. The inference of Hoffer’s point is that those with influence are the authors of the future, and therefore have a crucial role to play in outlining the society in which we will all one day live in. Education is also a means of sharing influence. Through education, today’s influencers are able to empower the next generation of leaders, helping more people to claim the freedoms necessary to become authors of their own destiny.

Sarwar Khawaja recently participated in a policy discussion meeting which featured the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. By engaging with policy on a national and international scale, influencers can help to shape views and interact with Government policy. For example, that meeting provided the opportunity to hear first hand the Pakistani government’s policies on education.

Being influential can help to make a big difference. Particularly in terms of education, those with a voice can use their voice to encourage positive action – calling for change and improvement. Those with a platform can share a positive vision for community, and like Sarwar Khawaja, those who celebrate education help to ensure that learning is at the forefront of social and political agendas.