Spiritual & Religious Leaders

Right IconThis ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Religion and spirituality are two things that are probably the most difficult to define in definite terms. It would be wrong to say that spirituality and religion don’t go hand in hand because they do; the only difference is that while religion is an organized system that pays homage to a god, spirituality is something that does not always need a deity to define the parameters of the person’s spiritual conduct. Throughout history there have been people who have played the roles of, both, spiritual and religious leaders for their societies. Some of them have done such exemplary work, with such dedication, that their work, and in turn they themselves, were recognized the world over for their steadfast dedication and wisdom in guiding their flock. Some examples of religious leaders would be people like the Dalai Lama and Pope Benedict XVI while a list of spiritual leaders would include people like the famous Osho Rajneesh. It is natural, at this point, to look for more information about these people and others like then so here is a list of just such people along with their biographies, timelines, trivia, life stories and interesting facts about them.
Vote for Your Favourite Spiritual & Religious Leaders
 1 
Jesus Christ
(Founder of Christianity)
Jesus Christ
55
Listed In: Saints
Birthdate: 0004 BC
Birthplace: Judea, Roman Empire
Died: 0033 AD
First-century Jewish preacher Jesus, known as the Son of God, led to the formation of Christianity, the world’s largest religion. He was born to Joseph and the Virgin Mary. His miracles irked the Roman government, who then tried him and crucified him. Jesus later rose from the dead.
 2 
Gautama Buddha
(Founder of Buddhism)
Gautama Buddha
39
Listed In: Philosophers
Birthdate: 0563 BC
Birthplace: Lumbini Province, Nepal
Died: 0483 BC

Gautama Buddha is said to have lived in the 5th to 4th century BC and is revered as the founder of Buddhism. He is said to have spread his teachings for around 45 years based on his insights regarding suffering, nirvana and cycle of birth and rebirth. He had a large following. He obtained ‘enlightenment’ in India’s Bodh Gaya.

 3 
Swami Vivekananda
(Indian Monk & Philosopher Who Introduced the Vedanta and Yoga to the Western World)
Swami Vivekananda
48
Birthdate: January 12, 1863
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: July 4, 1902

The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.

 4 
Prophet Muhammad
(Founder of Islam)
Prophet Muhammad
28
Birthdate: 0571 AD
Birthplace: Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
Died: June 8, 0632

Prophet Muhammad was an Arab religious, political, and social leader. He is credited with founding the world's second-largest religion, Islam. He is believed to have been sent to preach and confirm the teachings of other prophets, such as Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. He is also believed to have received revelations from God, which form the verses of the Quran.

 5 
Sai Baba of Shirdi
(Spiritual Guru)
Sai Baba of Shirdi
15
Birthplace: India
Died: October 15, 1918

Sai Baba of Shirdi was an important and influential Indian spiritual master. Identified both as a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint, Sai Baba's teachings are still relevant among Muslim and Hindu communities around the world. While Shri Sai remains a common name for establishments in India, his temples are also located in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia.

 6 
Kabir
(Saint and Mystic Poet)
Kabir
8
Listed In: Poets, Philosophers
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 7 
Mahavira
(Last tirthankara of Jainism)
Mahavira
10
Birthdate: 0599 BC
Birthplace: Vaishali
Died: 0527 BC
Mahavira, or Vardhamana, was the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Ancient texts suggest that he was a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavira renounced all worldly possessions at age 30. Following a long life of austerity, he attained Kevala Gyan and Moksha. His teachings came to be known as the Jain Agamas.
 8 
Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
(Spiritual & Religious Leader)
Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
12
Listed In: Philosophers
Birthdate: February 18, 1836
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamarpukur, West Bengal, India
Died: August 16, 1886

The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.

 9 
Francis Xavier
(Missionary)
Francis Xavier
6
Listed In: Preachers
Birthdate: April 7, 1506
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Javier, Spain
Died: December 3, 1552
Navarrese Catholic missionary and saint Francis Xavier co-founded the Society of Jesus. His mission focused on the Portuguese Empire in Asia. He is remembered for his efforts to spread Christianity in Goa. He extended his mission to Japan and Borneo but died before he could preach in China.
 10 
Jeremiah
(Prophet)
Jeremiah
4
Birthdate: 0655 BC
Birthplace: Anathoth
Died: 0586 BC

Jeremiah was one of the major prophets, according to the Hebrew Bible. As per Jewish tradition, he authored the Book of Lamentations, the Books of Kings, and the Book of Jeremiah. According to Judaism, Jeremiah is the second of the major prophets and the Book of Jeremiah is often considered a part of the religion's canon.

 11 
Moses
(Hebrew Religious Leader, Prophet)
Moses
16
Birthplace: Land of Goshen, Ancient Egypt

A prominent prophet in Islam, Christianity, and the Baháʼí Faith among other Abrahamic religions, Moses is also the most important prophet in Judaism. One of the most important biblical characters, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments are fundamental to both Christianity and Judaism. The authorship of the Torah is also attributed to Moses.

 12 
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
(Founder of Sikhism)
Guru Nanak Dev Ji
6
Birthdate: April 15, 1469
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nankana Sahib, Pakistan
Died: September 22, 1539

Guru Nanak was the founder of one of the most popular monotheistic religions of the Indian subcontinent, Sikhism. Widely regarded as the first of the ten Sikh Gurus, Nanak contributed 974 hymns to the religion's sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak is worshipped by Sikhs around the world and his birth is celebrated as Guru Nanak Gurpurab.

 13 
Pope Francis
(Pope, Head of the Catholic church (Since 2013))
Pope Francis
16
Birthdate: December 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Pope Francis is the sovereign of the Vatican City and head of the Catholic Church. He is the first Jesuit pope and first non-European pope since Pope Gregory III. Often praised for having a comparatively less formal approach, Pope Francis is popular for his humility, international visibility, and concern for the poor.

Paramahansa Yogananda
7
Birthdate: January 5, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: March 7, 1952

Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru. He is known for introducing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India to millions across the world. He authored the book Autobiography of a Yogi and is considered the Father of Yoga in the West.

 15 
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
(Founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism)
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
5
Birthdate: February 18, 1484
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Navadvipa, India
Died: June 14, 1534

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a 15th-century Indian saint. Some of his disciples consider him to be the combined avatar of Radha and Krishna. His mode of worship characterized by ecstatic song and dance rituals had a deep influence on Vaishnavism in Bengal. He expounded Bhakti yoga and founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-Purnima by his disciples.  

 16 
Abraham
(Religious Leader)
Abraham
3
Birthplace: Ur Kaśdim, Mesopotamia

Abraham is an important historical character, considered one of the fathers of the human race by the Abrahamic religions, including Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Abrahamic religions believe that Abraham was in contact with God; his story and life events have inspired several important paintings, sculptures, works of literature, and music.

 17 
Guru Gobind Singh
8
Birthdate: December 22, 1666
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Patna, India
Died: October 7, 1708
Guru Gobind Singh, the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur, became the 10th guru, or spiritual leader, of the Sikhs after his father was killed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He established the concept of the “Five Ks” of Sikhs and formed the Khalsa community. He also finalized the Guru Granth Sahib.
 18 
Ezekiel
(Prophet)
Ezekiel
4
Birthdate: 0622 BC
Birthplace: Jerusalem
Died: 0570 BC

The Book of Ezekiel, or The Prophecy of Ezechiel, of the Hebrew Bible talks about Ezekiel, the prophet. He is said to have lived near the Chebar River during the Babylonian Captivity. In about 592 BC, Ezekiel received a religious call, having viewed the “throne-chariot” of God in a vision.

 19 
Adi Shankara
(Advaita Philosopher)
Adi Shankara
1
Birthdate: 0700 AD
Birthplace: Kaladi, India
Died: 0750 AD
Indian philosopher and theologian Adi Shankaracharya, or Adi Shankara, promoted the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. His Sanskrit works talk about concepts such as the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman. He criticized the Mīmāṃsā school and explained the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism. He also established four "mathas," or monasteries.
 20 
Billy Graham
(Evangelist)
Billy Graham
6
Birthdate: November 7, 1918
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
Died: February 21, 2018
Billy Graham was an evangelist and an ordained SBC minister. He had been on Gallup's list of the 10 most admired men 61 times. He broadcast his sermons through radio and TV, and organized annual "Crusades,” or evangelistic campaigns. He owned several media outlets and advised many U.S. presidents. 
 21 
Saint Patrick
(Missionary)
Saint Patrick
0
Listed In: Saints
Birthdate: 0385 AD
Birthplace: Roman Britain
Died: March 17, 0461

Saint Patrick was a Romano-British bishop and Christian missionary in Ireland. Widely regarded as the main patron saint of Ireland, Patrick is often referred to as the Apostle of Ireland. According to early medieval tradition, Patrick is credited with popularizing Christianity in Ireland. His life and work inspired the 2000 TV historical drama film, St. Patrick: The Irish Legend.

 22 
Thomas More
(Catholic Saint)
Thomas More
5
Birthdate: February 7, 1478
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: City of London
Died: July 6, 1535
Lawyer, philosopher, and poet Thomas More, author of Utopia, had served as the British Lord Chancellor for 3 years. He opposed Henry VIII's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to take the Oath of Supremacy. He was thus beheaded for treason. Pope Pius XI later declared him a martyr.
 23 
Thomas Aquinas
(Italian Theologian & Philosopher)
Thomas Aquinas
6
Birthdate: January 25, 1225
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Roccasecca, Italy
Died: March 7, 1274
Dominican friar and Catholic priest Thomas Aquinas was also a Doctor of the Church. He tried to mingle Aristotelian philosophy and Christianity. His works, including Summa Theologica and Disputed Questions on Truth, and his views on the Scriptures have been studied as prominent texts on theology, philosophy, and canon law.
 24 
Joseph Smith Jr.
(Religious Leader and Founder of 'Mormonism' and the Latter Day Saint Movement)
Joseph Smith Jr.
7
Listed In: Theologians
Birthdate: December 23, 1805
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Sharon, Vermont, United States
Died: May 27, 1844

Religious leader Joseph Smith Jr. is known as the founder of the Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. He also published the Book of Mormon. He established his communities in Ohio and Missouri and eventually founded the city Nauvoo in Illinois, which became the center of his spiritual activities.

 25 
Saint George
(Christian martyr, Saint)
Saint George
5
Listed In: Saints
Birthplace: Cappadocia, Turkey
Died: April 23, 0303

Saint George was a Christian soldier in the Roman army who is accepted as a saint in Christianity. He was sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith and was executed by decapitation, according to Greek tradition.  Saint George's Day is celebrated in his memory on 23 April. He is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.

 26 
Dalai Lama
(Spiritual Leader of Tibet and 14th Dalai Lama)
Dalai Lama
17
Birthdate: July 6, 1935
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Taktser, Tibet
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is known for his advocacy for peace in Tibet and has won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He belongs to a lineage of reincarnations of Avalokiteśvara. He fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion and formed a Tibetan government in exile.
 27 
Eckhart Tolle
(Spiritual Teacher and Self-Help Author Known for His Works ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘A New Earth’)
Eckhart Tolle
8
Birthdate: February 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lünen, Germany
Spiritual and self-help writer Eckhart Tolle is best known for his bestselling books The Power of Now and A New Earth. He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey, appearing in 10 live webinars and was also named to Oprah’s SuperSoul 100. He also launched Eckhart Teachings and the website Eckhart Tolle TV.
 28 
Elijah
(Prophet)
Elijah
4
Birthdate: 0900 BC
Birthplace: Tishbe
Died: 0849 BC
9th-century B.C. prophet Elijah was from the northern kingdom of Israel and lived during King Ahab’s rule. He appears not just in the Bible, but also in the Quran, the Talmud, and several other religious texts. According to Kings, he defended the worship of Yahweh over the Canaanite god Baal. 
 29 
Jacob
(Religious leader)
Jacob
4
Birthplace: Canaan
 30 
Ali ibn Abi Talib
(1st Shia Imam (632-661))
Ali ibn Abi Talib
8
Birthdate: 0600 AD
Birthplace: Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: January 28, 0661

Ali ibn Abi Talib was the son-in-law and a cousin of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He played a key role in establishing the Muslim community by participating in almost all the battles that the nascent community fought. He ruled as the fourth caliph and is revered by Shia Muslims even today.

 31 
Nimrod
(Biblical Figure)
Nimrod
5
Nimrod appears in the Bible as a ruler of Shinar, or Mesopotamia. Genesis and the Books of Chronicles state he was the son of Cush. Some sources link him to the Towel of Babel. He has been identified with countless real and mythical figures, such as the Mesopotamian god Ninurta.
 32 
St. Augustine
(Theologian, Philosopher and One of the Most Important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period.)
St. Augustine
11
Birthdate: November 13, 0354
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Thagaste
Died: August 28, 0430

Saint Augustine was a philosopher, theologian, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Roman North Africa. His writings are often credited with influencing the growth of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He is also regarded as one of the Latin Church's most important Church Fathers in the Patristic Period. Among his many important works are Confessions and On Christian Doctrine.

 33 
Thomas Becket
5
Listed In: Saints
Birthdate: December 21, 1118
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cheapside, London, England
Died: December 29, 1170
Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury or Thomas of London, served as the archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170. He is known for his conflict with King Henry II of England, regarding the powers of the Church, following which he was killed by the king’s followers.
 34 
Abu Bakr
(1st Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate (632-634))
Abu Bakr
6
Birthdate: October 27, 0573
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: August 23, 0634

Abu Bakr was a companion and father-in-law of the founder of Islam, Muhammad. After Muhammad's death, Bakr played an important role in leading the Muslims as the first Rashidun Caliph. Under Abu Bakr’s leadership, the Muslim state expanded over the entire Arabian peninsula. Abu Bakr's work during his reign eventually led to the Muslim conquests of the Levant and Persia.

 35 
Jaggi Vasudev
(Yoga Guru)
Jaggi Vasudev
21
Birthdate: September 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mysore, Karnataka, India

The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author.  His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.

 36 
Pope John Paul I
5
Birthdate: October 17, 1912
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Canale d'Agordo, Italy
Died: September 28, 1978
Pope John Paul I, also known as The Smiling Pope and The September Pope, was the shortest-reigning Pope and died 33 days after being made the Pope. He was the first Pope to choose a double name, including the names of his predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI.
 37 
Saint Christopher
(Patron Saint of Travellers)
Saint Christopher
5
Birthplace: Canaan
Died: 0251 AD

Saint Christopher is often regarded by the Christians as the patron saint of travelers. He is venerated as a martyr killed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius. Over the years, the legend associated with Saint Christopher has been mentioned in several works of art, including literature, music, paintings, and films.

 38 
Pope Paul VI
6
Birthdate: September 26, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Concesio, Italy
Died: August 6, 1978
Succeeding Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI was elected the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State in June 1963 and continued in his role till his death in August 1978. He reconvened the Second Vatican Council and after its conclusion worked towards implementation of its reforms. He was canonised in 2018 by Pope Francis.
 39 
St Paul
(Religious Preacher)
St Paul
0
Listed In: Preachers, Apostles
Birthdate: 0005 AD
Birthplace: Tarsus, Turkey
Died: 0065 AD
Paul the Apostle, or Saint Paul, was a Christian apostle who disseminated Christ’s teachings and established Christian communities in Asia and Europe. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, about 14 are said to be authored by Paul, though only seven are said to be genuinely written by him.
 40 
Muhammad(Religious leader)
(Religious leader)
Muhammad(Religious leader)
5
Birthdate: April 22, 0571
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Mecca
Died: June 8, 0632
 41 
Esther
(Queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus)
Esther
8
Birthplace: Achaemenid Empire
Esther from the Book of Esther was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus. While the king’s advisor, Haman, angered by Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, planned to kill all Jews, Esther reversed the plan with the king’s permission. The Jewish festival Purim marks the day the Jews murdered their enemies.
 42 
Thomas the Apostle
5
Birthplace: Galilee, Israel
Died: December 21, 0072

Thomas the Apostle was one of Jesus Christ's Twelve Apostles, according to the New Testament. He is often called Doubting Thomas as he doubted Jesus' resurrection. Widely considered the patron saint of India, Thomas is believed to have traveled to present-day Kerala, where Christianity is a major religion. Hence, he is credited with popularizing the religion in South India.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola
4
Listed In: Theologians, Saints
Birthdate: October 23, 1491
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Azpeitia, Spain
Died: July 31, 1556

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a  Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."

 44 
Ram Dass
(Spiritual Teacher)
Ram Dass
5
Birthdate: April 6, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Died: December 22, 2019

Ram Dass was an American spiritual teacher and psychologist. Born as Richard Alpert in Boston, he embraced Hinduism on a visit to India and changed his name. He traveled extensively, giving talks, and authored or co-authored many books on spirituality. He also founded the charitable organizations, Seva Foundation, and Hanuman Foundation. He was openly bisexual.

 45 
Enoch
(Methuselah's father)
Enoch
4
Birthplace: Babylon
 46 
Saint Sebastian
4
Birthdate: 0256 AD
Birthplace: Narbonne, France
Died: 0288 AD
Saint Sebastian, a Christian saint, was almost killed during Diocletian's persecution of Christians. However, he was later rescued by Saint Irene of Rome. Following this, Sebastian tried warning Diocletian about his sins but was instead clubbed to death. Medieval traditions labelled him as a protector against the plague.
 47 
Pope John XXIII
4
Listed In: Saints
Birthdate: November 25, 1881
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Italy
Died: June 3, 1963

Pope John XXIII served as the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death in 1963. He took many people by surprise when he called the historic Second Vatican Council, which addressed relations between the modern world and the Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was canonized on 27 April 2014.

 48 
Pope Pius XII
(Pope (1939-1958))
Pope Pius XII
5
Birthdate: March 2, 1876
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: October 9, 1958

Pope Pius XII served as the head of the Catholic Church and the sovereign of the Vatican City from 1939 till 1958. Of the many positions he had held, one was the secretaryship of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. He is remembered for negotiating the treaty of Reichskonkordat.

 49 
Husayn ibn Ali
6
Birthdate: 0626
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Medina, Saudi Arabia
Died: September 30, 0680
 50 
Nizamuddin Auliya
(Sufi Saint)
Nizamuddin Auliya
9
Listed In: Saints, Poets
Birthdate: October 9, 1238
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Budaun, India
Died: April 3, 1325

Nizamuddin Auliya was an Indian Sunni Muslim scholar and Sufi saint of the Chishti Order. He stressed love as a means of realizing God and believed that love of God implies love of humanity. He is considered one of the most famous Sufis from the Indian Subcontinent. His teachings were marked by an evolved sense of religious pluralism and kindness. 

See Also