Islam Wiki

Islam in England is the second largest religion, with most Muslims being immigrants from South Asia (in particular Pakistan, Bangladesh and India) or descendants of immigrants from that region. Many others are from Muslim-dominated regions such as the Middle East, Somalia, Malaysia and Indonesia, while fewer come from Equatorial African countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone.[1]

File:East London Mosque Front View.jpg

The East London mosque in Whitechapel.


See also: List of Arabic loanwords in English

Middle Ages

See also: Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe
File:Offa king of Mercia 757 793 gold dinar copy of dinar of the Abassid Caliphate 774.jpg

A mancus / gold dinar of king Offa, copied from the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774); it includes the Arabic text Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah, a line from the Shahada.

Although Islam is generally thought of as being a recent arrival in England, there has been contact between the English and Muslims for many centuries. An early example would be the decision of Offa, the eighth-century King of Mercia (one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms existing at that time), to have a coin minted with an Islamic inscription - largely a copy of coins issued by the contemporary Muslim ruler, Caliph Al-Mansur. It is thought that they may have been minted simply for prestige or to facilitate trade with the expanding Islamic empire in Spain, as Islamic gold dinars were the most important coinage in the Mediterranean at the time. Offa's coin looked enough like the original that it would be readily accepted in southern Europe, while at the same time his own name was clearly visible.[2] References to Britain are also found in early Islamic geographical literature, such as the 9th century work of Ahmad ibn Rustah (d. 910) which describes the islands of "Bratiniya".[3]

Muslim scholarship, especially early Islamic philosophy and Islamic science, was well-known through Latin translation among the learned in England by 1386, when Geoffrey Chaucer was writing. In the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, there is among the pilgrims wending their way to Canterbury, a 'Doctour of Phisyk' whose learning included Rhazes (Al-Razi), Avicenna (Ibn Sina, Arabic ابن سينا) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd, Arabic ابن رشد). In the Pardoner's Tale, Chaucer mentions part Avicenna's work concerning poisons.[4] Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1025), in Latin translation, was a standard text for medical students up until the 18th century.[5] Roger Bacon, one of the earliest European advocates of the scientific method,[6] was inspired by the works of early Muslim scientists.[7][8] In particular, his work on optics in the 13th century was largely based on the Book of Optics (1021) by Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen).[9]

Professor John Makdisi's "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law" in the North Carolina Law Review,[10] suggested that English common law was inspired by medieval Islamic law.[11] Makdisi drew comparisons between the "royal English contract protected by the action of debt" and the "Islamic Aqd", the "English assize of novel disseisin" and the "Islamic Istihqaq", and the "English jury" and the "Islamic Lafif" in the classical Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, and argued that these institutions were transmitted to England by the Normans,[10] "through the close connection between the Norman kingdoms of Roger II in Sicily — ruling over a conquered Islamic administration — and Henry II in England."[12] Makdisi also argued that the "law schools known as Inns of Court" in England (which he asserts are parallel to Madrasahs) may have also originated from Islamic law.[10] He states that the methodology of legal precedent and reasoning by analogy (Qiyas) are also similar in both the Islamic and common law systems.[13] Other legal scholars such as Monica Gaudiosi, Gamal Moursi Badr and A. Hudson have argued that the English trust and agency institutions, which were introduced by Crusaders, may have been adapted from the Islamic Waqf and Hawala institutions they came across in the Middle East.[14][15][16] Dr. Paul Brand also notes parallels between the Waqf and the trusts used to establish Merton College by Walter de Merton, who had connections with the Knights Templar, but Brand also points out that the Knights Templar were primarily concerned with fighting the Muslims rather than learning from them, making it less likely that they had knowledge of Muslim legal institutions.[11] The conventional view sees English law as deriving from Anglo-Saxon law of many centuries earlier.

Early modern period

See also: Islamic Civilization during the European Renaissance

The first English convert to Islam mentioned by name is John Nelson.[17] 16th century writer Richard Hakluyt claimed he was forced to convert, though he mentions in the same story other Englishmen who had converted willingly.

This king had a son which was a ruler in an island called Gerbi, whereunto arrived an English ship called the Green Dragon, of the which was master one M. Blonket, who, having a very unhappy boy on that ship, and understanding that whosoever would turn Turk should be well entertained of the a yeoman of our Queen's guard, whom the king's son had enforced to turn Turk; his name was John Nelson.[18]
File:MoorishAmbassador to Elizabeth I.jpg

Portrait of Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud, a Moorish ambassador to Queen Elizabeth I in 1600

Captain John Ward of Kent was one of a number of British sailors who became pirates based in the Maghreb who also converted to Islam (see also Barbary pirates). Later, some Unitarians became interested in the faith, and Henry Stubbes wrote so favourably about Islam that it is thought he too had converted to the faith.

From 1609 to 1616, England lost 466 ships to Barbary pirates, who sold the passengers into slavery in North Africa.[19] In 1625, it was reported that Lundy, an island in the Bristol Channel which had been a pirate lair for much of the previous half century, had been occupied by three Turkish pirates who were threatening to burn Ilfracombe; Algerine rovers were using the island as a base in 1635, although the island had itself been attacked and plundered by a Spanish raid in 1633.[20] Around 1645, Barbary pirates under command of the Dutch renegade Jan Janszoon operating from the Moroccon port of Salé occupied Lundy, before he was expelled by the Penn. During this time there were reports of captured slaves being sent to Algiers and of the Islamic flag flying over Lundy.[21][22]

The Muslim Moors had a noticeable influence on the works of George Peele and William Shakespeare. Some of their works featured Moorish characters, such as Peele's The Battle of Alcazar and Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus and Othello, which featured a Moorish Othello as its title character. These works are said to have been inspired by several Moorish delegations from Morocco to Elizabethan England around 1600.[23] A portrait was painted of one of the Moorish ambassadors, Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud ben Mohammed Anoun, who had come to promote an Anglo-Moroccan alliance.

Turbans can be found in Renaissance England. While friendly relations were formed between England and the Islamic civilization of the Middle East in the early sixteenth century, Persian and Turkish style fashions were sometimes worn by the higher classes as a form of party or fancy dress. During times of interaction with Istanbul, Queen Elizabeth I of England wore Turkish clothing styles.[Citation needed] It was believed that she favoured working with the Islamic sultans of Istanbul rather than the Roman Catholic leaders of Europe. These suspicions were heightened when she asked Sultan Murad III and his son Mohammad III for military assistance. Although she never did receive any assistance from the sultans, her relations with the Sultan and his son did not waver.[24]

In 17th-century England, there was a 'second wave' of interest in the study of Arabic science and Islamic philosophy. Arabic manuscripts were considered the key to a 'treasure house' of ancient knowledge, which led to the founding of Arabic chairs at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, where Arabic was taught. A large collection of Arabic manuscripts were acquired, collected in places such as the Bodleian Library at Oxford. These Arabic manuscripts were sought after by natural philosophers for their research in subjects such as observational astronomy or mathematics, and also encompassed subjects ranging from science, religion, and medicine, to typography and garden plants.[25]

Besides scientific and philosophical literature, works of Arabic fictional literature were also translated into Latin and English during the 17th and 18th centuries. The most famous one was the One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights), which was first translated into English in 1706 and has since then had a profound influence on English literature. Another famous work was Ibn Tufail's philosophical novel[26][27] Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, which was translated into Latin as Philosophus Autodidactus by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671 and then into English by Simon Ockley in 1708. The English translation of Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, set on a desert island, may have inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe, considered the first novel in English, in 1719.[28][29][30][31] Later translated literary works include Layla and Majnun and Ibn al-Nafis' Theologus Autodidactus.

By the time of Union with Scotland in 1707, only small numbers of Muslims were living in England. The first large group of Muslims to arrive, in the 18th century, were lascars (sailors) recruited from the Indian subcontinent (largely from the Bengal region) to work for the British East India Company, most of whom settled down and took local wives.[32] Due to the majority being lascars, the earliest Muslim communities were found in port towns. Naval cooks also came, many of them from the Sylhet Division of what is now Bangladesh. One of the most famous early Bengali Muslim immigrants to England was Sake Dean Mahomet, a captain of the British East India Company who in 1810 founded London's first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House. He is also reputed for introducing shampoo and therapeutic massage to the United Kingdom.[33] The practice of Islam in the United Kingdom was legalized by the Trinitarian Act 1812.

Bengal's role in the Industrial Revolution

Research by various economic historians, ranging from influential European economists Adam Smith and Karl Marx to the Indian historian Indrajit Ray, have demonstrated that Islamic Bengal played an instrumental role in Britain's Industrial Revolution. Up until the mid-18th century, Bengal was the world's leading textile manufacturer, with a worldwide reputation for exporting salts, ships, indigo, and textiles such as cotton, silk, and muslin, across Eurasia and the Americas. The British conquest of Bengal in 1757 played an instrumental role in the Industrial Revolution, which began just a year later in 1758. Bengal's textile industry was gradually transferred to Britain, which suppressed competition from Bengal's textile industry through unfair economic policies and occasionally violence (punishing Bengali textile weavers by either cutting their thumbs or through murder). Britain also found a large marketplace in Bengal, where it sold British textiles while at the same time restricting the production of local Bengali textiles. Britain also found large amounts of gold and silver from Bengal and transferred them to Britain, which as a result saw a large increase in the production of bank notes by the Bank of England. Bengal's agricultural produce and industrial goods were also heavily taxed. This eventually led to the Bengal famine of 1770, where 10 million Bengalis died, reducing Bengal's population by 1/3. This resulted in the deindustrialization of Bengal, from a leading industrial economy to a traditional agrarian economy. [4]

Demography and ethnic background

According to the 2001 census 1,536,015 Muslims live in England and Wales,[34] where they form 3% of the population. According to The Times, there were 2.4 million Muslims in Britain as a whole as of January 2009.[35]

British Muslim population by Ethnic group (Source: 2001 Census[36])
  Number of Muslims Muslims as % of ethnic group Ethnic group as % of Muslims
White 179,733 0.4 11.6
  White British 63,042 0.1 4.1
  White Irish 890 0.1 <0.1
  Other White 115,841 8.6 7.5
Mixed 64,262 9.7 4.2
  White & Black Caribbean 1,385 0.6 0.1
  White & Black African 10,523 13.3 0.7
  White & Asian 30,397 16.1 2.0
  Other Mixed 21,957 14.1 1.4
Asian or Asian British 1,139,065 50.1 73.7
  Indian 131,662 12.7 8.5
  Pakistani 657,680 92.0 42.5
  Bangladeshi 261,776 92.5 16.8
  Other Asian 90,013 37.3 5.8
Black or Black British 106,345 9.3 6.9
  Black Caribbean 4,477 0.8 0.3
  Black African 96,136 20.0 6.2
  Other Black 5,732 6.0 0.4
Chinese 752 0.3 <0.1
Other Ethnic Group 56,429 25.7 3.7
Total 1,546,626 3.0 100

In England, 40 percent of Muslims live in London, where 607,083 identified as Muslim in 2001, out of a population of 7,172,091.[37] There are also large numbers of Muslims in Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Luton, Slough, Leicester and the mill towns of Northern England.


Muslim population in English local authority areas.

The local authorities with a Muslim population greater than 10 percent were, as of 2001:

  • London Borough of Tower Hamlets 36.4% 71,389
  • London Borough of Newham 24.3% 59,293
  • Blackburn with Darwen 19.4% 26,674
  • City of Bradford 16.1% 75,188
  • London Borough of Waltham Forest 15.1% 32,902
  • Luton 14.6% 26,963
  • Birmingham 14.3% 139,771
  • London Borough of Hackney 13.8% 27,908
  • Pendle 13.4% 11,988
  • Slough 13.4% 15,897
  • London Borough of Brent 12.3% 32,290
  • London Borough of Redbridge 11.9% 28,487
  • City of Westminster 11.8% 21,346
  • London Borough of Camden 11.6% 22,906
  • London Borough of Haringey 11.3% 24,371
  • Metropolitan Borough of Oldham 11.1% 24,039
  • Leicester 11.0% 30,885
  • London Borough of Ealing 10.3% 31,033
  • Kirklees 10.1% 39,312

Most large cities have one area that is a majority Muslim even if the rest of the city has a fairly small Muslims population; see, for example, Harehills in Leeds. In addition, it is possible to find small areas that are almost entirely Muslim: for example, Savile Town in Dewsbury.[38]

Muslims by ethnicity



See also: British Pakistani

The single largest group of Muslims in England and Wales are of Pakistani descent. Pakistanis from Mirpur District were one of the first South Asian Muslim communities to permanently settle in the United Kingdom, arriving in Birmingham and Bradford in the late 1930s. Immigration from Mirpur grew from the late 1950s, accompanied by immigration from other parts of Pakistan, mainly from the north-west other are chhachhi pathans from Attock District, and some from villages of ghazi, Nowshera and Peshwar. People of Pakistani extraction are particularly notable in West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Lancashire/Greater Manchester, and industrial towns in South East England like Luton, Slough, High Wycombe and Oxford.


See also: British Bangladeshi

People of Bangladeshi descent are one of the largest Muslim communities (after Pakistanis), 16.8% of Muslims in England and Wales are of Bangladeshi descent, the ethnic group in the UK with the largest proportion of people following a single religion, being 92% Muslim.[39] Majority of these Muslim come from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, mainly concentrated in Tower Hamlets, and Newham, in London, as well as in Luton, Birmingham and Oldham. The Bangladeshi Muslim community in London form 24% of the Muslim population, larger than any other ethnic group.[40]

File:Bangladeshi women Whitehchapel.JPG

Bangladeshi Muslim women in East London

Initial limited mosque availability meant that prayers were conducted in small rooms of council flats until the 1980s when more and larger facilities became available. Some synagogues and community buildings were turned into mosques and existing mosques began to expand their buildings. This process has continued down to the present day with the East London Mosque recently expanding into a large former car park where the London Muslim Centre is now used for prayers, recreational facilities and housing.[41][42] Most people regard themselves as part of the ummah, and their identity based on their religion rather than their ethnic group.[43] Cultural aspects of a 'Bengali Islam' are seen as superstition and as un-Islamic.[43] The identity is far stronger in comparison to the native land. Younger Bangladeshis are more involved in Islamist activities and movement groups, whereas the older generation practice with Islamic rituals mixed with the Bengali culture. Many Bangladeshi women wear the burqa and many young women or girls also wear the headscarf.

There are groups which are active throughout Bangladeshi communities such as The Young Muslim Organization. It is connected to the Islamic Forum Europe, associated with the East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre – all of which have connections with the Bangladesh Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami (linked with some community mosques, which also linked with the Dawat-e-Islami). Other groups also attract a few people, the Hizb ut-Tahrir – which calls for the Khilafah (caliphate) and influences by publishing annual magazines, and lectures through mainly political concepts[44], and the other which is a movement within Sunni Islam is the Salafi – who view the teachings of the first generations as the correct one[45], and appeals to younger Muslims as a way to differentiate themselves towards their elders.[41][46] Other large groups include another Sunni movement, the Barelwi – mainly of a Fultoli movement (led by Abdul Latif Chowdhury in Bangladesh), and the Tablighi Jamaat – which is a missionary and revival movement[47], and avoids political attention. All these groups work to stimulate Islamic identity among local Bengalis or Muslims and particularly focus on the younger members of the communities.[42][48][49]


See also: British Indian

8% of Muslims in England and Wales are of Indian descent, especially Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The Gujarati Muslims from Surat and Bharuch districts in India started to arrive from the 1930s, settling in the towns of Dewsbury and Batley in Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire. There are large numbers of Gujarati Muslims in Dewsbury, Blackburn, Bolton, Preston and in the London Boroughs of Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney. Immigration of Muslims into UK, was primarily started off by Indians during the colonial rule. At present there are many Halal Indian restaurants in UK, run by Indian Muslims.


A significant number of British Muslims are of African descent, numbering over 100,000. In London, there are mosques, centres and Muslim charitable organizations that belong to people of African origins. Mosque of the Muslim Association of Nigeria is located at 365 Old Kent Road South East London – less than two kilometer from Siera Leoneans' Mosque in Brixton. Also in London is AWQAF Africa, the African Muslim Communities founded by Nigerian Muslim Scholar Dr. Sheikh Adelabu, the President of AWQAf Africa Muslim College and the Amir (i.e. Chairman) of African Hajj And Umrah Commission in London. Many African Muslims adopt tradition of going to Asalatu or As-Salat i.e. Muslim prayer groups or Islamic ritual ceremonies during the weekend for spiritual uplifting, awareness and social activities.

White (European)

In addition, there are groups of Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Turkey. There are almost 200,000 Muslims who described themselves as 'white' in the 2001 census.

7 July 2005 London bombings

Main article: 7 July 2005 London bombings

The 7 July 2005 London bombings (also called the 7/7 bombings) were a series of coordinated bomb blasts that hit London's public transport system during the morning rush hour, killing 52 people and the four bombers. Carried out by British Islamic extremists, the suicide bombings were motivated by Britain's involvement in the Iraq War and other conflicts. Since the 7 July bombings two other attempted suicide bombings by muslim extremists have taken place. See: 21 July 2005 London bombings and 2007 London car bombs

Position in society


Many Muslims in England face poor standards of housing, poorer levels of education and are more vulnerable to long-term illness.[50] There is also a growing substantial British Muslim business community, led by multi-millionaires such as Sir Anwar Pervez.[51]


Main article: Islamophobia

There have been cases of threats[52] as well as both fatal[53] and non-fatal attacks on Muslims and on Muslim targets, including attacks on Muslim graves[54] and mosques.[55] In January 2010, a report from the University of Exeter's European Muslim Research Centre noted that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes has increased, ranging from "death threats and murder to persistent low-level assaults, such as spitting and name-calling," for which the media and politicians have been blamed with fueling anti-Muslim hatred.[56][57][58]

The British media has been criticized for propagating negative stereotypes of Muslims and fueling anti-Muslim prejudice.[59] In 2006, British cabinet ministers were criticized for helping to "unleash a public anti-Muslim backlash" by blaming the Muslim community over issues of integration despite a study commissioned by the Home Office on white and Asian-Muslim youths demonstrating otherwise: that Asian-Muslim youths "are in fact the most tolerant of all" and that white British youths "have far more intolerant attitudes," concluding that intolerance from the white British community was a greater "barrier to integration."[60][61] Another survey by Gallup in 2009 also found that the Muslim community felt more patriotic about Britain than the general British population,[62][63] while another survey found that Muslims supported the role of Christianity in British life more so than Christians themselves.[64] In January 2010, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that the general British public "is far more likely to hold negative views of Muslims than of any other religious group,"[65] with "just one in four" feeling "positively about Islam," and a "majority of the country would be concerned if a mosque was built in their area, while only 15 per cent expressed similar qualms about the opening of a church."[66] The "scapegoating" of Muslims by the media and politicians in the 21st century has been compared to the rise of antisemitism in the early 20th century.[65][67]

Notable mosques

File:Baitul Futuh.jpg

Baitul Futuh Mosque of the "Ahmadiyya Muslim Community", London. The largest Mosque in Western Europe.[68]

File:London Central Mosque3.JPG

The London Central Mosque located at Westminster, in London, built in 1977.

  • Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey was the first purpose built mosque in Britain
  • Baitul Futuh Mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMJ), London
  • Fazl Mosque The first mosque in London, built in 1926 - AMJ
  • Markazi mosque in Dewsbury
  • Manchester Central Mosque
  • Al-Rahma mosque in Liverpool
  • Birmingham Central Mosque
  • East London Mosque
  • Leeds Grand Mosque
  • Finsbury Park Mosque in London
  • London Central Mosque
  • London Markaz
  • Medina Mosque in Sheffield
  • Darul Barakaat Mosque in Birmingham - AMJ
  • Al Mahdi Mosque in Bradford - AMJ


The East London Mosque organises an annual programme to attract people to its services which include ICT training, English classes, a Junior Muslim Circle, Saturday Halaqa (Islamic talks) and Madrasahs. According to the mosque, involvement in its activities has increased and it notes that: the five daily prayers have increased. Especially during Friday Jummah prayers, where it was difficult to accommodate the increasing number of people. During Ramadan, the prayer facilities attracted between 4,000 to 5,000 people every day. Much of these works by the people, show Islamic identity among the Muslims is increasingly rising due to many Islamic groups and facilities available throughout the communities in the UK.[69]

The Baitul Futuh Mosque organises several events to serve Muslims and the wider community. Other than holding regular prayers, its services to the wider community include annual Peace Conferences, School tours and community events such as hosting the BBC Radio 4 Any Questions?[70] and the 'Merton Youth Partnership Annual Conference.'[71] The Baitul Futuh Mosque has also been acting as the center for the 'Loyalty, Freedom and Peace Campaign'[72] in order for the west to recognize Islam as a peaceful religion and to improve the Integration of Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Notable English muslims

  • Rowland Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley
  • Sir Charles Edward Archibald Watkin Hamilton, 5th Baronet
  • Faris Glubb
  • Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt
  • Pickthall
  • William Abdullah Quilliam
  • Henry Stanley, 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley
  • Ahmad Thomson
  • Timothy Winter

See also

  • Islam in Northern Ireland
  • Islam in Scotland
  • Islam in Wales
  • Islam by country
  • Muslims in Western Europe
  • Religion in the United Kingdom
  • The Muslim Weekly
  • British Muslims
  • British Bangladeshi Muslims
  • Islam in London


  • Lewis, Philip: Islamic Britain: religion, politics and identity among British Muslims; Bradford in the 1990s, London: Tauris, 1994. ISBN 1-85043-861-7
  • Matar, Nabil Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, Columbia University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-231-11015-4


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External links

Template:Mosques in the European Union

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