Last week I saw that there is a new annual event taking place, called Visit My Mosque. It’s been a long while since I visited a mosque and never in the UK. So, we went last Sunday to Abdullah Quilliam mosque. I heard about it. It’s the oldest mosque in England. See their website (abdullahquilliam.org) for more details.
I passed by this building so many times (white one), but I had no idea it is a mosque and one with an impressive history. Abdullah Quilliam was a Liverpudlian solicitor. He was born William Henry Quilliam in a Methodist family and became a solicitor. After going to Morocco, aged 31, he converted to Islam. It is believed that he is the first Englishman to convert to Islam.
The Caliph of Islam, Sultan Abdul Hameed II gave Abdullah Quilliam the official title of Sheikh al-Islam for the British Isles. A title recognised by the Emir of Afghanistan too.
With a donation from Prince Nasrullah Khan of Afghanistan, Abdullah Quilliam bought this building in 1887. It wasn’t only a mosque, but a boarding school and an orphanage. A museum and science laboratory was also housed there. Classes were taught there, for muslims and non-muslims.
He had to leave Britain to escape persecution. He returned and took another name, lived in another part of the country until his death.
The house was closed for over 100 years, used only for storage. So, many of the original features have to be restored. This mosaic looks lovely.
Abdullah Quilliam was a poet and writer too. At the event, someone read a couple of poems. He was a philanthropist. For example, he was helping women from disadvantaged backgrounds with their legal problems without taking any fees.
After the poem reading, we went on a tour of the mosque.
The Victorian kitchens are still in working condition. We heard about what it was used for and the future plans with the development of the mosque.
Foods that Quilliam brought with him were on display and we had a chat. We also got to drink traditional coffee. I love coffee with cardamom, it’s something that I drank in Romania. But it was the first time I’ve had coffee from green beans with cardamom. It’s so good. I will have to look in Arabic shops for it.
Original bookshelves, used for storing documents the last 100 years.
The restoration is on its way. Of course, the lack of funds means that it will take longer. To raise the funds, part of the property was made into student accommodation. The 10 bedrooms will raise a bit of money for them. I also think it respects the original idea, to be a boarding school and not only a mosque.
In the end, we’ve heard the ladies choir. It was fascinating. I never heard a religious choir like this, it’s very different than Catholic and Christian Orthodox hymns. The music is so soft, I’m not sure how to describe it.
The whole purpose of the event was so that non-muslims would get to meet and chat to muslims in their community. It’s also a great way to learn more about Islam. There were many people there, some Muslims, but the majority non-muslims. In a highly diverse society we can take advantage and learn about each other.
I had a wonderful time at this year’s Visit My Mosque event. Next year my husband and I plan to go to visit another mosque.