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Islam by country


Islam in England is the second largest religion, with most Muslims being immigrants from South Asia (in particular Bangladesh, India and Pakistan), or are 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 African countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Sierra Leone.[1]

The East London mosque in Whitechapel.



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] It is possible that Offa himself was a muslim.[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]

Since the publication of Professor John Makdisi's "The Islamic Origins of the Common Law" in the North Carolina Law Review,[10] there has been controversy over whether 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]

Islamic architecture also exerted some influence on the architecture of England, particularly English Gothic architecture. Certain elements of Gothic architecture, such as the ogive or pointed arch, were adopted from the Islamic world.[17] Increasing military and cultural contacts with the Muslim world, such as the Islamic presence in Spain, the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily in 1090 and the Crusades which began in 1096 brought the knowledge of this significant structural device to Medieval Europe.[18]

The first English convert to Islam mentioned by name is John Nelson.[19] 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.[20]
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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

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.[25] 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.

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.

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:

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




Major bangladeshi religious groups.png

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]

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]


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.


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 number of 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.


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

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


Some 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 substantial British Muslim business community, led by multi-millionaires such as Sir Anwar Pervez[51].


There have been cases of threats[52] and non-fatal attacks on Muslims and on Muslim targets, including an attack on Muslim graves.[53]

Notable mosques

Baitul Futuh Mosque of the “Ahmadiyya Muslim Community”, London. Currently the Largest Mosque in the UK.
The London Central Mosque located at Westminster, in London, built since 1977.


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.[54]

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 4 Radio 'Any Questions?'[55] and the 'Merton Youth Partnership Annual Conference.'[56]

See also



  1. ^ "Born Abroad - Countries of birth". BBC Online. Retrieved 2008-02-16.  
  2. ^ Gold imitation dinar of Offa, British Museum
  3. ^
  4. ^ Chaucer The Canterbury Tales Harmondsworth Penguin 1951 p280 and note p522
  5. ^ Ziauddin Sardar, Science in Islamic philosophy
  6. ^ Randall Noon (1992). Introduction to Forensic Engineering. CRC Press.  
  7. ^ Glick, Thomas F.; Livesey, Steven John; Wallis, Faith: Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, first edition, Routledge, 29 September 2005, ISBN 978-0415969307
  8. ^ Moorstein, Mark: Frameworks: Conflict in Balance, page 237, iUniverse, Inc., 9 June 2004, 308 pp, ISBN 978-0595318247
  9. ^ Lindberg, David C. (1996), Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages, Clarendon Press, p. 11  
  10. ^ a b c (Makdisi 1999)
  11. ^ a b Mukul Devichand (24 September 2008). "Is English law related to Muslim law?". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-10-05.  
  12. ^ Hussain, Jamila (2001), "Book Review: The Justice of Islam by Lawrence Rosen", Melbourne University Law Review 30  
  13. ^ El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. (2006), Islamic Finance: Law, Economics, and Practice, Cambridge University Press, p. 16, ISBN 0521864143  
  14. ^ Gaudiosi, Monica M. (April 1988), "The Influence of the Islamic Law of Waqf on the Development of the Trust in England: The Case of Merton College", University of Pennsylvania Law Review 136 (4): 1231-1261
  15. ^ Badr, Gamal Moursi (Spring, 1978), "Islamic Law: Its Relation to Other Legal Systems", The American Journal of Comparative Law 26 (2 - Proceedings of an International Conference on Comparative Law, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 24–25, 1977): 187–198 [196–8]  
  16. ^ Hudson, A. (2003), Equity and Trusts (3rd ed.), Cavendish Publishing, 32, ISBN 1-85941-729-9
  17. ^ Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method.
  18. ^ Scott, Robert A.: The Gothic enterprise: a guide to understanding the Medieval cathedral, Berkeley 2003, University of California Press, p. 113 ISBN 0-520-23177-5
  19. ^ [/religion/religions/islam/history/uk_1.shtml BBC]
  20. ^ Voyager's Tales, 3, The voyage made to Tripolis in Barbary,1584, Richard Haklyut
  21. ^ Rees Davies, British Slaves on the Barbary Coast, BBC, 1 July 2003
  22. ^ History of Lundy
  23. ^ "Pirates who got away with it". Study of sails on pirate ships. London. Retrieved 2007-11-25.  
  24. ^ Europe a History. Retrieved 2007-11-25.  
  25. ^ Professor Nabil Matar (April 2004), Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Stage Moor, Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (cf. Mayor of London (2006), Muslims in London, pp. 14-15, Greater London Authority)
  26. ^ Jon Mcginnis, Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources, p. 284, Hackett Publishing Company, ISBN 0872208710.
  27. ^ Samar Attar, The Vital Roots of European Enlightenment: Ibn Tufayl's Influence on Modern Western Thought, Lexington Books, ISBN 0739119893.[1]
  28. ^ Nawal Muhammad Hassan (1980), Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A study of an early Arabic impact on English literature, Al-Rashid House for Publication.
  29. ^ Cyril Glasse (2001), New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 202, Rowman Altamira, ISBN 0759101906.
  30. ^ Amber Haque (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357-377 [369].
  31. ^ Martin Wainwright, Desert island scripts, The Guardian, 22 March 2003.
  32. ^ Fisher, Michael Herbert (2006), Counterflows to Colonialism, Orient Blackswan, pp. 111–9, 129–30, 140, 154–6, 160–8, 181, ISBN 8178241544  
  33. ^ "Curry house founder is honoured". BBC News. 29 September 2005. Retrieved 2008-10-09.  
  34. ^ KS07 Religion: Key Statistics for urban areas, results by population size of urban area
  35. ^ Kerbaj, Richard. Muslim population 'rising 10 times faster than rest of society', The Times, January 30, 2009.
  36. ^ Ethnic Group by Religion
  37. ^ Muslims in London, Greater London Authority, October 2006, accessed November 21, 2009.
  38. ^ ^ paragraph 4.3
  39. ^ "Ethnicity and identity". National Statistics. Retrieved 2008-07-21.  
  40. ^ "2001 Census Profiles: Bangladeshis in London" (PDF). Greater London Authority. Retrieved 2004-08-01.  
  41. ^ a b "Bangladeshi Diaspora in the UK: Some observations on socio-culturaldynamics, religious trends and transnational politics" (PDF). University of Surry. Retrieved 2008-06-03.  
  42. ^ a b "bdirectory: Islamist politics among Bangladeshis in the UK". David Garbin – Cronem, University of Surrey. Retrieved 2008-07-27.  
  43. ^ a b "Genetics, Religion and Identity: A Study of British Bangladeshis – 2004-2007" (PDF). School of Social Sciences – Cardiff University – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Retrieved 2008-09-15.  
  44. ^ "Draft Constitution by Hizb ut-Tahrir". The Media office of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Retrieved 2008-08-16.  
  45. ^ "Compendium of Muslim texts – Volume 3, Book 48, Number 819". University of Southern California. Retrieved 2008-08-16.  
  46. ^ The Next Attack, By Daniel Benjamin Steven Simon, ISBN 0-80507941-6 – Page 55
  47. ^ M. Jawed Iqbal; Mufti Ebrahim Desai (9 June 2007). "Inviting to Islam". Retrieved 2008-08-16.  
  48. ^ "East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre". East London Mosque. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  49. ^ "Bangladeshis in east London: from secular politics to Islam". Delwar Hussain – openDemocracy: free thinking for the world. Retrieved 2008-07-27.  
  50. ^ Muslim hardship under spotlight BBC News, 14 May 2006
  51. ^
  52. ^ Muslims threatened after bombings BBC News 12 July 2005
  53. ^ Muslim graves damaged in cemetery BBC News, 2 November 2006
  54. ^ "ELM Newsletter 2007" (PDF). East London Mosque. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  55. ^
  56. ^ [2]

External links


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