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Birth of Muhammad

Muhammad receives his first revelation

Muhammad and his followers flee from Mecca to Yathrib (now Medina). This is known as the Hijra (the flight) and is the start of the Islamic (Hijri) calender and is based on a lunar year.

Muslim Spain

Two dinars dating from 724-743 were found on a beach at Eastbourne in Sussex.

As well as being an astronomer and a mathematician who founded algebra and algorithms, Mohammad bin Musa al-Khwarizi was also a geographer. His book, Kitab Surat al-Ard (Face of Earth) includes a map of the world, the first of its kind. It details the British Isles, mentioning some British landmarks. This is another indication that Muslims had encounters with the British Isles as early as the eighth century.

A Scandinavian hoard of coins found in Croydon c.875 included three Kufic coins, all three are Abbasid dirhams: two of Harun ar-Rashid (786-809) and one of al-Wathik (842-7). Muslim coinage substantially arrived in England via Scandinavia and many hoards have been found within the Danelaw (North and East of England) and date back to late ninth and early tenth century.

The Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia minted a coin (a mancus) that closely imitated a dinar of the Caliph al-Mansur dating 774, he inserted Offa Rex in Latin into the Arabic inscriptions. It is now held by the British Museum.

Ballycottin Cross found at Ballycottin on the southern coast of Ireland bears Arabic inscription. At the centre of the cross, set in a glass bead in Kufic script is the phrase ‘Bismillah’ (in the name of God). It is housed at the British Museum.

A gold quarter dinar or tari was found in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, which originated from Sicily c.1050-1070. Three Kufic gold dinars struck in Spain, two from 1131 were found in London and one from 1106 in Oxford.

In the time of the Crusades not all exchanges and encounters which took place were military or negative.

Ottoman Empire

There are references to Islamic Scholars in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

In the 16th Century John Nelson converted to Islam. Many more had converted or ‘gone Turk’ before him but he is the first recorded Englishman to convert.

Elizabeth I on 31st December 1600 granted Royal Charter to form the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies – better known as the East India Company. The sailors recruited in India subsequently formed the first Islamic communities in Britain’s port towns

1632 and 1636
Cambridge (1632) and Oxford (1636) establish chairs of Arabic. Scholars were influenced by Arabic texts on mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and medicine.

Documents found that refer to ‘a sect of Mahomatens’ being ‘discovered here in London’.

Alexander Rose was the first to translate the Quran into English. He translated it from Andre Du Ryer's French translation.

A ‘Turk’ named Pasqua Rosee opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London.

Sezincote House is ‘indianised’. Influenced by Mughal Emperor Akbar’s mix of Islamic and Hindu designs, it includes a central dome, minarets, peacock-tail windows, jail-work railings and pavilions and is said to be the inspiration behind the Brighton Pavilion.

In 1810 Sake Dean Mahomed (Sheikh Din Muhammad) opens the Hindoostane Coffee House at 120 George Street (in the Portman Estate) to serve the gentry of Georgian England Hookah made with real Chilm tobacco and their first taste of spicy dishes. It is recognised as Britain’s first curry house.

Islam is legally allowed to be practised in the UK due to the passing of the Trinitarian Act 1812. 

In 1812 Sake Dean Mahomed (Sheikh Din Muhammad) moves to Brighton and subsequently opens a bath-house. He provided aromatic vapour baths, massage and shampooing. In his peak he opened one on the sea front on Kings Road and treated King George IV and King William IV being awarded Warrants of Appointments as ‘Shampooing Surgeon’.

Between 1815 and 1823 John Nash was commissioned by George IV to update the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Using new technology he transformed it into the Indian-Moghal styled building we see today.

The opening of the Suez Canal prompts another wave of Muslim immigrants, sailors from Yemen and Somalia. Communities in Cardiff, Liverpool, Southshields, Glasgow and London soon establish.

William Henry Quilliam (Shaikh Abdullah Quilliam) was evicted from his house in Mount Vermon Street because he had been using it as a mosque. In 1889, he rented 8 Brougham Terrace, West Derby Road to serve as a prayer hall. He was gifted £2,500 by the Sultan of Afghanistan and was soon able to purchase the rented property and also 9-12 Brougham Terrace which; became the Liverpool Muslim Institute.

In 1889 Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner a Hungarian born linguist and Orientalist completed the construction of the Shah Jahan Mosque at his Oriental Institute in Woking. It was the first purpose built mosque in Britain. Largely funded by Her Highness the Begum Shah Jahan, Ruler of the Bhopal State, hence the name, it subsequently played an important role in establishing Islam in the UK.

Imre Kiralfy opened the Franco-British Exhibition on a 140 acre site near Shepherd’s. Built in palatial Oriental style, it attracted over 8.4 million visits, including King Edward VII and President Fallières of France. There were some 120 exhibition buildings and 20 pavilions, most designed in an Oriental style, with domes and arabesque arches, it came to be known as 'White City' due to the its colour. Later that year the London 1908 Olympic were held there. Two stations of the Underground were built to serve the exhibition and the games - the old Wood Lane and Shepherd’s Bush stations.

A public meeting was convened at the Ritz Hotel for the establishment of the London Mosque Fund for "a mosque in London worthy of the tradition of Islam and worthy of the capital of the British Empire".

Khwaja Kamal Uddin arrives in London, discovers the remnants of Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking and subsequently acquires, renovates and reopens it.

Friday prayers in London are known to have taken place in Lindsay Hall, Notting Hill Gate; at 39 Upper Bedford Place, Russell Square; and 111 Campden Hill Road, Kensington, where prayers were conducted till October 1928.

The Muslim Burial Ground was built for the Muslim soldiers that died at the Indian Army Hospital in Brighton, during the war. Built in 1917, it was the first of its kind in Britain and is now a Grade II listed site. The bodies were exhumed in the 1960s due to vandalism and moved to the Military section at Brookwood Cemetery.

A memorial now know as the Chattri was erected after the war, and unveiled by the Prince of Wales on 21st February 1921. The memorial was built on the exact location where the bodies of Hindu and Sikh soldiers (who died at the Indian Army Hospital in Brighton, during the war) were cremated.

Marmaduke (Muhammad) Pickthall published his translation of the Quran, respected as one of the most poetic and popular translations in English.

Muslim Society of Great Britain, organised Islamic events at the Portman Rooms, Baker Street.

Churchill, at a war cabinet meeting on 24th October, authorises the allocation of £100,000 of funds for the acquisition of a site for a mosque in London.

In 1940 three adjoining houses were bought on Commercial Street, Stepney and after some refurbishment were opened on Friday 1st August as the East London Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre.

King George VI officially donates 2.3 acres of land adjacent to Hanover Gate, Regents Park and opens the Islamic Cultural Centre and London Central Mosque in November 1944. It is said that this was given in return for a site in Cairo for an Anglican cathedral.

August 14th 1947 and August 15th 1947 the Partition of India occurred Pakistan was created and Indian gained independence, respectively. Muslim immigrants arrived following the partition encourage by the labour shortage.

Tensions in the former colonies in Africa brings another wave of Asians (and Muslims) into Britain.

East London Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre building is bought by compulsory purchase order and relocated to a temporary site on Whitechapel Road.

Queen Elizabeth II opens the World of Islam Festival. 32 Muslim nations accumulated over 6,000 objects from 250 public and private collections from 30 different countries and organised 162 lectures and 50 days of academic seminars involving scores of scholars from numerous nations. It was the largest undertaking of its kind in the West.

London Central Mosque opens in July 1977 at a cost of £6.3 million.


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