Muslims have a long association with the British Isles, from Elizabeth the First, to Elizabeth the Second; from shops offering sherbets in Shakespeare’s London to Muslim soldiers responding to the call to arms.
The history of Muslims in Britain stretched for over 1000 years. For example, in the eight century, King Offa minted coins bearing the Islamic Arabic inscription ‘In the name of God, the most Merciful, the Most Beneficent’.
There have been trading ties with the Muslim world. But it was not until the rise of Empire did Britain see a deepening relationship with Muslims. The Eighteenth century saw the first large groups of Muslims arriving to Britain.
By 1841, around 3,000 Muslim seaman, or ‘lascars, were visited Britain every year. During the same period, Victorian high-society too were attracted to the teachings of Islam. The fifth Baron of Headley and a noted civil engineer who constructed the road between Baramula and Srinagar in the mountainous region of Kashmir converted to the faith; William Quilliam, a lawyer and poet who established Britain’s first mosque; and novelist and translator of the Holy Qur’an, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall. Britain’s first purpose built mosque was opened in Woking, Surrey, in 1889.
The First World War best exemplified the enduring contribution made by Muslims to Britain exemplified by the hundreds and thousands who took part in the First World War.
By the 1950s, Muslims once again responded to the call responding to the shortfall in labour following the Second World War. This saw large-scale migration, largely from South Asia, that largely makes up the bulk of the British Muslim community today with many settling in mainly in the inner-city areas of London, the industrial towns of the Midlands and the textile towns of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Strathclyde.
Today, Muslims living in Britain come from a vast range of national and cultural backgrounds. The population includes a significant number of British and European converts to Islam. Others have come from war-torn countries to find a better life in Britain. *Sources: Muslim Council of Britain Research and Documentation Committee.
Source – Muslim council of Britain