What comes to mind when you think of the islands of Scotland? Rugged landscapes? Mountainous surroundings? Maybe even wildlife like deer and red squirrels? Well, did you know that on the island of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides stands one of the smallest mosques in the UK?
Constructed and developed through a crowd-funding project led by Yorkshireman Aihtsham Rashid, the mosque stands to accommodate the small – but growing – population of Muslims living on the Isle of Lewis.
Rashid received a call from a friend telling him about the dire need for a mosque on the island. Speaking to Al Jazeera, he mentioned, “I didn’t even know there was a Muslim community there.”
Whilst the majority of the 20,000 people on the island are Christian, the arrival of Muslims can be dated back to the 1950s here. What’s more, an increasing number of Syrian refugees have also been calling this island home after being taken in since 2015.
With under 100 Muslims on the island chain that makes up the Outer Hebrides, many of them had to pray privately and hold bigger congregations such as Eid and Jumuah prayers in each other’s homes.
The decision was made to build a masjid many years ago and despite the island being home to an extremely large population of Christians, support was shown extensively. Reverend James MacIver of the Free Church of Scotland told Al Al Jazeera that he had supported the decision and also mentioned that the Muslims on the island chain that makes up the Outer Hebrides have always integrated extremely well.
Building the mosque was initially a challenge as the purchased site was not in the best of states and there were not enough funds. This is where Rashid chipped in and made a massive difference. Raising almost £100,000, the mosque’s development was finalised and officially opened on May 11 2018 which was a few days before Ramadhan.
The Muslims of the island are from a wide range of backgrounds such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Syria, which is great as the mosque now stands not only as a place to pray but where Muslims can unite with one another. The news of the opening of the mosque has been received well with many flocking to the small island to explore its first mosque.
According to Al Jazeera, Yusuf Adam, a 37-year-old accountant from Manchester, England, voyaged the 500 miles to the Stornoway mosque with his wife and young daughter after hearing about it on social media and in the news. He says he encountered other groups visiting the mosque from Dewsbury in Yorkshire, Glasgow and Manchester.
Main Image Credit: Colourful Heritage & Al Jazeera
Juber Ahmed is our Digital Editor and travel enthusiast with a keen interest in Islamic history and heritage. He travels with his wife to various places around the world and writes about his experiences.
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"The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" [Saint Augustine]