The Liverpool Muslim Movement
An article in The Islamic Review, May 1914
by Yahya-en-Nasr Parkinson
In the Moslem World for April the Rev. H. U.
Weitbrecht, D.D., refers to the Muslims in Liverpool and the Mosque
which existed there for some years. He writes:
A Liverpool solicitor, Mr. W.H. Quilliam,
having first adopted Deism and then Islam, had rented a house
in the West Derby Road, in the ground floor rooms of which he
arranged a sort of Muhammedan worship. One service was held on
Fridays, and two, at eleven and seven (not Moslem hours of prayer),
on Sundays. The room was furnished with chairs, the Koran was
read in English, and hymns were sung to a harmonium; in fact,
the whole was a farrago of Moslem and Christian elements. Nothing
was done to erect a real mosque, though many Muhammedan seamen
and traders visit Liverpool. In 1891 Mr. Quilliam claimed thirty
English adherents, including children, but since his repudiation
by Indian leaders little has been heard of his mosque
in Liverpool, and if we may give credence to a recent correspondent
in the Daily Sketch it has disappeared.
Before any person writes on a subject he ought to
take the trouble to learn at least the rudiments of the subject
he intends writing upon; as a matter of mere justice the general
facts ought to be ascertained. In the above case it was certainly
not difficult to do so. I first came into touch with the British
Muslim Association in 1901, and since then have followed its career
very closely. In place of little being heard of it after
1891, as stated, from 1893 its activity increased. During the years
following the President, Mr. W.H. Quilliam, delivered lectures in
all the large cities in England, and on several occasions even travelled
to Glasgow. In 1893 the weekly organ of the Association was started
under the title of The Crescent, and continued to be issued
regularly down to 1908, the last number in my possession being under
date May 28 of that year. The various volumes, fourteen of which
are in my library, contain a record of the doings of the body, of
the work accomplished, financial statements, of meetings held, both
for prayer and instruction and business, and of public lectures
given by the members. There is nothing in the whole history of the
Association that is in any way discreditable to the members, or
of which they need be ashamed.
In regard to the reverend gentlemans remarks
on the services, it is evident that if he reported in India as stated,
then he distorted the facts in the interests of his own religion.
The facts are as follow: All the members who were in a position
to do so met for Juma prayers on Friday at the correct hour,
Mr. Quilliam, or a distinguished visitor or other member leading
the usual prayers in Arabic, just as in Muslim countries in the
Juma Mosque. The name of the Imam will be found in The Crescent. I give a few entries as examples:
No. 521, January 7, 1903
Jumma prayers were celebrated as usual
Friday last. His Honour the Sheik-ul-Islam of the British Isles
led the prayers and recited the Khutba, the Azan being
given by Brother Hassan El-Arculli (Hong Kong).
No. 557, September 16, 1903
The usual Jumma prayers
The Azan was
given by Brother Mahmoud Abdul-Latif, and the prayers were led
by Brother Hassan El-Arculli.
The key was left so that any member or members who
wished could obtain admission for prayers at any time, the Association
not being rich enough to maintain a regular caretaker on the premises.
During my connection one meeting only was held on Sunday, at seven,
to which the public were admitted. It was held in the lecture hall.
It was opened by the Chairman reading a portion of the Holy Kuran,
in English, of course, a few short comments being made thereon.
A hymn was sung, selected from a list of Unitarian hymns specially
compiled for the purpose. If a copy can be obtained, those hymns
will, I think, be found to be purely Islamic in word and spirit.
A lecture followed, given by one of the members. All the principal
lectures were published in The Crescent, a reference to the
files will show a few of my own amongst them, delivered during my
rare visits to England. Others in the monthly periodical of the
Association, the Islamic World. The lecture hall was furnished
with seats, that was necessary, but not the room behind the platform,
specially reserved for prayers; that was bare of furniture, although
only a curtain separated it from the hall. Quranic texts were placed
on the wall, also an inscription explaining how the Mosque
was purchased. A special carpet was kept on the premises for prayers.
No special Mosque was erected, because the majority of the members,
if not all, were working men, not millionaires.
The West Derby premises were purchased W.H. Quilliam
with a sum of money given to him as a personal gift by the
then Ameer of Afghanistan, specially presented to him in person
by H.H. Prince Nasrullah Khan when on a visit to England. The sum,
if my memory does not fail me, came to something like £2,500
sterling, and was, to again emphasise the point, a personal gift
to Quilliam. The building was probably purchased in his name and
legally would be his property. The reason of Mr. Quilliams
leaving England in 1908 I need not enter into, the Liverpool papers
made plenty of it at the time, and full reports will be found in
them. His various properties were disposed of by his son, W.H. Quilliam
(Billal Bey), the West Derby property as well. The exact details
of the purchase and sale can only be supplied by Mr. Quilliam or
his sons, and I do not know if they are called upon to give an answer.
No meeting of the members of the British Muslim Association has
to my knowledge been held since 1908, although, when in Birkenhead
in 1910 after my return from the East, I called upon a few of them.
I have no desire to attach any blame anywhere regarding the cessation
of Muslim activity at Liverpool, and simply make this statement
to save further random writing on the subject by people who seem
indifferent as to whether their statements are or are not in accordance
with the actual facts so long as they serve the purpose of telling
against the other side, even when the facts are easily obtainable,
as in this instance.