NewsBiographyConvert StoriesDa’wahEnglandHistory

The First and Last Grand Mufti of Britain: Abdullah Quilliam

“Indeed, you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided.” (Quran, Surah An-Nahl, 16:37)

Upon the difficulties faced by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his mission of spreading the message, the above verse was revealed by Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) strived for the worldly and hereafter happiness of the disbelievers, working to rescue them from the swamp they were in. With this verse, Allah conveyed that no matter how much the Prophet desired guidance for someone, true guidance is granted by Allah alone. The Prophet (PBUH) considered his mission to be guidance. In this context, we will talk about someone who grew up in a Christian family, later embraced Islam, and dedicated his entire wealth, home, and income for the sake of Allah’s path: Abdullah William Henry Quilliam.

Abdullah Quilliam

His Life Before Islam

Born in 1856 in Liverpool, England, as William Henry Quilliam (before his conversion), he was raised as a Methodist Christian due to his grandfather being a preacher. He received education in various places and churches, both as a student and a teacher. In his youth, he actively participated in anti-alcohol society activities. Quilliam, who started his efforts for justice from a young age, became an advocate in 1878, taking up cases for the poor and standing by them. His direct efforts on behalf of the disadvantaged began in his youth, and he was featured as the “unofficial prosecutor” in the Liverpool Courier newspaper. Due to his profession and the city he lived in, he had the opportunity to connect with various ethnic and cultural groups. The societal context led him to question religious and moral matters, as disputes between Christian denominations and occasional fights arising from these disagreements within society prompted him to think and research more.

The Process of Becoming a Muslim

Quilliam’s encounter with Muslims and the introduction to Islam occurred during his travels to North Africa, especially during his visits to Algeria and Tunisia in 1882, according to some opinions. Others suggest that his conversion happened after his trip to Morocco in 1887. Witnessing the life of Muslims in Islamic lands made him realize how wrong the information he had been given was. He recognized that many Muslims were more knowledgeable and broad-minded than Europeans who considered themselves civilized. After embracing Islam, Quilliam changed his name to Abdullah and shared in a 1890 article:

“As my investigations proceeded, the superiority of the religion of Islam began to dawn upon my mind. When I realized that Islam was the true religion, I immediately withdrew from Christianity and honored myself with the noble religion of Islam. From then on, wherever I was and whoever I happened to meet, I restrained and refrained myself from alcoholic beverages and desires.”

In line with his thoughts, Quilliam criticized religious beliefs that seemed idealistic and imaginary to him. He believed that a person should choose a religion that is compatible with reason and logic, livable, and applicable, rather than an ideal but imaginary faith. He criticized Christian denominations for deifying Jesus and Jews for denying miracles, emphasizing Islam’s emphasis on reason. Quilliam’s worldview was shaped by the idea that a person should choose a religion that is reasonable, practical, and livable.

The Crescent Cover

İslam İnancı ve İrşad

Belief in Islam and Dawah Activities

After staying in Algeria and Morocco until 1889, where he learned Arabic and academic-level Islamic principles, Quilliam returned to Liverpool and transformed his own home into a mosque and an Islamic institute. His family also converted to Islam. Abdullah, who considered Islam as the ultimate purpose of his life, began efforts to spread Islam. He published pamphlets titled “The Faith of Islam” to reach out to people and spread the message of Islam. These pamphlets were translated into thirteen different languages and published, reaching many people. He also published newspapers such as “The Crescent” and “The Islamic World” to convey his thoughts to the public. His articles and activities went beyond England and reached countries like New Zealand and Australia. He responded to attacks on the Islamic world through newspapers.

Abdullah Quilliam..

“If there is faith, there is a way.” Following this principle, Abdullah Quilliam not only donated his home to serve as a mosque but also purchased surrounding buildings, turning them into a mosque, a library, a museum, and boarding schools. He created a comprehensive complex where Islamic teachings were provided, and scholars like Haschem Wilde, Nasrullah Warren, and Joseph H. McGovern taught various subjects. In addition to religious lessons, language classes were also offered. Every Sunday, non-Muslims were invited to sermons in an effort to warm their hearts to Islam.

Abdullah Quilliam 1

Abdulhamid and Abdullah Quilliam

To meet with the then Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II, he visited Istanbul with his son. He was welcomed by Abdulhamid with great respect and tolerance, and he even had the opportunity to tour Istanbul on the royal yacht. He was given many gifts, including the fourth-degree Ottoman Order. This order was also given to his family. With Abdulhamid’s decree, Quilliam was announced as the Grand Mufti of the British Isles. After meeting Abdulhamid, significant financial and spiritual aid was sent to his homeland. Upon returning as the representative of the Ottoman state, Quilliam took a closer interest in Muslims there, working to alleviate their problems and meet their needs.

Inspired by his experiences, Quilliam decided to start building a mosque and a han (inn) that could accommodate more people. This marked the establishment of the first mosque in Liverpool. With careful consideration, a tomb was constructed inside the mosque, and separate areas were designated for women on the sides and upper floors. A printing press was set up in the basement to print Islamic publications. Abdulhamid was not forgotten in the prayers conducted in this mosque on Fridays and holidays.

Ilk ve Son Britanya Seyhulislami

Facing Challenges

Since he began efforts to spread Islam, he had to struggle against increasing hostility. There were doubts about his sincerity in faith since the time he converted and changed his name. Not only Abdullah Quilliam and his family but also every Muslim who attended lessons and prayed in the mosque was harassed. Attempts were made to sabotage Muslim weddings held in the inn and disrupt the gatherings. Despite all this, they did not give up. They extended their activities beyond the borders of England, sending representatives to the congress held in the United States under the name Liverpool Muslim Society. His publications were read in different countries, and he became a well-known figure worldwide. He was awarded the title of “Liverpool Ambassador” by a sheikh at the Iranian council.

Zorluklarla Mucadele

The inclusion of Henry Stanley of Alderley, a member of the House of Lords, among the growing number of Muslims caused a stir. Churches accused Liverpool Muslims of Ottoman espionage. Quilliam was denounced in the press as a traitor. Abdullah took it upon himself to preach, ignoring the ridicule and insults written against him in various newspapers. He worked day and night for this cause. It is written in the sources that around 600 people became Muslims at that time thanks to Abdullah Quilliam. When the prayer times came, the muezzins were prevented from calling for prayer. The muezzins were stoned, just like the treatment our Prophet (pbuh) received in Taif. Due to these incidents, police protection was requested around the inn and the complex to ensure security.

Legacy and Death

In 1908, due to the increasing incidents and allegations, he came to Istanbul with his son. After two years of staying there, he returned to London after the dethronement of Abdulhamid II. Due to his absence, the society he had formed and the Muslims there were left without leadership, leading to their dispersal. When he returned, Quilliam faced increasing challenges, with the disruption of muezzins and the prevention of prayers in the mosque. The disturbances reached a point where police protection was requested for the inn and the complex. Faced with growing challenges, Quilliam decided to return to Istanbul in 1914. He continued to travel to Turkey during World War I, receiving aid from the Ottoman government. Abdullah Quilliam passed away on April 23, 1932, in London. Although he translated the Quran into English, like two other notable figures, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Muhammed Marmaduke Pickthall, his name remains anonymous. He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.

Vefati ve Mezari

Abdullah Quilliam’s intention to guide people in the path of truth planted seeds that continue to grow and flourish today. Quilliam has become a symbol for many Muslims living in the UK. Researching religion with intellect, reasoning his way through, and accepting Islam with his will, Abdullah Quilliam worked hard to become a representative of the Ottoman Empire and a guide of Islam. In this journey, he stood firm against the slanders and insults thrown at him. His story continues to serve as an example for British Muslims today.

He stated that the promotion and spread of Islam in Britain would be possible through the hands of British Muslims. He did not see Islam as the religion of foreigners. He did not associate religion with ethnicity. He worked to build Islam in Victorian England. Quilliam’s story continues to be an example for British Muslims today.

İslam Ansiklopedisi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button