Politically, Britain refers to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined. Britain is positioned in the North Atlantic off the north-west coast of continental Europe and is formed of two islands; one which holds Scotland, Wales, and England in itself, and the other Northern Ireland. The familiarity of the people of Britain with Islam goes back to the Umayyad Conquest of Hispania, the Crusades, and the invasion of African and Asian countries, specifically India. The first Muslims to migrate to Britain were African and Indian.
The Muslim populace of Britain are estimated to be 1.8 to 2.2 million people, one million of whom live in London or its surrounding suburbs. The Shi'as, who are in minority compared to the Sunnis, are estimated to be some two-hundred thousand, who are mostly in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, with Iranian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Lebanese, and few from other ethnic groups.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Islam in Britain
- 3 Shi'a of Britain
- 4 Shi'a Centers in Britain
- 5 References
Britain is formed from the islands of Great Britain, North-East Ireland, and more than four-thousand other islands, and is positioned in the North West coast of Europe. Britain has two islands, one which holds Scotland, Wales, and England in itself, the other Northern Ireland.
The English Channel on the western side of the Island separates it from France. The weather of this island is relatively cold, and its capital city, London, is nicknamed as the (Big) Smoke.
Islam in Britain
Similar to other imperialistic governments, the British experienced Islam in the Middle East and India. After centuries of exploitation, a small group of the people of this region, who were mostly sailors constantly traveling to Britain, managed to migrate to the island. They lived, married, and settled in cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow, and Cardiff.
Next to Christians and Jews, Sikhs and Hindus who are originally Indian live in this country.
During the twentieth century, Muslims from Africa migrated to Europe, some of which found themselves in England. Most of these migrators were given British citizenship.
The first British city with a mosque was Woking, Surrey, but the universities of Cambridge and Oxford had already established an Eastern Studies, and Arabic and Islamic Studies seat years before, and were thus familiar with Islam and the Islamic culture. It is said that the first known English Muslim was John Nelson from the 10th/16th century, and that a group of English converts to Islam formed a sect called Muhammadiyya in 1051/1641-2. A small booklet called Muslims in London has recently been published which describes Islam in Britain.
Currently some 1.8 to 2.2 million Muslims are estimated to reside in England, one million of whom are in London or its surrounding suburbs. West Midlands (Birmingham), West Yorkshire, Lancashire, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, and Glasgow are some of the other cities which are inhabited by Muslims. Two-third of Muslims have an Indian or Pakistani father or grandfather, and interestingly, 45% of British Muslims are British born.
Currently, more than ten thousand Native British Muslims exist in England who are originally British and have gradually converted to Islam.
Another notable issue about Britain is the freedom it provides for religious activities. In addition, British culture is more moderate and more welcoming than other Europeans in regards to migration and other nationalities. Therefore, Muslims can practice their religious worshiping as freely as other religions and sects.
Shi'a of Britain
It is estimated that some two-hundred thousand Shi'as live in Britain, which makes them a minority compared to the Sunnis, and are mostly in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, with Iranian, Iraqi, Pakistani, Indian, Lebanese, and few from other ethnic groups.
With the support of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Shi'a scholars, Iranians have established centers in London and other cities which have become gathering centers for Shi'a ceremonies, religious guidance, and addressing of their religious requests. Manchester and London host the Al-Asr Educational and Cultural Center, Imam al-Mahdi (aj) Institution, Ithna Ashari Shi'a Society (Khoja), Rasul Allah al-A'zam Husayniyya, Muhammadi Trust (Pakistani Shi'as), Ja'fari Office, and Mahfil Ali (a) are some of the most important Islamic centers of England.
These centers are involved in educational and propagation activities and charity, however, they were primarily established for specific religious ceremonies, such as Ramadan, Qadr nights, the ten-nights of mourning in Muharram, celebration of the birth anniversary of the Noble Prophet (s). The centers attract tens of thousands of the sympathetic to the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Twelver Shi'a Khoja
The presence of twelver Shi'a Khoja goes back to the 1370s/1950s when they migrated to England from Western Africa for education in British universities. Another wave of Khoja migrants reached the shores of England in 1392/1972 when twelver Shi'a Khojas were deported from Uganda. Twelver Shi'a Khojas are settled in London, Birmingham, Lester, Manchester, Peterborough, Leeds, Wessex, Moston, Milton and etc. With a population of 5000, the twelver Shi'a Khojas of London form the greatest society of Twelver Shi'a Khojas. They had an important role in the instituting of the World Federation of KSIMC and the Husayni Islamic Center, which was established with the help of the Worldwide Federation.
Shi'a Centers in Britain
The Islamic Center of England
- Main article: Islamic Centre of England
The Islamic Centre of England-London was founded in Rajab, 1416/December 1995 in London. Similar to other Islamic Centers in England, this center was involved in propagation activities, Qur'an teaching, the articles and ancillaries of faith, and conducting religious ceremonies and gatherings. The center hosts thousands of the sympathetic to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) in specific ceremonies such as the Nights of Qadr, and the mourning nights of Muharram. Institutes such as Dar Al-Qur'an al-Karim, the Al-Fajr Youth Association, and the Institute of Islamic Studies are some of the cultural and educational institutes operating under the supervision of this center. During the first years, the institute was managed by Muhsin Araki and 'Abd al-Husayn Mu'izzi, but currently Muhammad Ali Shomali holds this position as the representative of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Islamic Universal Association
- Main article: Islamic Universal Association
By Ayatollah Gulpaygani's decision, the Islamic Universal Association was founded in 1394/1974 with the goal to disseminate Islamic culture, introduce the general public with the Shi'a, and address problems relating to Muslims of England, specifically the Shi'a. Their efforts in performing religious ceremonies such as Muahrram, Safar, Ramadan and inviting prominent figures and scholars has made this center one of the most important and most active centers in Europe, specifically England, and attracts tens of thousands of Iranian and non-Iranian Shi'as of London as a result of years of successful management. This center also holds other cultural and educational programs, each with their own programs and schedule.
Imam Khoi Islamic Centre
- Main article: Imam Khoei Islamic Centre
The founding of the Imam Khoei Cultural Islamic Centre in London was suggested by Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Khoei, and affirmed by Ayatollah Sayyid Abu l-Qasim Khoei in 1410/1989-90. The institute began its activities with the aim of cultural, religious, and social services and support for Muslim migrants. One of their activities was building two schools, Imam al-Sadiq (a) for males and Al-Zahra (a) for females, in London. The institute's great library is stocked with more than ten thousand books. The institute also publishes two monthly magazines called Al-Nur and Al-Kalima.
- Main article: Muhammadi Trust
The religious institute of Muhammadi Trust is a charity belonging to Imamiyya Shi'a, opened in 1390/1970-1 in London. The institute hosts celebrations and anniversaries regarding the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and host cultural and academic conferences in various events in Arabic, English, and Urdu. This institute is considered the center of Pakistani Shi'as of London.
Islamic Center of Manchester
- Main article: Manchester Islamic Centre
With the effort of Iranian students and the financial support of H.I. Eje'i as the representative of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Union of Islamic Students Associations, Manchester Islamic Centre was established in 1998 and became one of the biggest Islamic centers in North Western England.
The institute is positioned between two big universities, giving it a valuable spot in the city. Iranian and non-Iranian Muslims, even Christians benefit from the services of this center.
Imam al-Rida (a) Islamic Center in Birmingham
- Main article: Imam al-Rida (a) Islamic Centre in Birmingham
The Cultural Center of Imam al-Rida (a) began its activities in 1427/2006 with the goal of propagating and publishing genuine Islamic culture, and the tradition of the Noble Prophet (s) and Imams (a). This institute has hosted events related to worship such as the Holy month of Ramadan, Muharram, and other mourning anniversaries, or religious celebrations, and also upholding religious and national traditions, and propagating Islamic theology. Three people form the management board of this institute and are responsible for planning and executing the institute's programs with the help of other members. Providing a good atmosphere for Muslim gatherings, teaching and spreading Islamic culture, Qur'anic teachings, Islamic theology, and moderating religious and national ceremonies are some of the most important duties and aims of this institute.
- The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from بریتانیا in Farsi wikishia.