Abdullah Quilliam

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Abdullah Quilliam
Liverpool article01 body02.jpg
Born10 April 1856
Died23 April 1932(1932-04-23) (aged 76)
Bloomsbury, London, United Kingdom
Other namesعبد الله كويليام
William Henry Quilliam
Henri Marcel Leon
Haroun Mustapha Leon

William Henry Quilliam (10 April 1856[1][2][3] – 23 April 1932), who changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam and later Henri Marcel Leon or Haroun Mustapha Leon, was a 19th-century convert from Christianity to Islam, noted for founding England's first mosque and Islamic centre.

Early life[edit]

William Henry Quilliam was born at 22 Eliot Street, Liverpool, on 10 April 1856, to a wealthy local family. He spent most of his childhood on the Isle of Man and was brought up as a Methodist. He was educated at the Liverpool Institute and the Manx King William's College.[4]

He became a solicitor in 1878, specialising in criminal law, and practising at 28 Church Street, Liverpool.[5] He was described at one point by the Liverpool Weekly Courier as the "unofficial Attorney-General of Liverpool". He defended suspects in many high-profile murder cases. He married Hannah Johnstone in 1879.[4] At this time, Quilliam was also a proponent of the temperance movement in the UK.[6]

Conversion to Islam[edit]

Quilliam converted to Islam in 1887 after visiting Morocco to recover from an illness. Quilliam purchased numbers 8, 11 and 12 Brougham Terrace, Liverpool, following his conversion, thanks to a donation from Nasrullah Khan, Crown Prince of Afghanistan. 8 Brougham Terrace became the Liverpool Muslim Institute, the first functioning mosque in Britain. Quilliam also opened a boarding school for boys and a day school for girls, as well as an orphanage, Medina House, for non-Muslim parents who were unable to look after their children and agreed for them to be brought up as Muslims. In addition, the Institute hosted educational classes covering a wide range of subjects, and included a museum and science laboratory.[4] It opened on Christmas Day, 1889.[7]

In 1889, he first published The Faith of Islam, which was concerned with dawah to Islam and its key principles.[7] Initially, 2000 copies were published, but a further 3000 copies were produced in 1890.[4] Quilliam also published The Crescent, a weekly account of Muslims in Britain, and Islamic World, a monthly publication with a worldwide audience.[4] In 1890, Quilliam orchestrated protests against the showing of Hall Caine's play, Mahomet. 1891 saw the first public Muslim burial in Liverpool, of Michael Hall, a former Methodist preacher who converted to Islam.[5]

The 26th Ottoman Caliph, Abdul Hamid II, granted Quilliam the title of Shaykh al-Islām for the British Isles. Also, the Emir of Afghanistan recognised him as the Sheikh of Muslims in Britain and he was appointed as Persian Vice Consul in Liverpool by the Shah.[4]

A number of notables converted to Islam as a result of Quilliam's preaching. They included professors Nasrullah Warren and Haschem Wilde, as well as Robert Reschid Stanley, JP and the former mayor of Stalybridge. It is estimated that around 600 people converted to Islam in Britain as a direct result of Quilliam's work.[4]

Quilliam's unmarked grave is in this small area of the Muslim Section of Brookwood Cemetery

He travelled extensively and received many honours from the leaders of the Islamic world. He had contact with English-speaking West African Muslims and toured the region's coastal cities on his way to Lagos to attend the consecration of the Shitta Bey Mosque in 1894.[8]

Quilliam's work in Liverpool stopped when he left England in 1908 in advance of being struck off as a solicitor.[9][10] His son swiftly disposed of the property that had been used as a mosque and Islamic centre. Without Quilliam's influence and funding, the Muslim community in Liverpool dispersed.

He had returned to the UK by December 1914 under the name of H. M. Leon.[11] He spent much of his time at Onchan on the Isle of Man. He died in Taviton Street, Bloomsbury, London in 1932,[12] and was buried in an unmarked grave at Brookwood Cemetery near Woking. The prominent Anglo-Muslims Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (who each translated the Qur'an), and Lord Headley were later buried near him.

Political views[edit]

Quilliam argued that Muslims should not fight Muslims on behalf of European powers.[13] He denounced British foreign policy in Sudan.[14] His political views and allegiance to the Ottoman Caliph led some to denounce him as a traitor.[15]


His legacy is principally maintained by the Abdullah Quilliam Society, which was founded in 1996. The society aims to restore the Liverpool Muslim Institute on Brougham Terrace, and is completing Phases Three and Four of the restoration.[16] The society has been assisted by academics including Ron Geaves, formerly of Liverpool Hope University, and Mehmet Seker of Dokuz Eylül University. The society also offers university student accommodation.[17]

Quilliam, originally The Quilliam Foundation, a think tank aimed at challenging extremist Islamist ideologies, launched in 2008,[18][19] was named after him.[20]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Abdullah Quilliam Society website". Abdullah Quilliam Society.
  2. ^ "Forgotten champion of Islam: One man and his mosque". The Independent. London. 2 August 2007. Archived from the original on 23 September 2007.
  3. ^ "Brief Biography of William Henry Quilliam". www.isle-of-man.com.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "About Abdullah Quilliam". Abdullah Quilliam Society. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Abdullah Quilliam Timeline". Abdullah Quilliam Society. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  6. ^ Bano, Rahila (25 April 2012). "The legacy of Victorian England's first Islamic convert". BBC News. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Cairo Speech – 1928". Abdullah Quilliam Society. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  8. ^ Singleton, Brent D. (September 2009) "'That Ye May Know Each Other': Late Victorian Interactions between British and West African Muslims," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs vol. 29, issue 3, pp. 387–403.
  9. ^ Straits Times 1 July 1932 "The statutory committee of the Law Society found that when he was acting for a woman who was petitioning for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and adultery, Quilliam instigated and connived at the act of a man who induced the husband to commit adultery and presented to the court a case which he knew to be false."
  10. ^ http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=EP19320611.2.48.6 gives details of the divorce case of Martha May & Enoch Griffiths Thompson
  11. ^ http://www.wokingmuslim.org/work/bm-soc1.htm (a Henri Mustapha Leon, aged 55, living in St Pancras, London, appears in the Census of April 1911)
  12. ^ "Straits Times 1 July 1932".
  13. ^ John Wolffe (1997). Religion in Victorian Britain: Culture and Empire. St. Martin's Press. p. 341. ISBN 978-0719051845.
  14. ^ In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful! Peace be to all True-Believers to whom this shall come! Know ye, O Muslims, that the British Government has decided to commence military and warlike operations against the Muslims of the Soudan, who have taken up arms to defend their country and their faith. And it is in contemplation to employ Muslim soldiers to fight against these Muslims of the Soudan. For any True Believer to take up arms and fight against another Muslim is contrary to the Shariat, and against the law of God and his holy prophet. I warn every True-Believer that if he gives the slightest assistance in this projected expedition against the Muslims of the Soudan, even to the extent of carrying a parcel, or giving a bite of bread to eat or a drink of water to any person taking part in the expedition against these Muslims that he thereby helps the Giaour against the Muslim, and his name will be unworthy to be continued upon the roll of the faithful. Signed at the Mosque in Liverpool, England, this 10th day of Shawwal, 1313 (which Christians erroneously in their ignorance call the 24th day of March 1896), W.H. ABDULLAH QUILLIAM, Sheikh-ul-Islam of the British Isles.[Source: The Crescent, 25 March 1896, Vol. VII, No. 167, p. 617; original punctuation and spelling retained.] cited from Religion in Victorian Britain: Culture and Empire p. 341
  15. ^ Geaves, R. (2010). Islam in Victorian Britain: The Life and Times of Abdullah Quilliam. Markfield, Kube Publishing., pp. 102–03
  16. ^ "Completed Works". Abdullah Quilliam Society. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  17. ^ "About". Abdullah Quilliam Society. Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  18. ^ Bowcott, Owen; Butt, Riazat (1 March 2008). "Ex-Islamists start moderate thinktank". The Guardian.
  19. ^ ""Ex-extremists call for 'Western Islam'"".[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Nawaz, Maajid. Radical. W.H. Allen, London: (2012): p. 327


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