Abdullah Quilliam

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Abdullah Quilliam
Liverpool article01 body02.jpg
Born 10 April 1856
Liverpool, United Kingdom
Died 23 April 1932(1932-04-23) (aged 76)
Bloomsbury, London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Other names عبد الله كويليام
William Henry Quilliam
Henri Marcel Leon
Haroun Mustapha Leon
Religion Islam

William Henry Quilliam (10 April 1856[1][2][3] Liverpool – 23 April 1932 London), 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.


William Quilliam was born in Liverpool to a wealthy local family in 1856.[4] His father, Robert Quilliam, was a watch manufacturer. His great grandfather, also called Robert Quilliam, was born in the Isle of Man.[5] William was educated at the Liverpool Institute and King William's College on the Isle of Man. He began work as a solicitor in 1878, building a successful legal practice in Liverpool. He married Hannah Johnstone in 1879.

Conversion to Islam[edit]

Quilliam was brought up a Methodist[6] but converted to Islam after visiting Morocco to recover from an illness at the age of 17.[7] Returning to Liverpool, he began to promote Islam in Britain as Abdullah Quilliam. He had earlier learned about Islam while visiting southern France in 1882 and crossing over to Algeria and Tunisia.

Quilliam established the Liverpool Muslim Institute at 8 Brougham Terrace, West Derby Road, Liverpool in 1889, opening on Christmas Day. This was England's first mosque, accommodating around a hundred Muslims, This was followed by a Muslim college, headed by Haschem Wilde and Nasrullah Warren, which offered courses for both Muslims and non-Muslims. A weekly Debating and Literary Society within the college attracted non-Muslims.

Quilliam influenced the paths of other converts, including his mother Harriet,[8] his sons, and scientists and intellectuals, and his example led to the conversion of over 150 Englishmen to Islam. Quilliam was influential in advancing knowledge of Islam within the United Kingdom and gained converts through his literary works and the charitable institutions he founded.

An active writer and essayist, he produced a weekly paper, The Crescent, from 1893 until 1908. He published three editions of his The Faith of Islam which, translated into thirteen languages, gained him fame across the Islamic world.

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.[9] He was appointed Sheikh-ul-Islam of the British Isles by the Ottoman Sultan, Abdul Hamid II, in 1894, and Persian Vice Consul to Liverpool by the Shah. He also received money from the Emir of Afghanistan to help fund the Islamic Institute in Liverpool.

Quilliam's work in Liverpool stopped when he left England in 1908 in advance of being struck off as a solicitor.[10][11] 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.[12] He spent much of his time at Onchan on the Isle of Man. He died in Taviton Street, Bloomsbury, London in 1932,[13] and was buried in 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.[14] He denounced British foreign policy in Sudan[15] and called for a worldwide Caliphate.[16] It was as a result of his political views and his allegiance to the Ottoman Caliph that led some to denounce him as a traitor.[17]


His legacy is maintained by the Abdullah Quilliam Society which was formed in 1996. The Society is raising funds to restore 8–10 Brougham Terrace in Liverpool to reopen the historic mosque and establish an educational centre.[18]

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

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Quilliam Society website
  2. ^ "Forgotten champion of Islam: One man and his mosque". The Independent. London. 2 August 2007. 
  3. ^ Brief Biography of William Henry Quilliam
  4. ^ Geaves, Ron (2010-12-21). Islam in Victorian Britain: The Life and Times of Abdullah Quilliam. Kube Publishing Ltd. p. 8. ISBN 9781847740380. 
  5. ^ Manx Ancestor
  6. ^ The Convert's Passion by Brent D. Singleton, p104
  7. ^ Sardais, Louise (2012-MM-DD). "The 'little mosque'". BBC. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ The Islamic World, vi, 189–191 quoted at http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/bmh/BMH-Harriet_Quilliam.htm
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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)
  13. ^ Straits Times 1 July 1932
  14. ^ John Wolffe (1997). Religion in Victorian Britain: Culture and Empire. St. Martin's Press. p. 341. ISBN 978-0719051845. 
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful! Peace be to all the faithful everywhere! "O True-Believers, fear God with His true fear; and die not unless ye also be True-Believers. And cleave all of you unto the covenant of God, and depart not from it; and remember the favour of God towards you." Sura 3, "The Family of Imran," Ayat, 103 All praise be to God Who, in His unlimited goodness, has favoured us with the gift of the True religion of Islam, and Who has ordered the brethren to be united, and declared this to be His law in the before-quoted Ayat of the Holy and Imperishable Koran! Among Muslims none should be known as Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Ajem, Afghans, Indians or English. They are all Muslims, and verily the True-Believers are brethren. Islam is erected on the Unity of God, the unity of His religion, and the unity of the Muslims. History demonstrates that the True-Believers were never defeated while they remained united, but only when disunion crept into their ranks. At the present time, union is more than ever necessary among Muslims. The Christian powers are preparing a new crusade in order to shatter the Muslim powers, under the pretext that they desire to civilise the world. This is nothing but hypocrisy, but armed as they are with the resources of Western civilisation it will be impossible to resist them unless the Muslims stand united in one solid phalanx. O Muslims, do not be deceived by this hypocrisy. Unite yourselves as one man. Let us no longer be separated. The rendezvous of Islam is under the shadow of the Khalifate. The Khebla of the True-Believer who desires happiness for himself and prosperity to Islam is the holy seat of the Khalifate. It is with the deepest regret that we see some persons seeking to disseminate disunion among Muslims by publications issued in Egypt, Paris and London. "Verily, they are in a manifest error." If their object – as they allege it – be the welfare of Islam, then let them reconsider their action and they will perceive that instead of bringing a blessing to Islam their actions will have a contrary effect, and only further disseminate disunion where it is – alas that it should be said – only too apparent. We fraternally invite these brethren to return their allegiance, and call them to the sacred name of Islam to re-unite with the Faithful. Muslims all! Arsh is under the standard of the Khalifate. Let us unite there, one and all, and at once! Given at the Mosque at Liverpool, this 5th day of Dhulkada, 1313, which Christians in their error call the 20th day of April 1896 W.H. ABDULLAH QUILLIAM, Sheikh-ul-Islam of the British Isles.[Source: The Crescent, Vol. VII, No. 171, 22 April 1896, pp. 681–682, original punctuation and spelling retained, pagination indicated in square brackets in the text.] cited from Islam in Victorian Britain: The Life and Times of Abdullah Quilliam pp. 173–4
  17. ^ Geaves, R. (2010). Islam in Victorian Britain: The Life and Times of Abdullah Quilliam. Markfield, Kube Publishing., p. 102-103
  18. ^ Appeal for Heritage Centre in Liverpool
  19. ^ The Guardian; "Ex-Islamists start moderate thinkthank" 1 March 2008
  20. ^ "Ex-extremists call for 'Western Islam'"

External links[edit]


  • Lewis, Philip (1994). Islamic Britain: Religion, Politics, and Identity among British Muslims: Bradford in the 1990s. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-861-7. 
  • Singleton, Brent D. (2009). The Convert's Passion: An Anthology of Islamic Poetry from Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Rockville, MD: Wildside. ISBN 1-4344-0354-8.  (Includes poems by Quilliam and others)
  • Geaves, Ron (2010) Islam in Victorian Britain, The Life and Times of Abdullah Quilliam, Kube Publishing,