I have only just begun reading Ron Geaves` book; I was that impressed by the time that I had finished the Introduction on sample, that I purchased the book on Kindle immediately, and felt a need to recommend it. I must admit that I do have a very keen interest in British social history, but Ron Geaves, writes in such an uncomplicated, easy to read story-telling style, that will appeal to even the casual reader. Being an amateur (very amateur) historical researcher myself, the Introduction alone has struck quite a few chords with me, and has bookmarks galore. A highly recommended historical read, and interesting to discover parallels between today`s controversy over Islam, and those of the Victorian era.
Abdullah Quilliam was a giant of a man by any standards. He was the quintessential Victorian British gentlemen. Solicitor by profession, defender of human rights, orator and lecturer on geology and numerous other sciences and an advocate for sobriety at a time when the consumption of alcohol far out weighted today's levels. This was the man even before Islam. After his return form North Africa where he embraces Islam he grows vastly over the following years, and becomes the leader of a multi cultural community of Muslims (both born and British converts, over 200 in number) from all walks of life in Liverpool (the main international dock of the British Empire at the time), along with heading a Muslim school and orphanage he is titled the Sheikh-ul-Islam of Britain by non other then the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (Abdul Hamid II). No other Muslim has and in all likeliness (due to the lack of an Islamic state) will ever be given such an honour.
I first heard about Abdullah Quilliam many years ago in passing conversation, and was intrigued, and when I saw this autobiography, I had to read about this interesting character. For me the pull towards this great personality was the fact that he was a proud Brit, but above all a Muslim. And I wanted to see what this 1900's gentleman a true British Muslim in every sense of the term balanced his loyalties to Queen and country, and by his own compulsion the 'True Faith' (as Quilliam often referred). While the biography starts a tad text book like I feel this section is important as it lays the settings in which these events in the Sheikh's life are occurring. Victorian Britain during the industrial revolution was the centre of a vast Empire which had colonies across the globes and a greater number Muslim subjects then the Ottomans had. The emerging might of the Russian region, Germany, France and her colonies, as well as the established Ottoman empire all tragically manoeuvring in what eventually where to become the alliances of the first World War. International snapshot of history covered. We move onto Liverpool at this time which was a hub of immigration from Muslim lands and closer to home. (Ireland, Scotland, & Wales) and had its own religious conflicts before Islam enters the equation as the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants often erupting into violence.
But the book after a slow start gets to the main course. Abdullah Quilliam the man, the ideals and his experiences. Most interesting and influential for me being the challenges he often but not always overcame with the duality of being a British Muslim, and these are truly the insights I fell the majority of British Muslims (Muslims in Britain regardless of race, country/ religion of birth, social class) can learn a great deal from.
Quilliam was a true ambassador for Islam, actively lecturing on comparative religion and implementing within the laws of Britain an Islamic community, masjid, school, orphanage, even a portion in the grave yard for those who died with the 'truth'. Along with the equivalent of open days. The local community (regardless of religion) where invited to celebrate and eat at the Eid festivities with the Muslims. Providing breakfast for the poor Christian children on Christmas day is another act of charity and community building Quilliam not only orchestrated but in the majority of theses works heavily funded from his own pocket. He was the first point of contact from dock workers right up to the mayor on all matters concerning the Muslims in and around Liverpool.
I will touch on what could be seen as a negative chapter in Quilliam's life. His taking on of a new identity in the later years of his live. Much controversy surrounds this section of his life and I feel the author has done well to shed as much light as was possible with the information available to him.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the 'British Muslim' area of politics, sociology, and community cohesion. It's also a great read for those having an interest in the British Empire around this era (1900's). For me it's been a `how to' guide on becoming a 'Great British Muslim'. I shall attempt to put into practice the lessons learnt from reading about Quilliam's life.
A fascinating book which mostly covers the progress of William Quilliam's conversion to Islam, the founding of the first proper mosque in England, the appointment of Quilliam as the Shah of England, and his subsequent fading from public life. I was attracted to the book because I live in Liverpool (the site of the Mosque) and was actually married in the building (it was taken over by the council and became a registry office). The book is well written and (as far as I can tell) well researched. It is certainly an insight into a time (end of the 19th, start of the 20th century) when religion (of the Christian kind) was far more important, and taken much more seriously. The expansion of the British Empire placed an enormous strain on people who were serious about the Christian message, and Quilliam was one such, who converted to Islam because he saw it as a more consistent and less troublesome religion. The book has much to say about the history of religion at this time, and about the rise of multiculturalism, then and now. Recommended for anyone interested in these things.
There is no doubt in my mind had William Quilliam been alive today he would undoubtedly have been labelled an Islamist or a dangerous radical. In fact in his time he was view as such. The government had files on him which are still hidden from public view!
Yet today this very man is celebrated, rightly so. A courageous, intelligent man who was not just an quintessential Englishman, but a man of the world and a friend of the poor and above all a devout Muslim.
A must read to make sense of todays crazy politically charged world. In a multicultural world, this should be essential reading in todays schools.
This is the best book I ever read. A. Quillam was a great man. We need to know about him and learn from his life. The book written in a very interesting way that made me just keep reading it. Its good for Muslims and non-Muslim, researchers and academic. It is the book to have. Thank you very much for your effort.