LONDON: The East London Mosque opened to the public on Sunday, giving people of all faiths the opportunity to explore the place of worship, learn about Islam and ask questions.
As part of a Muslim Council of Britain initiative called ‘Visit My Mosque’, more than 200 people across the country hosted members of local communities over the weekend.
The initiative is in its seventh year and is back in person after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic during which the event was held virtually.
At the East London Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, visitors were treated to basic British tea and cakes, received guided tours and viewed a special display of manuscripts from the Koran.
Attendees were able to explore an exhibit from the mosque’s archives chronicling the early Quran translators and listen to community leaders who shared inspiring messages of good neighborliness.
They were also able to watch the midday or Dhuhr prayers from a special viewing gallery and listen to the adhan, or call to prayer, which is particularly relevant given that the mosque was the first in the UK broadcast it through public loudspeakers.
A stall for women allowed them to try on scarves in a variety of colors and designs and people could have their names written in Arabic calligraphy at another.
A dedicated TED-style talks corner allowed attendees to discuss misconceptions about Islam, the Quran and what it’s like to be a Muslim in Britain.
Nathan Gubbins, who works at the East London Mosque as a political and engagement officer, gave a lecture on the Quran.
“We seek to introduce Islam in a manner acceptable to non-Muslims. We have an array of religious figures here today who speak on Islamic topics such as the Oneness of God, the Quran, and women in Islam. In the last session I will talk about being a Muslim in Britain, my experience as well as the experiences of other converts, and how Islam can exist in the UK,” Gubbins told Arab News.
Colin John, a medical professional specializing in mental health, attended the event with his Muslim friends and said he had been interested in Islam “for a long time”. He was “particularly impressed by the inclusiveness of Islam”.
“I think it’s great that the mosque in East London has opened, and I’m happy to come because I have respect for my dear Muslim friends and they were kind enough to invite me .
“But what particularly impressed me about the introductory course was the inclusiveness of Islam, and how, from what I understand, other prophets and other belief systems are adopted.
“And in a world where there’s such a detrimental focus on difference, it’s really heartwarming to hear the inclusiveness,” John said.
Another participant, Kirsty Gentle, said she was thrilled to witness firsthand the mosque’s connection to nature.
The mosque has housed several beehives since 2011 and most of them are kept on the roof of the London Muslim Center which is part of the place of worship.
“I guess I’m really interested in bees,” the community engagement officer said.
“It’s really nice to see the whole building. I also went to Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, and it is very important to take this opportunity and learn about different cultures and religions,” said Gentle.
Professor Muhammad AS Abdel Haleem, recipient of the Order of the British Empire, gave a short talk on the Quran which he translated into English. The famous scholar’s translation is read by people all over the world.
He praised the mosque for Sunday’s event and said he was “delighted” to see non-Muslims being welcomed.
“We should try to encourage non-Muslims to visit the mosque which is so spacious and pleasant,” Abdel Haleem said.
Dilowar Khan, director of engagement for the East London Mosque, told Arab News the event was a “wonderful opportunity for people to better understand Muslims and the Islamic faith”.
“Often the portrayal of Muslims in the media has been inaccurate and misleading. We hope that opening our doors will also open hearts and minds,” Khan said.
“Mosques and Islamic centers across the country play an important role in a healthy and cohesive society. For example, we continue to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, open to everyone, and we also run a food bank to help those most in need in our communities, especially during these difficult times.
“For ‘Visit My Mosque’ day, our staff and volunteers look forward to showing visitors what the interior of our mosque looks like and answering their questions,” he said.
Muslim Council of Britain secretary general Zara Mohammed told Arab News that ‘Visit My Mosque’ events across the country will “allow guests to connect with local Muslim communities and better understand who are Muslims, what are their sacred spaces”. mean to them, and the contributions of Muslim communities to British society.
“Now in its seventh year, ‘Visit My Mosque’ continues to see mosques open their doors to local communities, in what has become the largest mosque open day in the UK.
“In doing so, participating mosques provide a space for positive conversation, understanding and friendship to develop, while helping to challenge misconceptions about Islam and Muslims,” Mohammed said.