British Struggles for Pure Monotheism

The British historically were a maritime people and through the ages many no doubt came to Islam through contact with North Africa and Turkey. They were also a free thinking people and many of them came to true Monotheism through their observations and intelligence, sadly both of these groups were harshly opposed by the established Church and this meant that many would be persecuted or martyred. Most of the names of these victimized people went unrecorded and were lost from the pages of history, especially those who suffered for genuine Monotheism in the Middle Ages, but some a remembered below…

  • In 1401 CE William Sawtry, a priest and a follower of the Lollard British reformist John Wycliffe, was burned at the stake for asserting that there is only one unique, indivisible God, thus dying a martyr to true Monotheism.
  • In 1610 CE an intolerant Christian inquisition investigated many English people who were accused of being Muslims, they were from such places as London, the West Country, the South Coast and even Middlesbrough.
  • Ten years later three English Muslims were martyred for their faith, across the country all those who accepted Islam through contact with Muslims at home or abroad had to keep their faith a secret if they wished to remain in their homeland. If they wished to live openly as Muslim they had to flee to the Muslim lands for safety, otherwise they faced imprisonment or murder.
  • In this light it is interesting to know that a Benedictine priest called Diego de Haedo recorded that in 1600 CE around half of the population of Algiers was at that time made up of European reverts to Islam and their descendants, most of these were no doubt people who had come to Islam in various ways whilst abroad, but it seems highly likely that amongst their ranks were also many spiritual refugees who had come to Islam through a Unitarian awareness gained by study of the scriptures.
  • In 1636 CE a Chair of Arabic was established at Oxford University and during this era real knowledge of Islam was increasing in Britain amongst some circles and in 1641 CE a British writer referred to the discovery of a sect of ‘Mahomatens’ (Muslims) in London, but British Muslims in this era had to keep their faith secret or risk persecution and even execution.
  • In 1645 CE an English Member of Parliament called Paul Best was charged before the House of Commons for asserting the unity of God and denying the deity of Jesus. He was sentenced to be hanged, but eventually regained his freedom.
  • In fact three years later the Presbyterians in Parliament called for the death penalty for those who denied the Trinity, but happily the influence of the Latitudinarians who support religious freedom will prevent the bill coming into force and the ‘Council of Mechanics’ of the new Republican Commonwealth in England orders that religious groups, including Muslims, were now be tolerated, ending centuries of Christian persecution for a time.
  • In 1649 CE an English translation of the Holy Qur’an was made. It was very popular and many copies were printed. Although such works were weak and were associated to misleading commentaries they inspired many free-thinking British people to find out more about Islam. Many were influenced by Islamic ideas whilst some went a step further and secretly became Muslims.
  • In 1654 CE the English Unitarian Christian John Biddle was banished to the Scilly Islands of the Cornish Coast, his crime was to believe that God is One not three and for refuting the irrational claim that Prophet Jesus (as), a servant of God, is Divine, he has previously been jailed for his true Monotheism.
  • In 1658 CE the end of the Cromwellian period saw religious free thought and toleration suppressed, and figures such as the lover of Islam, Henry Stubbe faced such dangers as imprisonment or worse (he himself was eventually found floating face down in a pond, having died under unexplained circumstances).
  • In 1671 CE a native Welsh Muslim was martyred, murdered at the hands of intolerant Christians who impaled him after he refused to become a Christian, whilst ten years later a British man called Thomas Baker scathingly recorded in his diary about a certain William who declared his faith in Islam and recited the Shahada whilst abroad, something that this bigoted Thomas Baker refused to allow.
  • In 1697 CE the Scottish Unitarian Christian Thomas Aikenhead was martyred in Scotland for denying the Trinity and asserting that there is only one God whilst in 1703 CE the British Unitarian Christian Thomas Emlyn (d.1741 CE), was found guilty of blasphemy for asserting the unity of God and was imprisoned in Dublin.
  • In 1791 CE the Unitarian Christian Joseph Priestly was in Birmingham when a violent mob of Trinitarian Christians began a series of arson attacks against those people who asserted that there is only one God in the city and those who gave them shelter. He lost his writings, his possessions and his scientific equipment, but escaped with his life and went into hiding for three years before fleeing to the safety of America with Benjamin Franklin as his guide and traveling companion. Happily the following century would see Britain adopt a policy religious toleration that has continued into the present day. It would allow the British Unitarian Christians, Jews and Muslims to live in more peace and security than they had in the past and would see the development of different religious traditions in the country.

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