The Earliest Recorded Named British Muslim?
John Nelson (ra) is recorded in the 1583 CE ‘The Voyage made to Tripoli’ as the son of a yeoman of the Queen’s Guard who had become a Muslim. He is often very wrongly described as the first English Muslim, when in fact it is known that many English Crusaders had seen the light of the Holy Qur’an and had become Muslims during the Crusades through the invitation of great Muslim rulers such as Saladin Ayyubi (ra).
These were not just defeated warriors who ‘took the turban’ rather than being ransomed but also Englishmen (and other Europeans) who decided to change sides and who deserted the Crusaders to join their obviously more civilized foe. In North Africa and other places many other unnamed Englishmen and Englishwomen had certainly embraced Islam before John Nelson, as they had (no doubt) been doing in small numbers as far back as the time of the powerful trade links that inspired the powerful ancient Anglo-Saxon King Offa to mint some of his coins with the Islamic declaration of faith upon them.
Sadly, we do not know the name of the first English Muslim of the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (saws), however we may assume that he or she became a Muslim through British trade contacts with Islamic Spain in its golden era, whilst Christian Europe was still in its ‘dark ages’ – Spain having always been linked to southwest Britain by sea routes since time immemorial.