Yahya Parkinson (lived 1874-1918 CE (ra) was a notable British Muslim of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. A Scotsman (of Irish ancestry) he was a poet, a writer, a critic, a newspaper editor and for much of his life a wool spinner. Born in Kilwinning in Ayrshire, his first given name was John and it was this name he kept. When he returned to Islam (became a Muslim) around the turn of the century, he Arabised his name to Yahya (the way of saying John in Arabic). Although generally a resident of Scotland, Yahya Parkinson was a figure associated the the British Muslim community in Liverpool and the Woking Muslim Mission in Surrey. He became popular in intellectual British Muslim circles and among the English speaking Muslim intellectuals of British India. An impressive author, who wrote on various subjects (including Islamic Chivalry and Imam Al Ghazali (ra), his writing and poetry were featured in several English language Muslim periodicals of the era. He was well missed when he passed away (whist still only in his early middle age) in the year 1918 CE.
Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall (ra) 1875-1936 CE) was a great British Muslim and the author of one of the most popular translations of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an into English. His translation of the meanings of the glorious Qur’an into English was be the first such translation to gain authorization from the great Al-Azhar university in Cairo. After a long held love of Islam Muhammad Marmaduke declared his Shahada (declaration of Islamic faith) in 1917 CE, in front of the Muslim Literary Society in London. Born in Suffolk to middle class parents, his father was the Reverend Charles Grayson, an Anglican priest.
Muhammad Marmaduke grew up in London and suffered from ill health as a child. He studied at Harrow School and gained a love of languages, in Wales he would learn Welsh and Gaelic in Ireland. Hoping to learn Arabic he traveled to Palestine sought work with the British there whilst he was still only seventeen years old. During his time in the Middle East he saw a joyousness amongst the Muslims that he had never seen amongst the Christians of Europe, he also saw in Islam values that he knew many British Christians had been striving towards but failing to reach over the years.
Furthermore he loved the freedom and beauty of the life he saw and lived in the Middle East, a life that at that time still could remind him of the Tales of the Arabian Nights that he had read as a child or the stories of the Bible that he also learned in that early part of his life, but even as a Christian he came to dislike the petty and sectarian Christian Missionaries who had started to swarm through those areas of the Middle East where they were able. Thus a young man he traveled through many lands and eventually he became known as a learned writer on Middle-Eastern things. He particularly loved the Ottoman society and he had a deep fascination with Islam and this was reflected in his writings.
Sadly with the troubles of World War One a propaganda campaign was launched in the UK against the Ottomans (and Islam). Muhammad Marmaduke tirelessly defended the Turks with his pen, however, he supported the British against the Germans and declared he was ready to be a combatant so long as he did not have to fight the Turks.
In 1920 CE Muhammad Marmaduke went to India and became the editor of the Bombay Chronicle. He was a good hearted man and gave much in charity but hid his giving from others. He would not return to England until the year before his passing. He is buried in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood, Surrey.
Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1867-1963 CE (ra) was one of the first recorded British women to perform the Hajj pilgrimage in the Holy City of Makkah. She was assisted in making the arrangements for her Hajj by the British Muslim Harry St. John Abdullah Philby who was a friend of the Al-Sauds and lived in Jiddah.
The Saudis treated her as an humored visitor. Of noble Scottish stock, Lady Evelyn was the child of Charles Adolphus Murray the 7th Earl of Dunmore and Lady Gertrude Coke, who was the daughter of the Second Earl of Leicester.
Lady Evelyn was a skilled lady, a fluent Arabic speaker, a gardener and a capable deerstalker and angler. She was always connected to Islam, having spent time in Algiers, cared for by Muslim nannies, as a child and she was a Muslim as far back as she could remember.
Later in life she met the Pope whilst in Rome, he asked her if she was a Catholic and she surprised him by explaining that she was a Muslim. She wrote a number of books and was an associate of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, the great British translator of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an into English.
She was an important ground breaker and an inspirational British Muslim lady. Several of her fascinating books can be found with booksellers such as Amazon.
The Holy Qur’an is the expression of Divine Truths which are inscribed in a wonderful cosmic tablet. It is the wondrous existence that inspires the good hearted women and men who read it with the wisdom that their Creator has imbued in it. It is;
The honour ed
The Clear Argument
The One that Explains
The Covenant with God
The Confirmer of the Truth
The Rope of God (a safe handhold)
The Guardian of previous Revelations
The Distinguisher between truth and falsehood
The Holy Qur’an provides answers to basic human questions such as: Why am I alive? What am I supposed to do? What is the meaning of the creation? Who made me? Who is the source of the beauty and perfection in the universe? And many other such questions.
Good News & Warning
The Holy Qur’an came to the world as the completion and Seal of the Divine Scriptures. It confirmed the universals of what had come before and introduced some new Divine Laws that were needed by the humans in the last age of humanity, because it would be one that saw unprecedented changes in the world and the rise unprecedented levels of evil and ignorance.
Therefore as well as giving glad warnings the Holy Qur’an would be a stern reminder to the people to stay on the straight path, during an age when less people would be inclined to do so, as the lure greed and the pull of the worldly life would become ever more powerful as the healthy traditional societies were gradually replaced by corrupt and iniquitous ones.
Revelation of a Cosmos of
The cosmos of Divine truths and wisdom that we call the Qur’an was Revealed in the most awesome of ways.
Sometimes God would send the Angel Gabriel to teach the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) a new part of the Qur’an in Wahi Malaki (Revelation through the Angel), whilst other times God would inspire the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) by putting the words of the Holy Qur’an into his heart (Wahi Qalbi) and on two very special occasions Almighty God honoured the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) by Speaking to him directly (Kalaam Ilahi), just as He had Spoken to Prophet Moses (may God bless him and give him peace) many centuries earlier.
Those who were present when the Revelations came down to the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) were filled with awe as the self changing Divine Impression of these Wisdoms would even cause the Prophet to shiver and beads of sweat would run down his forehead.
The weight of these Revelations was so great that when they occurred whilst he was riding a camel it was observed that the camel itself would have to sit down under their weight, but by the end of the transmission of the Revelation a wonderful thing had happened and that was that these cosmic Truths, Wisdoms and Divine Mercies had been indelibly inscribed in the Prophet’ heart and memory, so that he truly became a living exponent of the Holy Qur’an and could explain it in every way to the Children of Adam who were fortunate enough to share his company.
Every part of the Holy Qur’an is Divine Revelation and no part is of the work of men and just as Prophet Jesus is reported to have said of the one who would come after him that;
…for he shall not speak from himself,
But whatever he shall hear
(from the Divine)
that shall he speak
(Purported Gospels, John, 16,13)
And the Holy Qur’an it states;
Nor does he (Muhammad)
speak from his own desire.
It is no less than inspiration
sent down to Him.
He was taught by one mighty in power
(Surah Najm 3-5)
From the first Revelation of the Last Testament of the Holy Qur’an in 610 CE until the final Revelation in 632 CE the One True God God Revealed the spiritual wisdom and the Divine Laws for the people of the last age of humanity upon the Earth a part at a time and in accordance with the growing capacity of understanding and wisdom of the Companions of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace).
As soon as a new Revelation was sent down to bless the Children of Adam the scribes amongst the Companions (who varied from between 40-70 at one time or another) would come and record it in writing – keeping every word just as the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) told them and the large parts of the community of believers soon memorized these Revelations with utmost care (learning both the Divine Text and its broader meanings) and from its very Revelation hundreds of people would preserve it in their memories word for word – all 114 chapters of it – and they would teach the Holy Qur’an to the new generation who in turn would pass it on word perfectly and thus it can truly be said that although it exists on paper the real home of the Holy Qur’an is in the hearts of men and women. In the modern age there are literally millions of wise believers who preserve the Holy Qur’an (every single letter of it) in their hearts.
The Holy Qur’an is both a Good News and a Warning. It invites to the good and gives the good news of Paradise, yet it also warns the Children of Adam against sin and evil in the most frightening of ways, but those who read it and are frightened should be happy, because to fear God is in fact a most special honour and something that guides us Children of Adam to perform good deeds and avoid evil ones (to make ourselves truly benevolent and worshipful beings).
Wise people remember that God sent the Angel Gabriel (may God bless him and give him peace) to teach the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) the Qur’an and he then taught to the Companions and the wise of the Companions taught it to their successors and so on, passing on the way of truly understanding it from generation to generation.
From its Revelation it has been spoken by the tongues of the believers and remembered in their hearts, word for word.
The Holy Qur’an contains Oceans of knowledge and to fully and truly understand its broader and deeper meanings the reader needs certain qualities, such as a good heart that God has with wisdom, and skills, such as a full knowledge of classical Arabic and a full knowledge of the Sunnah and Seerah of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace), but happily it is that God has made the Holy Qur’an a Clear Guidance to humankind and provided us with wise spiritual teachers who could explain to us the wonderful meanings of this most Holy Book.
Those people with open hearts may even gain Divine inspiration, mercy and understanding from reading the translations of the meanings of the Holy Qur’an into other languages – particularly if they have some contact with a wise and merciful elder or Sheikh who has absorbed the teachings and the way of the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) and who can therefore e share this wisdom with others.
In Sahih Muslim it is recorded that the Companion Abu Malik al-Harith ibn Asim al Ashari (raa) narrated how one time the Holy Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) explained;
Prayer is light; Charity is a proof;
Patience is an illumination
and the Qur’an is an argument
for you or against you.
Everybody starts his day
and is the vendor of his soul,
either liberating it or bringing its ruin.
It sometimes feels that Muslims in Britain are like a punchbag and a scapegoat for every problem that can possibly be blamed upon them.
Much has been happening over the past couple of months regarding the Trojan Hoax fiasco and the attack on the Muslim community of Birmingham, which has now spread to other schools in London and the north of UK.
In the last piece on the topic, I highlighted that the collateral impact of the policies forced in by the likes of anti-Muslim neocon Michael Gove had started (after Gove’s sacking in July) to be felt by Jewish and Christian schools. Questions asked of young Muslim pupils, around homosexuality, for instance, had previously gone without any concerns being raised by the wider public. Now however, such questioning by Ofsted is being regarded as “anti-Semitic” (Cristina Odone of the Legatum Institute think tank on BBC’s Question Time (05/02/2015) explicitly declared Ofsted’s questioning around homosexuality and modest dress requirement as anti-Semitic).
The truth is however, that the measures are nowhere near as…
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Anyone can become a Muslim and non-defective Mosques are open to all Muslims, but it is not everyday that lots of Mosques invite non-Muslims to come on in and look around. British Visit My Mosque Day is therefore a special day.
This national initiative on Feb 1st saw the British non-Muslim public invited and welcomed into many of the country’s Mosques so that they could see what really goes on inside…
…and what does go on inside a typical British Mosque?
Well congregational Salaat prayers 5 times per day does – and most Mosques have a Madrassa, however, contrary to the fantasies of Islamophobes everywhere a Madrassa is generally simply the Muslim equivalent of Sunday school or in some cases the equivalent of a Seminary. In larger better Mosques some social services are provided and some other social, cultural and religious activities are undertaken, and that is about it.
Sermons in most British Mosques rarely or never mention politics and when they do it tends to be from a very uncontroversial and totally mainstream perspective (telling people that they should vote Labour is generally as politically controversial as sermon’s get). British Muslims are just normal people. Indeed when polled British Muslims commonly describe identifying with their British identity more so than British non-Muslim communities (who tend to focus upon being English, Welsh or Scottish etc).
Visit My Mosque Day is undertaken to promote community understanding and to help disprove many of the irresponsible distortions that are promoted by the Media. However, in my view it is not enough and – if Islam is to ever escape from the position of being perceived as an unwelcome alien sect in Britain – every decent sized Mosque in the West should have some charitable and social facilities that are open all the time to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
In this regards Muslims could learn a lot from those many Christian Churches that offer space for community activities in which all are welcome (of any faith or non). These services range from playgroups to coffee mornings and religion is not generally pushed at people attending – yet many, many people became Churchgoers as a result of being invited in for these other non-religious activities and services.
The truth is, however, that most Muslims in Britain are South Asians who have not yet really come to realize that they are part of a European nation now. They have failed to notice that being British and being Muslim at the same time don’t leave much room for transplanted South Asian village life, especially for those elements of them that are in-congruent not only with British values, but also clash with the values of genuine Islam.
I’m pretty sure that if British Muslims don’t do more to establish broader and deeper ties with the wider British community then it would not be surprising if they experience pogroms and other terrible problems later on.
There are just so many people out there who know next to nothing that is true about the Islam and its adherents, yet their minds have been filled with hate filled distortion after distortion. Each new half truth or lie supporting the previous one until they build into a mountain of negative emotions and wrong presuppositions against Muslims. This is a box of fireworks waiting to go off one day.
Each anti Muslim propaganda byte has been cunningly inserted into popular circulation by those who are waging a highly successful and effective propaganda war – one that has turned Muslims as a whole into global pariahs.
Good Muslims need to get together in effective ways and stand up and be counted, in every way embodying the opposite energy from that of the Kharijite terrorists. The only way that Muslims can overcome this situation is by an equally energetic, positive and productive reaction, putting out the fires of hate with the water of warmth, mercy and compassion.
Some Wise Observations…
“Muslims should be a beacon of light in the lands we live in.”
“We should be a spark of hope for others when they see: the dignity of our dress, the dignity of our behavior, the excellence of our schools, the professionalism of our healers, and people who are ethical at their core and won’t absolve themselves of their ethical responsibility.”
“Then, we will be a beacon of light- and people will say, ‘I want to be like those people.”
Hamza Yusuf Hanson
“If you desire to live such that your religion is safe and your portion is full and your honor is sound Guard your tongue; never mention another’s faults – For you too have faults and others too have tongues!
Take care the eye, when it reveals another’s faults – Saying, “O my eyes, remember the eyes of others!” Live treating well all others and avoid aggression – and should they oppress, repel it but with kindness.
Sidi Ahmad Zarruq
“One of the most important ways to conquer the hearts of people is that one always seeks an opportunity to do others good and once such an opportunity appears, makes use of it without delay. If only we could set our hearts on always doing good to others!”
“Good morals and sound conscience, and good manners and virtues, are like a currency universally acceptable and which is not affected by changes in the values of other means of exchange. Those provided with such qualities are like merchants with the highest credit who can do business wherever they want.”