Following the end of my first year at university, back in the summer of 1988, I was working near Marble Arch in London. During the previous twelve months, since finishing my ‘A’ level exams, I had been reading the Qur’an in translation and had begun -for the first time – to regularly perform my daily prayers. But what was I to do in Marble Arch? On Fridays I would have to take a bus a couple of miles north to the showpiece Regent’s Park Mosque where I would join hundreds (a couple of thousand, at least) of Muslims in the jumu’ah prayer.
Fast forward to 2012 and I am still working in central London, albeit a couple miles east of Marble Arch. Now, though, there is a mosque less than two minutes walk away from my workplace and on Fridays it is so busy that they hold three separate khutbahs. They even have to lay jute mats out on to the pavement outside the mosque to help accomodate all the worshipers, most of whom appear to be young Muslims working in the city. It is a similar story in many other places in the UK I have visited and Europe – the photo at the top is from France.
Why have Muslims been so successful in persuading so many young Muslims to continue to diligently perform the congregational Friday prayer? At work, it is clear that many of the new generation of white Englishmen and women are drifting further and further away from Christianity and proudly declare their atheism and the irrelevance of Christianity to their lives.
Just last week, Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday – who for years now has been lamenting the decline of Christianity in England – said that “this island will be more or less Muslim within a century, and it will be the fault of this generation.”
I think there was a British academic who around a decade ago predicted that Islam would become the dominant ‘street religion’ in the UK within a couple of decades. I don’t know about that, but it is certainly encouraging to see young Muslims diligently performing their Friday prayers and in the process affirming that they do care about their spiritual future and wellbeing.
Could the answer partly be in the simplicity of the Islamic message of monotheism, hard work and clean living as compared with the convoluted and confusing Christian doctrine of the Trinity?