Jumu’ah: Friday prayers in the UK

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?

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6 Responses to Jumu’ah: Friday prayers in the UK

  1. KMH says:

    “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?”

    Earlier “generation(s) of white Englishmen and women” were inculcated from infancy, nowadays they are not and so allowing a rounded, rational and objective outlook on matters supernatural. I wouldn’t be suprised, considering the growing numbers of apostates, if a new generation of muslims drifting further and further away from Islam are heading our way in the 21st C.

    • KMH: You may or may not be proved correct. Personally, I am not convinced that we will see the same big drift towards atheism amongst Muslims that we have seen amongst Christians. But who knows?

      • KMH says:

        Inayat: Indeed, perhaps you (and others like you) are to playing a part in initiating the drift by speaking up for gay & lesbian muslims, by respecting and highlighting the Ahmadiya’s right practice their faith, by endorsing Darwinism and by stating that a muslim minority environment such as Britain is a better place to be a muslim than a khaleefa or muslim majority country.

        Those views will most likely rub off on your children who then might further expand on these and so your grandchildren’s generation will, perhaps, feel comfortable to openly doubt or disbelieve or interperate the quran/hadith as metaphor and simply believe in god with out needing to fast, attend mosque, pray five times a day or learning Arabic.

  2. Brendan says:

    Thanks for a very interesting blog, I agree with you on a few points. Western Europe and Christianity are indeed at a crossroads. Conversely in other parts of the world notably Africa and Asia church growth and interest in Christianity is explosive. The church in the UK is tremendously indebted to Christian immigrants who have come here and rejuvenated many inner city churches. There are lots of churches in London with congregations of several thousand plus, typically of West African descent.
    Muslims often present as being ‘proud’ of their faith and by implication belonging to a community of believers, and it’s all normal. UK Christians should learn from this and stop apologising for their faith and break with the disastrous sacred-secular divide. We have about 12 nationalities in our church and they are a wonderful reminder we belong to the ‘worldwide body of Christ’ not unlike the Muslim concept of the ‘Ummah’.
    The implications of leaving Islam are very serious, especially if your family background is rooted in Islam. Marriage opportunities, custody of children, social isolation, inheritance rights, and in some circumstances personal safety have to be taken into consideration by anyone thinking of making a break or even showing indifference so it’s little surprise that few choose this route and why religious identity appears so strong, even among the young. A refreshingly honest Muslim youth worker recently admitted to me that a lot of attendance at Friday prayers is nothing more than ‘window dressing’ for the benefit of others, including parents. Admittedly all this was probably also true of Christian communities in the UK in previous times; however the positive aspect of this is that today if someone attends church it’s because they really want to be there and not because anyone is keeping an eye on them or because they might gain some social kudos through their presence. (cf George Orwell’s depiction of the colonial Christian community in his powerful book: Burmese days)
    With regards to the Trinity it should be noted that among Muhammad’s early advisors were Ebiontes, members of a sect that confessed Jesus as Messiah but denied the doctrine of the Trinity as incompatible with the biblical belief in one god. So it is perhaps unsurprising that early Islam came to understand the doctrine as involving belief in three gods, a view and a false unbiblical characterisation that persists today.

  3. Brendan: I think it is a bit condescending to say that the city workers who attend Friday prayers are largely doing it because they are afraid of their parents!

    As regards the Trinity, it is worth reminding ourselves that none of the Old Testament prophets ever preached the Trinity and Jesus himself affirmed that the Greatest Commandment of all was ‘Hear O Israel! The Lord thy God is One.’ – a teaching emphatically re-affirmed by the Prophet Muhammad. I have read a number of biographies about Jesus and the authors seem to concur that the Trinity was not taught by Jesus but is rather a later corruption due to pagan Roman influences. It is notable that the word ‘Trinity’ occurs nowhere in the Gospels.

  4. hindutva inshallah says:

    Hello Inayat, interesting post, good on you for showing your religious devotion. I’m not sure about prayer mats on pavements, I think they might be in the way of pedestrians going about their lawful business.

    I think the decline of Christianity in the west started with the Age of Englightenment and accelerated with the social idiotacy called multiculturalism. Here we have self-hating white infidels projecting their white colonial guilt trip onto others by seeing everything white and British as racist.

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