The Story of Abdullah Quilliam – One of Britain’s First Muslim Converts

Liverpool, historically an unimportant and small city which comprised of only seven streets, only rose to prominence in the 18th century as part of the booming transatlantic trade. Today tourism is one of the biggest industries in Liverpool, which comes as no surprise, as it is famously known for its heritage, tourist sites and its atmosphere.

However, it was also in this once-upon-a-time small and unimportant city that a 19th-century convert from Christianity to Islam was born. William Henry Quilliam also known as Abdullah Quilliam was mostly known for founding one of England’s first Mosque and Islamic centre, right in the heart of Liverpool.

Born in the year 1856, Abdullah Quilliam attained the title, ‘Sheikh of the British Isles’ at the young age of 31; a title bestowed upon him by Sultan Abdul Hameed II and the Emir of Afghanistan. He was born at 22 Eliot Street and although spent his childhood in the Isle of Man, returned to Liverpool and studied at the Liverpool Institute. He soon started working as a lawyer at 28 Church Street, working on very high-profile murder cases and thus became quite proficient in this field of work.

It was when Quilliam made a trip to Morocco that he made the decision to become a Muslim. Upon returning to Liverpool, he embraced Islam and claimed himself to being the first Englishman to become a Muslim.

Quilliam established one of the very first Mosques and Madrasas (Islamic School) in the UK at 8 Brougham Terrace. Known as the Abdullah Quilliam Mosque, Quilliam had this set up to be run as a Mosque, a boarding school for boys and a day school for girls. Within the building, there was also an orphanage, a small museum and a science laboratory and was open to Muslims and non-Muslims for educational activities and classes.

After a donation was made by Prince Nasrullah Khan of Afghanistan, number 11 and 12 Brougham Terrace were also purchased to form part of the Mosque.  As it still functions as a Mosque, it is open year-round and welcomes all visitors.

Quilliam had a difficult time when people found out about his conversion and therefore faced persecution and harassment. He fled overseas and upon returning, adopted the name Haroun Mustapha Leon passing away in London in 1932. Today he is buried in the Brookfield Cemetery in Woking, England.

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