Islam is a religion practised by Muslims concentrated in the Near and Middle East, North and West Africa, Pakistan and India. There are believed to be between 1.3 and 1.6 billion Muslims throughout the world.
The Prophet Mohammed established Islam in Arabia during the 7th century. Islam spread throughout the Middle East, West into the Turkish Ottoman Empire and Africa, and East with the Mughals into India. Many of these areas were later colonised by the British.
God revealed Islam to the Prophet Mohammed in Mecca. The Qu’ran, the holy text of Islam, consists of God’s revelation in 114 verses.
The ‘Sira’ and the ‘Hadith’ of Mohammed, his biography and a book of his sayings respectively, are other important texts. Together they represent the sunna, an example to Muslims of how to lead their lives.
The five pillars of Islam are the essentials of Islamic law. They are the declaration of faith (Shahadah), ritual prayers five times a day (Salat), giving a fixed proportion of income to charity (Zakat), fasting (Sawm) and making the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca at least once in a lifetime.
There are two main groups of Muslims. Sunni Muslims make up 90% of the world’s Muslim population. The other main group are the Shi’ite Muslims.
Seamen from the Middle East and Africa founded London’s first Muslim communities, which were based around Shoreditch and Whitechapel. By the beginning of the 21st century there were over 603,000 Muslims in London, around two-fifths of Britain’s Muslim population.
Muslims make up the second largest religious community in London after Christians. The population is the youngest of London’s religious groups. Muslims often marry at a younger age and have families with more children than other groups.
In Tower Hamlets, Muslims comprise over a third of the population. George Galloway’s Respect party won the 2005 general election in this borough with a campaign that severely criticised the conflict in Iraq. Muslims also comprise a quarter of the population in Newham.
Muslim Londoners are served by hundreds of Mosques and Islamic cultural and community centres. Prominent among these are north London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, and the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre on Whitechapel Road.
The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre at Hanover Gate in Regent’s Park are a focus for Muslim communities both in the capital and throughout Britain. The site was presented to the Muslim community as a gift from the British government in the 1940s and is funded through donations from Muslim countries.
Many national Muslim organisations have their head offices in London. They include the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain and the UK Islamic Mission.
Well-know Muslim Londoners include journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, singer and songwriter Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Jemima Khan (née Goldsmith), former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan.