As a long-serving member of the East London Mosque Trust, I've been privileged to witness and shape the evolving role of mosques in modern British society. Traditionally, mosques have served as centres for prayer and spiritual guidance. However, in today's Britain, their role has expanded significantly, embracing community service, interfaith dialogue, and social cohesion. This evolution reflects not only the changing dynamics of the Muslim community but also the broader Islamic teachings on engagement and respecting others.

Community Service: Beyond Spiritual Guidance

In the UK, mosques have transformed into dynamic community hubs, offering a range of services that extend well beyond traditional spiritual guidance. At the East London Mosque, we've initiated diverse programmes focused on health, education, and social welfare, catering to different groups within our community. This expansion of services resonates deeply with the Islamic principle of ‘Khidma’ (service), emphasising the mosque’s role in supporting the whole community.

Interfaith Dialogue: Fostering Mutual Understanding

In a multicultural, multi-faith society such as Britain, it is crucial to foster understanding and respect among different communities. Mosques play an essential part in this endeavour. We've been involved in interfaith events, open days, and collaborative projects, striving to demystify Islam and break down barriers of misunderstanding. Guided by the Quranic verse, "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another" (Quran 49:13), our efforts in interfaith dialogue enrich our understanding and contribute to a more cohesive society.

Social Cohesion: Celebrating Our Unity

The mosque is a unifying space, bringing together Muslims from various backgrounds. This role is particularly pronounced in the UK. We celebrate the diversity within our congregations, reflecting the multicultural nature of British society. Our initiatives focus on inclusivity and unity, highlighting the shared values of British Muslims, in line with the prophetic tradition promoting unity and mutual support.

Educational Outreach: Empowering Through Knowledge

Educational outreach is another key area where mosques have broadened their influence. From Arabic classes and Islamic studies to workshops on history and culture, our aim is to provide a well-rounded education. This effort is not solely about religious instruction but about empowering our community members to be informed, confident participants in wider society, aligning with the Islamic emphasis on seeking knowledge.

The East London Mosque: A Beacon of History and Heritage

Recently, I had the honour of hosting a presentation by Dr Jamil Sherif on the remarkable story of the East London Mosque. This institution is unique in Western Europe, with a dedicated Archives Strongroom, holding significant collections documenting the history of one of the UK’s oldest mosques and the British Muslim community. These archives are a testament tdiversityo our rich heritage and the evolving journey of British Muslims.

The East London Mosque itself has over 100 years of history that spans two different centuries, first dedicating its efforts to serving the early Muslim community in London, but now playing a more pivotal role within society in fostering mutual understanding.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite these developments, mosques in Britain face challenges such as balancing tradition with modernity and addressing misconceptions about Islam. Yet, these challenges present opportunities for growth and innovation, especially in making our services more relevant to the younger generation, who are navigating their dual identities as British Muslims.

We need to be able to empower the next generation so that they can continue playing an active part in society, to benefit not just Muslims but civic society too.

The role of mosques in modern British society is multifaceted and dynamic. As centres of worship, community hubs, platforms for interfaith dialogue, and educational institutions, mosques are instrumental in promoting service, understanding, and cohesion. These roles, deeply ingrained in Islamic teachings, are crucial for the integration and well-being of the Muslim community in Britain. As we move forward, it's essential that we continue to evolve and contribute positively to the society we're a part of.

My belief in the potential of mosques as catalysts for positive change stands true. By embracing our role in modern British society, we ensure that mosques remain relevant and impactful, serving not just our community but society at large.