Thursday, December 08, 2005

How long have Muslims been in Britain?

1000 years of Islam in Britain

By Farrukh I.Younus
Dec. 06, 2005

Many of us hold the perception that the Muslim communities of Britain were the result of post-war mass migration, and to some extent this is true. But among the talks during the Islam Awareness Week—an annual week of activities aimed at encouraging knowledge and understanding of Islam across the United Kingdom by engaging local communities—was “1000 years of Islam in Britain” by Mohammad Siddique Seddon of the Islamic Foundation.
Imagine that, a thousand years of Islam in Britain! Well, while this statement needs to be nuanced, it is, however, clear that there has been an Islamic influence in this country for more than a millennium, a heritage that belongs not only to myself as a second generation British Pakistani Muslim, but also to the “native” English who can trace their genealogy on the island back for generations.

The first hint of Islamic influence that the speaker referred to was that felt under the leadership of King Offa of Mercia, a wealthy Anglo-Saxon king who ruled until the end of the 8th century CE. He is perhaps more famously known for commissioning Offa’s dyke, a massive wall built to separate England from Wales, compared by many to the building of the pyramids in terms of the resources employed.

King Offa commissioned a gold coin using the Islamic gold standard. On the one side it reads “There is no deity but God, without partners.” On the other, one way up it reads “Offa Rex” (King Offa). When rotated 180 degrees, it reads “Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”

There are a number of theories about the coins: the need to align with one of the two Muslim authorities of his time and to facilitate business with Muslim traders. However, the one that I am partial to is the need to pay the Pope his dues—a process perhaps best illustrated in the Robin Hood movies. Having accepted the need to pay tribute, King Offa did so willingly but with tongue in cheek by marking the coins with the testimony of the belief in one God, quite contrary to the Trinitarian belief of Christianity of which the Pope was the supreme authority. Then again, perhaps he even accepted Islam. Whatever the hypothesis, what cannot be denied is the minting of a coin bearing the mark of one of the most powerful English kings and the Muslim testimony of faith

read the complete article here