Saturday, 24 July 2010

Muslims and Mosques in New Castle

Muslims and Mosques in New Castle

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Out of one million total population of New Castle, there are, according to 2002 census, 12,000 Muslims excluding the asylum seekers and students. Most of the Muslims are from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage; but there are many Arabs, most of them are students. New Castle is famous for students. There are two big universities in New Castle: i) New Castle University and ii) Northambria, New Castle College and New Castle Business School. Most of the Arabs are students.

In terms of education, very few Muslims in New Castle are very highly educated. There are some who have completed GCSE and some of them have done degrees in history and in other subjects. There are, of course, few professionals, such as doctors, engineers and technicians. According to Haji Mustafa, who has been living in New Castle for more than 40 years, five to ten percent of Muslims are highly literate and the rest are from the labour class.

So far as the economic conditions of the Muslims in New Castle are concerned, some of them are really very rich and they are businessmen, like groceries. Most of the Muslims are from the labour class.

So far as the Mosques are concerned, there are twelve mosques, including the Shia mosque and Sufi Mosque. Out of 12 Mosques, three are purpose built and among the three, two are Brelvis, one Deobandi. Then two universities have two mosques run by the Islamic Students Society. Out of the rest seven, three mosques belong to Bangladeshis and two to Shia community, one to Sufi group and another to very strong Sufis-Pakistani community.

The oldest mosque in New Castle was the mosque known as Brelvi mosque. According to Haji Mustafa, it was as old as thirty/forty years. This mosque is the oldest mosque in New Castle built around 1960s.At that time there was only one mosque in New Castle – presently known as Brelvi Mosque. Basically in the beginning, it was not a mosque; it was a Muslim community centre. Then Muslims of different schools of thought started building this mosque and everybody shared and contributed to the building of this mosque - Brelvis, Deobandis, Ahle Hadis and everybody and everybody used to pray there, like Brelvis, Deonandis and others. Later on, they split up.

The purpose-built mosque has their own Madrasah, only the Imam teaches, sometimes, about fifty students. All the Madrasahs are in the afternoon after the school hours, except the weekend schools. The weekend's schools are from 10 O'clock to one O'clock. Only some of the mosques have weekend school, not all the mosques. Muslim Welfare House and New Castle Central Mosque have weekend schools. One weekend school at the New Castle Central Mosque belongs to Libyan students; they run that and they have their own course.

So far as the Muslim organizations and associations are concerned, there is no representative body of the Muslims of New Castle. There are many associations. Bangladeshis have their own associations which have its head office in London; Islamic Forum for Europe has their branch in New Castle. All the Brelvis have their own organizations; they are associated with the British Sufi Council. Pakistani has two organizations, some of the Pakistani is associated with the UK Islamic Mission in London and other is associated with Jamiat-e- Ahle Hadis, Birmingham. New Castle Central Mosque is associated with Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadis, Birmingham. These are the four kinds of associations. There is another Mosque which is associated with the Muslim Welfare House, Finsbury Park. They have branches here as well.

Besides the Mosques and Madrasahs, there is a need for Islamic centre to perform some of the community activities such as marriage, divorce, burials etc. Muslim Welfare House used to do almost all of these activities before 2002. Islamic Shari’ah Council deals with marriage and divorce. Now the Islamic Shari’ah Council of Birmingham has their own branches which deal with this sort of activities. New Castle Central Mosque refers most of the cases of divorce and marriages to Islamic Shari’ah Council of Birmingham. Whatever the divorce and marriage related issues and problems is usually referred to Abdul Hadi, Imam of the Green Lane Mosque, Birmingham and the Birmingham Shari’ah Council.

Need for a Central Mosque in
New Castle

Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Harbi, the former Director of the Muslim World League, London Office, along with Dr. Khaleel al-Khaleed, Director of the West London Muslim Heritage Centre and Dr. Mozammel Haque, Media Advisor of the Islamic Cultural Cenre, London, visited New Castle Central Mosque: al-Tawheed Mosque, and prayed at the prayer room of the Mosque five times and found the necessity of the Mosque in the surrounding area and also the number of worshippers attended at the mosque.

Haji Mustafa was the pioneer for building up this mosque He acquired and bought this property for the New Castle Central Mosque, in 2002. Basically what happened, Haji Mustafa was split from the Brelvi mosque and then used to go to the Muslim Welfare House. Even in the Muslim Welfare House, Haji Mustafa did not like the way they do things, their methodology. Haji Mustafa was Ahle Hadis and Muslim Welfare House followed the Ikhwan methodology. Though on point of Aqida, both are the same, Haji Mustafa and Muslim Welfare House had a little bit of disputes for buying the new mosque.

Basically almost all the Muslims from New Castle, Muslim Welfare House collected money for buying this property at the beginning. But the building where the Muslim Welfare House located was also bought by Haji Mustafa. Later on, Haji Mustafa and his friend Haji Yaqoob left that building and bought this one. Haji Mustafa bought this one and did not involve anybody in this building.

Haji Mustafa bought this property in the name of a Trust, Jamiat-e-Markaz-e Ahe Hadis. He is one of the Trustees, Jamiat-e-Markaz-e Ahe Hadis. New Castle Central Mosque. This is the name of the property and the Mosque. It was registered for Markaz-e-Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadis. New Castle Central Mosque:al-Tawheed Mosque under the supervision of Markaz-e- Jamiat-e- Ahle Hadis . Haji Mustafa bought the property in 2002. It costs 550,000 pounds sterling. Basically at that time Haji Mustafa took Qarz-e-Hasana, Haji Mustagfa puts some and some of the money came from Saudi Arabia and still there are some outstanding Qarz-e-Hasana due to be paid back for this building. Since the building was bought there was no improvement actually.

In the beginning, the New Castle Central Mosque had half of the present prayer hall. Then people started coming and more rooms were needed to accommodate the worshippers. In the beginning, only one or two rows of people were praying. The surroundings are all Muslims. The prayer hall was extended and brought the two rooms which were outside the prayer hall inside. At the beginning, there used to be 70 or 80 people during Jumah prayer but now around 400 people praying. In the present prayer hall more than 300 people can pray. Around 400 people pray every jumah prayer. In daily prayer, two rows between 22 and 30 people prayer at the Fajr prayer time. In Zuhr and Asr normally 30 or 40 people pray and Maghreb and Essa, around 70 to 100 people.

This area is called Fenam. The whole area is Muslim populated area. The next building is a Red Cross NHS office in that building. This building used to be NHS offices. The next one is Red Cross and nursery next to it. Muslims are 10 per cent of the New Castle population. Most of the Mosques are here, only in Fenam. In New Castle, majority of Muslims are living in Fenam. There are Muslims in other areas but no Mosque. In Hetton, there is only one mosque belonged to Brelvi group, the very old Mosque. The rest of the mosques are here. Shia Mosque; Ahle Hadis Mosque, Deobandi Mosque, Brelvi Mosque – all are here in Fenam. Three mosques run by Bengali are in Fenam also. May be 7/8,000 Muslims are living in Fenam. Most of them are students.

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