East London Mosque

The East London Mosque (ELM) is situated in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets between Whitechapel and Aldgate East. It serves Great Britain's largest Muslim community, chiefly British Bangladeshis.[3] Combined with the adjoining London Muslim Centre and Maryam Centre, it is one of the largest mosques in Europe, and the biggest in the UK, accommodating more than 7,000 worshippers for congregational prayers.[2] The mosque was one of the first in the UK to be allowed to use loudspeakers to broadcast the adhan.[4]

East London Mosque
Aerial view: on the left is the mosque with dome and minaret, to the right is the London Muslim Centre, with the Maryam Centre rising behind the mosque.
AffiliationSunni Islam
LeadershipChief Imam & Khateeb:
Abdul Qayum
Muhammad Habibur Rahman
Executive Director:
Dilowar Hussain Khan[1]
Year consecrated1985
LocationWhitechapel, Tower Hamlets, London, England
Geographic coordinates51.5176°N 0.0656°W / 51.5176; -0.0656
Architect(s)Webb Gray Ltd (2011–2015)
Studio Klaschka Ltd (2007–2010)
Markland Klaschka Limited (2002–2004)
John Gill Associates (1982–1985)
StyleIslamic architecture
Construction cost£22.3 million (including complex)

Building details

Construction of the three-storey East London Mosque began in 1982 on land left empty after bombing during World War II, and was completed in 1985. The architect was John Gill Associates.[5] The exterior is a distinctive brick pattern in two colours, with the front facing Whitechapel Road and the rear on Fieldgate Street. The mosque is capped with a golden dome of about 8.5m diameter. The minaret rises to about 28.5m above ground level, and the main entrance is finished with two smaller copies of the minaret. The mosque has two large halls, a gallery, classrooms, offices and a retail unit.

Construction for phase 1 of the mosque's expansion, called the London Muslim Centre, began in 2002 and was completed in 2004. Adjoining and connected to the mosque, it is a six-storey building with a prominent entrance featuring a sweeping mosaic pattern. The centre has two multipurpose halls, a seminar suite, a nursery, classrooms, a fitness centre, a small Islamic library, a radio station, retail units and offices. It was designed by Markland Klaschka Limited.[6]

In 2009 phase 2 commenced,[7] a nine-storey addition on the Fieldgate Street side to be known as the Maryam Centre, on a site originally used by the mosque's funeral services,[8] designed by the same architect.[9] The Maryam Centre opened to the public on 4 July 2013, adding a new main prayer hall, improved funeral services, a visitor centre, and over five floors of facilities for women including prayer spaces, education facilities, a fitness centre, and support services.


The prayer room of the original East London Mosque during the Eid ul Fitr celebrations in 1941

1910–1939: The London Mosque Fund

At the beginning of the 20th century, London was the capital of the extensive British Empire, which contained tens of millions of Muslims, but had no mosque for Muslim residents or visitors. On 9 November 1910, at a meeting of Muslims and non-Muslims at the Ritz Hotel, the London Mosque Fund was established with the aims of organising weekly Friday prayers and providing a permanent place of worship for Muslims in London.[10]

People associated with the London Mosque Fund over the years include:[11]

1940–1974: The original East London Mosque

From 1910 to 1940 various rooms had been hired for Jumu'ah prayers on Fridays. Finally, in 1940, three houses were purchased at 446–448 Commercial Road in the east end of London as a permanent place of prayer. On 2 August 1941 the combined houses were inaugurated as the 'East London Mosque and Islamic Culture Centre' at a ceremony attended by the Egyptian Ambassador, Colonel Sir Gordon Neal (representing the Secretary of State for India). The first prayer was led by the Ambassador for Saudi Arabia, Shaikh Hafiz Wahba.[14] The number of East Pakistanis in Britain, one of the largest Muslim ethnic groups in the country, rose from 2,000 in 1951 to 6,000 in 1961. The increase was due mainly to immigration from the small towns of Sylhet district,[16] in what became Bangladesh in 1971. During the 1970s, the Bangladeshi-origin population in Britain grew from 22,000 to 65,000.[17]

The ELM front entrance from Whitechapel Road

1975–1984: Preparing for a purpose-built mosque

In 1975 the local authority bought the properties in Commercial Road under a compulsory purchase order, in return providing a site with temporary buildings on Whitechapel Road next to the Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue. The local community set about raising funds to erect a purpose-built mosque on the site. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia donated £1.1 million of the £2 million fund,[18][19] and the governments of Kuwait and Britain also donated to the fund.[20] Seven years later, the building of the new mosque commenced, with foundations laid in 1982 and construction completed in 1985.

1985–2000: The new East London Mosque

It was one of the first mosques in the United Kingdom to broadcast the adhan (call to prayer) from the minaret using loudspeakers.[4] Some local non-Muslim residents protested it as noise pollution, leading to coverage by the Daily Mail, Daily Star; in response, local Church of England clerics gave their support for the adhan in a letter to the East London Advertiser.[4] It had a capacity of 2,000, with prayer areas for men and women, and classroom space for supplementary education. However, by the 1990s the capacity was already insufficient for the growing congregation and for the range of projects based there. The land next to the mosque had been left vacant after bomb damage during World War II, and was used as a car park. The mosque under the leadership of the chairman Haji Akbor Ali launched a campaign to buy the land, and the purchase was completed in 1999.[21]

2001–2008: The London Muslim Centre

London Muslim Centre front entrance

In 2001 Prince Charles launched the project to build the London Muslim Centre (LMC).[22] Construction began in 2002, and the new centre opened on 11 June 2004, with over 15,000 people attending the opening prayers.[23][24] The prayer capacity of the mosque and centre rose to about 5,000, with a greatly increased range of services. The building cost £10.4 million, funding was provided by the London Development Agency,[25] European Development Fund, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Sure Start. Around £4 million was donated from members of the public.[24][26]

London Muslim centre rear view

On the opening day Sheikh Abdur Rahman Al-Sudais, Imam of the Great Mosque of Mecca, led the Friday prayer. Amongst the guests were Racial Equality Minister Fiona Mactaggart, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Trevor Phillips and senior officials from the Muslim Council of Britain. Prince Charles, who was in Washington for the funeral of former US president Ronald Reagan, sent a video message of support.[26]

In July 2004 the Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, visited the mosque and centre.[27]

In November 2004 Prince Charles returned to see the centre.[28] The following month Elizabeth II featured excerpts of his visit in her Christmas message.[29][30]

Following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, on the 22nd of July, the mosque was evacuated due to a bomb hoax. The hoax was blamed on extremist Muslims after it condemned the 7/7 bombings and opposed extremist teaching.[31]

In July 2008 the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, delivered a speech on "Equality Before The Law" at an event highlighting the pro bono legal service at the LMC.[32]

In October 2008 the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre won Islam Channel's Super Model Mosque award presented at the Global Peace and Unity event at the Excel Centre.[33][34]

In December 2008 the East London Mosque planned to allow Noor Pro Media to hold a conference on 1 January 2009 which would include a videotaped lecture by Anwar al-Awlaki. Former Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve expressed concern over al-Awlaki's involvement. A spokesman for the mosque said that "Mr Awlaki has not been proven guilty in a court of law. Everyone is entitled to their point of view", and that "We didn't organise this event, they are just using our facilities."[35][36]

From 2009: The Maryam Centre and the neighbouring Synagogue

19 Jun 2009: construction began of the mosque's Phase 2 expansion, the 'Maryam Centre'.[7]

4 Mar 2010: hosted 'The BIG Read' organised with IF Charity, Islamic Forum Europe, Muslim Aid, and Tower Hamlets Council, and broke the world record for 'Most children reading with an adult', with 3,234 children listened to readings from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.[37][38]

5 Mar 2010: hosted the BBC's weekly live topical debate Any Questions?, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby and with panellists Ken Livingstone (former Mayor of London), Shadow Business Secretary Kenneth Clarke, Mehdi Hasan (senior politics editor at the New Statesman) and Julia Goldsworthy (Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Communities and Local Government).[39]

25 Aug 2010: subject of a BBC documentary, Middle EastEnders, that "chronicles the setbacks and triumphs of an institution which has shaped the identity of a corner of London", timed to anticipate the centenary of the mosque.[40]

4 Sep 2010: the mosque raised over £1.1 million in one night in Ramadan on Channel S,[41] breaking the record for ethnic television for the third year in a row, in an appeal for the building of their Phase 2 expansion.[42]

24 Jun 2011: first beehive installed on roof of London Muslim Centre.[43]

3 Sep 2011: the English Defence League (EDL) wanted to march past the mosque, but after widespread opposition[44] were prevented by a ban imposed by Home Secretary Theresa May. The EDL instead held a static demonstration in Aldgate, and were stopped by police from entering Tower Hamlets, whilst a larger 'United East End' counter-demonstration was held by an alliance of groups and organisations.[45]

20 Jan 2012: the President of the International Court of Justice, Hisashi Owada, delivered the keynote speech at Evolving World at the London Muslim Centre.[46]

4 Jul 2013: the Maryam Centre opens to the public, increasing the capacity for prayers to over 7,000 people.[47]

28 Oct 2013: the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegović visited the Mosque and Centre for an evening dinner reception. He delivered a key note speech to guests and dignitaries in attendance.[48]

15 Jan 2015: launch of Britain's first ever Muslim archives in a joint project with The National Archives, with guests Jeff James, CEO of The National Archives, Simon Hughes and Sadiq Khan.[49][50]

30 Sep 2015: subject of BBC documentary Welcome to the Mosque by filmmaker Robb Leech.[51]

June 2017: Purchase of the Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue[52]


The East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre in their wider setting on Whitechapel Road

The East London Mosque Trust is a registered charity[53] (previously registered as The London Mosque Fund)[54] and a private company (limited by guarantee, no share capital).[55] The mosque is managed by trustees who are elected biennially by its members at the Annual General Meeting.[56] The CEO is Nozmul Hussain, The Khatib and primary Imam of the mosque is Abdul Qayum, the Chairman is Muhammad Habibur Rahman, the former chairman was Haji Akbor Ali and Muhammad Abdul Bari.[1]

External relations

The mosque is a member of the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum,[57] a founding member of The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO),[58] and an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain.[59] The Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and the mosque are very closely intertwined,[60] the organisation was created in 1989 by Muslims involved in the running of the East London Mosque.[61] Some of the mosque's practices reflect the Hanafi school of law.[62]

Gay rights campaigners accused the mosque of hosting homophobic speakers,[63][64] although the mosque had earlier condemned homophobia.[65][66] In 2014 Oxfam cancelled an event at the mosque after it learned the headline speaker, Ibrahim Hewitt, had written a book in 1994 for GCSE students, What does Islam say, calling homosexuality a “great sin” and saying gay people should be “severely punished” under Islamic law.[67][68]

In July 2017 the mosque and others complained to Pride London about placards displayed in their march by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), claiming they were Islamophobic.[69] Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell defended the CEMB and criticised the mosque's record on homophobia, writing "In the last two years, I and my colleagues at the Peter Tatchell Foundation have 11 times contacted the mosque and LMC, requesting them to have a dialogue with the LGBT community: to build bridges and solidarity between LGBTs and Muslims to combat the prejudice, discrimination and violence that both communities suffer. All our requests have been rebuffed.[70][71][72][73] In reply, the mosque stated it had met with LGBT groups, and also with Tatchell himself in 2012.[74]

Prominent visitors

Prominent imams and Muslim scholars who have visited the mosque: Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais[75] and Saud Al-Shuraim (imams of Masjid al-Haram), Salah Al Budair (imam of Al-Masjid al-Nabawi and a judge of the High Court of Madina), Adel Salem Al Kalbani (former Imam of Masjid al-Haram), Mustafa Cerić (Grand Mufti of Bosnia), Delwar Hossain Sayeedi (former MP of Bangladesh and one of the leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami),[76]Ismail ibn Musa Menk (Mufti of Zimbabwe).[77]

British politicians who have visited the mosque: Fiona MacTaggart (former Home Office Minister),[78] Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London),[49] Simon Hughes (former Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties)[49] and Boris Johnson (former Mayor of London and UK Foreign Minister).[79][80]

Other visitors include Prince Charles,[22] Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (former Prime Minister of Malaysia),[27] Dzulkefly Ahmad, (Health Minister of Malaysia), Brendan Barber (Secretary General of TUC),[81] Louis Susman (United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom),[82] Sarah Mullally (Church of England, Bishop of London).[83]


Dome of the mosque viewed from the rear
The interior of the dome in the mosque

The mosque has a stated mission to:

"serve, educate and inspire."

Annual Review 2013–14, East London Mosque Trust[84]

The Friday sermon is delivered in Arabic, Bengali and English.

Services provided to the community include: nursery, primary and secondary schools; supplementary education; library; fitness centres; wedding and conference hire; support for deaf children and adults; ICT Training and English classes; advice and counselling; and exhibitions and open days.[84]

The mosque previously ran Muslim Community Radio (MCR), in partnership with the Islamic Forum of Europe, which started to broadcast in 1998 through an RSL, then through Spectrum. In the month of Ramadan from 2001 to 2013 MCR broadcast 24 hours a day across parts of east London. In 2005 it moved into a new studio in the London Muslim Centre. It was run by volunteers, and provided programmes in English, Bengali and Arabic.[85]

See also


  1. "Management". East London Mosque. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  2. Sherwood, Harriet (7 February 2016). "Visit My Mosque day: questions from prayers to beards answered". The Guardian.
  3. Religion in England and Wales 2011 Office for National Statistics
  4. Eade, John (1996). "Nationalism, Community, and the Islamization of Space in London". In Metcalf, Barbara Daly (ed.). Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520204042. Retrieved 19 April 2015. The mosque committee was determined from the outset, moreover, to remind local people of the building’s religious function as loudly as possible. As one of the few mosques in Britain permitted to broadcast calls to prayer (azan), the mosque soon found itself at the center of a public debate about “noise pollution” when local non-Muslim residents began to protest.
  5. "A Century of Service". Emel Media Ltd. January 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  6. Project page for the London Muslim Centre Markland Klaschka Limited
  7. Phase 2 East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre
  8. The East London Mosque: 100 years of co-operation BBC London
  9. East London Mosque Phase 2 Studio Klaschka Ltd
  10. Humayun Ansari, ed. (30 June 2011). The Making of the East London Mosque, 1910-1951: Minutes of the London Mosque Fund and East London Mosque Trust Ltd (Camden Fifth Series). Cambridge University Press. ASIN 1107014921.
  11. The Times, 2 August 1941
  12. Khizar Humayun Ansari, "Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1872–1953)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2012; online edn, Jan 2013 accessed 6 February 2020
  13. "London Muslim Centre". East London Mosque. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  14. History of East London Mosque East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre
  15. Visit the City – East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre City of London
  16. Kibria, Nazli (1996). Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Rutgers University Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-0-8135-5055-8.
  17. Kibria, Nazli (1996). Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Rutgers University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-8135-5055-8.
  18. "Survey of London | East London Mosque". surveyoflondon.org.
  19. Eade, John (1996). "Nationalism, Community, and the Islamization of Space in London". In Metcalf, Barbara Daly (ed.). Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520204042. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  20. Kibria, Nazli (1996). Muslims in Motion: Islam and National Identity in the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Rutgers University Press. p. 103. ISBN 0813550556.
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  27. British Prime Minister Blair praises Malaysia The Star, 24 July 2004
  28. Royal seal of approval for centre BBC website
  29. Queen calls for tolerance in UK BBC website
  30. "Queen's Christmas Message | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org.
  31. Iggulden, By Amy (22 July 2005). "Mosque 'punished by the extremists'". The Telegraph.
  32. "Equality Before the Law" (PDF).
  33. Model Mosque Competition Global Peace and Unity
  34. Britain's Muslims Vote their Best Mosques IslamOnline (5 Nov. 2008), by Emdad Rahman.
  35. Muslim groups 'linked to September 11 hijackers spark fury over conference' Gordon Raynor, The Daily Telegraph, 27 December 2008
  36. "Councillor slams Muslim lecture New York in flames' poster". East London Advertiser.
  37. The Big Read IF Charity
  38. Case Study - Most children reading with an adult Guinness World Records
  39. Any Questions - 5 March 2010 BBC Radio 4
  40. Middle EastEnders BBC
  41. Record-breaking Ramadan fundraising at East London Mosque East London Advertiser
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  43. Annual Report 2011-12 East London Mosque Trust
  44. 21,000 oppose EDL march that will 'target mosque'[permanent dead link] The London Evening Standard
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  46. Evolving World - Owada details vision for future world of international law East London Mosque
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  51. Welcome to the Mosque BBC
  52. Thejc
  53. East London Mosque Trust Charity Commission
  54. The London Mosque Fund Charity Commission
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  78. Makkah imam leads prayers in London DAWN.com
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  81. TUC wants Muslim 'poverty' ended BBC
  82. U.S. Diplomat Visits Controversial Mosque
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  84. "ELM Annual Review 2013-2014" (PDF).
  85. "Muslim Community Radio - 87.9FM". web.archive.org. 26 August 2009.