The mosque at Liverpool is the place of worship for a comparatively large resident membership, as well as for the thousands of Mahommedans – merchants, sailors, travellers – who pass through the port in a steadily flowing stream of brown humanity. It is unromantically situated, and is not imposing. It has no grand dome, no graceful minarets. It is a converted mansion, and has a poor-law establishment as a near neighbour. So it is that the cry of the muezzin, calling the faithful to prayers, echoes in and around a common-place street, heard by the unbelievers of West Derby Road, Liverpool.
Yet not only those within the mosque is gathering a small assembly of Mahommedans, a few of them in Oriental garb and all shoeless. Muslims, when they enter the mosque, take off their boots and leave on their head-covering. In a room set apart for the purpose they wash their hands and feet, and then they make their way to the place of prayers, a thickly-carpeted hall having little decoration beyond texts from the Koran inscribed in Arabic, but having its bare outlines softened in the dim religious light.
Here the believers make their devotions, seating themselves tailor-fashion on the floor behind the sheikh, and facing the east. Now they lie prostrate, their faces to the floor; anon they stand, stretching out their hands in supplication. Silent they are first, but just now the Sheikh murmurs “Allah, Allah, Mahomet,”, and the chant is taken up in low tones, which gradually swell until all is fervid excitement.
Again the Sheikh reads from the Koran. His Muslim brethren sit silent and reverent. Later, when the service is nearing its close, they place their hands on their laps as they wait for the divine blessing.
Even we English people, were we to look on these ceremonies, might feel some of the influence of the mysterious East. The Sheikh, in turban and flowing robes, perhaps with his many oriental orders, flashing on his breast; the congregation, now thrilling with strange emotion and again stolid with all that constitutes Oriental impassivity; the half-light, the mystic inscriptions – these things take the beholder in imagination away from the prosaic world without the walls of the Mosque, and he sees the blue sky, the white domes, and the stretching sands of warmer climes. Yet all the electric cars go clanging past the doors, and all around are the conditions which go to make up the things of ordinary English life.
The Sheikh is an Englishman – Abdullah Quilliam, Sheikh-ul-Islam of the British Isles. He is a widely known Liverpool solicitor, and has been associated with the Mosque since it was established in 1887, being a convert through study and conviction after a voyage years ago to . His journeys to the East have been numerous, and he is frequently sent for by the Sultan of Turkey to undertake special missions, or for the purpose of consultation.
The Muslim Institute in altogether comprises rooms for members, schoolrooms, a small museum, library and reading room, and also a small lecture hall, which is used mainly for club meetings, etc. There is also a large lecture hall, for prayers (Teki). It seats some 220 people. The Medina Home, not far away, has about a score of children who are being brought up as Mussulmans. The whole institution has about 200 members resident in Liverpool, but during the course of a year the Mosque is visited for prayers by thousands of Muslim sailors and other travellers who come to the great seaport. Congregations in winter are good, and consist of a surprising number of English people in addition to others. Quite a large proportion of the membership is constituted of Liverpool folk, born and bred.
The new Lecture Hall in connection with the Liverpool Moslem Institute was opened last Wednesday evening. J.H. McGovern, FLAS (the architect who designed and supervised the alterations), occupied the chair. An excellent entertainment was given. Professor H. Nasrullah Warren, aided by his talented sister, gave an electrical exhibition which was duly appreciated by the audience. Professor Nurruddin Stephens gave some very clever conjuring feats. Sheikh Abdullah Quilliam, Miss Hanifa Quilliam, Professor Wilde, Mrs. O’Brien, and Miss O’Fallon all contributed greatly to the success of the evening by giving several interesting and amusing recitations and songs.
During the interval after the close of the first part of the programme the chairman pointed out the twofold object of the meeting, viz: to open the new hall and to provide free breakfasts to the poor on Christmas Day. He then explained that the hall had been increased in length by the removal of a chamber at the south end, and taking in an ante room at the north end to form a stage together with a projecting platform. The aisles of the proscenium opening and entrance hall are in the Mooresque style of architecture with Arabic shandries, cornice and frieze, and the mouldings of same have been tinted artistically in salmon colour. The lympanum of the arches is fitted with wrought-iron pulles glazed with glass of azure blue and rose colour, forming a pleasing contrast. New piers are built to strengthen the side walls, to support the collar beam principally. The roof has been reslated. A laboratory is fitted up for the use of students, together with an ablution chamber for the use of the congregation. The schoolroom on the ground floor will be used as a Mosque until the erection of the new one. Latrines are in course of construction in the playground, and a gymnasium will be at the disposal of the boys.